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Monday, September 4

An Essential Meet and Greet

The last time our realtor was here, she reminded me again to make sure I visit our neighbors and say hello. Not only visit, but also bring them a gift. The reverse welcome wagon of Japan.

We knew about this before we moved here and it was one of the things I was looking forward to. In my mind, I had my usual overly romanticized visions playing of me baking up a storm and sharing my chocolate-y goodness with my new neighbors. But reality is never as wonderful as that dream. And when that reality rears its ugly head, it destroys even my very best of intentions.

In actuality, I was completely exhausted from the week spent organizing, cleaning and repurchasing everything we had so nonchalantly tossed back in the states. But even as I accomplished task after task, I somehow had it in the back of my head that I would get the chance to bake that storm yet. But that reality, she is a harsh mistress. And the dream died as I wandered out on yet another errand, this time looking for the trashcans to fit under the sink, and came upon a bold and glowing, golden display.

The exhausted arms, they reached out in an overwhelmed happiness as I filled my cart with boxes made by the loving hands of the people at Godiva. For the first time in a long time, that logical portion of my brain was waking up, giving me a big yawn, stretching it arms out and said lazily... why not. Kimono Hubby even clapped for him.

And these pretties would be extremely appreciated! Japanese people love anything American. And they particularly love chocolate. Going for the top of the line, which is already wrapped and tied in a pretty package, I knew I wasn't going to go wrong. They would never know what they had missed out on. And I haven't looked back.

When we headed out to present our neighbors with their gifts on Wednesday evening, we kind of expected it would take a little while. That would we spend time chatting them up. How quickly we forget that we do not speak their language. I spent the hours before we headed out learning to say... "good afternoon. My name is Karen Ford. I am your new neighbor." Or at least that is what I tired to say and hope it came out correctly... without me telling anyone that they had nice boobs.

We went to the three houses in front of us. In these homes, only one spoke English but not so much that we could make it stretch into more than a three minute conversation. The other two, I said my peace, presented them with the chocolate by bowing slightly and handing it to them with two hands and then moved on because the conversations had pretty much been dead at hello. We also visited the houses on both sides of us and met with about the same reception. One did speak pretty good English though and they will definitely be the first place I will head if I ever need an ally... or just an egg. We tried to visit the house in front of us that I particularly love for it's old style and gardens but no one answered. I am sure someone lives there as the things laying around at the door looked recently used. However, I have never seen light on in this house at night. I think there were people there that day very day, but I think they hid in the darkness from our Amazon-sized selves looming at their front door. Fine by me. I went home and ate the last box of Godiva by myself.

Since the day we introduced ourselves, the neighbors have been much more friendly towards us and we have shared many bows as we pass by on our comings and goings. The one to the side that spoke the best English even stopped by one day as I was outside cleaning my car and gave me the English directions for trash separating. How sweet of her and yet I worry. I have since worked myself into a state of frenzy thinking that we have been doing it wrong and she thinks we need help. See, we have been dropping off our trash every day for a week, seperated as I thought was correct. To be handed this paper after that week... was she just being nice or was she saying we were seriously screwing up? Am I again over-analyzing a friendly gesture? Now I ask Kimono Hubby every day if our trash has been left behind. So far so good. So I'm thinking she was just being sweet and not telling me I was a big, dumb American.

This past weekend while I was out washing and waxing Kimono Hubby's car (yes, I know you wish I was your wife), several people stopped by to say hello on their unhurried trips to and fro. One has offered to teach me Japanese. Well, only if I have a group of friends to do it with me. Considering I haven't made any friends yet... I think this will have to wait. Another person who passed by was American! Yes, there is one in the neighborhood. With his wife. They are moving in October though, back to the States, leaving KH and I behind as the lone neighborhood freak show.

Really the people in the neighborhood are just so lovely and pleasant. Most pass by without a word, a few will try to speak Japanese to me and then there is a handful of brave souls who attempt English. While still terribly self-conscious about how my Japanese must sound, I try to say hello to each and every one of them. To date, no one has laughed so I must be doing something right.

The most wonderful thing about this neighborhood is that the people are very protective of their neighbors. They watch over your house. They watch over you. While I find this nosy behavior creepy at home (yes, I know I have admitted to staring in people's windows but it's okay because it is me doing it to someone else), it gives me great comfort here. It just feels like these people will not let harm come to you. While we may not understand the other's words, our actions speak the world to each other. And I am so happy to live and to share in this small world with them.

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