Saturday, May 12, 2007

these walls are paper thin

just after 7am on sunday, mother's day. (hi mom!! i didn't forget!) i was woken by the little boy next door yelling to his grandma right outside my window. it sounded like the whole family was outside my window...building something. it's 7am!! but they've only disturbed me about three times in almost a year, so i didn't have the heart to go out and grouch at them. in japan the walls truly are paper thin--they're made of paper, so i've been incredibly lucky to have quiet neighbors.

usually i ride my bike to the store, but last week i decided to walk so i could listen to my ipod; i get really into my music. i was mulling over how safe i feel walking around japan, heedless of the people around me. i don't worry about lurkers waiting to rob me like i did in american cities. just then, an old woman emerged suddenly from a narrow passage between two houses and scared the crap out of me!! when i recovered, i laughed heartily imagining the look of terror that crossed my face because of a gentle old lady half my height!
speaking of ipods--i have the one on which you can watch movies or TV. if i'm going on a long train ride, i usually download something new to watch during the trip. last month i caught the cheaper local "stops at every station" train up to tsu, which is a 3 and a half hour ride. it was full to bursting with high schoolers riding home, but it quickly thinned out to the few students who live in farther away towns. i was in the midst of watching the latest episode of America's Next Top Model when i felt someone watching me. i met the eyes of a curious kid sitting on my left. he was inching closer and closer, craning his neck to see what i was looking at. without a word spoken, he reached my side and i tipped the screen so he could see it too. we sat in amicable silence watching the final few minutes of the show, after which he stood up and went back to his group of friends.

the weather is getting really gorgeous, so when i have the energy, i try to get out and walk in the remaining daylight after school. some evenings i hike partways up the little trail close to my house (where i first went with mr. M). the view is really incredible, and it doesn't take long to get up to a good vantage point. the smells along the way are also an interesting treat, since i pass people's houses on the way up. the first time i went, i smelled wax and bug spray, azaleas and cut grass. i paused to enjoy one of the last blooming cherry trees and shared a pleasant silence with another old woman watching the sun go down. she told me to watch my step as i continued up the trail alone. the first really good view is from a grove of plum trees, so i turned off the trail there. it was so wonderfully empty of other people and so quiet. even in a small town like kumano, it's difficult to feel truly away from people sometimes. everything is so close together.

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