Firstly, thank you so much to everyone that sent me emails and comments from my second-last entry. I know I sounded really dire then, but I'm feeling better. It's just that tiredness and exhaustion and sudden bad news and illness and fatigue came together and boom! major effect on me.
I did take a couple of days off due to the flu. On the first day, in the afternoon I joined the crew at Murouji temple - I was feeling a bit better. Apparently this wasn't a good idea. For one thing, I'm just spreading the bug around. But most importantly, I'm giving the impression that people can pick and choose where they want to go. Never mind that this was a last-minute decision.
I found the policy, while understandable, quite odd - most people came up to me and said it was great that I made the effort to come. And I was obviously still flu-ey; I suppose people can tell when someone is faking it. But what to do...considering the various forms of chaos we've been through, sometimes such things are necessary...
We had a sharing discussion time about different philosophies and faiths, and I shared some thoughts about my own beliefs. I got quite a number of interesting questions, some of which made me pause and ponder. I know many other people have many other questions (we just didn't have time) and I would like to share some more, but it did make me think more about why I believe what I believe, and perhaps how exactly to structure that.
One thing I've learnt from this program so far is that I can be horribly ignorant about things I should know about. I barely know about Malaysia's policies with other countries. (Heck, I didn't even know what a free-trade agreement was until the ASEAN + 3 + 2 summit.) I barely know about Bangladesh's own problems. I barely know about some basic things about my own culture. I've forgotten the children's songs. Laurence knows more Bangla than I do. It's quite surprising really, how much you think you know but you actually don't...how deep you think you know but how much is really just surface level...
The second day of my sick time off, the group went on a hike. One of the checkpoints was the temple I lived in, so my host mum gave me a task as some form of a greeter. I basically stood outside waving Japanese flags and saying hi to the crew that came up. Nina took my photo, Chris jokingly said I had "sexy hair" (it was soaking from a shower), some people joked about me purposely skipping this...the LOCs wanted me to come in and listen to the talk about Buddhism, and I wanted to, but I didn't want to run afoul of the policy again and just sat at home. As it is, they sent Jessica a message for me telling me to stay home and get better. Har.
I worked on some thank-you gifts for my NaNoWriMo surveys for a few days - short stories about each crew member. They will receive this story once they return my survey to me. At first they were barely a hundred words...then things got harder but they got longer...now they're around 200-300 words (some are still in the hundreds), and for some reason Tici's is a page long. Meep. A few people have read their thank-you gifts, and they liked it, so hopefully the rest will too!
The Celebration was fantastic. We had a children's choir beforehand and they were really entertaining. Japanese children's songs are a lot of fun, and they brought some Sound of Music classics. We all got up and danced by the time they sang It's A Small World.
That energy was reciprocated during our Celebration - when I walked out on stage for Rhythm Of The World, everyone immediately clapped in rhythm to my instrument. That has NEVER happened before. People were animatedly talking about the photos in the slideshow (with an "extended remix" version of the soundtrack - basically the slideshow was longer than the song) and the kids even developed clapping games for Song Of Peace and Up With People. Such enthusiasm! They even cheered during our little Expo stuff.
The kids from the choir ran up to me and gave me their namecards. How adorable.
Rie unfortunately was tired and she had to rest during Celebration and Host Family Day. Aaww poor baby. We were just talking about how she never falls ill and now she does. Oops.
For Host Family Day I was taken to the Blue Mountain Plateu, where there are about 24 windmills (counted them all!) - and, for some odd reason that day, a group of colourful motorcyclists and a pile of Toyota convertibles racing. Huh. I took some photos of me trying to be like a windmill - I look more like a wind-blown penguin...
I tried one of the painkiller pills the Nara doctors prescribed to me for my back pain. The pain only got worse, and I had weird hallucinations for almost the whole night. That pill did something to my brain. I'm definitely not taking it again, that's for sure...
The Nara host families are really dedicated to us. They even ran to some distance along our journey just to say goodbye. They really loved us.
There was some sort of odd carousel-like music playing on the bus. Really creepy; almost Hitchcock-like. It sounds innocent but you just know something isn't right. Thankfully they stopped the music, otherwise we would have become a Hitchcock movie ourselves...
Tama looks a bit like Johor Bahru and Singapore combined. The sort of city I'm used to - except they still have the confusing train system (confusing because I can't read Japanese that well). Our facility is quite big and modern, and the welcoming ceremony was typical - they even had a drum circle again! Still awesome, still amazing, and we got a chance to play the drums too, which was great. Los Angeles all over again.
Miho and Cristy were calling out the names of crew and host families - Miho kept making random comments about each person. I half-suspect she's trying to flirt with us or something. Even Bob found it amusing; he was using it as a memory device!
We were told that our host families are driving us to and fro the facility - not in our case! Sammy and I are taking the trains this time around. We even had to take the train to get back today; imagine us with our suitcases in a nearly-packed train. Omoshiroi.
The house I live in is really quite modern and Western compared to the ones I've been in Japan so far. I have a room to myself - with an actual BED. Not a mattress on the floor, an actual bed. (I'm sure my sore back is in glee.) There's a ton of flat-screen TVs, even one in my room. Their son has a music room, filled with vinyl records - he DJs as a hobby, so there are 2 turntables there too, and a keyboard as well. They even have a dishwasher.
My host mum enjoys travelling - she just returned from Canada, and is planning to go to Hungary, Prague, and Austria later this year. She loves sushi and Chinese and Italian food - Japanese traditional food is somewhere lower in her preferences. That was reflected in our dinner - corn soup, potato croquettes, broccoli, toast. Definitely not Japanese.
I'm staying in a house that many might consider to be their dream house, since it's quite ultra-modern in comparsion. Proper bed, modern food, Internet, printer, cable television - and hey, what about that record room, eh? I wonder how the reaction will be like. I already have people asking me how the heck was I lucky enough to get Internet in every house, even in a village like Murou. (This isn't accurate; there was no Internet in my house in Maruko. But the Murou one was quite random.) They'll probably envy me, mwahaha.
Modern house, walking to the train station, beer factory visits, judo and kendo. This will be quite an interesting week.
Ich bien moo.