Eye opening, refreshing, rejuvenating, spirit lifting and just all around enjoyable.
The lovely Bryn is heading back to the states (for a very short holiday we hope but as yet there is no ETA on her return so fingers crossed) and rounded up some friends to come down to hers for a BBQ Bonanza see-you-later-not-goodbye party.
That would be fun no matter where she lived but the fact is she lives on an American Air Base (along with 14,000 other Americans) here in Japan. Visiting a base was a new experience for all of us Fukases and it was quite the adventure.Between all the English, the abundance of non-Asian faces, the showing of passports and the waiting in the visitor centre for clearance (much like going through immigration) Amy was excused for asking if we'd somehow arrived in Australia without boarding a plane.
K was relieved to find that many of the staff were bilingual and he wouldn't have to answer security questions or order his lunch in English.
Meg was much taken with the rather un-Japanese fashions and looped the bottom of her shirt up through the neck hole for the crop top look.
It was a very educational weekend for both girls actually. Amy discovered cool-aid and very quickly developed a litre plus a day dependency. Seriously she had her oft-refilled drink bottle in her hot little hand the whole weekend. I had to pry it off her at bedtime... Meg was enlightened about fighter jets (she couldn't work out why they had guns), chocolate milk 'chocolate in the milk, mummy' the cartoon channel, play model making, trampolines and that English comes in different accents.
And me? I felt like I was on holiday. A very relaxing holiday at a resort full of kind, gregarious people. We spent a few hours at the food court and three different people struck up casual conversations with me and none of them were looking for an English lesson. Amazing! Just chatting to random people is something I really miss here and hadn't realised how much until this weekend. It was a wake up call to my increasing narrow mindedness living in such a homogenous society too thatmy first reaction to one chat partner was to make sure none of the kids bumped him as they ran around as he was over 2m tall, muscle bound, tattooed and sporting a buzz cut. Shame on me for jumping to conclusions as he ended up being quite the king of the kids teasing them and making them laugh. My 5 year old host kept me entertained with tremendous tales tall and true and was the epitome of a gentleman introducing us to his Spanish teacher and a number of friends from kinder as well as leading the girls on a rather frighteningly fast paced tour of the mall- they were back with me before K and I had even decided who was going to go search and who was going to stay put and worry.
I learnt a lot from the other women who came as well.
The amazing unflappable Bryn blew my mind. The reason we spent a few hours in a food court was that a sudden torrential downpour and motorcycles-on-base bureaucracy wreaked havoc on the best laid plans and she spent about 4 hours sponsoring our passes and escorting us all in. In the same situation I know I would have been a gibbering mess. Stressed out and panicky I would have been snapping at people and bursting into tears. But Bryn? Not only no theatrics but she kept on smiling thewhole time. Wow. Just wow. And this whole amazing weekend get together she-bang? A mere four days before she has to pack up her entire house and fly half way across the globe. Made of sterner stuff than me that's for sure!
Cecilia is simply amazing with kids. I don't baby talk to my kids but I definitely dumb down explanations thinking it's all they will be able to understand. Not only does Cecilia not do that but she asks probing follow up questions and has an infinite amount of patience for the endless whys. She really taught me a trick or two. And she's well read and a great conversationalist and makes honey joys to make the toughest Aussie homesick and is just all round fun to be with.
Gina dealt with two incredibly active pre-schoolers and their combined clothing calamities (mother nature and then ice-cream and then BBQ and then juice) and their exhaustion at a big day so very assuredly that her mood rubbed off on the kids and they were real troopers. Made me rethink my have-a-flap-first reaction to disasters when out and about.
And Lily? I've been a big fan of hers for as long as I've read her blog. Bit of a girl crush in fact. I still acutely remember a day when I was feeling the pre-schooler parenting stress and reading her blog while Meg and Amy watched the Wiggles and she was talking about feeling the pre-schooler parenting stress and so deciding to take her little guys to the art museum before they had finished their unit on that particular painter. Wow. I'm not worthy! Well, turns out I love Lily in the flesh just as much as Lily in the blog and especially her forethought in setting up strategies to deal with kid issues before they even happen. Wow. Oh, and the way she says 'eh?' at the end of her sentences. Canadians are just so cool...
With all these fun and inspirational people to be around (and a huge BBQ, copious amounts of amazing food, six varieties of Schmirnoff mixers and... wait for it... a bouncing castle for the kids- no really!) It was a seriously other worldly Toto-where-not-in-Tokyo-anymore weekend. There was lawn- wide spacious lawn devoid of 'no standing on the grass' signs. There were neighbours popping in for a chat and a beer around the barbie, neighbour kids everywhere you looked and just such a laid back atmosphere.
It was great to see K having a good time hanging out with other Japanese guys who are married to foreign wives. He gets a kick out of the common bond and I like him to get that exposure every few months to realise that a lot of the stuff I do isn't weird it's just not Japanese!
We reluctantly came home loaded down with souvenirs (English books! Cereal so sweet and colourful I'm amazed it's not labelled 'cereal shaped confectionary', spare ribs so we can have an ode-to-the-weekend-at-Bryn's tribute BBQ, cheese, cheese and more cheese and butterscotch choc chips just because I'd never even heard of them and they sounded too good to pass up among other things.) and absolutely exhausted. The girls were asleep before we even got on the expressway and had to be woken up three hours later when we got home. And these are kids who don't nap!
I think Meg's comment best summed up the feeling about the weekend. We were just passing through the gates on our way out and she sighed and said 'Instead of Tokyo tower and Tokyo Disneyland can I come to Ethan's house again for my birthday?'
I have to agree.
Better than Disneyland.