Ofunato Day 6 or is it 7

Losing count of the days, which isn’t a bad thing.  Really it feels like a few weeks of being immersed in this reality.  Yesterday we had only one show and workshop, but oh what a time it was.  It was the first time that there were adults (beyond school staff) in the audience. Along with about 50 students (3 rd grade) there were an equal number of grandparents!  The show took place in the huge beautiful gymnasium of the Ofunato Elementary School. As usual we are on a strict time schedule. Guy and I look at the clock at the end of the show, we have 12 minutes for workshop time. Just enough time for a little fun and games with juggling scarves, working both challenging their skills and looking to open up their funny.

The Gymnasium takes on a lot of beauty as elders and youth mix it up with colorful scarves flying everywhere, kids in complete delight, grandparents after initial hesitations, joining in the fun. Guy and I are improvising what we ask them to do.  We haven’t had the opportunity to work with such a group before. We ask them to take partners, grandparents and grandkids, and ask them to pass scarves between them. Big excitement, lots of loving fun.  With only a few minutes to go,  Keiko comes by to tell us that they are giving us more time but she doesn’t know how much.  A little bit of confusion in the mix as Guy and I agree that I should lead them into some mime exercises. Soon they are all playing with their hand being stuck as they try to walk away. I am asking them to play their funny, tanoshkata.  Indeed a good number dig into it, as one might expect the kids more than the elders. However in some cases I see the grandparents offering the example to the kids.

In our meeting with the principal afterwards, his body language is completely open and excited. He shares a clapping game with us. It turns out that he is a specialist in recreation His shining smile is quite a contrast to the more somber looking black and white photos lining the walls of all the past principals. In every principal’s office there is a line of photos along the top of the wall, often circumnavigating the room, depicting the lineage. Although they are formal posed portraits most with stern faces, there are always at least a few with bright shining eyes.  With each visit, we continually witness the love and care that the staff feels for their students. A reminder of what is cherished and shared by so many, not just here, but I imagine everywhere.

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