Sunday, May 16, 2004

Babysitting 1

I play with Miyu (pronounced Me-you) for two hours, five days a week. She is the grandchild of a wonderful woman who invited us into her building and family. Yukiko, the grandmother, sort of just hangs out while Miyu jabbers away, and I try to keep up. Yukiko makes great coffee.
The purpose of the ten hours a week is to try to raise Miyu in a bilingual environment without ever leaving the comforts of her own home. We watch English cartoons together, sing songs, play house and go for walks to one of the playgrounds that are between here and the train station. We live 25 minutes west of downtown Tokyo by express train, so we've got a decent mix of man made and natural surroundings. The bike path that starts in Tanashi runs past the back of our building. If you follow it you'll end up near Tama lake, or so I'm told. I haven't tried it myself. It's close to 20 kilometers from here.
Sometimes Miyu is up for the challenge of playing with me, and sometimes she isn't. This morning, from 10 to 12, she was pretty good. She's two years and eight months old, so she's enjoying a very firm grip on Japanese, and so she mostly speaks to me in that language. I was invited to live at MY Kopo back when Miyu was only 15 months old, so we've witnessed quite a change, Yukiko and I. Miyu can understand nearly everything that I say, but most of what comes back is in Japanese. She has a few stock phrases that she uses, her favorite being, "I don't kno-oow", which she sings out whenever she doesn't care to answer a question. Her mother, Masumi, and Yukiko are a little bit dismayed that Miyu hasn't starting producing lots of English as of yet. I guess I am as well, but I'm not really worried because she's still so young and doesn't truly understand the difference between Japanese and English. What she does know is that Chris doesn't always understand what mommy and daddy say, and only grandma really gets what Chris is talking about.
She calls me Ki-chu or Ki-chi. Never Chris. My name gains two syllables when pronounced in Japanese. It's Ku-ri-su over here. Miyu combines the first two, and modifies the third since "S's" are difficult for her to pronounce. So I'm Ki-chu. I'm like her fourth uncle now. Uncle Yasu is the least popular of the four of us, but he's moving up the ranks. I've never met her father's brother, so I'm not so sure where he fits in. He doesn't live in the Watanabe hotel like the rest of us.
She is a very lucky girl, and not because I'm hanging around. She has a wonderful family, and she is surrounded by relatives 24 hours a day. We live in a nice area, and our apartment building even has it's own back yard and garden. It's a space that's big enough to build one more modern, sardined, earthquake-flexible house. With the notoriously sky-high property prices here in Tokyo, you know that it's no small investment to keep it open. Grandpa, also known as Jiji, tends a crescent-shaped garden of Ume (pron. oo-may) trees, Magnolias and flowers of every shape and shade. He's mostly out there on the weekend. He owns a construction equipment business, so that keeps him busy most of the time. He works very hard to keep the grass as green as possible. Miyu loves to kick the soccer ball around in the yard. Volcanic-black stones, pourous like baked sponges, line the garden and keep the ball from meeting the roses.


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