Every month or so I go to read English books to kids in Nobeoka. I have been doing this for pretty much the whole time I’ve lived in Japan and the only time I took a long break from participating was when I broke my ankle. Often I am the only foreigner, which means I end up reading all of the books. Typically the foreigner reads the English and then one of the Japanese volunteers (all very sweet older women) will translate. Each month follows the same format:
I arrive about half an hour before the event starts and the women come up to ask me if I mind reading the books they’ve chosen. (I never mind.) Then normally one or two will come up at some point and ask me to clarify some English phrase or sound in the book, something they cannot quite figure out or is not in their dictionaries because it is slang. At some point a few of them will also come up and ask me why I haven’t found a boyfriend yet. I have more grandparents in this country than I have in the US.
Once the event officially starts, around 2, we sing the hello song, which goes:
Hello, hello, hello how are you?
I’m fine, I’m fine, I hope that you are too.
Then we start the books. About halfway through there is normally a song break so the kids can get up and stretch. Sometimes the songs are ones I have never heard or, often times, strange versions of ones I have known since childhood. After that, it is back to reading books.
At the very end we sing the goodbye song, which, despite having sung it more than a dozen times, is somehow elluding me as I write the post.
Since I have been participating in this event for over two years now, I asked if I could bring one of my own books. I hopped on American Amazon to find the perfect Passover book. What I ended up with two of the only Passover kids’ books that would actually ship to Japan. Since Passover started the day before, I thought it might be fun to bring a Jewish kids book.
I do not think I will be trying that again.
Part of the problem was that I had to do the Japanese and English and my Japanese explanations were not as good as I had hoped. Another part of the problem was that the book was geared more for Jewish kids who are already familiar with the rountines of Passover and the Sedar.
Still, it was worth a shot and we will see how I feel when Hanukkah rolls around.