How about an update on the fun-good-times in my life?
Well, as you may or may not realize, I’m learning both Taiko Drumming and Flamenco Dancing. I do Taiko on Thursdays and Flamenco on Tuesdays. They’re both wonderful, tons of fun, a good workout, and really interesting and challenging.
This last Thursday, one of the Japanese ladies in my Taiko group approached me and said, “You want to learn Japanese Fan Dancing?” I responded, “Oh, sure, why not? Could be interesting.” I figured she’d tell me where to take the classes, I’d start several weeks later.
We rushed to the other side of Bunka Hall–the place where we practice Taiko–to the tatami room. Shuffled past the surprised students (who are also my English students, I gave them a sheepish wave and grin), bowed to Graceful-sensei, and like magic I had agreed to meet her the following Monday (also known as today).
A little shocked by the suddenness but not particularly concerned, I have excessive amounts of free time, I found my way to Graceful-sensei’s family restaurant and practiced for an hour and a half. I figured it’d be like Flamenco, learn a teensy tiny bit at a time, still be overwhelmed, and have to work my butt off to catch up. Well, the latter two were definitely true.
Turns out Graceful-sensei wants me to perform with the rest of her students at the High School Graduation. In the middle of March. Two weeks away.
Graceful-sensei say WHAT?!
Not sure how that’s going to turn out but… anyway, she taught me the “number one” movements, perhaps the first two minutes of the dance. It whirled around me with so much feet adjustment and hand hiding and general confusion. I honestly barely remember what I was doing, but I can follow pretty easily so I think she believed I understood more than I really did. She also speaks no English, so sometimes she gave me instructions in Japanese and I just crossed my fingers that I did it right. I also have a number of problems:
- In Flamenco, your elbows are supposed to just away from your body.
This is because the silhouette is incredibly important. Movements are big and dramatic.
- Yeah, it’s the complete opposite in Fan Dancing.
- Elbows in, keep your knees bent so you look more demure.
- I also discovered why Tomoko always walked like a duck. It’s because, traditionally, that’s just how Japanese women walk! Tiny, slow steps, toes facing inward, apparently very beautiful. And it does look great, when Graceful-sensei does it.
- I look like a lumbering rhino.
- Though, if you remember from my time at the Kumamoto zoo, rhinos can dance, too.
- And I’m too tall. Did I mention that? That whole knees bent thing…
who boy, I have to bend my knees twice as much as Graceful-sensei.
- But it’s a good workout, and I might get the hang of it. It’s beautiful, really, so I want to keep trying.
- I will ganbarimasu.
- But I don’t think I’ll get it by High School graduation.
So we practiced this “number one” about a dozen times. I have a rough idea of what’s supposed to be happening in my head. I’ll practice some more before Taiko–maybe record the whole business on my camera so I can try at home, too. And then once more on Sunday I go back.
When we finished, I walked back down to the family restaurant, accepted a cup of tea and was preparing to go when…
…when Graceful-sensei introduced me to the men of the family. (Please note, the entire conversation below was actually conducted in Japanese. Whatever I’m writing could be very wrong to what was actually said. And also, my Japanese grammar is terrible when I speak.)
“Oh, please join us! Sit!” says a friendly looking old man, pointing at the cushion next to him.
“Yes, have some sake!” says another gentleman, this one with glasses, happily throwing back straight Shochu–Japanese whiskey.
I shake my head emphatically. Graceful-sensei agrees, “She has to drive!”
Lots of “Oh, right, no problem” round the table, and then they invite me to tea. I feel like it would be churlish to say no–they’re so nice, and Graceful-sensei is teaching me (as far as I know) for free, so I sit, figuring it won’t take more than fifteen minutes for me to drink my tea, make my excuses, and go home to work.
Hilarity ensues as we try to communicate between their (slightly) drunken Japanese and my (very terrible) Japanese. I get invited to karaoke. Refuse (that whole lesson thing… work thing… you know). They ask me what kinds of foods and drinks I like. I explain. We somehow get on the topic of swimming in bath tubs. I eventually learn all their names. Insert moment where they mispronounce “Kat” several times and the youngest child, an adorable third-year student at one of my elementary schools, says “Kat-to!!!”
In the end, I’m glad I stayed, even if I do smell like smoke (did I mention Japanese men smoke like chimneys?) and I have yet to plan my lessons for tomorrow and it’s almost 10:00. I’ll be seeing them again next week, so I might as well try to be friendly. And they’re really funny. It’s nice to get to know more Japanese folks–even if, being as I live on Iki, none of them are my age.
I’m not sure if this rambling makes any sense, but here’s the bottom line: I have a lot less free time, but some silly Old Japanese friends to keep me company.
Anything unexpected happen in your lives lately?