Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Glimpses of Shoko Part 1: At the Waterfall

I’ve been spending a lot of time with Shoko over summer break, and have begun to accumulate a lot of “Shoko stories”. None of these are big enough to justify posts in their own right. On the other hand, put together it is too long for one post. So, I've decided to split it up into a 4 part series: "Glimpes of Shoko."

At The Waterfall

I’ve been spending much of my free time swimming in the waterfalls, but Shoko has been working most afternoons, and doesn’t have the same opportunity. She repeated expressed interest in the Yabakei waterfall, and asked me to take her with her one day.

When she had a Thursday off, and when Harrison and I were planning on going to the waterfall anyway, the opportunity was perfect.

Although Shoko knew from my stories that the purpose of going to this waterfall was to slide down it, she was very skeptical upon viewing it. “You’re not really going to slide down that?” she asked.

“Sure I am,” I said, as I stripped down to my bathing suit. And with her yelling at me to be careful the whole time, I slide down just like I had done a hundred times before. Harrison arrived later and did the same thing.

It took a lot of convincing for Shoko to go down the waterfall. First of all she had to watch Harrison and I slide down several times before she was convinced it was safe. Actually, someone had died at that waterfall earlier in the summer. Although I had told this to Shoko before, I intentionally neglected to remind her of it, but I imagine it was in the back of her mind.

Finally, Shoko announced that before she was ready to slide down the waterfall, she wanted to get used to the water and go for a swim at the base.

“Is the water cold?” she asked.

Of course it’s cold, Harrison and I replied. It’s a mountain stream.

Shoko very slowly stepped in the water, complaining about the cold. Harrison and I kept telling her to just jump in all at once and get it over with, which she eventually did.

She had a very awkward, childlike swimming style, resembling a dog paddle. Had I not known that swimming classes were part of the public school curriculum in Japan, I would have thought that she didn’t know how to swim at all.

“I haven’t been swimming in 7 years,” Shoko said. Harrison and I were amazed. 7 years? How do you deal with the summers?

Shoko explained that this was not at all unusual for Japanese women, who do not often partake in physical activities, and who are worried about the effects of the outdoor sun on their skin.

I remembered my first Japanese girlfriend, Kanae, who I had met at the same waterfall 3 years earlier. I was at the waterfall with David, Harrison’s predecessor, and Kanae was a friend of his he invited. Kanae also took a lot of convincing to slide down the waterfall. She finally slid down, briefly went underwater with the force of the waterfall, and then bobbed up sputtering water and looking half drowned. I jumped into the water and swam out to get her. She threw her arms around my neck as I took her to the bank, and the rest was history.

Mindful of that memory, as Shoko prepared to slide down I swam out and positioned myself right at the foot of the waterfall. But Shoko did a little better than Kanae. She bobbed up again with her hair in her face and disoriented, and accepted my help once she noticed I was there. But once she realized she was encumbering my stroke and that I was struggling to swim and pull her along, she broke off and swam to the bank herself.

Link of the Day
I linked to the Chomsky audio archives a while back, but, lest this little gem get overlooked, allow me to draw special attention to it.

Here is Noam Chomsky being interviewed by "Rage Against the Machine". The link contains both the written transcript and the audio file.

Of course when a leading Anarchist intellectual is interviewed by a popular rock band, there is a certain amount of "Oh my god, isn't this so cool" that would make this the height of political sophistication if we were all 19 again.

And yet, if you click the link and read/listen to the interview, I think you'll agree it is a lot more intelligent than the network news.

No comments: