Finally, a few minutes to rest. The past week has been consumed by a family (of six!) trip, followed by volunteer fire practice yesterday morning - which always ends up in a drinking party for the rest of the afternoon so my whole day was shot.
The photos are from the past week when the family visited us for a bike trip. They kept it a secret from us that their youngest daughter had just learned to ride a bike two days earlier, but by the time she left us she was a die-hard biker. I asked her what her favorite part of the trip was, and she said "riding the bike". This is a pleasant surprise because this past week every thing seemed to work out perfectly - from the night in our favorite 250 y/o Nozawa inn, to their lunch at the local sushi shop where the chef dressed them up as chefs and taught them how master the art. We joined first and second graders at the local school for a mochi pounding party, and the boys had two pairs of wooden geta custom made by the last kiri geta craftsman in Nagano.
With all this culture going on, however, it was difficult to fit in as much riding as dad would have hoped for. On the third day we had planned a long and challenging ride through our village, but the children's desire to play in the rice paddies and catch frogs won out. While the "official" activity was helping us weed the paddy, not much weeding actually got done. Luckily, the way we weed the paddy is to push all the weeds down under the mud and smother them - something that happens naturally as the kids chase the creatures around.
Another highlight (to my surprise) was the fireworks we brought along on a whim when we spotted a package in the 100 yen store the night before. We were staying in an amazing 150 y/o house on the edge of the mountain with nothing but rice paddies and fireflies all around it. After a late dinner of bear meat stew, wild boar in miso, and raw deer meat (all from the local hunter), everyone was passed out until the fireworks came out and miraculously everyone was genki again.
The last day was sad and crammed as everyone prepared to leave on the 2:30 bus. A lesson in painting picture postcards from the curator of the museum himself gave us a chance to write thank-you notes for everyone we had met along the way, and the museum folks were extremely excited to have so many foreigners in their museum. They insisted we take a tour, despite the children's obvious desire to get riding, and we were an hour late to meet dad at the top of a mountain (where he had ridden his bike to while we painted postcards). After a quick junk-food lunch (sorry about that Sarah), everyone chose to take the challenging dirt road down, instead of the smooth paved road. Remember, the 8 y/o daughter had only learned to ride a bike one week earlier! I am often worried about making the routes too challenging - not because the kids can't do it, but because the parents complain. This time the parents made the decision to take her on the dirt road, she herself wanted to challenge the dirt road, and she did AWESOME! I no longer accept complaints from parents.