Our morning routine can be a bit challenging for Ellie.  She normally just has to wait for me to get ready which doesn’t take long, especially if I don’t shower, which may or may not be frequent.  But now she has to wait for four adults to get ready making her feel antsy.  She’s not used to being confined to one room with the same three toys, so I’ve decided to take her to the local park after breakfast so she could shake her sillies out.  Plus, getting out for some fresh air would do me good too.

The park is literally just two blocks away so it’s impossible for me to get lost.  It has a scenic side, and a playground side separated by a big rock formation surrounded by water.  And at first glance, it seemed like most parks back home.  It was a quiet morning with just a few old people watching the birds.  But as we got closer, I could see there was “activity” on the play set.

It was a big group of young punk hooligans.  Sitting around doing nothing, being loud, running up the slides, smoking, and trying to break things.  One mom sat quietly on the bench with her son waiting for them to leave.  Oh boy.  The hooligans were perched on the play set like angry gatekeepers.  Ellie didn’t care about these punks though and went about her business to play.  Maybe it was our American sunglasses we were both sporting that made them uncomfortable, but the gang moved over a bit when Ellie started playing on the small slide.  That’s right, punks, Ellie’s here.  Move over.  And then eventually, they rounded up like a rowdy biker gang and sped off on their bicycles with chrome baskets and white walled tires.  So hardcore.  Once they left, it was as if a dark cloud lifted and all the other moms and their kids came out of the woodwork to play.

I was expecting an easy going morning when I took Ellie out to the playground.  And with the punks gone, I thought I would finally be able to.  But as the other moms started rolling up in what seemed like large quantities I started to panic.  What if she wants to play with another kid?  What if she’s too aggressive or forward with the other kids?  What if we are The Pushy Rude Americans?  What if we aren’tfollowing the unwritten unspoken assumed Japanese playground code?  What if someone talks to me!?  Oh no!  I didn’t think about any of this before I left.

It’s been pretty warm and sunny here lately.  And for a society obsessed with keeping themselves protected from the sun by wearing long sleeves and gloves in 90 degree temperatures and carrying sun umbrellas, no one wears sunglasses.  So when all the other moms showed up wearing sweaters and had kids with jackets and sweatshirts on, me and Ellie were there to greet them sporting our short sleeve shirts and sunglasses.  We were definitely foreigners.

As soon as they came up, Ellie started to mingle.  While the moms were quiet and polite with a soft spoken “konnichiwa,” Ellie was downright friendly.  She walked right up to the kids, got face to face with them and said, “HI!” with a big bright smile.  The kids looked confused and walked away, but the other moms politely said “hi” back.  Then Ellie went about her play again.  Okay, good.  That went well and I didn’t have to talk to anyone.

At this park, they have a really long slide, but instead of having a solid bottom, it has rollers.  You kind of have to push yourself to gradually make your way down, so it’s not a fast slide.  But I still think it’s too big for Ellie to manage so I was avoiding taking her by it.  I didn’t know if I was allowed on it, and I didn’t want to be The American Guy that broke the slide and ruin for everyone.  So while we were avoiding it, the other kids went straight for it, and because they did, so did Ellie.

The other kids were fast repeaters.  They’d get to the top, slide all the way down, and then repeat.  But Ellie got on and just sat there, happy, but not wanting to move.  Ellie, you have to move down the slide.  “NO!”  In the mean time, there was a line starting to form behind us.  Uh oh.

I pulled Ellie off so the other kids could go.  But what did she do?  She ran to the bottom of the slide and sat on it.  Oh boy.  Now all the kids were slowly but surely making their way down the slide and Ellie made herself a road block at the end and would not budge.

One of the moms came to the end of the slide and said something to me in Japanese.  IT HAPPENED. Someone talked to me!  Was she asking us to move, to leave the playground?  Or did we break the playground code and getting called out on it!?

I looked blankly at her and blinked.  A blink that said, “I don’t speak Japanese and have no idea what you just said.”  She then asked me in English.  “How old is she?”  Almost two, I replied.  She smiled and said, “Kawaii desune! (She is so cute)”

Phew!  That was close.  What a nail biter.  But when I saw a whole class of preschoolers with their matching red hats marching towards the playground in a single file line, I took that as my cue to exit.

I had enough playground excitement for the day.


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