Hello everyone! This past weekend, CIEE students had the amazing opportunity to do a homestay weekend. I was really excited when I found out we would have this option, because I was originally signed up to do a homestay for the semester, but those plans changed after the earthquake. But, CIEE arranged for students to have the option to stay with a family from Friday night until Sunday, and many of us were paired with the family we would have originally lived with -- so it was really cool to actually get to meet them. My family was absolutely amazing. The mom and dad are in their late 20s/early 30s, with a four-year-old daughter and another child on the way (due in late July!). On Friday afternoon, there was a small party at CIEE where many of the families came to the study center office to pick up their students and take them home. But, some of us met our families directly at the train station (myself included). Around 6:30pm the mother, Hanae-san, met me outside of a coffee shop and we headed back to their apartment. I'm a beginner at Japanese so I was kind of worried about how well I would be able to communicate, but it actually went really well!
When we got back to the apartment, the father (Yosuke-san) and daughter (Kohaku-chan) weren't home yet, so I settled into my room and talked to Hanae-san some more. Their apartment is really nice -- they have wireless internet, which is atypical for Japanese homes, and a really nice layout and living area. The father is really into music and has a record player and a cabinet full of vinyl albums -- the jazz albums constantly playing set a really good mood for the house. The CIEE staff had told me that the daughter, Kohaku-chan, was really shy, but when she got home we immediately hit it off. We played various games and once she discovered YouTube on my computer, we watched about 50 videos of "Purikuya," which is kind of like Sailor Moon for today's generation. Friday night was really nice and relaxing -- we talked a lot, I showed them some pictures from home, and we had a really delicious dinner!
Saturday, I had an amazing breakfast with bread and lots of fruit, and then we drove to Chiba to go ice skating. It was Kohaku-chan's first time going so I knew it was going to be an adventure. When we got there, it was pretty crowded since it was a rainy day, but we found a place to sit down and changed into our skates. At ice skating rinks in Japan, there isn't an attendant handing out skates -- you just go choose your own and keep your shoes with you. Once I found skates that fit and we got Kohaku-chan into her training skates, myself, Kohaku-chan, and Yosuke-san headed out to the ice. Kohaku-chan was pretty good at it, and by pretty good I mean she was capable of standing up while her dad or I supported her and moved her forward around the ice... She was super cute though, and had a lot of fun. But, with the amount of people packed onto the smallish rink it was kind of stressful at times, especially when we all rendesvouzed at one point and her parents sent Kohaku-chan off skating alone with me. I was pretty much terrified for her saftey but we went really slow, and she didn't fall the whole time I was with her! We all had a lof of fun and Hanae-san got a lot of great pictures -- she is really into photography and wasn't skating because of the baby :).
After ice skating we went to this pizza place that was actually the best pizza I have ever had. Seriously. It was so delicious. Yosuke-san said he thought it was the best pizza in Tokyo, but it seriously might be the best pizza anywhere outside of Italy. If you're in Japan or Chiba you should definitely check it out -- it's called Pizzeria Veicolo and I have their business card if you want the address (in Kanji..)!
After eating we headed back home and had a relaxing Saturday night before Hanae-san and I started to prepare Sunday's dinner (I actually missed that memo originally and thought we were going to eat it later Saturday night, so I was pretty disappointed when I found out we had to wait until Sunday night to eat it). I haven't done that much cooking before, but Hanae-san was a patient teacher and she picked something pretty easy for us to make. Basically I just cut up a bunch of vegetables, fried some meat, and put it in a pot with some noodles and various condiments to boil -- but it was really delicious. I went to bed shortly after we finished making dinner because I had been told I had to wake up early on Sunday!
Sunday was another rainy day, but Hanae-san had special plans for us to go to a ceramics studio and throw our own pots! So, Hanae-san, Kohaku-chan, and myself got out our umbrellas and trudged to the bus stop to ride over to the area where the studio was. It actually took us a while to find, but we finally got there and it was such a cute little shop. I'm pretty sure the owner lives in the back, and the store was half shelves with things he was selling, and half his studio where there were two potter's wheels, the table, and the kiln. We all squeezed inside and set about to "learning" how to throw -- it was a lot of Japanese so I basically just copied what the sensei did and they threw in a few English words like "faster," "slower," "thin," and "thick" -- which I know how to say in Japanese anyways... but, after a few good attempts and lots of corrections I finally made two little cups, and Hanae-san made two bowls. Kohaku-chan made two plates by hand (not on the wheel), and she was really cute while doing it. The ceramics studio was a lot of fun and was a great bonding experience. The clay was too wet to paint, so we selected our colors, and the sensei is going to paint and fire it, and then we pick it up later. I'm excited to see the finished product!
The rest of Sunday was a great day with the family. We had lunch in the area and then walked to this shrine whose god is the protector of "car safety," so people can drive their cars up and park them in front of the main temple. It was pretty cool. The street outside the temple had lots of vendors giving out samples, so we got lots of little dessert treats for free! It was a great way to end the afternoon before heading home (and the rain had let up soon!). Sunday night we finally ate the meal we had prepared the night before, which turned out pretty well if I do say so myself, and then after dinner we did origami as a family at the table. It was amazing. I made a few simple things myself (a heart and a hat), but the parents pulled off some pretty amazing folds. They ended up giving all of the finished products to me as a present, which was really sweet. In all, I had an amazing weekend with my family, and everyone else I have talked to had a positive experience as well. We have enjoyed living in the dorm together, but it was really cool that we could still get a taste of what living with a Japanese family would be like. My family invited me back for dinner any time, and of course I am going to go see the baby when it is born! I can't wait!