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So about three weeks ago I got my first package from home. It arrived on the Monday before Halloween and was filled with all sorts of great North American candy. My host mom and I sat around for a couple nights just sampling everything and comparing to similar Japanese candies. (In a possibly related story, she says she’s gained three pounds sing I got here, and she’s quite panicked about it. Despite promises of gaining 20kg from Potex back home, I’m still holding a steady weight.)

Just last week I got another package with some Jello, Listerine Pocket Packs I like, a maple-leaf hole punch, and a poppie. So my host mom and I made Jello-Jigglers (I did learn the Japanese word for “jiggle”, but I’ve forgotten it), made some paper maple-leaves, freshened our breath (after eating almost all the jigglers) and talked about Remembrance Day. I told her about “Flanders’ Fields” and wearing the poppy and what the remembrance ceremonies are like. She told me about a similar thing they have here on the anniversary of the bombing. The people, like our poppies, buy red feathers to wear in support of charities, and the air raid sirens are sounded for a moment of prayer or silence.

I find myself wanting to stay later and later next summer. First it was for the big sports festival starting July 28th, when I can perform Dragon Dancing for teh Emperor of Japan (a very rare opportunity), then for the bombing anniversary in early August (I think Nagasaki’s is the 9th), and after that there’s the Festival of the Dead in mid August. Anita saw it this year and said there are absolutely no words to describe how it felt to be in Nagasaki that night.

The festival is based on the belief that the spirits of anyone who died in the previous year return to earth for 3 days and need the help of families to send them on to heaven. The families build big ships and run them through the streets. Thousands of fire crackers are fired off constantly. It’s a serious event, but not sombre. I would really love to be able to see it next year.

Changing the subject completely, last Monday a bunch of us went to see a big international Balloon Fiesta in Saga. All the exchange students except Janelle and Lars came, plus Emi, Yuki, and Jose’s future host sister Kazuko (or something similar…) They had the shops I’ve come to recognize as standard at any Japanese festival, so we were able to explore those for a while. We took a short train into Saga for lunch and saw the main balloon show at night when they light up in time to music. There was also a little airshow and some stunt bikers. I think the funnest thing by far was trying to teach Mathilde and the Japanese girls how to properly pronoucnce “really?” in English. They just can’t get their L’s and R’s straight!

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