Sunday, August 22

Festival Weekend!

Yesterday, the family and I were looking forward to a few things going on in our city this weekend.

First up, the Freshman are moving into their dorms, so we knew traffic and getting around could very well be hairy. (I wouldn't say the city's traffic flow is really set up for this sort of influx of people...) We wanted to stay on our side of town, and if we could help it, stay very far away from downtown!

I knew there was a Greek Festival just up the street (i.e. within walking distance) from us. I found their website and saw the menu, and decided that we should at least go there to have dinner - gyros, Greek salad, spanakopita (I loves me some spinach!), souvlaki... it all sounded *so* good. I also knew that this festival was being sponsored by the Greek Orthodox Church here (which was fine) and that money collected was going to the Shriner's Fund, also totally cool. But when we got to the festival... it looked like there weren't many people there. Our kids were certainly the *only* kids we saw, although they had two bouncy houses in the parking lot. We also saw (outside) a Gyro stand, but not much else. I saw a sign on the door of the temple, and just inside was a table where they were collecting the $2 admission fee. Okay, no problem. We walked in, and Ardeo looked a little further into the building - he said it looked like a Bingo meeting... so we all went back outside (no one in line behind us, only one ahead of us) to talk about this. We decided that it was probably only for members of the church, so we left. The kids (Miss H, mostly) were disappointed because we had talked this up so much, and everyone was really looking forward to going! Since we had no idea what else to do that didn't involve going downtown-ish, we came home to have dinner here.
While cooking dinner, I looked on the website again - and noticed for the first time, that a portion of funds collected were going to the Shriner's Fund, and the rest of the money was going to the church's building fund. Honestly, I felt kinda duped. That info wasn't mentioned *anywhere* at the actual event, nor was it mentioned on the news this week (after the noon news, my NBC affiliate runs a spot highlighting what's happening and coming up around town/not too far from here). Anyway I'd rather have known this before going, because we can get good Greek food in the mall and I know exactly where that money is going! I'll donate to the Shriner's Fund separately... thanks.
(I'm sure that makes me sound like some kind of jerk, but I don't attend any religious services anywhere, therefore I do not want my money going to a church's building fund. A church/temple/mosque/synagogue doesn't have to be big and fancy, for Pete's sake.)

Red beans and rice for dinner, thank you Zatarain's!

After dinner, I did a quick search to see if anything else was going on nearby - especailly if it didn't involve driving through a sea of lost Freshmen! I got lucky, found a community calendar, and found the perfect thing:
Japan Festival!
Started at 3 and was wrapping up around 9 last night, at the same park where my MIL's family has their annual reunion. I knew a secret shortcut :D
So, this festival was put on by the Japan/America Society (of our state - find one near you here), it was only the one day, and I lucked into finding it.
{I don't know if I've mentioned it here, but Miss Hurricane's school has a Japanese teacher; (I asked Mister Twister, and he said it wasn't offered until she got into Kindy in 2008.) she has been learning Japanese at school and really enjoys it. Even I have learned basic phrases, as her sensei sends home a monthly newsletter for parents to help the kids study/remember what they've learned. I think we must have had an influx of Japanese families move to the area recently, but we've also had a Toyota plant near here for about 15 years. Japanese students also learn English during their junior-high years - why not bring their language to our country too? /ADD storytelling}

ANYWAY - it was only 6:30 when I found this festival. Knowing how to get there, I thought 'we could easily be there by 7 or so, that gives us a couple hours, let's go!'. Ardeo didn't feel so well after dinner, but told me to go ahead and take the kids - he knew as well as I did that Miss Hurricane would enjoy it. Mister Twister enjoys Japanese culture from the point of their video games and manga/anime/cartoons, so he wanted to go as well. Sounds good to me!
Off we went. We arrived just after 7, while the koto performance was in full swing. (This isn't the lady who played last night, but here's a video so you can hear it: Japanese Koto) Her music echoed throughout the area, which was situated just beside the lake - it was absolutely awesome, beautiful music! While the kids and I walked around a banjo player started working his magic too. I'm sure everyone knows what a banjo is... :-) He was really good too; I love music, so I enjoyed having some background music as we walked around the festival.
We talked to the lady at the front booth first, who told me a little about where everything was located ('travel to Japan' booth over there, 'try on a kimono' up that way, food is all over here, etc.) when Miss Hurricane shyly said to her, "Konnichi wa." - I told the lady that she was the only one yet learning the language, so she also greeted the kid and then said something we did not understand one bit... LOL I told her "she's only in 2nd grade, I don't think she's learned quite that much yet :D ". She told said kid that's okay, that she was happy to hear of young ones learning Japanese at school, and that she said "Hello" very well - I think that kind of catapulted Miss Hurricane's confidence and interest in trying to at least say the basics to all the vendors we were going to see!
We got a flyer with info on our local Society and walked through the gate (no admission fee - sweet!); immediately to our right we could smell and hear the food cooking up. Remember that I said we'd just finished dinner? The Boy Wonder, who is newly 12, said "That smells good, can we try it?". ...Ha... didn't you just eat, son?! :D I said we'd come back before leaving, I wanted to see everything that was there first. Miss Hurricane just took off on me - walking very fast toward a booth with Hello Kitty items e.v.e.r.y.w.h.e.r.e. This is akin to this child's idea of "heaven" these days, why would I expect her to wait for us?? LOL
The boy found his wallet and had it with him; she and I looked for 10 minutes to find her wallet, but never did see it. She asked me about 50 different things with amazing speed; again, I said we will come back around, "let's see what they have over here". She stopped at every table/booth to ooh and aah over the things laid out for sale. She also greeted everyone with "Konnichi wa" and told the vendors 'this is pretty!' or 'this looks nice!' or 'that smells good!' (followed by "Mom can I have this pleasepleaseplease?" - child, patience! heh...).
We managed to get over to the free stuff tables, where I was hoping to spend most of our time. We found an origami table (we made a horse - it looked a little sickly due to Miss Hurricane's not-yet-honed folding skills), a taiko teacher (Mister Twister was watching in awe), and a place where anyone could try on a kimono. The kimono booth was where the kids both jumped in and said "I bet they let you keep them!" (this was not the case...) - I only had my phone with me, but the pictures actually came out pretty well! Evidence:

Try on a kimono!

Kimono-clad siblings

Mister Twister-san

Pink obi! :D

She found a fan to borrow!

They did have to return the kimonos after about 10 minutes, which allowed them to have about 30 on hand that everyone could try on for a bit. They also had the sandals (you can even get special socks for the sandals!) if one were so inclined to go all out - and both kids went for it (sockless)! I have to say, I really like the picture of them next to each other. I'll have to keep that one handy for when they start fighting over stupid things... "look, you guys can get along! See?!?" (they typically get along *great*, for which I am totally thankful!!)
I know this is getting really long already, but I'm almost finished. When I tell a story, I try to stimulate your brains as much as I can in the same way a good author can use words to fill your head with a movie-like fluency! (Props to all my English teachers in middle and high school!)

The kids returned their kimonos after the picture-taking, and just one booth to our right they found a little kiddie pool filled with small, round balloons. For $1, you get to go 'fishing' for a yo-yo balloon. Miss Hurricane went after a pink one (of course) while her brother just watched and tried to coach her in the art of balloon fishing. After a few minutes she did 'catch' her balloon; it was tied to a rubberband with a loop, and weighted with a little water inside so it would act like a yo-yo. She told the vender "arigato" and went went on around to the other booths. I managed to keep the kids away from the giant TV hooked up to a Wii!

The next booth we saw was the 'travel to Japan' one, which was a table with a bunch of brochures laid all over it - the kids walked fast by him... The next booth was personalized calligraphy, again for only $1. Miss Hurricane said Konnichi wa, and the ladies writing grinned from ear to ear and said Konnichi wa right back. They had simple paper fans on which they could write any kanji character (or phrase) we wanted.

All three fans!


Guess who owns which fans? :D

While the fans were being beautified with kanji, the Taiko group came on stage. Again, I don't have video of this group, but here is an example for you: Japanese Taiko Drummers. That's a 5 minute video, leave the new tab open and listen while you finish reading here! ;) (I don't know what the girl says, but I think I heard 'itadakimasu' at the end, which sounded familiar - might also mean 'enjoy'? I will ask MH's sensei as soon as I can!) Also, if you saw the opening ceremony of the Olympics in Beijing 2008, that's pretty similar to this.
Now, let me tell you something here - it's one thing to see a video of this, but another entirely to actually *be* there. You can seriously feel every beat vibrate your whole body, even from 50 yards. Totally awesome. (Can you tell I'm a child of the 80's? Just wondered if it shows.) I wanted to close my eyes and feel the music... but, watching both kids I had to keep them open. This looks good for home use: Big Bang (Portland Taiko).
At this point, it was about 8:30 and people started leaving. The last event was a folk dance in which the audience could learn and participate. Mister Twister decided he had to have some food, and even offered to use his own money for it. He got some food and drink while Miss Hurricane and I browsed the few booths still open.
Naruto, Vol. 48 (Naruto (Graphic Novels))

Joseph-Beth had a table there full of manga, and he chose a Naruto book (written in English but still read from right-to-left, or back-to-front in this case). He has liked Naruto for years now, and he did take his time to peruse the books there before finding #48. Ardeo has watched the series (in Japanese, with subtitles) together with the boy, so his buying #48 wasn't just a whim - he's read quite a few from the school library.

Maneki Neko Money Lucky Cat Chinese Japanese Statue Figure Collectible
Miss Hurricane wanted a few of the Pokemon critters, but being that they were special-issue *and* imported from Japan, they were a bit expensive. I did get that vendor's business card and we just might consult with Santa about that. :) I know we could find other Pokemon products from Amazon, among other places. What we did find for her was a Hello Kitty mask ($5, not bad really), and she thought this *perfectly* complemented her new Neko* fan, so now she wants to be Hello Kitty for Halloween. I just might work on that for her!

*(I know that link is for Maneki Neko, but that's something you'll see if you go out for Chinese food anywhere too!)

Most everyone had left by now, and Mister Twister was still eating. I'm not sure the name of it, but his food did have (cooked!) octopus and squid, and he said he liked both tastes! There were noodles and vegetables too, the seafood wasn't the main ingredient. He got a cold bottle of true green tea (as did I), just like this one:  Ito En (Oi Ocha) Japanese Green Tea, 16.9-Ounce Bottles (Pack of 12).  We usually get those from "our" Japanese grocery on the other side of town; I'm pretty sure this vendor was from their restaurant part of the building.  Miss Hurricane wanted some sort of peach drink, although it looked and tasted more like strawberry - it was carbonated and sweetened, but she didn't like it, so the kids traded drinks.  Again, I'll have to take the empty bottle up to her school and ask her sensei, because it is written entirely in Japanese.  I liked it as well, but she and I enjoyed the green tea better.

All in all, we had a great time!  Ardeo was sorry he missed out on it, but even when we got home around 9:30 he still wasn't feeling very well.  I was sad knowing that it was only a one-day festival; the three of us definitely wanted to go back today had the festival still been there!
I hope you enjoyed reading about this little piece of Japan here, and maybe I tossed out some links that you'll enjoy too.  On a related note - I now think it might be more fun to learn Japanese rather than Spanish... or, I suppose I could shoot for a linguistic trio!

I am already looking for something to do this coming weekend. The kids have labor Day weekend (Sa/Su/Mo) soon but we may go up to Mom's. I have no idea if she has any plans though, but our next chance to visit would be October.

OH! I also have a new family member!! My cousin Jenn delivered another beautiful baby girl on the 18th - right in between her big sister's and mother's birthdays! As soon as she's able, I'm sure she'll update her blog with the info - but with a newborn, give her some time :D I know everyone is super happy for them, so congratulations!!

That's all for now, folks. Much love and be well!

1 comment:

Amphitrite said...

I heard from Miss Hurricane's sensei, regarding the taiko video:

"Itadakimasu is what we say before the meal, meaning, "I am thankful for this food." Thanking the person who prepared it. It could hold religious intent as well - Could be used as a short prayer."

Arigato, sensei! :)