Another backdated post for you all, catching up on the stuff I have written and not posted due to no internets.
Yesterday I wake up and get showered early so that I can be ready for whatever today has to bring. Shimohara san arrives around 07:15 with breakfast in hand but tells me that there is a bit of work to do first which I completely misunderstand but get there eventually. I put my shoes on and head outside into the air which is getting chilly after this area had a typhoon a few weeks ago. He points to down in the field where a rake, a hose and a pile of grass is sitting and explains something in Japanese which of course I don’t understand. I motion with my hands making a raking action to figure out that is what he wants me to do, gather the grass and then get on with that job. It takes about 30-40 minutes for me to do this and then I go and look for him to tell him I am finished but he is nowhere to be seen. I say hi to the goats, clean up the dog poop and then make my way back to the house.
I have no idea what I am supposed to do, wait or head back and eat my probably now cold breakfast. I am so confused right now. I sit and wait a little while, the breakfast sitting there calling my name. Shimohara’s wife comes in and then says something in Japanese and takes the breakfast away. I thought at the time she might be saying something like, my husband has gone to do something and this is cold, maybe I warm it up for you and this is exactly what she was saying. I’m really unsure about how I am going to cope with this amount of confusion for two weeks. I think to make matters worse is that I can’t even tell you all about it because I have no internet. The day continues with no sign of work, lunch arrives and is eaten, meanwhile I do nothing, dinner arrives and is eaten, the least I can do is wash up everything. The day ends with nothing happening, I’m not entirely sure what has happened but thats the way the day ends, can this get any more strange?
Today I was hoping would be less strange but I was wrong, today is a national holiday. I get up early again on the understanding that a wake up call would be at 7am, this time Simohara san arrives with breakfast around 9am and I say good morning to him, he says virtually nothing back. I am beginning to think he does not like me for some reason, the trouble being neither of us can really communicate what each of us want. We get in the van and head out, I secretly hope to plant something, dig something or do something that might relate to farming, we pull into a car park and I get out and follow Shimohara san like some kind of lost sheep. We gather with a crowd some politician looking types get up and each make a speech about something, they all bow to the other speakers, what looks like a panel of judges and the crowd. They each greet the crowd with an “Ohaiyogozaimasu” (good morning) and then speak whatever they have on their mind, so much for farming today, I watch politely and wait for whatever comes next. We move through the crowd and he introduces me to a few Japanese people running the red cross stand and they give me some kind of badge “What the hell…” I think as they talk about me a little and I explain I speak a little Japanese. I sort of also understood that at some point they asked Shimohara san if I was single and he said no which they seemed surprised and interested at. As my friend Kiwi travelling buddy Brooke will confirm this happens a lot in Asia. People want to know if you are single or not and have no issue asking you and when you are single they give you this look that says “WHY?”, this never ceases to amuse me. We walk around the festival and I see a kid who is put in front of the Japanese military guys who are there for some reason (there is virtually always military at these things I have found) a combat coat and hat way too large for the kid is put on it and the mother begins to coo as the child is lofted on top of a military vehicle “Kowaii” she says meaning cute meanwhile the kid has a look on his face that say :”What the hell is happening to me?”, yeah I know how you feel kid, I really know.
We go back to the red cross stall and somehow I am roped into helping give out soup and rice (for free) to passers by. Japanese people look at me in disbelief as I present them with soup, chopsticks and rice all in Japanese and wish them an ‘ittedakimasu’ (enjoy your food), to be honest I rather enjoyed this but was still wondering what exactly Shimohara san needs me for on the farm still at least I was being sort of helpful if nothing else.Once food was served once again I followed Shimohara san around a bit having no clue where I should be or what I should do but at least I was there and willing. You have no idea just how stressful this is for me, I hate to just follow people being a very independent thinking type of person, we eventually filled into yet another auditorium. All the locals filed in and bits of paper were shoved into my hand that of course I could not read, “Oh no, here we go again I thought”. Just to the right of the stage 4 ladies sat round a table holding an overhead projector (OHP) all wearing some sort of glasses I guessed to shield them from the light that was going to be coming from the OHP when it was switched on, we shall come back to these ladies in a moment. We sat down and a man started to talk over the speakers telling people not to eat, drink or use their phones (or at least that is what I think he said) he then introduced a very lively woman aged around 60 dressed in a red shirt. She began to give some sort of rallying speech about something or another, beside here was a signer. Yes it had never occurred to me that the Japanese use sign language and some of it looked a little like an adoption of ASL (American Sign Language) every now and then the signer would change with another, this happens in the UK too, the signer is changed every 30 minutes or so, on stage it was a bit more frequent as the lady in red continued her speech. As the lady spoke one lady frantically wrote stuff onto the OHP, some sort of DIY subtitles as I thought as the lady wrote the one opposite had the job of pulling the aesthetic roll to her side to create some sort of continuous stream and the other two ladies looked on, it only became obvious why there were 4 ladies approximately 10 minutes into the speech. The time came and out of the corner of my eye I saw movement, the ladies shifted round in a clockwise direction leaving almost no gap which I found hilarious, maybe it’s a “You had to be there moment”. The thing that struck me most about this is that even thought there were four people writing I could tell no difference in the handwriting.
The lady in red spoke for just over an hour I think (I was not really paying too much attention). I was quietly interested in the signer and watching them because there is no use me listening to the speech but I do think it was something to do with health. At one point during the talk I think she was talking about how it’s actually good exercise for your face to smile and she demonstrated this by making her smile really wide and scrunching her face up saying “eeeeeee” and then got the crowd to follow. I tried really hard not to laugh and I totally failed but at least I contained it as much as I physically could. Eventually the lady finishes and there is a small presentation of flowers to her and some rousing applause, the announcer comes back and introduces an oldish guy who is holding a piece of paper, he walks to the podium and announces himself and then from all around me there is a mass of rustling paper, I feel like I’m in some strange movie all of a sudden as I see the the few hundred people all get one of the bits of paper that I was given at the beginning. There really is no point in me joining in on this so I just sit back and listen to the rustling with a huge grin on my face as the man begins to speak the rustling continues through the auditorium like a mexican aural wave. Whatever is on this bit of paper it sounds awfully important and official, the man is putting a lot of emphasis on certain words and the people follow along on this bit of paper for some reason. He finishes and more applause happens, he takes a bow and the announcer speaks again as a younger man enters the stage and bows to the crowd, the announcer, the back wall and the speaker, it’s true there is a lot of bowing in Japan. He approaches the older speaker and the bit of paper that he was reading from is handed from old to young with some very sincere and deep bowing going on. I can only sit and grin, they have no idea what is going through my mind right now, in fact I don’t really know either but it mostly is just “What the F?”. More applause followed by the announcer saying something that makes the back half of the room begin to move before he finishes talking, something important must be about to happen. We move with the crowd and head back outside.
Outside the PA system announces somebody and then they take control of the microphone and talk a little. People around me are gathered and watching, again I think he must be saying something incredibly important, they then start to throw things into the crowd and the Japanese equivalent of a frenzy takes place as even old ladies are trying to catch whatever it is they are throwing. My mind races back to Feburary and reminds me I have been in this situation before in New Orleans with Mardi Gras and the festival I was in in Köln a few years ago. I still in the back of my mind wonder when I am actually going to do anything related to farming. It’s about 15:30 when we leave the festival and we head back to the house for a late lunch. At lunch I try my hardest to ask if I could help and basically I am denied but during lunch Shimohara san tells me to be ready for work at 17:00. I have visions of him wielding the sharp thing around in the near dark to get food for his goats but I also remember on the way back from the festival he stopped and chatted to a farmer about his left over rice stalks. We head out to the place with the rice stalks and bundle as much as we can before it get’s seriously dark and then head back to feed the goats. Okay I’ve done some actual farm work (of sorts) but still communication is an issue, I know I love a challenge and I am glad I said I would be here only two weeks, also no internet means I cannot even plan my next move too much but I think I know what it is.