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Tuesday, July 25

Guests of Tradition

Who knew that I would show such grace and poise on my second full day here?

After we left the library yesterday and began our walk back to the hotel, I step off a curb and fell flat on my face. In the road. Where cars were driving. And did I get up right away? Hell no! I cried (again!) and laid in the street until Kimono Hubby finally dragged me back onto the curb, bleeding, swollen knee and all. I have scrapes down my toes on my left foot and I won't be able to wear a skirt for weeks thanks to the ashpalt filled hole that has replaced my kneecap. Thankfully my pants took a lot of the damage themselves. Although, now I am down to one pair of dress pants and no end in sight for when the rest of my wardrobe will arrive on its slow boat.

How nice are people here though? A Japanese lady saw me wipe out, pitied my clumsiness, turned her van around and came back to offer us a ride. I think through the tears, I thanked her. (I really hope I did because I don't need to add rudeness to the list of mistakes I have or will make.)

And this was all only hours after we got the speeches on how we are the ambassadors of the U.S. here. We should be an example. Some freaking example my grace and sobs make.

She dropped us off at the hotel and we were greeted in the lobby by our dinner host for the evening who had come to pick us up. What could I do but wipe my tears away, change my torn clothes and head out for the night? Kimono Karen just couldn't miss an invite like this.

We drove off base and into the town. I do not have the words to express how I felt driving through town. It is something like being in a major city and seeing all the usual city sights and hearing all the usual sounds but also throwing in these lush green mountains that you are constantly driving up and around and back down again. The roads are very twisted and the cars drive mostly on the correct left side, but if someone is parked in the street, you don't get angry, you just drive around them by scooting into the oncoming lane and no one gets irate at you for doing so. The streets are incredibly narrow and what was pointed out as a two-lane major road, I am quite certain that even the tiny cars here would only allow one to pass at a time. The Japanese utilize every little bitty bit of space that they can. Parking is virtually impossible unless you buy it with your home. Thank goodness we are going to learn how to use the train system in a few days. Building signs flood the crowded streets. All are in Japanese but you can determine the type of food in restaurants by these colored curtains that hang in the doors. I think WE will be able to figure it out mostly by just peering in the windows to see what is sold inside.

We pull up to our friends house and park in the garage under their home and walk the winding steps up to the entryway. As we enter their home, we remove our shoes. Now... our hosts are American and Russian... but the house is still Japanese. Which means they have tatami mats that cannot be walked on with shoes. So socks or barefoot it is.

We are greeted by the hostess and her children and mother-in-law and then we are escorted on our first Japanese home tour.

I. Was. In. Awe.

We started by heading up stairs to see the bedrooms. I don't recall exactly but it was either four or five. Some with tatami mats. All with huge closets and plenty of space, little hidden nooks and crannies that seemingly have nothing in the room but the bed. Every room shows you another exceptional view of the surrounding city. Some doors in the rooms are of the sliding paper shoji screen type and the other are as you would see at home. Everything was open and spacious. The house had a garden like what you would see in a movie of Japan with shaped trees and shrubbery and they are planning on planting flowers soon. A stone path leads you through the garden. Downstairs in the home is an overly large dining room, tv room where you sit on the tatami floor to watch and then a screened in room that seems simply for the purpose of enjoying viewing the garden outside. The kitchen has all the usual amenities, some of which they did have to bring in to Americanize the room a bit. Two bathrooms with traditional Japanese showers and a separate room for the toilet, of which was American style but still with the odd flusher. (No, I haven't figured it out yet.)

Dinner is served and our hostess has prepared a traditional Russian meal. Crepes with a mushroom sauce inside or Russian red caviar and sour cream in them. Both of are delicious. The caviar was much different from what I have had before. It was a very salty salmon type that is typical of the hostess's homeland. The other dish is a baked porkchop with cheese and cauliflower on top. Everything was delicious. To follow the meal was a black tea and cookies.

An amazing and lovely experience though we did have to laugh a little at the fact that we have still not had any Japanese food. Well... other than that Teriyaki Mc Burger which I am guessing doesn't really count.

As we sat and talked about being here and what to see and do, they received a call from a neighbor and friend. They immediately invited her over. We had our first experience with talking one on one with a new Japanese friend! I was able to use some language skills and she didn't laugh... not even once. When she was introduced and said her goodbyes, we bowed as is custom. And when she offered us her business card, we did as you should and honored it by inspecting it all over before placing it safely away.

The whole night was a truly perfect first home experience.

We left at about 9 to head back to our room. But not before we walked to the top of their street and saw yet another amazing view of the city.

Just being in their home and listening to someone who so recently went through the househunting experience, I am truly eager to get started and find my own perfect new home.

Of course, of all nights, last night was the night I forget to carry a camera. Which is probably okay because I pretty much just walked around with my jaw on the ground and was a little too distracted to be snapping pictures anyway. But I will do better next time.


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