This has been a long time coming so let's jump right in:
I stepped off the plane in Ishigaki, and island of Okinawa so far south that it is closer to THE PHILIPPINES than it is to the southern tip of Kyushu!
I went there as one of about 10 volunteers for a week-long home-stay while interpreting for their world-class triathlon.
A smartly dressed, young Englishman, named Alex, was standing outside checking in Triathletes who were on the same plane as me. One of the other volunteers, a friend of mine named Erica who was also on the same plane, was quickly greeted by her host mother and two children, and she introduced herself to me as well and offered me a ride to my host-family's house!
Half-an-hour later I am being shown to my own room and sitting down to dinner with my host-family of 6!
|Breakfast the next morning with the Masuda Family :D|
Their house was big and beautiful and infested by the noisiest, craziest, best 4 kids in the world!
At 7, 5, 2, and 1 years-old, there was almost never a quiet moment, but at the same time the dynamic between them was fascinating. Sometimes it was all-out every-man-for-himself war, although Ryuki, the eldest, was pretty good keeping out of it. Still, other times, though rare, the four of them would work and play together so sweetly you'd think you were watching The Japanese Brady Bunch.
The second oldest, Takeru, was the star of the show and demanded constant attention. Every morning I would laugh as he piled have of the bread on the table onto his plate, even though he only ate maybe 2 pieces. But even though he liked to talk and act like a bully, he was really very sensitive and sweet; quick to laugh, quick to cry; this kid wore a heart of gold on his sleeve.
Himari, their only daughter, was a darling example and sharp contrast to the boys. That first night she walked right up to me (I was sitting on the floor), handed me a hair clip, turned around and sat on my lap like "Ok, now you're going to play with my hair". She would sneak attack her mom with a hair brush. Without saying a word, she'd pull out Nodoka's hair band and start combing! My favorite thing about her though was that she would sneak off by herself and run little experiments. I found her in the bathroom one morning washing off rocks in the bathroom hand sink and getting water all over the floor, but I just laughed and gave her a towel and left her to it and when I came back later everything was clean.
Maybe it was actually Nodoka who cleaned it, but I couldn't even fathom the amount of energy those children must take. She and Yoshi both were excellent parents, and they always seemed to say exactly what I hope I'd say to my kids. They were infinitely patient, they'd speak English to their kids, have other families and children over, take Ryuki to baseball practice, catch bugs with Takeru, and all the while, keep an ever-vigilant eye on Kazu, The Vacuuming Fascist.
I spent the week traveling, sight-seeing, partying, and interpreting with the other volunteers and we had such a great time together, but my host family made the time there so unique and I loved coming home and seeing them, waking up and having the boys peeking in my bedroom, whispering to each other, and eating meals and playing with them. I'll talk more about the other stuff next time, but when I think of Ishigaki, the fondest memories and warmest emotions are of the generous and beautiful Masuda Family.