Since I haven’t written for a while I will endeavor to catch up on what’s been going on in the most basic of ways.  When I last wrote we were planning to take a cooking class and dress as geisha on the same day.  Due to Susan feeling sick we postponed maiko-hensen, geiko or maiko makeover, but continued with our plan for the cooking class.  Whilst Susan slept in  I was able to complete blogging.  Around lunchtime we found the ubiquitous but hard-to-actually-spot Starbuck’s and both of us became actually giddy with excitement for a holiday latte of some sort.  Ordering a ‘grande mocha latte, please’ made me feel a bit at home.  Not that I’m homesick or anything but it’s just nice to be understood: the universal language of Starbucks!  I ordered a BLT sandwich (like a regular sandwich on wheat bread) and we talked and listened to Christmas music.  Not a bad way to spend the morning!  And now here I sit in Grand Forks, ND writing in the blog, drinking a grande eggnog latte listening to the same Christmas music track I heard two weeks ago in Japan!  Isn’t the world amazing!?  The parallels and ironies of life continue to strike me and make me happy.

Having figured out the bus system pretty well, we hopped on the #5 and rode to the NE side of town where we were to meet Emi at the Kyoto Art & Design University.  A beautiful area, a beautiful day!  It was sunny and warm and we sunned ourselves on the steps whilst waiting for Emi, our instructor, to pick us up.  Another woman was sitting on the steps as well and we wondered if she might be part of our class since we knew we most probably would be joined by someone else (she was).  Spotting us from a ways away, Emi approached us calling my name.  I liked her immediately!  She is enthusiastic, kind, and self-effacing in that typically Japanese way – – or what I call typically Japanese!  We introduced ourselves to Emi, then to Petra, the woman sitting near us, and then spotted Gerald crossing the cross walk, the fourth person in our class.  I suppose it’s easy to spot one another since we are all Western and all have that look on our face that tells us we are looking for someone.  It was nice to meet everyone and then we were on our way to Emi’s house up the hill.  That’s where we were to do our cooking.  It was a good opportunity to see residential areas of Kyoto and I enjoyed looking at the architecture and the plants around each home.  What a beautiful way of life in a beautiful city!

We entered Emi’s home, promptly removed our shoes, and were sat around her kitchen table like the students we were.  We chatted and got to know each other better.  Petra, a professional violinist from Amsterdam, was visiting Kyoto for a performance and decided to stay on and explore.  And cook.  Gerald, a health food store owner from Ireland, just plain loves Japan.  Kyoto, specifically.  He is visiting for about one month and will return again!  Both were a lot of fun!  We a multi-national group and had a lot of fun whilst learning and cooking together!

Emi is delightful!  She does what Susan and I call the “Japanese hand giggle” – – a lot.  I caught it on video and plan to post it here when I get around to uploading my photos (no light task).  It’s something we noticed a lot of women do in Japan in general.  You’ve seen it, too, I’m sure.  It’s one of those “typically Japanese” things that really happens.  But back to Emi.  Her kitchen was warm and inviting and we were all eager to learn.  She had us each perform some tasks pertaining to the courses we were cooking.  I was lucky enough to be sitting on the end (due to my left-handedness!) so was assigned some fun tasks like cutting and de-boning fish (love to use a knife!), grinding ginger (I love ginger!), and chopping a lemon-like fruit called yuzu (smells yummy!).  And until Gerald performed one of his tasks perfectly, I was the teacher’s pet and loved every second of it!  That Gerald.   🙂  All in good fun.  Petra was the expert sesame-seed-roaster, among other things, and Susan kept time for all the dishes AND watched the rice for steam (to indicated its doneness) AND performed her other assigned tasks with aplomb!  All together we created the most wonderful meal that we all decided, unanimously, to eat as we went rather than waiting until the end to eat the full meal.  What a great decision that was!  Not sure I could’ve refrained from taking some samples along the way…

We slipped our shoes back on, bowed deeply and often to our guest, said our goodbyes many times over and all walked down the hill to the bus stop.  Petra headed onward but Gerald, Susan and I all took the same #5 bus the 30 minutes or so to our stop where we said our goodbyes to Gerald.  An end to a perfect day!