Mandatory fun.

Despite having done something Friday evening, there was a party scheduled for that Sunday morning. We were all pretty tired — in fact, one girl managed to sleep through the entire thing, and Tom remained AWOL.

It turns out that a lot of people from the community were there. Parents, children, people I didn’t know. The lobby had been set up again in a way that we were all facing toward the back window, so we fell in toward the back and waited.

The first thing was a flautist. John mentioned to me that he’d had to work with her previously, and she was somewhat difficult. She began to play, and I realized she was exactly what we didn’t need. In the front were children who were wide awake and being made to sit still and quietly. In the back were college students who’d stayed up late and weren’t really in the mood to be awake. She played three songs, I think, using a laptop for musical accompaniment, and then decided to add a fourth song to her portion of the program. By the time she was done, we were bored and the kids were restless.

The next person up was a teacher from somewhere, who decided to play a game where one person would stand in front of everyone with a card showing a picture of an animal attached to his or her back, and then the crowd would describe the animal so the person could guess. This was, as you might imagine, a children’s game. It was going well until someone (Kika) nominated me to go up (I had “lion”). When I made sure that Kika had to go up, the kids chose the incredibly-easy “cat” for her. Bah.

Nagashi soumen with members of the community.

Afterward, we got into what we’d all been sort of waiting for: nagashi soumen. Rather than just eating noodles, they’re placed in a bamboo flume and flushed along with cold water. Would-be diners use chopsticks to catch as much as they can and dip it into a broth before eating them. It’s… not easy. Definitely something more for fun than to act as a meal. They had other snacks as well, including huge Japanese grapes. The kids ran and played, while the rest of us socialized and gradually sweated in the heat. When a few of us finally decided that an hour or more outside was sufficient and went in, everyone else followed.

At that point, we (the foreign students) were called up front to give self-introductions. Keep in mind we’d been there for at least two hours already. (I said my hobby was eating children, just for the reaction.)  Then they opened the floor to other people to do the same. The children, the adults… While we stood there, someone who apparently lives/lived around the site of last year’s disasters gave a short speech. Oddly, we remained where we were instead of sitting back down.

Finally, people were called upon to play more music. Gabby, one of the Chinese girls, came down wearing a traditional outfit from her people and played the piano and sang a bit. A couple high-schoolers from other countries played as well (one girl played a saxophone). It went on for quite a while.

In the end, Haba-san said that our time was up and we wouldn’t be able to get to the rest of the program — never mind that at least a fifth of the attendees had already slipped away — and we were released. I promptly went back to my room and took a nap, and I think about half of my dormmates did the same.


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