I had a lovely dinner last week with one of the guys from my Thursday night class. We'll call him "Small Temple-san," because that's how his family name translates to English. Small Temple-san invited me and a fellow JET (you remember “C” from the deflated chocolate mousse incident) to his house, where he, his lovely wife, and his beautiful daughter had prepared an absolutely breathtaking spread of food: soybean salad, smoked salmon bruschetta, mushrooms, shrimp tempura, sashimi -- even a little homemade ume-shu to wash it all down. Yum. Yum. Yum.
Dinner was served at 7 p.m., and the Small Temples begrudgingly admitted that they'd worked on preparing the meal since 3 o'clock that afternoon. The food was absolutely fantastic, but, ironically, it wasn't the highlight of the evening: the Spanish and the pedicure were the best parts.
During our conversation over dinner, the Small Temples learned that I had spent some time studying in Mexico. Their daughter's eyes lit up, and she excused herself from the table and ran into the kitchen to retrieve a packet of Arroz Poblano (Poblano Rice). Turns out that she had visited Mexico herself a few years back, had fallen in love with the food, and had purchased some souvenir rice to prepare in Japan. It was a great plan, except that all of the cooking instructions on this particular package were written in Spanish. She had been waiting two years to make the rice. Could I puh-lease translate the directions into English for her?
I was thrilled to be able to help with her request – it was the first time in eleven months that I felt linguistically helpful instead of like the non-Japanese-speaking burden that I really am.
Apparently feeling indebted for my translation services, Small Temple's daughter dashed off to her bedroom and brought back a pedicure kit. As I ate my dessert, she applied crystals and flower-shaped stickers to my nasty runner's toes, insisting that my feet “didn't smell that bad” as I was giggling with embarrassment. C even got in on the pedicure action, scoring gold nail polish and glitter on the big toe of his right foot.
I left the Small Temples’ house with a full belly, a take-home bottle of moonshine ume-shu, and sparkly toenails. What else could a gal ask for?