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Summer Programmes

Adventures in Yamagata: Part 2

29 July 2017

First of all, my apologies for the late post – this past week has been unbelievably busy and tiring, but very fun. We had a pretty full-on week of mostly sightseeing which made a nice break from all the work we had been doing in the fields. Even without the sightseeing, some interesting things happened such as experiencing an earthquake. It was a very small one and did little more than shake the building, but for us volunteers it was pretty terrifying. The staff were so casual about it and just got about with their business, such occurrences being normal in Japan. I’m glad I got to experience it, though, being from a country where an inch of snow causes the whole country to shut down.
We also got to go to a local farm shop one afternoon after working to get some homemade ice cream. The place was a little cabin surrounded by a few barns and blueberry bushes. We got to try the blueberries picked fresh from the bushes and pet the dog, who was named Ushi, or cow in Japanese, for her patchy black and white fur! I chose the yoghurt ice cream, which was tangy and sweet and just what I needed after a long, hard day on the farm. We also fed the resident goat, who was very eager and slobbered all over us. It was so simple yet somehow so amazing; one of those strange little places that seem to exist in worlds of their own.
Another of our experiences was at a youth support centre where we partook in an exchange event with the young people there. We got to do a range of activities including some (slightly more successful) origami, a Japanese card game about monks, princesses and lords, and try nagashi somen; a type of noodle dish that is funnelled down a flume in water to be picked out with your chopsticks and dipped in a salty dipping sauce called tsuyu. I ate way too much because of how fun it was to scoop out the noodles. We had shaved ice for dessert which is good with honeydew melon flavouring, a drizzle of condensed milk and some agar-agar jelly. The young people at the centre were all really nice and friendly which made the event lots of fun. I felt especially good when I made a star-shaped rice ball and they all clapped. It seemed like a very close and supportive atmosphere and I felt very privileged to experience it.
We were also treated to a barbecue one evening, despite the seemingly never-ending rain. Japanese barbecues are very different to British ones, consisting of a lot of meat and vegetables that are grilled and then drenched in teriyaki sauce. I especially liked the yakisoba, superbly cooked by one of the young boys at the centre. After the meal I broke into a spontaneous umbrella dance, delirious with happiness. What I lacked in skill I made up for in sheer passion – at least, that’s what I like to think
This week was also rather sad as our first translator had to leave. We’d all grown fond of him over the past couple of weeks and the idea of him suddenly leaving us was strange. Before he left he presented all of us with a personal card and a five yen coin, explaining that the Japanese word for five yen, goen, also has another meaning: connection. We waved him off and there were more than a few tears shed, which was not helped by the rain pouring down outside. We were also introduced to our new translator, this time a young woman. She seems very nice and I’m glad we have been so lucky with our translators being really good people.
Well, that’s about it for this post. I have a few more adventures to talk about but as this is getting quite long I will have to leave it for the next post, so please look out for that. See you soon and thanks for reading! またね!