Tag Archives: children

This Gaijin is Game

Daily Prompt: City Planners
If you could clone one element from another city you’ve visited — a building, a cultural institution, a common street food, etc. — and bring it back to your own hometown, what would it be?
Child Dancing with Chrysanthemum Branch by Katsukawa Shunshō This file is in the public domain.
Child Dancing with Chrysanthemum Branch
by Katsukawa Shunshō
This file is in the public domain.

Years ago, I got a chance to visit Japan for a month. One thing I could not forget in the heart of Tokyo was the child center that had something different for children to do on each floor. I would love to take that to all cities I go to.

I went there for a youth camp. A group of gaijin and myself together with our Japanese counterparts built a horror ship for children in the basement and took part in various activities on different floors.

I love building things from boards, wood, nail, glue as well as decorating rooms with all sorts of materials. I also love “low pressure” acting. Once we were done building, painting and adding a tint of horror to the ship, we got to pretend we were the ship’s crew and walked children around on the ship and comforted them when they got too scared (I do hope we were not the object of nightmares for the little ones).

On another floor, children with a musical knack explored their limits. Well, children have no limits, so they explored different instruments from piano to weird pieces of sticks that make sounds when you knock them…

Let’s not forget how talented Japanese can be, so these kids had me left agaze. The room was filled with a tiny potential symphonic orchestra.

Moving up one floor, I found materials for children to show their creative skills working with clay, plaster, paint and any other possible artistic and crafty material you can imagine.

Of course there were playrooms all over the place. There were sections for all ages and I loved watching tiny toddlers move about and make a fool of every adult around them.

One day, we played games with primary schoolers for a few hours. It was love at first ice breaker! Especially one girl with an artificial leg transfixed me! Her English was impeccable, so we had a nice long chat. I never knew a ten year old could be so wise! When I told her she seemed very mature for her age, she said: “I have had a tough life.”

The whole building was constructed child friendly, offering them diverse possibilities they could not normally have easy access to. Every floor of the building allowed children to get a chance to explore all skills they may possess but be unaware of, play until they are too tired and need a rest doing a little painting, and go on adventures in worlds created for them. Plus, through international projects such as the one I participated in, children got to interact with gaijins, while foreigners unaware of the existence of such facilities were left with an unforgettable experience.

Yes, this is definitely one thing I would want to see in all cities I step foot in.

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After the War Part 1: Love in a Pizza Slice

Painting by: PeterKraayvanger Source: http://pixabay.com/en/watercolour-painting-summer-flowers-75123/
Painting by: PeterKraayvanger
Source: http://pixabay.com/en/watercolour-painting-summer-flowers-75123/

Her wrinkled hands skillfully whisked the little bit of flour with ground oatmeal and water to prepare the dough for the pizza. We were three kids left at her care, each with the same expectation expressed in a different ingredient.

“I want onions!”

“I prefer carrots!”

“I like beetroot!”

All of us had chosen a different vegetable she grew in the tiny patch on what was left of her once voluptuous garden.

If she mixed all ingredients, none of us would eat anything that day and we would be hungrily whining around her until bedtime.

Were she to choose only one of the ingredients, the other two would definitely sulk complaining they were not loved enough to get the pizza of their choice.

Thus, carefully measuring with a ruler, she divided the dough into three parts, forming the Mercedes logo on the round baking tray.

She meticulously added the exact same amount of each topping, making sure to use the same measuring bowl so that none could have any reason to protest.

The baking tray holding three different ingredients on one pizza was delivered from the oven to the table we had gathered around. The smell of freshly baked dough wafted through the house after so many months watering our mouths and raising a pitch higher the rumbling in our tummies. As soon as we impatiently bit our slices of pizza, our tongues burnt and we were happier than ever.

In a time when rations were hard to get hold of, with the little she could produce, she had created a pizza with ingredients we were free to choose from. With that pizza, she had made us feel equally loved and very much valued by paying particular attention to our choices. Most important of all, by letting us know that despite everything, there was someone to answer our needs, to ensure that our share was duly noted and provided for, she had made us feel secure.

Many years later, I went back to the house. I put a scarf around my head and followed the two middle aged orphans I had shared a patch of my childhood with out of the old house where each of us had eaten a small slice of the thin bread while shards flew through the broken windows and bullets wheezed nearby.

Walking behind the wooden box, I stared at the once barren garden I used to watch with my child’s eyes. New colorful vegetable patches had been added over the years and trees had grown thick and strong yielding fruits under quiet sunny skies. In the middle of the lush foliage, while they lay the white cloth wrapped around her at the bottom of the freshly dug pit, all I could think was a yearning for a potato pizza with the aroma of onions and beetroots mixing in between every bite.

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