Yes, this week is…golden. At least, Japan says it is. For those of you who may not be familiar with Japanese holidays, Golden Week is a week of several consecutive holidays. April 29, May 3, May 4, and May 5 are all holidays. Since April 29 fell on a Saturday this year, we didn’t get that one officially “off,” but since May 3, 4, and 5 fell on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday (respectively), we got Wednesday through Sunday off this week!
Most of the senior teachers on our team already had trips planned, and we newer teachers also wanted to take advantage of the 5-day break by doing some travelling. It turned out that we didn’t go very far – first, because we haven’t had much time to plan and most everything this week was already booked; and second, because we’ve only been working here for a month and didn’t want to spend much money! However, at least for me, it ended up being a satisfying week. So, what does one do on a Golden Week in which there are no major trips planned? Well, for me it went something like this:
Wednesday: Walk to the local shopping center. Eat sushi and cake at a revolving sushi restaurant (the sushi revolves, not the restaurant!). Buy soil. Lug it home, use my three planters to plant seeds I bought at the 100-yen store – tomatoes, carrots, beans, lettuce, spinach, flowers. Wait breathlessly for them to grow.
Thursday: Day trip to Iwaki (a city near the coast, and one of the places where the tsunami hit in 2011). Take the train with some other team members. Try to figure out where the aquarium is located. Decide that we need to take a bus. Take the bus to the aquarium. Spend a couple hours exploring. Ride the bus back to the train station. Ask about a hamburger place we want to visit, and find out it’s closed. (Cue some very disappointed team members.) Buy food at a convenience store and sandwich shop instead. Ride the train home.
Friday: Walk to the farthest (but larger) grocery store. Buy lots of food, and as usual, spend more than I want to. But hey! I found oats. And brown and white sugar. And vanilla. Which leads to the next activity…Baking. In the afternoon, I try my mom’s chocolate chip cookie recipe, using my microwave-sized “oven” to bake with for the first time. Partial success – the cookies did, at least, bake and taste somewhat edible. Partial failure – they taste NOTHING like my mother’s. Mom, I’m taking the next flight home!! Later, for supper, make okonomiyaki (vegetable pancakes) with two of my teammates. Total success! I’d forgotten how much I like okonomiyaki!!
Saturday: Take three of my team members and climb Mount Katasone for the second time. Everything’s a little greener and prettier now. Eat sushi at the top, and look out over our town, and at the mountains across from us. “I will lift my eyes to the hills..” Now I know why the mountains made Maria sing. And why David wrote about them in the Psalms. God seems bigger up there, and life seems…smaller.
Sunday: Try going to the local church by myself for the first time! Even though I’m nervous, it turns out to be OK, except for the fact that I can’t understand anything. But I enjoy going and lending some support to the local church, if only by being present sometimes. Japanese churches are so tiny (most of the time), and there are so few of them – this one is the only church in town that I know of! However, it’s very convenient; since it’s being held at the school where I work (until a new church can be built), it’s only a two-minute walk from where I live.
Now it’s Sunday afternoon, which means Golden Week is almost over. It’s been a refreshing week, and I’ve been able to try lots of little projects that have been on my mental “list.” But now, it’s back to the grindstone for a solid few months. No lengthy American summer vacation for me! The summer vacation is a lot shorter here; plus, I work at an after-school program, so it’s shorter for us teachers than it is for the students in public school. I’ll get about 15 days in August, which right now seems a long way away. However, there is Ocean Day – a national holiday – sometime in July. Hey, here’s an idea, America: Why don’t we have an Ocean Day? Maybe I’ll institute one when I get back. In any case, as I wave goodbye to my five days of freedom, I’ll look forward to the coming of summer. Even if I have to work, summer still means hot weather, flip-flops, ice cream, and sunny days!