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A Random Conglomerate of Things

This past few days there's been no clear narrative of what's going on--just a bunch of separate yet interesting events (including one that's sending my family and I on a semi historical quest!).

On Sunday (which was, all-in-all a very chill day) my host father had a choir concert. There were several groups that were singing (I think) a variety of nostalgic Japanese folk songs, mostly about the seasons or foods--one was about bananas, for instance. My host dad was part of the final, culminating song where 100 people were singing a song series called "furusatou four seasons" which was a huge medley of seasonal songs. There was piano and percussion accompaniment, mimicking the sounds of the wind, or snow, or falling leaves etc.

The whole group!

My host dad is in the front row, fifth from the right (to the left of the guy sitting down).

Then on Monday I received a very interesting letter. A woman named Yoshiko Flershem, age 95, saw that I was from Chicago in the newspaper. She wrote me a letter telling me that her husband was American and that in her possession since his death were some letters from his grandparents (I think--her letter was very hard to decipher) that dated back to the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. She also requested that we track down the family grave (there's one in Buffalo, NY that my parents were able to find online, but after calling her today I think she meant another grave--maybe that of the grandparent's children? It's unclear.) and send her a photograph. I was able to find the one name she gave me--Lem W. Flershem-- in a 1905 edition of the Chicago Tribune, where he was mentioned in tandem with the marriage of his daughter, at Fourth Presbyterian Church. Coincidentally I went to preschool there for several years, so I have reached out to see if the church has any other records about the family. Hopefully after reading the historical letters I'll get back in contact with Mrs. Flershem and see if I can meet her to wrangle out some more concrete details. Either way it's a fascinating coincidence and a really sweet look into Chicago's history.

To top off the week (and I'm almost done with my week because from Thursday-Tuesday I am officially on my mid-summer break and am going on a weekend trip to Hiroshima!) today I did two interesting things.

The first was a (brief) stint at calligraphy with a very unique brush: the brush (including the bristles) is made of bamboo. The bamboo is halved and hollowed out, and then one end of it is basically sliced up into very fine chunks that acts as a brush. We were allowed to use some samples to try our hand at calligraphy so I wrote two characters, bird and dream. It's much different than a "regular" brush because the ink flows more irregularly.

After I finished, the lady at the shop says that based off how I wrote these characters, my personality is very 大胆 (daitan) which means "bold, daring, and audacious".

Finally (and perhaps most excitingly) today I went to an indoor rock-climbing gym with Nick (and coincidentally another Yale PII student named Jake who is actually a super rock-climbing pro was also there).

(It says: Kanazawa Climbing Wall)

There's no harnesses, so thank goodness the floors are covered with thick padded blocks. It's hard to see in this photo, but next to each grip is a piece of colored tape (or tape with a mark on it) distinguishing how difficult it is. Pink is the easiest and then yellow, then blue etcetc. down to brown and black. I mostly stuck to pink and yellow runs. It's amazing how tired your forearms get! It's frustrating because just as you start getting into the swing of things your arms get exhausted and start to give so runs that you could do earlier get progressively more difficult...I even got a couple rips in my hand which made using soap and shampoo this evening a stinging experience.

There's the guy who actually knows what he's doing--I swear he's half spider.

And here's a video of me scaling (rather well, if I may say so!) a yellow run:

Can't wait to go back (once my hands heal, though...)!


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