Lucky for me, body language and hand gestures are universal.
Our students, Mayu and Nanako, arrived on Friday. Mayu, who is staying with me, speaks very, very little English, but we are making it work. There's a lot of me waving her towards me, and holding the index finger up wait, and thumbs up for good. I wonder if she noticed if these are the same gestures we use with Jen's deaf bulldog? If she has, I hope she doesn't take offence.
So far, we've mastered "I like" and "I don't like", "I want" and "I don't want", "I am full", and the big one: "OK" and "Not OK". For the first day, everything was OK, so I wasn't sure that she understood that things could be not OK. Mayu is such a respectful and accommodating girl that at first, I was afraid that she'd go along with me and do or eat things she doesn't like rather than risk being rude. Thankfully, I think we've got it worked out and she's managed to tell me when something isn't to her liking.
This, of course, means that I'm now going to broaden her horizons and try new things with her, expecting her to tell me when she doesn't like it.
Yesterday, the four of us went to the local market. The girls, who have never met each other before, didn't even really talk amongst themselves as they followed Jen and I around. They did laugh at the silver guy acting like an Elvis statue. Then we took them to the spa and we each got pedicures. They seemed a little stunned at first, but I think they liked it.
After that was the breakthrough. We took the girls to the grocery store to buy the food for their stay. They laughed and laughed. I don't think they've ever seen so much food being purchased at once. If they pointed at something, we bought it. If they said "I like" to something, we bought it. (Within reason). Eventually, we had a cartful for the four of us, which I don't think is unreasonable for four people for two weeks, but the girls seemed surprised about the volume.
I was expecting her to not like most of our foods, but so far she has seemed OK with it. There have been a few things that got an apologetic "I don't like" but for the most part, I get a smile and an "OK" as she tastes new things. This morning, I even got a request for more pancakes with maple syrup. I've heard horror stories about how our food tends to make the Japanese sick, because it's so different from theirs. I suspect, though, that that's the processed food that we North American's eat. I've been giving her simple, whole food with an emphasis on fresh fruits and veggies and trying to cut back on the dairy. So far, as far as I can tell, it seems to be working.
Today we are off to do a farm tour. A local co-op of 5 farms that work together do an annual appreciation day where the public is welcomed out to their farms and given a tour. Some friends and I went last year and had a blast, so we're hoping that the girls like it just as much today.
Tomorrow, they'll start "school" for week. We aren't sure what will happen after that - if they'll want to hang out with the other Japanese students in the evening or if they will want to spend time with us. We have some rough plans for things we could take them to, but for now we're thinking we'll play next week by ear.