I'll do a photo update later when I steal my husband's camera, but... we have had a great few days. We had some friends visiting and it was great to do nothing in particular, but just talk and eat and talk a bit more and of course eat a bit more too! They are German friends that used to live in Japan, then France and now live in Hong Kong. Their two children are tri-lingual in German, French and English. The thing I always enjoy most is comparing the different ways of different countries and laughing at the way the Japanese do it. Fortunately for me I am happy to just laugh at it and not get too worked up about it (in most cases anyway....). When we have visitors I often realise that I have been here too long when I see something as completely normal, but a visitor points out that it is really very strange.
One example of this on this trip was when I took them to visit the kindergarten that the children used to go to when they lived in Japan. Their old teacher was there and was so excited to see them and show them all the places they used to play etc. Of course the children (who are now 12) had no memory of it, but managed to smile and nod and even make a video-letter for their old classmates. It was my first time to visit the kindergarten and also to meet the teacher, but as we were leaving she told me that she would get my contact details from my friend and she would come and visit me. I smiled and nodded and said she would be welcome any time. This happens to me a lot - it often feels like a form of greeting here and most of them don't actually come and visit, but there are a few who do and sometimes we create a friendship from the initial visit. Most often we chat for a bit and I never hear from them again as we usually have nothing in common apart from the mutual friend..
It wasn't until my friend pointed out that she thought this was very strange that I started thinking about it. I'm pretty sure it is a "foreign" thing in that I don't think Japanese people who don't know each other invite themselves to each others houses for a chat. It seems to just be with foreign people and a "if she is friends with my friend then of course I will also be her friend" kind of thing. It will be interesting to see if she does actually ever contact me.
I have been here for over 16 years now so I wonder how many times people leave our place after a visit and go home laughing about all the strange things I now do....... fortunately we have another few groups of fantastic visitors lined up over the next few months so they can bring me back to reality!