Friday, April 6
The Last Day

At this point in my vacation, I'm feeling exhausted. This is the first trip that I've been on since Banff '95. That's not to say that I'm tired of Japan, but I really think that if I spent another week here then it wouldn't make the trip significantly more memorable than it already has been. One more full day of Japanese culture to enjoy before going home.

Rather than give my feet a day off following the zig-zag tour of Osaka I went on a hike in the mountains with Dean, Akihiko and my dad.

My poor feet.

Akihiko walked at a brisk pace while I carried Dean. Problems arose when I realized that Akihiko was getting further and further in front of me while I was dodging low branches that were not low enough to be a concern for him. It's clear that he does a lot of walking. Throughout the entire trip, he covers a lot of distance in a short time and it's definitely not because his stride is longer than ours.

Dean found the leaves to be infinitely amusing and I found that he could be kept laughing simply by kicking the leaves with every step. A handy way to keep his attention away from streams and the need to drop pebbles into them.

When we got back to the house, Seiko's niece and nephew were there along with her half-sister. My mom was fretting over the fact that her apple pies got burned. She wanted to cook a "Good Canadian meal". She and Miharu have been talking about it as part of their cross-culture cooking lessons. While my mom's recipe usually calls for the pies to be baked for about 45 minutes, they were burned after fifteen. We figured it was how she used rice flour instead of wheat flour, compounded with the confusion of Fahrenheit/Celsius conversion on the oven. Before we left for the hike, Mom couldn't figure out why the oven wouldn't go up to 400 degrees until someone pointed out that the temperature is measured in metric. I did the math and gave her a number, but it would have been REALLY interesting if the oven could go up to 400 degrees Celsius.

Mom became concerned with the possibility of getting a reputation on this continent for being a bad cook. I assured her that it was a testament to her culinary skills that two significant things could go wrong with cooking her pies and they would still come out tasting as good as they did.

We saw Kaori again - another of Seiko's half-sisters - along with Seiko's grandmother. An old woman who was VERY polite, very nice and had a lot of interesting stories about her life. Unfortunately, she was only around for part of the evening so we didn't get to hear a lot of them. However, one interesting fact was how she used to speak Japanese, English and French when she was a girl and taught English to a number of French students. During the war, all Japanese were forbidden to speak English so she forgot how to speak it.

Kaori was in Canada for John and Seiko's wedding. She didn't speak much, but that's to be expected when trying out your English in a real-world environment. Speaking with her now is completely different. She speaks English better and more clearly than anyone I had met in Japan yet. The only problem was my habit of speaking in broken, simplified English - something that had been helpful for the last two weeks when trying to communicate with those who have English as a second language. I realized that my English must have sounded patronizing - or at the least, confusing - to someone who spoke English well. I complemented her English, saying that it is "very, very good".

Miharu and Seiko then asked me how their English was and my response was "very good". Bad move. I was surrounded by three women with a sofa to my back, and in the process of complementing the English of one I think I insulted the other two. The hole was dug, I had two angry women around me and there was no escape. A couple of slaps on my shoulder didn't seem to lessen their hurt feelings. I eventually had to comment on how pathetic my Japanese was in comparison to their English before they let me off the hook.

Despite my lack of understanding of the Japanese language, we started watching this two or three hour Soap Opera. I totally got sucked into it. I didn't understand a word beyond the occasional "Gomenasai" and "Mushi-mushi", but I was still trapped in it's plot. I decided that I'm a sad, sad, pathetic being.

Ate instant chinese noodles and went to bed. A very good last day (very, very good).