元気; genki: lively, energetic; full of spirit
This is the one word I could use to describe the Ogatsu Elementary School students that came to Moriumius this week: genki. In a small white bus slightly larger than a typical van, the entirety of their school was around the same size as my 5th grade class– around 20 students. Although Japan is overall experiencing a decrease in their birth rate, moments such as being able to easily line up an entire school in seconds remind me of how the earthquake and tsunami from 2011 has had a lasting impact on communities such as Ogatsu. With the majority of the population in this area being over 60 years old, I wondered how many of these few students would stay in the area, or if this part of Tohoku would slowly reduce to simply a memory.
However, as children are similar everywhere around the world, questions like this are not a concern. I spent the day with some students carving slate native to the area using the technique and tools from the local artisan– a skill set that is also declining within Japan. My day was filled with giggles, running around, and all-around enthusiasm. As I have now settled into my internship, the elementary students were a refreshing change from the typical work routine. Energetic from start to finish, their smiles were infectious as their glee felt so genuine and uncomplicated. While I pondered how time slowly leaves behind the traditional, the children played with the slate because it was fun.
Whether it is regarding school or work, life seems to always require you to think three steps ahead or question the purpose and benefit from every action you take. When walking home that evening and reflecting on the liveliness of the elementary students, I stopped to admire the various wild blackberries, strawberries, and mulberries along the path. It reminded me of my childhood summers when I would run around the woods scavenging for blackberries, where I would always emerge out with scratches around my body and a full stomach. Back when I was genki.
An additional bonus to the children visiting and my nostalgia was the very next morning, when I arrived to work to find that my coworker had made jam out of the very same berries I was admiring the day before. Using fresh milk from Belinda, one of the Moriumius goats, we spent part of the day making pancakes to go with the jam. From milking the goat to flipping the pancakes to eating fresh jam, everything was my kind of pure fun. Although we did go back to work after eating all the pancakes, I felt lighter and happier throughout the day.
While the work I have been doing at Moriumius has certainly been meaningful, this week reminded me to enjoy myself more while at Moriumius and in Japan, and to not forget to live a little.