Perks of being a wildflower
PART VI OF MY TRAVELS IN JAPAN SERIES
After my first day at the brothers house, I felt exhausted to say the least but relief of some sort that I couldn't explain. I had overzealously told them I would be available for whenever they needed for the length of my stay here, which meant a few things. One, I couldn't travel up to the mountains and/or beaches and islands because if I did, I would be gone for nearly a week (or more) if I went up north and the same amount of time if I went down south. And two, it would also mean I couldn't focus my sights too much on just traveling around the country side for three weeks and flying out of Tokyo at the end of my month. Both of these were my former plans. And that's travel for you, plans change.
So I decided that I could take a few short trips if I wanted, nothing too over the top due to calculation of expenses. And yes, I know Tokyo is an expensive city, but things were taking care of themselves. I could buy toast and coffee for a dollar in the morning at the hostel, and the brothers told me I could eat and stay there if I wanted. But I just couldn't do it feeling as if a lot more people were traveling to Japan to volunteer with them, that had a lot less money than me. I thanked them kindly but said I would be fine at the hostel and would let them know if plans changed.
So I walked the hour trek back to the hostel, showered, called family and went to bed. The next day I walked around Asakusa just taking in all the sounds and sights. I ate udon noodles at a tiny noodle shop and worked up the courage to talk to a few people in the hostel. I agreed to meet the brothers early the following morning so I went to bed early and was starting to get adjusted to the travel and time lag.
The following morning I walked to the house with a bit less confusion but just as nervous. I went in and said hello and was informed that they were starting their mass. Everyone grabbed a mat and a lady handed me a mat and also a board with two rectangle legs on each side. Thomas told me we were going to pray the rosary. Have I ever prayed the rosary before he asked? Um no, although I had read about it a lot in a booklet. I could never quite remember the lines to say with each bead, and since I wasn't catholic it wasn't instilled in me. It's okay, Thomas said and handed me a rosary. He set up my mat and my board. He demonstrated how you slide your legs underneath and sit on the board. The volunteer lady who took a liking to me the first day tells me, "It is for you, to help your kneel. Your legs won't get as tired since you're not used to kneeling like we do a lot in Japan."
“Okay,” I said.
“Surely this isn't going to be hard. How long will it take, ten minutes at most? A piece of cake.” I think.
The prayer begins. I try to follow along on the Japanese sheet with English translation. I grab the cross at the bottom as visually instructed.
I close my eyes.
You move up the beads vertically and then horizontally. By maybe the 3rd bead my legs are ON FIRE. How many beads are on this necklace? A hundred?! I'm trying to count. I open my eyes and look around at everyone peacefully praying. I will say the ambiance and sounds of the prayer and chanting are literally beautiful, but I simply cannot absorb it at all. It's like your first yoga class or something. I'm starting to sweat. The rosary is also being prayed in JAPANESE, which is taking twice as long as English. This is a test. The brothers are testing me I know it. I close my eyes. I start crying internally. Screaming. Trying to focus. Blocking out all negative thoughts with the words "peace" "love " and thinking of calming colors like "blue and green." I look at my watch, (I know I shouldn't) but it's only been ten minutes. Should I cry? Should I stand and say I can't do it? One of the brothers is looking at me and I close me eyes again. Jesus God, please give me strength to get through this ever loving rosary prayer. I somehow blackout and try to listen for the Japanese equivalent of "we are finished." But nothing. Just words I can't understand sprinkled with God, Mother Mary, and the repeated Japanese word of watashitachi. I can no longer feel my legs. Every time I think ballet will help me, I am humbly proven wrong in life. I will not lie to you to say I could not focus on praying and was in incredible pain the entire time. I think I just almost passed out and seventy minutes later, the prayer is finished. There is a gong that is rang and everyone quietly puts away their mats and heads to the kitchen. I say “I need a minute,” like I'm going to fool anyone that I am not in excruciating pain.
I wait until the room is clear and I fall off the board. My legs are absolutely, beyond asleep. I try to shake them while trying not to scream. The lady that is always helping me come back and asks if I'm okay. Yes I assure her. It took me a very long time to stand up. I was relieved to be done, but was that how I was supposed to feel?
I helped out with random house chores after and answered more questions from inquiring strangers, volunteers and the brothers. I tried to explain to the brothers what Alaska looked like, but they literally couldn't believe what I was saying. They were from such a hot, dry and sparse area that they couldn't understand anything about a jellyfish or the green of the forrests. I tried to explain the Aurura Borealis and they asked me if it was literally magic or a trick. I had to laugh.
They introduced me briefly to their visiting brother, an American Preist who made some comment about my tattoos along the lines of "poor girl." But he could speak English! I made a mental note to speak with him later.
I talked to a few of the Japanese volunteers about their lives, as they nervously practiced their English with me by apologizing every few seconds. After socializing, I started to leave for the day and brother Sebastian with his unique raspy voice told me I should go visit the sisters in a city about an hour away. I would think about it, I said, as I changed my shoes. He turned and asked me why I was here and I said I didn't really know. He said, "No, you know Jodie...." "I don't know." I protested in honesty. "You. Know.” he breathed out in kindness. "We all have a seed within us. When we are a child, we see someone who needs help and you help them. Then as we get older, something happens and you forget. But the seed is still there. The seed is you being called to serve, to help others. Always remember that.”