The night of the caving extravaganza, I was invited to participate in the children’s craft day. I didn’t expect this to be nearly as exciting as caving, but I love coloring so I was very excited. I spent a significant amount of time imagining what we would be drawing or coloring or paper-mache-ing (The verb form of paper mache). As with the caving episode, I’m going to flashback to my childhood for a moment so that I can emphasize just how crazy this experience was for me.
Arts and crafts started early: preschool early. I went to a preschool that was attached to my church, so we frequently colored various pictures of Jesus and his homeboys. Sometimes we got to cut out sheep (lambs) or make Christmas decorations. One time I think we actually got to fill plastic Christmas tree balls with colored sand. Mine was filled with green and gold because they are the best colors planet earth has to offer (fact – not opinion). In elementary school, we did crafts with yarn and paper cut outs. During nap time we had the option to stay up and doodle. I filled entire notebooks with Jurassic park themed dinosaurs. There might have been blood. My teacher(s) might have called my parents to make sure that I was mentally stable. I was just very expressive. In middle school there were no actual arts and crafts but projects were frequently graded on one’s ability to successfully cover them in glitter (the herpes of craft supplies). This was often the case in high school too. I was a glitter genius and thus I was able to go to college, where unfortunately glitter was no longer a viable method of receiving an A+. However, I was still able to occasionally practice the “art and craft” during lecture in the form of abstract doodle. There were flowers EVERYWHERE.
Flash forward to Japan: Dang I look older… Anyway, I am being told that I am allowed to play with kids and make arts and crafts. I am ecstatic. I am wondering what their stance on glitter is and if they have green glitter. I arrive at the school. I walk inside the gym where said “crafts” are to take place. There are tarps everywhere. The Principal steps up to give instructions. I, realizing he is speaking way to fast, foolishly decide to read the English phrases on the kids’ clothes. I wonder what “Send Time Signals” is supposed to mean and where I can purchase said shirt.
The Principal stops talking, we place various blue mats on the gym floor. “Cool,” I think to myself, we must be painting! (We used to bust out tarps for Turkey hand paint day in Elementary school [for turkey hand art, simply dip your entire hand in a bucket of paint and give a piece of paper a high five. Draw on legs and a beak. You have a turkey!]). A bunch of high school boys walk in carrying crates of wood. I sit in a circle of kids. We are handed lots of wood, hammers, nails, the thing that measures the angles (I’m edumacated I swear!) of said wood, a whittle to make holes for the nails, and HANDSAWS. Read that again. One more time now. Yes, I did say HANDSAWS. They handed SEVEN to TWELVE year olds HANDSAWS. Why? Because we were going to cut the wood and make BOOKSHELVES.
Now, aside from being surprised that I wouldn’t be painting, I was nervous that I or some kid near me was going to cut their finger off. No such thing happened. In fact, everyone worked together to make sure everyone’s wood (lol wood) was cut just right. We held wood in place so that our partner(s) could hammer everything into place. At the end, we got to stamp our bookshelves as a sign of accomplishment of sorts. Here is the bookshelf that I (with the help of the first graders) built:
The craziest part of it all was that the kids were crazy surprised that I had never done this before and that I had never used a handsaw. Apparently they do it all the time.
I love this country.