Today I took my usual morning stroll through the neighborhood (see this previous post to accompany me on a virtual walk), but the experience was hardly usual: Japan’s annual cherry blossoms have been out in full force in Hiroshima for the past few days and they’re absolutely beautiful. At the same time, the huge cherry tree perched on a hill near our house has already begun dropping its petals, like light pink snowflakes.
That’s the thing about cherry blossoms: They’re so beautiful, but so fleeting. They generally bloom in early April, producing a wonderland of white and pink…and yet just days later they fall in a great flurry. Not only does their exquisite beauty come from the breathtaking sight of the flowers themselves, but from the fact that they bloom so briefly.
To me, the yearly cherry blossoms are nature’s strongest reminder of the beauty and brevity of life itself. They remind me how important it is to appreciate each day, each moment, as best I can, making the most of the short time I’m given to walk through this marvelous, but utterly mysterious, universe.
The idea of “seizing each day” has been a key theme of this blog (see the resource page Deeper Inspiration), because not only is this mindset at the heart of living a fulfilling life, our ultimate success on the bilingual journey is directly connected to how mindfully proactive we can be in providing our children with exposure in the target language, day after day after day. In other words, the more we can appreciate the beauty and brevity of each day, the more satisfaction we will surely experience on both the bilingual journey and on the greater journey of our lives.
This past Sunday we drove to Iwakuni, a city about 90 minutes from Hiroshima that’s well-known for the magnificent Kintai-kyo Bridge composed of five arches…as well as some of the most beautiful cherry blossoms in this part of Japan. I spent the day doing my best to drink it all in, wistfully aware of how special that time was and how blessed we are to be here on this short adventure in the world, including the glorious challenge of raising bilingual children.
Here are a few memories from Iwakuni…
As tough as the challenge of raising bilingual children can be—and I’m not immune from moaning and groaning about it myself—I think it’s vital that we also stay firmly conscious of appreciating all the good efforts that we and our children are making and all the rewarding progress that these efforts gradually produce over time.
Let me offer a recent example of the appreciation I feel within my own family…
You may recall (from the post It’s Not About How Hard It Is, It’s About How Hard You Try) that my 11-year-old daughter wrote an essay back in third grade which was chosen for a city-wide book of children’s essays published by the Hiroshima school system. Well, I’m happy to report that another essay she wrote, in fifth grade, was selected for this year’s book!
Yes, the essay was originally written in Japanese (our majority language), but the whole experience highlighted for me how far we’ve come on our bilingual journey because Lulu was able to translate her essay into English, too (with a little help and prodding from her father). And though she may be growing more defiant about doing the daily homework I assign (she complained loudly just last night!), this experience of her winning essay made me appreciate, more deeply, how much effort she—and Roy—have long given to their language development.
Here’s Lulu’s essay in English…
Happy Relief at My Piano Recital
On Sunday I had my piano recital at a small hall called “Mushika.” It was my second recital, but I was still really nervous. Before the recital, we had a little time to practice on the piano there. I was playing two pieces, a solo and a duet with my younger brother. I felt confident playing my solo, but I didn’t have confidence playing my part for the duet.
When we were practicing the duet, I kept making mistakes in the same places. The fifth time I tried playing my part…tears started dripping down my face, like rain…drip-drip-drip.
“I can’t play this!” I said. But my piano teacher and my parents encouraged me by saying, “Yes, you can!” After that, I tried playing my part again after everyone had finished practicing and, this time, I was able to do it! I was so happy!
Now it was time for the recital.
First, we played our solos. My brother was seventh and I was twelfth. When the person before me was playing, I was so nervous my mind went blank. But when I sat down at the piano and put my hands on the keys, I was able to play the piece well. When I finished, everyone clapped and I felt really happy and relieved.
But I still had to play the duet with my brother! Our piece was “It’s a Small World” and it was pretty long. We were the fifth duet and it was really tough…but we did it! I played my part! I was so happy. And I learned something, too. I learned that if you try hard, you can do it. I want to remember that and try hard again at the next recital, too!
The winner of this little giveaway is…
Sixtine in the United States
Congratulations to her! And thank you to all who entered! My kids and I really enjoyed reading your entries!
Iwakuni, Japan is not only known for its lovely bridge and cherry blossoms, it’s home to a rare species of white snake found nowhere else in the world! In fact, there’s even a small museum with half-a-dozen white snakes—which, traditionally, are an omen of good fortune—and I not only came home with this lucky photo…
…I also brought back this cute postcard!
So here’s the giveaway…
My kids and I will send you this cute postcard from Japan as a reminder to appreciate each day of your bilingual journey.
To enter this giveaway, here’s all you have to do…
1. Share this post with others via social media. Use the sharing buttons below or simply copy and paste this link…
2. Leave a comment below with the following information. (And please proofread your comment, before submission, to check that the information is complete.)
1. Your first name and where you live (Example: Adam in Japan)
2. Your children and their ages (Example: Girl, 11, and Boy, 9)
3. Your two (or more) languages (Example: Japanese, English, and Spanish)
4. Describe something you appreciate about your bilingual journey. (Example: I appreciate the fact that my daughter has made a lot of effort to develop her bilingual ability and was able to write an essay in Japanese and translate it into English.)
3. All entries must be submitted by the morning of Sunday, April 17 (Japan time). On that day, I’ll present the comments to my kids, who will serve as the judges (with powdered white wigs), and ask them to “rate” each one on a scale of 1 to 10 (with 10 being the highest score). This rating will be based on the appeal of the content and the effort that went into the submission. When the scores are totaled, the entry with the highest rating will get the cute postcard! I’ll then contact the lucky winner by email and update this post with the results.
Though I may not respond to your comments, I look forward to seeing them! Good luck!
1. Mary in Canada
2. Have a girl 2.5 years old, and a boy 14 months old
3. We speak Arabic, English and French
4. I appreciate the way my kids get to understand Arabic and English simultaneously and seeing the beauty of language from their eyes.
Sixtine in USA
Boys 3 and 2
We speak French and German. Kids attend daycare in English.
Favorite time of day is eating dinner together. We have a game of telling stories. Each person around the table tells a few sentences and the story develops along based on whatever each person says… But since mama’s primary language is French and papa’s is German, and the 3 yo is a bit of both with some English thrown in for good measure, the story ends up being some German some French and mostly a bunch of fun!!!
1, Helen in London, UK
2, Two lovely boys of just turned 4 and almost 2 (next weekend!)
3, English and Spanish
4, My eldest son took a long time to start talking and when he did it was all in English. But he understood everything in Spanish. With a lot of encouragement he now tries really hard to remember how to say things in Spanish and I am so impressed with his efforts (that are really beginning to pay off). The loveliest thing is that he now tries to teach his little brother and his dad how to speak Spanish, helping us all along on our bilingual journey!
1. Sarah in San Antonio, TX
2. Girl 6, girl 5, girl 2
3. Spanish-English-Mandarin (new)
4. I appreciate the fact that even though my daughters social language (English) is becoming stronger, they love speaking Spanish and they have developed beautiful academic Spanish. I appreciate the fact that they can and love communicating with their family in Mexico as we are the only ones in San Antonio. I appreciate the fact that they are able to embrace both cultures, they love Easter egg hunts and trick or treating but they also enjoy making an altar for “El dia de los muertos” or “Las posadas” before Christmas and I appreciate the fact that they count the days to go back to Mexico and visit “El mercado”.
1. Emilia, Italy
2. Two girls 14 yo and 4 yo, two boys, 12 yo and 1 yo.
3. Italian, Spanish, and English (new!)
4. The Spanish speaking 4 yo girl is getting used to hearing English used at home too, and would be eager to speak it as well, which she can’t as yet. So, in the meantime, she speaks a funny language of her own, and I must say it sounds very much like English!!! Very funny!!!