This evening, many of the buildings and houses in my neighborhood finally got names and faces attached to them. I was outside my building one morning when I noticed a group of people with transparent trash bags, white gloves, and tongs passed by, picking up litter from the sidewalks. I thanked them as they passed by, and one of the women stopped to talk with me. She invited me to join them, asking me where I lived. “Right here,” I said, indicating my building.
A couple days later there was a notice of some sort of meeting in my mailbox. On it someone had written a name and cell phone number. Even though I still can’t read Japanese very well, I gathered that it was for a neighborhood meeting, which was confirmed by my private students. Further, there was going to be food, perhaps a meal.
Even though the deadline for making a reservation had passed, I called the woman whose name was on the paper saying I’d like to go, if it was possible. She exclaimed, “Ureshii [I’m glad]!” Later I discovered that she lives just a few doors down from me.
The food turned out to be a delicious Chinese dinner, and I didn’t have to pay a cent! (I later learned that part of my rent most likely contributes to a neighborhood fund, probably no more than $3.00 a month.) Other than that, there was nothing remarkable about the meeting. The proper people were introduced and thanked, the budget gone over (much more quickly than at my annual chorus meetings), and a couple of events were pointed out.
I had been half afraid that I would be roped into garbage duty, having to put out the nets preventing crows from scrounging through the trash. However, the neighbor who does that – a retired man whom I sometimes see walking or riding his bicycle around the neighborhood – wasn’t even at the meeting. I imagine he takes some pleasure in his responsibility because he puts the net out promptly at 8:30 a.m. and takes it in shortly after the garbage truck leaves, 4 times a week. That would be impossible for me since I leave for school so early, and sometimes don’t get home until 4 p.m.
At any rate, next time the neighborhood group has a clean-up “party,” I’ll be glad to join them. Picking up litter is something of a legacy of my mother (something even mentioned at her funeral), and I’ll take pleasure in helping to keep the neighborhood clean. Besides, it’ll be a chance to get to know some of my neighbors even better. Of course, there’s always the potential for new students for CA’s Academy of English as well!
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