Robert & Roberta Adair

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When Robert was in CA, J and I went for a jog. We greeted a grandma in our neighborhood who was out working in her yard. After some small talk (mostly about my mom’s visit to Japan – I’ve never talked with this woman before in my life and she somehow knows a good deal about our family…), she asked me about a fruit tree in our tiny garden. For two years, the fruit on both of our teensy fruit trees rotted (ugh, I know, how wasteful). I didn’t know what to do with either citrus fruit, so…I let them sit on the trees until new fruit came. This year, I picked yuzu (“a Japanese citrus fruit” that ripens in the fall) and gave them all away. I planned on doing the same thing with the kinkan (sort of like tiny oranges that are eaten peel and all) but didn’t know when they were ripe. Anyhoo, because she asked about them, I decided to give her a bunch.

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When I went over on Saturday to drop them off, she invited J and me in for tea. An hour and a half later and several snacks and drinks consumed (and J crumpling up more than his share of newspaper), she sent us home with tiny dried fish and potato chips. On Monday, she came over again around dinner time to drop off takenokegohan (yummy rice with veggies). She said she couldn’t stay long. Then today, in a bit of a rush, she came again with some of the fruit I brought her boiled in honey and other stuff (apparently great for a sore throat), a cream puff (huge!), crispy, freshly made fried tofu (yummy in soup), and (okay, I have no idea what the greens with yellow flowers are. I think I’m to cut them up and boil them in salt water and serve with some soy sauce…?). Wow. All because I gave her some fruit that I’m trying to get rid of.

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I feel like we have been on the receiving end big time lately. I ate and enjoyed yummy pumpkin bread (not dessert bread. white bread with pumpkin in it. really light yet filling) that an English family gave to us. Yesterday after volunteering in the oyster village with a team, R received 2 containers of tiny fish (pictured below on the left) that are good on salad or over rice. I haven’t eaten any yet, but I think they’re going to be quite good. And another friend wasn’t feeling well enough to meet today, but she still wanted to bring the mussels (on the right).

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My neighborhood flower lady gave me these sweet peas on Tuesday after J and I stopped in for a quick visit. She has a flower shop, but she also is so generous at serving tea and talking – wow, I like her – and she often gives me a flower. Another friend made the little hair band (I gave her flowers before she moved; she gave me hand-made magnets, cookies, and a sweet note), another friend gave me the pretty postcard, and yet another friend (and sister gave me the chocolate-covered peanuts. Wowzas. [And there is a note that says “Thanks” from a thank you gift (cookies and tea) because I made cookies for my friend’s engagement ceremony. But more on reciprocity in a sec.]imageWe receive so much – from our support team, from our families, from our regional team (thank you, hand-me-downs!). It’s really overwhelming at times, really. Yet…it’s also confusing, too. From my mom, I try (often unsuccessfully) to keep on top of thank you notes. She also said, “never return an empty dish,” so I try to remember (again, often unsuccessfully) to put something in the returned container. Yet in Japan there are a whole new set of reciprocity rules to convey gratitude that are really, really confusing to me. A deep bow and a heartfelt “Arigatou!” doesn’t feel like enough. I’ll sometimes think to bring over a piece of cake to the flower lady or something like that…but I am totally losing if a tally is being made. Hmm. Thankfully I have a foreign face and am not expected to understand the dance. I think it’s confusing even for many of my Japanese friends. Yet someday I want to learn it – not so I don’t feel indebted to people or with the motivation of “paying people back” for their kindness but because there can be beauty in the dance of giving and receiving. Learning the steps, though, is going to take some practice. In the meantime, I’m going to enjoy looking at my pretty flowers and trying new (and, face it, pretty funky food.

Originally posted on Adair Update...

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