So this post should have come out back on December 30th, but someone who shall remain nameless (ahem, Dustin) forgot to upload pictures onto the computer after being kindly (absolutely no nagging) reminded a few dozen times. Then this nameless Dustin, I mean person, went on a journey to Texas and I still didn't have pictures! But, alas, here we go.
At the end of the year a local national that works with Dustin invited us to dinner to meet his wife and two girls. This was our first dinner at someone's house and I was very nervous! After last minute lessons on manners and etiquette, we drove out in a new direction from base. Japanese houses are different, but honestly I wouldn't know how to put it in words. They just are set up...differently. We walked into the main living area/dining area/kitchen. It had a very nice open floor plan with super high ceilings (13 ft?).
Joe-san, my husband's coworker, was raised on base by a Japanese mother and military father. His English is perfect and he understands slang and idioms. His wife and two (beautiful!) girls however do not speak much English, if any. So you can understand my nervousness.
What is an appropriate hostess gift? Do we take something for the girls? Should I serve my plate and eat or do small servings of each dish? (Side note: Something I haven't really gone into in past posts is the way food is served. Sometimes it is appropriate to fill your plate "family -style" and other times you should take a small sample on a small plate from one dish and when done serve yourself again onto a new dish. I'm not confident on the rules, so I haven't posted much about it yet). But what should I do here? I really didn't want to offend anyone and my language skills are limited to greetings, a random assortment of vocabulary, and curse words (which my coworkers get a kick out of teaching me when I ask for help).
So back to dinner. We brought a bottle of wine and a chocolate assortment for the girls. We figured that was safe in both cultures. We took off our shoes and sat down to eat. The girls (ages 6 and 8) had already eaten and were full of energy. They weren't nervous around us at all and we found that gestures often got the point across. Often the oldest would just keep talking even though I have no idea what she was saying. Joe-san said she would do that even if I did understand.
Dinner was amazing. I'm sure his wife cooked more food thinking we would bring large American appetites. I was so stuffed and there was still plenty left over.
We had "sushi" rolls with no fish, just veggies wrapped in seaweed and rice. Shredded chicken on a bed of lettuce with julienne cucumbers and sesame dressing (my favorite). Fresh edaname. Salmon with lemon and onion. Mozzarella, tomatoes, and basil on skewers. A beef teriyaki with fresh bell peppers (it had quite a kick!). And finally a platter with hard cheese, salami, and thin crackers. It was SOOOOO good.
I kept my hands on the table (rude to put them in your lap) and made sure not to completely empty my glass when I was finished (an empty glass is a signal that you want more to your host). We talked of cultural differences, language, Box Tops on cereal (?), and food. As the conversation turned to shop talk, his wife started cleaning and I was whisked away to an upstairs playroom. The eldest daughter kept chatting away while the youngest wanted to play with my hair. I think the color must be interesting. We put together a puzzle and then built towers with blocks. I was able to practice my counting and learned how to pronounce colors.
The evening drew into a late night and we finally said our goodbyes to make the drive home. The food and company were excellent. The night became one of my favorite adventures on this far-away island.
Thank you, Joe-san, for making me feel like home in this new place.