Markus teaching Norwegian in Murou elementary school

Visiting Murou elementary school and weeding a rice field

Weeding a rice farm in Uda

Today we visited Murou Japanese elementary school and had the opportunity to interact with students and participate in classrooms. We also experienced a day’s work in the rice fields and learned about agriculture.

Going to the elementary school was quite adorable to say and it was astonishing for me to learn about how differently schools here in Japan are run compared to back at home in the U.S., starting with the cleanliness. I should mention that I absolutely love that here it is the norm to take off your shoes before you walk into a home, school, and even bathroom, so when I was welcomed to the Murou school I appreciated that we had to take off our shoes to walk through the school. The students were so excited and interested in learning about us, I was constantly smiling and excited to interact with the students who looked at us like we were someone important. I was put with a 3rd grade class and the students were so sweet, they got comfortable with us after a while and started playing games with us, running around the classroom and laughing excitedly as they got closer to us, it was adorable!

At lunch time, here they wait for everyone to have their food and before eating we put our hands together and say in unison, “Itadakimasu!” It’s such a small action but immensely significant to me because it shows so much respect and good manners. The farewell they bid us was the most amazing ending to the school day for me; I’ve NEVER had a view like that of the students saying goodbye so happily from the windows and from the entrance of the school where we were leaving. Needless to say, these students showed me a whole new world in a school environment and made me feel special and like a part of them.

The hard part of our whole day came after though, when we were going to work in a rice field picking out weeds. This was the first time for me to go into a rice field and get to experience a day’s work in agricultural labor, and I’ve got to say it was a little challenging. I did not expect to come in contact with deep deep muddy grooves filled with water and all kinds of creatures and bugs. I was scared! But, I had Sara next to me to support me and comfort me while picking out the weeds despite the small walking bugs on water and spiders… it took me a while to get used to the feeling and just ignore it. Still, I’m happy to say I did it and faced my fear! It was pretty interesting getting to know the feeling of working in a rice field and see what other people have to do on a daily basis. I enjoyed it nonetheless and had fun laughing at our reactions, people were yelling and freaking out about the bugs, some of us found tadpoles, some of us had flying insects crawling on our pants, it made the work a little more light heartening and fun. Today was very active but an amazing experience!

Hinata Orantes, USA