Thursday, September 30, 2004

You can't make this stuff up...

I spent the majority of the day *walking*. Right now my little footsies are propped up from walking almost 10000 steps today (I know that thanks to the nifty little pedometer on my new cell phone). I walked around for an hour and a half this morning looking for another junior high in town which was supposedly close to my apartment. I had even asked for directions, but unfortunately the person I asked directed me to the elementary school of the same name rather than the junior high. So after that I gave up and went into the office to ask for directions, but no one was there, so I just sat around and worked a little on my Christmas story power point. Then after lunch someone who spoke English finally came into the office and asked another of the office workers to give me a lift out there. I had been somewhat close, but not really. But I did have a small moment of victory in my lostness today. I was able to ask someone if I was in the right place! And they understood me and I understood their answer! :) Good feeling. Sentence by sentence I will conquer this language... yeah. ;) So I made it out to the right school and saw some volleyball games, then came back home.
Today as I worked on the nativity story to tell the kids, I started realizing how very crazy it all sounds. God decides to come to earth in human form, and so he chooses a young unwed mother to be born to. Can you even begin to imagine what Mary must have been thinking? I think sometimes us protestants try too hard to stay away from Mary as a precaution against being like the Catholics, but I think Mary is one of the most admirable people in the Bible. God came to her with perhaps the biggest job of all, to be an earthly mother to His Son, and she responded by acting in faith. Imagine her sacrifice... her reputation, her body, her entire life to raise this child she didn't even know. Reckless abandon, complete trust, unbelievable faith...It blows my mind.
There's a great song by Ginny Owens called "I Am." It goes through a list of different heroes of the Bible and gives the reasons why God "shouldn't" have used them... the obstacles that they and other people saw as a barrier for them to accomplish their tasks. Each verse ends with the phrase, "'That's not your problem', God replied, 'I can do anything.'" Then the chorus goes, "There's a bigger picture you can't see. You don't have to change the world, just trust in me. I am your creator, I am working out my plan, and through you I will show them I am." Maybe we should all take a little while today to think about what purpose God has in mind for us being where we are at this point in our lives. I know when I think about that it seems like an overwhelming big task, but that song reminds me to just focus on going step by step on the straight and narrow, and God will take care of the rest.
God put something on my heart yesterday as I was leaving school. Everyday as I walk home all the kids who pass me always grin and wave and yell "BYE!" and "SEE YOU!" :) It always reminds me of how much I love them already, but yesterday I was thinking about praying for them, and I realized that I might be the only person in the world praying for these kids. I know that many times people pray for the lost of the world or the lost in Japan or maybe even the lost in Hitachi, but who is praying for the children of Namekawa Junior High besides me? Please pray for my kids with me. They're so young and impressionable right now... pray that they will see something in my life that leads them to the truth of God.

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Random Japanese-isms

The skies have opened. Yes, that's right, another typhoon is coming through. If not for God's promise to Noah, I would have to seriously wonder if the world was not about to be washed away. Thank goodness it started after I got home from work. I have nothing profound or exciting to say tonight, so I will just share some random observations that you may or may not know about Japan:
*Japanese people don't say "bless you" when someone sneezes. In fact, I believe proper etiquette dictates that the sneezer actually apologize when they sneeze.
*Stuff is expensive in Japan. The exception to this rule is a little thing we call the "100 Yen Store," which is a store where everything costs, you guessed it, 100 yen (which equals a little less than a dollar).
*I believe the most spoken word in Japanese is "sumimasen," which is the equivalent of "excuse me." It is an attention grabber, a greeting, an apology, and I think anything else you want it to be. You usually bow while saying it, too. So don't be surprised if you see a Japanese person bobbing up and down in bows saying "sumimasen, sumimasen, sumimasen." The Japanese are ridiculously apologetic. Oh yeah, another use of sumimasen is in a restaurant. In the states when you want your waiter's attention you just catch their eye, but here you shout out "SUMIMASEN!" I still can't get used to that.
*I have heard rumors of police actually working in Japan, but I have actually only seen a policeperson once in my month here.
*Japan is a cash-driven society. Debit cards are virtually non-existent, and credit cards are rarely used. I don't think they use personal checks, either. Always have cash.
*The city buses here actually use a schedule that they follow very closely. That means they area actually predictable and reliable! (that is for all my Brazil buddies) :)
*Japan has a lot of stairs. Ugh. I am about to have a stair freak out one day. Who needs a stairmaster when you go up and down about 300 stairs per day?
*Never trust a Japanese who says maybe. When they say maybe they are trying to politely but firmly give you an answer (which is usually no).
*It is a big no no to start eating before saying "ikadakimasu" or drinking before toasting and saying "kampai".
There's a start to learning some of the strange ways of this strange land. :) Just think, you learned 3 new Japanese words in this post. If I keep throwing in new words, then when you come to visit me you'll have no problem communicating and getting around (she says as though she has no problems communicating... ha!). ;)

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Monday, September 27, 2004

Little Japanese People! :)

This morning Ian and I went to a kindergarten in Taga to do a little class with them. I cannot express how absolutely adorable 50 little 5 year old Japanese kids are, especially when they are trying to speak English. I say trying, but really some of them spoke about as much English as some of my junior highers. :) They all came up and introduced themselves, and many of them even said, "Nice to meet you!" My heart just wanted to explode it was so cute. We sang "head and shoulders, knees, and toes" and played a bean bag toss game. It was a blast and a half, but I don't think I have the energy to do that every single day. That trip did my heart a lot of good.
Jared and I spent the rest of the afternoon running errands, including going to the post office and getting me a cell phone! Yep, the girl who can't stand cell phones so much has gone and gotten another one. The phones here put the phones in the states to shame. My phone is pretty standard, and still has a pretty nice digital camera and email capabilities and such. So yes, I am a sell out and I have a cell phone. Cute pun... and I wasn't even trying. ;)

Sunday, September 26, 2004

Eating, Drinking, and Singing! :) (and public bathing)

I just returned from a whirlwind one and a half day trip to Nasu, Japan for a weekend trip with my coworkers at the Hitachi City Board of Education. There were about 15 of us all together, including us 4 ALTs. We set out early yesterday morning and went on our big adventure. Man, even when Japanese are vacationing they are working hard. First we stopped at an aquarium which was awesome. I made a point of trying to find fish that represented many of the main characters in Finding Nemo. :) I didn't find quite everybody, but I found a lot. Then we had lunch at brewery that had an all you can eat buffet. Just so you know, when places are all you can eat they are called "viking". Then we stopped at a cheese garden, then we went to a honey and herb garden where we got to make our own soap, which was very fun. :)
We finally arrived at our hotel last night, and I was amazed at how beautiful it was. I took pictures and will post them as soon as I can*. As soon as we arrived we had a huge feast laid out for us, and they kept bringing us more and more food. Even though I am not a huge fam of seafood, the majority of the food was very good. Many nice Japanese meals have at least one "cook your own dish" element. We had a little pot of broth, and we got to light the flame under it then cook some meat and greens to make a kind of stew, which was delicious. I got to make yet another (and I think my last) new girl speech. It was funny, because my fellow ALT Ian was translating for me, and whenever I tried to be funny it just deadpaned, but whenever I tried to be serious they thought it was hilarious. All I know is that by the end everyone was laughing and they clapped uproariously.
After that we went and karaoked for two hours. I performed "I Will Survive" by Gloria Gayner, "When" by Shania Twain, and "Eight Days a Week" by the Beatles. :) It is amazing to see "reserved" Japanese people belt it out once they're handed a microphone. Although many of the songs were in Japanese, many of them have English phrases thrown in so it was fun to sing those with them. What a great bonding experience, but not nearly as bonding as what we did next.
Yes, I have now gone to an onsen (public bath). One of the primary draws of our hotel was a natural hot spring onsen that was part of the hotel and open 24 hours a day. Thankfully, there are only 3 women on staff at the Board of Education-- me, Alina, and Ishii-san, and we're all about the same age. It is definitely a paradigm shift to go from bathing privately your whole life to going public. After we got in Alina exclaimed, "We're not the same people we were yesterday! We've now been to a public bath!" :)
Once you get over the extreme intial shock of being naked with your coworkers, it is actually nice. Like a jacuzzi. Perhaps that is all I shall say about the onsen experience. :) I don't think I'll go all the time, but I wouldn't be afraid to do it again. And if you want to come visit me, I won't make you go to an onsen. ;)
After that we crashed and woke up this morning to a big breakfast. As we walked to our banquet room I was fantasizing about bacon and eggs and pancakes and juice and milk and donuts and everything that makes American breakfasts beautiful. However, I was greeted by many strange things. It was an odd flash of culture shock. But I ate a lot of it (including 2 bites of natto) and vowed to make a good ol' fashioned American breakfast (just as God intended) very soon.
We then, sadly, left the beautiful hotel and made our way to a pickle market or something, which was a swarm of scary, pushy tourists. Then we went to a rice cracker factory and heard a lady sing. She shook my hand while she sang. Boy am I special. Then we had another huge meal at yet another fancy Japanese restaraunt, and most everything was very good, but let's just say I am tired of Japanese food for a while. I got myself a Dr. Pepper for the road on the way back to remind myself of home. As we approached Hitachi City and began to drop people off at their respective homes, imagine my surprise when we always clapped for everyone as they left the bus. I tell ya, it's amazing how close co-workers are here. I really think that in some senses the Japanese business relationships take the place of what we would consider family relationships in America. Interesting.
After getting home us four ALTs had a short meeting about an international cultural festival that we're helping to put on in November. This year's focus is going to be the Christmas holidays, and guess what I was put in charge of-- teaching the nativity story! :) Good chance for me to use that Bible degree, huh? ;) But really, I think this will be a good chance to teach about Christianity in a non-threatening environment, so please pray that God will speak through me and perhaps the story will peak the interest of some of these kids.

Friday, September 24, 2004

Acapella Praise Night

Tonight I went to the regional Acapella Praise Night at the Hitachi Church of Christ. It's basically a singing night for all the churches in the area. The Hitachi church is only about 3 blocks from my house, so I trotted down there and got to meet some new people and hook up with old friends. It was so encouraging. At first I couldn't help but notice that there wasn't many people there, but to hear the singing, you would have thought that we had angel choirs. We sang in both Japanese and English, so it was nice to both get the encouragement from singing in my language and to get to practice my Japanese.
I got to meet many more Christians from the area and introduce Peter and Jessica to several members of the Taga church. After it finished Peter decided to stay around and take the late train, so we went with a big group to eat dinner. It was so awesome to have a group of both foreign and Japanese Christians together fellowshipping. Please remember to pray for your brothers and sisters in Christ in Japan. They fight battles that most of us who grew up in Christian dominated areas and Christian families can't even imagine, yet they always keep hope and their lights shine brightly in this oftentimes dark country.

Where the heart is

As promised, here is the afore mentioned "deeper" blog. I've been wanting to write about this subject for a while, because it is something that I am struggle with and because I think that everyone can empathize with me on some level.
One of the hardest parts about deciding to come to and actually being in Japan is knowingly, willingly, and consiously putting all of my earthly relationships on the altar. I am not a prophet nor the daughter of a prophet, but I am fairly certain that not one of my relationships with my friends and family is going to remain unchanged from this experience. That is not to say that they will all change for the worse-- they are just guaranteed to change. It's a scary thing to put the people and relationships that mean the most to you in the Lord's hands. I remember when I moved in high school it was very surprising to see who I kept in touch with and who barely made it a couple of weeks (although I will most certainly grant that college friendships and family ties are a whole different ballgame).
In only my first month here I can already very clearly see a lot of my relationships changing. Of course I know its me changing. Maybe that makes it a harder pill to swallow. Although my blog makes it a lot easier, there's really no way for you guys to really understand what my life is like now. My personality, my lifestyle, and my whole paradigm have shifted. And you're at home changing, too, whether you realize it or not. With those I was closest to, I was used to knowing about everything going on with you. Now although I am hearing from you and hearing about things, I'm not there to hear from your voice whether everything's really "okay", I didn't hear that great sermon you loved... I don't even know what the major news topics are right now. We really are living in different worlds now.
I'm not writing this to bemoan my choices or circumstances. No regrets. I don't really know why I'm writing it. But it is on my heart, it concerns many of you, and I solicit your prayers for my strength and peace. On a higher intellectual, spiritual level that these pains are growing pains of the good kind. I'm broadening my horizons and spreading my wings and all of those cliches... I know. Maybe I'm writing this to all those I love but am separated from to say that it's alright, I understand, I don't expect daily emails. No one is going to replace you or take away the memories I have with you or the love I have for you. Maybe this is even deepening the love and appreciation I have for you. We are all growing, things are changing, and that is natural and healthy.
I don't know what I'm trying to say. It's hard to convey how you feel without rambling sometimes. Hopefully you can see to the heart of what I'm writing. I love you guys.

Thursday, September 23, 2004

Celebrating the holidays at Costco

Yay for the autumnal equinox that gave me another day off today! :) These three day weeks are definitely going to spoil me... how can I go back to a full load next week? ;) I think I used my holiday wisely. I went to Mito after work yesterday to go to church (which was awesome as always) and watched a movie with some friends, then spent the night. It was so good to be able to just hang out without having to worry about when my train was leaving. Today a big group of us... 14 I think... went to a town a couple of hours away called Chiba. And guess what is in Chiba... Costco! :) For those of you who don't know Costco, it is much like Sam's Club. So we all went to stock up on stuff that you just can't normally find in Japan. I got some soft pillows without beans (maybe some of you understand that), flannel sheets, macaroni and cheese, barbque sauce, and Extra spearmint chewing gum. There was other stuff too, but that's what I remember off the top of my head. It was so fun roaming about the store with Peter and Denver and David C. Then we all went off to another mall and then to Outback for appetizers. On the way home David, Peter, and I had many good... interesting... conversations. ;) Let's just say they took advantage a female mind to pick. A long day... a tiring day... but a good day. I'm very glad I went and got to know those guys better. Now I should get to sleep to prepare for (yuck) work tomorrow. I like my job, I just want a day to sleep in. I don't even have a relaxing weekend to look forward to, because our big office weekend vacation begins at 7:45am Saturday. But I shall tell you more about that after it happens. ;) Just keep me in your prayers, because I have a feeling the event could get wild.
Sometimes it feels like my blog is mostly just an event by event journal. It is kind of meant to be, but I also want to write more about my feelings and deeper experiences, too. So keep a look out for that coming soon.

Monday, September 20, 2004

Taga, Omika, and Japanese

Whew, boy are my feet tired. This morning Peter and I decided to spend the afternoon walking around some of the towns between us to get to know them better. We met in Hitachi Taga and I showed him where the church was and we walked around some more, but honestly didn't see much. Perhaps we took a fairly uninhabited road... we'll take a different one next time. I honestly just don't know Taga well enough to know where anything is. I'm not even sure what is there to see besides the church. :) They do have an awesome recycle shop where I got my awesome blue couch (see story on September 6). But I have never walked around Hitachi Taga, just been driven through it. We decided to jump back on the train and go to the next town over, Omika, which I was very interested in looking around. Omika is home to Ibaraki Christian University, the sister school to my alma mater and home to the exchange students I taught last year at OC. Plus I know a handful of people on faculty there. As far as location, all I knew was that the school was supposedly very close to the station. At the station Peter and I examined the map trying to find it in the mess of kanji. Luckily, Peter is a genius who has already learned a ridiculous amount of Japanese, so he was able to find it quickly. We found the campus pretty easily, but IC is a junior high, high school, and university. We toured around, and the campus is really quite nice. Very green and lush. We walked through some buildings and I suggested we look for the English department, since 1) they would speak English and 2) that's where I know people. Peter was able to ask where the English department was and we actually found it! Unfortunately, there was no one there. However, the trip was overall a success because now we know how to find the English department at IC, should that need ever arise. The OC study abroad group arrives next Sunday night and is going to have a big cookout, and I hope to go to that. After IC we still had a good half hour or so before Peter had to catch the train back to Mito, so we walked down the main drag of Omika. Guess where that leads... to the ocean! :) Omika has a nice view, but we couldn't find any way to get down to the beach. We walked back to the station and parted ways. Peter is a good travel buddy. I'm sure we'll have plenty more opportunities to go places over our two years here.
We had a good talk about the Japanese language. We both agree that it seems somewhat archaic for a modern country and language to be using a system like kanji. It seems to me that it would help both the worldwide and local literacy rate if Japan became a completely phonetic language and just got rid of kanji. :) Hiragana and katakana are fine... they're just alphabet systems... but it does seem silly to me to have a whole different alphabet just for foreign words. But obviously they didn't ask me when devising the linguistic system. :) Peter has high language goals for his time in Japan. I don't remember them exactly, but they're ambitious. And I know he can do it if he puts his mind to it. My goals are simply to be able to communicate things I want (like a meat and bread only hamburger at McDonalds) and to be able to have simple conversations with my co-workers at school and people at church. But I think my goal is going to end up being keeping up with Peter. I was so jealous that he could communicate with people at IC and I couldn't. :) I suppose envy is one form of motivation! Haha... So I'm going to just relax the rest of the night, brush up on my hiragana, try to learn some more katakana, and make some kanji flashcards to learn. I don't need to waste this time in Japan.

Sunday, September 19, 2004

Engrish and Old Folks Day

What a whirlwind couple of days, kind of. Confusing is more like it. I am clearly not in Nikko right now, nor have I been nor am I going today. Let's just surmise it to say there was a change in plans. Saturday I slept in (halleluliah), went to lunch and then shopping with Jared, then went shopping again with Judith. I now know what size I wear in Japanese clothing, although I have yet to actually buy any. Japanese fashion sense is well... different. :) But I am keeping my eye out for a shirt (or anything really) with great Engrish (the Japanese mutilation of the English language... also called Japlish) on it. Sometimes Engrish is whimsical, sometimes it's crude, sometimes it's just funny. For example, I bought some stationary the other day with the phrase all over it, "May I ask you to feel my love? Dear you... a round ticket of love. I'll convey love straight, a dream forever." See, that's kind of whimsical. I'll keep you updated on any other Engrish I find.
Saturday night I got to call my parents (yay!!! and thank you Judith!), then Judith and I went out for my first time to karaoke. It was so much fun! I can see how it becomes addictive to people! :) I tried to find and prepare a song to perform this weekend at our staff retreat. We will be karaoking (spelling?) as well as some other things, but I'll tell you more about that as it approaches. I think I have chosen "I Will Survive" as my debut number, although Judith things perhaps I should do "The Boot Scoot Boogie" since I can do the dance along with that. I'm sure there will be many more opportunities to karaoke in my future here.
Sunday I went back to church at Taga, which was great fun again. I got to meet more people, then Roxanna took me home and made lunch, which was fabulous. We watched a movie, then I came home and took a cat nap to prepare for the festivities last night.
Last night we had a beach party! It was pretty much all thanks to Roxanna, who got everyone together, got the stuff for it, and acted as hostess all night. It was a good night of just talking, fireworks, music and food on the beach of the Pacific ocean. I got home at about 3am. Thank goodness today was a holiday. Yes, today is "Respect for the Aged" day here in Japan, so I get the day off. I raise my class to all of the aged who gave me the opportunity to sleep until 10:30am.

Friday, September 17, 2004

Happy Birthday to Me...

Well I made it through my first week of teaching without any major incidents. What a good feeling. Today I got to meet a student named Hiroshi, who Denver and all of the other ALTs had told me to keep my eye out for. All I knew about him was that he was described as a Japanese Harry Potter. :) He is too adorable. He found me between almost every class just to chat. It is so nice to be able to have a conversation with a student beyond "Hi! Hello! How are you! Fine thank you! :::giggle giggle:::". I love all the students, but I know it'll be nice to have this kid there to actually talk to me.
Today I got to go to my first Japanese pep rally! The second graders (equivalent to our 7th grade) are going to a big track meet next week, so all the other kids hosted a pep rally for them this afternoon. One of the cool English teachers, Yatabe-sensei, organized a skit to have her class re-create the "Mickey" video of the 80s-- you know the one with the cheerleaders. They performed a whole dance in cheerleader outfits (even the boys in skirts) to the song! It was hilarious! "Hey Mickey you're so fine, you're so fine you blow my mind! Hey Mickey! Hey Mickey!" :) It was SO FUN to be on the teacher side of a pep rally and just get to yell and clap for all the students! Reminded me of my good old SHS days. Aah, the memories.
Well I am not going to Tokyo this weekend. Peter called me with the plans last night and they had altered slightly, which I am grateful for. Tomorrow morning a small group is getting up at the butt crack of dawn-- 4am-- and driving to Tokyo to go and see the chaos that is the big fish market and spend the rest of the day going around Tokyo. I'm sure it'll be fun and all, but this week has me worn down enough and I don't think getting up that early and spending all day in a bustling city is what I need. However, Sunday a group is going to Nikko, a tourist city near here with many famous and beautiful shrines. I had been wanting to go there and now I get my chance! I want to see some monkeys there! I'll take pictures and let you know how it went. Like you have to worry about me not updating you about my life.
Now I'm just in my apartment alternating between chilling out and rocking out to Relient K (Sadies Hawkins dance, in my khaki pants, there's nothing better... oh oh oh!) :) I have been trying to clean up my room, which looks like a tornado hit it because of all the clothes strewn about. The problem with line drying your clothes is that yeah they get clean and dry, but they stay so wrinkled so you have to iron pretty much everything, especially work clothes. I have also re-started reading The Return of the King. These books are so amazing to me. I can't believe I put off in reading them for so long.
Tomorrow is my 8th spiritual birthday. 8 whole years. I think I've learned a lot in that time-- of course I would like to think I have. I hope I am at an appropriate point of spiritual development. I think so (maybe I haven't learned humility ;) ). The Lord certainly has gone to great lengths to teach me lessons by giving me challenges and opportunities and relationships meant to grow me. I suppose those serendipities are what prepared me for and landed me in Japan.

Thursday, September 16, 2004

Creative Answering

Another day of teaching, another 120+ students I have officially and formally "met". Today I had a true ALT moment-- as I was walking to one of my classes with the teacher, she was like, "so do you think you could come up with a game for us to play for 30 minutes? :) Luckily I did, and also luckily it turned out that we didn't need it. The kids in my 1st grade classes are very genki-- they are very involved and asked me a lot of questions. Most popular question is, "What Japanese food do you like?" I always say rice and pocky. Pocky are these little skinny, long cookies that look like pencils. They're usually covered in chocolate or strawberry cream. Very good. I also get asked a lot of "what's your favorite..." questions. The thing is, I don't think I have a favorite anything! I like pretty much most of what exists in the world. :) So because of this, I have taken to somewhat lying and made up official answers to these questions. My favorite food is now spaghetti, my favorite singer is Christina Agulleira (don't ask how I came up with that), my favorite hobbies are reading and cooking (cooking!?) my favorite sport is track and field, and my favorite animal is a bird. Hahahaha... that's what happens when you have to answer in simple answers that kids learning English will understand. Maybe I'm lying, but I think of it as helping the kids with English. I realized today that I don't mention my Christianity in my intro speech-- how weird. I can't believe I left it out. I don't know if it would be appropriate to mention or how the teachers would deal with it or what, but it strikes me as odd that I didn't even think about it. My fellow teachers do know I am a Christian-- I have referenced going to church several times, and they know I went to a Christian university. Interesting... somewhat alarming. But I also don't think I have to be wearing my Christianity on my forehead for me to have a spiritual impact on the kids. I don't know. This experience has put me in so many positions where I just have to pray for wisdom, because I have no idea "what Jesus would do". God does promise wisdom to those who ask.
This morning I woke up homesick, because I had a dream where I had decided to just pack up the bags and go home. Gosh that would be so easy in some senses. Just to be in a place where I could communicate and be totally independent would be such a sigh of relief. But God has placed me here in this place for a purpose. Still waiting to find out what it is, but then I look back at examples from the Bible (Hebrews 11) and realize there is a good chance I may never know why I'm here. But ya never know... that has become my recent mantra. :) Ya just never know... I feel like this is some kind of basic training-- like in the army or whatever in basic training they break you down to your lowest point so they can rebuild you again. Maybe that's what God is doing with me now-- rebuilding and training me for my future life of service.
Now for strange cultural notes. Squatty potties are confounding me. A squatty pottie is a Japanese toliet, which is really just a rectangle hole in the ground that flushes, and from the name I hope you can figure out on your own how it works. I have thought a lot about it, and I can't think of a reason why this is a better alternative to a western toliet. Maybe it saves water... that is really the only thing I can think of. Also, a lot of teenage Japanese guys shave their eyebrows off. At first I just thought these guys were odd looking, but then I realized the common factor. I asked Alina about it tonight and she doesn't understand it either, and thinks it is as weird as I do. I also originally thought it had something to do with some sort of gang, but Alina thinks it is just the fashion. People were meant to have eyebrows. Strange.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Catchin' trains

Well today I feel like I did yesterday, except now I have had over 240 little Japanese children introduce themselves to me by this point. Double whew. But I'm having fun-- time goes by quickly and the kids are just too cute (most of the time). Today was cool because all of my classes were with one of the coolest English teachers in the school (there are 5 teachers). Some of the things that sets her apart are that 1) she actually speaks English (no that's not a given), 2) she speaks English in the classroom, and 3) her kids love the class. Good day.
While at work I decided to email a friend of mine who is spending two semesters over here studying at Ibaraki Christian University as an exchange student. I hadn't seen her since I'd been here, so I wrote. She called me and told me she was going to Mito church tonight and asked if I'd like to join her. I was like, "Well sure" even though I had been planning on a night of rest. Then she told me that my train was leaving in 15 minutes! It is a good 15 minute walk to the train station from my apartment! So I hung up and *ran* out the door, and I made it with several minutes to spare. I now know that I can make it to the train station in less than 10 minutes in case of emergency. I was giving it about 75% and I made it in 10 minutes. We met in Omika and went together to church along with a woman named Susan who is from New Zeland (Zealand?) and teaches English at ICU. Church was great-- about 2 hours long, so I felt the effort was worth it-- and I got to talk to several friends for a while. Then I *ran* back to the Mito train station to catch a train back to Hitachi. I got my workout tonight, I tell you what. I don't forsee going to Mito too much on Wednesdays-- it is a lot of trouble. Not that I don't love the people there, but it is a hard commute. Oh yeah-- some of us might be going to Tokyo for the holiday weekend. Monday is a day off in honor of old people. :)
I have gotten several sweet emails lately. One from one of my aunts who wrote on behalf of all my family in Arkansas to let me know they're rooting for, praying for, and supporting me 100%. Two of my friends wrote this week just to let me know that they're proud of me and I'm in their prayers, and they were thinking of me. Sometimes when you're half a world away from the people you love most it is easy to get paranoid about the fact that people will forget you are alive, and their emails were a refreshing reminder that no, I'm not forgotten and I am still loved. I love my friends. And I thank you all profusely for your prayers and encouragement. You have no idea how much it means. Keep it coming. ;)

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Ann Sensei!

I am officially a teacher! :) Today I taught four classes of over 30 students each. In a word-- whew! I can forsee myself getting tired of myself quickly. In each of the classes the students were required to introduce themselves back to me, which includes a complicated Japanese name along with 3 or 4 sentences of relative information abou them. The somewhat frightening thing is that I think these students think I really will remember all of this! :) Ha, one funny thing was at lunch. Everyday for lunch, some of the students from the class I will eat with (different every day) come down and bring me back to their class. Today I was forgotten! :) One of the teachers in the office realized what had happened and fixed the problem. The poor teacher who forgot me was so apologetic... I just thought it was funny!
Tonight the Hitachi gaijin group had a birthday party for a sweet and fun girl named Norma. It was cool to just relax with people who understand exactly what each other is going through. I am so blessed to have walked into a ready made support group.
Latley I have been reading my Bible more, which is good. I have always been fascinated by the Sermon on the Mount, and lately it has held my attention even more. I try to imagine my reaction if I had been one of those original people who heard it in the crowd that day. Would I have laughed with joy or cried with sorrow? It changed everything-- talk about a paradigm shift. I envision myself being a good little Jewish girl who was brought up knowing and fearing the power and laws of God, then suddenly this man from Nazareth appears, claiming to be God's Son yet changing all of the laws I know by heart. I don't know how I would have reacted. Maybe that's why God placed me in the 21st century rather than the 1st.

Monday, September 13, 2004

Taga Church

Yesterday morning I went to the Taga church. It was so wonderful to finally get to meet all of the people I had heard so much about from my friends. And they had been expecting me there! A couple of my friends had forewarned them that I would be coming to Japan soon. I went to a bilingual class that Judith teaches which is going through the book of Mark. Judith teaches in Japanese, then someone translates. It was a very good class. For the sermon, Mr. Seito gave us all a copy of the sermon translated into English-- he went to Oklahoma Christian University, too! As did the minister, Sugao. And there is a man there who went to OC, majored in TEFL and Vocational ministry, and was involved in the international ministry at MRCC-- basically my twin! :) His name is Jun and he is really neat. I was introduced to the church at the end of the serve, and once again asked to say a few words (I told you it was a popular thing to do in Japan!). I told them that I was very honored to be worshipping with them after hearing so many wonderful things about the congregation. I even found out that they had had me and my move to Japan on their prayer list for several weeks. That means so much!
After church a group of us went to eat, and I had a plate of spaghetti that could have fed 4 people. Of course I couldn't eat it all, but it was good. Just a lot. Then I took a train to Mito and found my way to the church building for EBC. One of the teachers was going to be late, so I filled in for her until she got there then sat in the rest of the class. It was good but challenging, because of the four students there were 3 very different levels of language ability. Thankfully another teacher stepped in who spoke Japanese, so she was able to clarify things for us. The worship service was a wonderful singing service. It's always good practice in reading hiragana to sing the songs in English then Japanese. A couple of us talked about perhaps traveling somewhere this weekend-- I will keep you updated on that.
Today I checked out prices for tickets home this Christmas, and they're really not as high as I would have imagined. I can get home and back to Japan for almost half as much as it cost me to get here on a one way ticket. I haven't decided yet where I want to fly into-- OKC, Little Rock, DFW, or maybe even T-town. I didn't check the prices for Txk. Hmm... I should have. I also finished up preparations on my little "get to know Ann" activity that I will 19 times over in the next week and a half. 19 times for 19 classes. 30+ students per class. Whew. :)
Alina made dinner tonight for us ALTs, and we sat around and talked for hours. It was great to get to know all of them better. The more I get to know them, the more I like them and think we are going to work together very well.

Saturday, September 11, 2004

Sports Festival and Inkai

I haven't written in a while for two main reasons: 1) nothing terribly different has happened and 2) I have been worn out at night and gone to bed. I went to school all this week and sat in the office mostly while the students and teachers rehersed the sports festival activities. On Wednesday I got some nice color from staying outside all day. I'm not too badly burned, and it saves me from having to wear make-up. In the office I usually focus on trying to stay awake, making pictures for my self-introduction lesson, and play on the internet when no one is watching. :) And of course watch the students. School lunches have been interesting, because of both the food and the company. I eat with a different English teacher's home room everyday. I end up not getting to eat much, because you will remember that they eat super fast and most of the classes are required to introduce themselves to me. So yesterday, for example, I didn't get to eat much because all of the 35 students had a 15 minute time period to come up to me, introduce themselves, tell me what like and don't like, what sports they play, and how old they are. :) It's too cute, but I had to respond to 35 different kids! :) And of course there is the food aspect, but that has been do-able. Even the natto wasn't as bad as I expected. I could eat it if I haaaaad to. But the kids love to see my funny face when I smell or taste it. Denver left a legacy of *hating* natto. :) Everyone mentions it. Glad to follow in those footsteps!
Last night Peter and Jessica came to Hitachi to visit me! It was so sweet of them to make the trek, although they couldn't stay too long. The only time I've really felt completely at ease in Japan is when I am with those guys. I got to pretend to be an expert on Hitachi City and give them a brief tour. We had to laugh because it just seems so odd that the three of us would end up in Japan together. I was supposed to go to Brazil, Jess was supposed to go to Mexico, and Peter was supposed to go to grad school. How did we end up here? The Lord has his plan. We're just waiting to find out what it is! :) I appreciate so much those guys making the effort to come out here, and anyone else who wants to come is very welcome as often as they want. :)
Today was a big day. This morning/afternoon was the aforementioned sports festival. I wasn't really looking forward to it, but I had a great time. The weather was perfect, there was a huge crowd to cheer on the kids, and everyone just had a goofy good time cheering for each other and encouraging the kiddos. What I found fascinating about this is that most events require teamwork, as in being tied to another person or having to hold someone's hand or a relay or something. I never saw any of the students get angry at a person who was slower and causing the team to lose-- instead they just kept right on supporting each other and encouraging each other til the end. Also, the teachers were amazingly supportive. They compete in homerooms, and the teachers were the best cheerleaders I've ever seen. The would run alongside their kids and yell for them the whole way. So sweet. I hope to be a teacher like that. I'll post pictures ASAP.
After the sports festival all of the teachers were going to have a big inkai (someone correct my spelling if you know) to celebrate the sports festival and my arrival. An inkai is translated as a drinking party. I had heard of these, and pretty much everyone I know in Japan has been to at least one. What happens is a group of people get together to eat and drink for hours on end. When I had just heard about these, I was a little wary of it, but I knew that I *had* to go. It was in my honor! But as a person who had no plans to get drunk, I was unsure as to how much fun I'd have. But it turned out to be not what I had envisioned. It kind of reminded me of an old timey feast. There was so much food, and yes so much liquor, but I didn't really notice that many people were just wasted beyond comprehension by the end of the night. They just loosened up some. I got to give a short speech (a very popular thing in Japan), and I had some interesting food. I made sure to eat something before I went, because I had a feeling there'd be some crazy stuff. Well the first dish was an entire fish just sitting on a plate in front of us. Luckily my Honduras adventure prepared me for this, so I could handle that. Although it's tricky working that whole fish with chopsticks. So that was odd but manageable. The next dish was not so manageable. We each had little burners in front of us, and the waitresses came and put these covered dishes on top of the burners. I opened mine to find a live mussle (is that how you spell it?)!!!!!!!! It was squirming and being killed right before my eyes! It even had a pat of butter on top-- isn't that just adding insult to injury for the poor creature? I tried a bite of it, but gagged and couldn't do the whole thing. Japanese people love watching gaijin reactions to food. And one thing I have learned in Japan is that food is never what you think it is. I thought there were some potatos on a dish in front of me, but they weren't potatos. I don't know what they were, but I couldn't be too afraid of a vegetable at that point after the mussle. There was a huge plate of sashimi (raw fish) in front of me, but the cuts were so big that I knew I couldn't handle that. Especially straight without any rice or anything to buffer the blow. So my co-workers were merciful and allowed me to pass. I think they felt bad about the mussle. Then we had some noddles which were fine, some fried oyster and fried chicken (yes! something familiar!), and a big plate of nashi (asian pear) and grapes. By the way, I learned today that they peel their grapes before they eat them. Crazy, ay? But good. I drank sooo much oolan tea tonight. It is some kind of honor to have someone pour your drink for you, so tonight me and all the PE teachers were being honored so everyone wanted to pour us a drink. I drank lots o' tea. I'm sure I'll be regretting that during my 32 bathroom trip tonight. Overall, my first inkai was a great experience. I got to meet a lot of the teachers and bond with them. Plus I had a great hair night. My hair is straight for the first time since I've been here-- thank you humidity and typhoon season. I'll take a picture so you can see my straight hair and my tan.
In other random matters, today is September 11th. That is so strange-- it's been three years. In one sense, three whole years, in another, it's just been 3 years. Although I know all our lives were changed on that day, some were effected far more than mine. The children without parents, the people who lost spouses... and million other relationships were severed that day. God bless the survivors of that attack and all those who have been victims since.
Right now I'm reading Phillip Yancey's, "The Jesus I Never Knew." It's pretty good. I need something to keep my spiritual/intellectual side going.
Song of the moment is "Never There" by Cake. I don't know why... I just like it. :) Maybe I'll get a chance to karaoke it soon!
That's all. I'll be better about writing next week. :)

Thursday, September 09, 2004


Natto* = gross. Call me culturally insensitive, but I am not sure I will budge on this one.

*Thanks to a responsive reader for catching my spelling error! :)

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

First Day of School

Today was my first day at school! I rode the bus all by myself to school without any problems and arrived to find the kiddos all out practicing their wacky sports for the sports festival this weekend. originally thought this was going to be like an American track meet, but today I realize that's not quite it. I would compare it to a crazy olympics type of gaming event. They play all sorts of crazy games, most of which involve serious physical threat to the students. :) Seriously-- I would rename it from "sports festival" to "lawsuit waiting to happen festival." The kids play games like, "spin around with your forehead on a bat then tie your foot to another persons and the two of you run 100 yards", "everyone hunch over and let a classmate run on your backs" and my personal favorite, "hold a bamboo pole and throw one of your classmates on it to climb and stick a flag in the top." They are truly hard to explain, but I will take pictures and video of it to prove the madness.
I also got a tour of the school, which seems really nice. The teachers were all very nice to me and the kids seemed excited to have a new gaijin to play with. I had been forewarned that you'll be treated like a super-star for a while and all the kids wave and stare and giggle and yell "HELLO!" :) I also got told twice that I was beautiful, which I think was very sweet. :) I ate lunch with one of the classes and partook (?) of my first school lunch. Everyone got this huge piece of bread (which was very good), a fried fish triangle that had a fish tail coming out one of the corners, and a medly of mushy vegetables. Overall it was very good. Once again we ate in a super-hurry, but then the clouds opened (another typhoon is coming... oh joy) and I spent the rest of the day at my little desk in the teachers' office. I was supposed to have a big introduction assembly, but it was going to be outside, so it was postponed until tomorrow. And of course I forgot my umbrella, so Oishii-san who sits next to me, lent me hers, which is good because it poured on me between the bus stop and my apartment. Of course my clothes were hanging out to dry, and are now wetter than ever. How do you dry clothes outside during rainy season?
Oh! I almost forgot to tell you about the prime location of my school. Denver had told me that there's a great view as I wait for the bus, and boy was he right. Looking west is a beautiful view of the mountains covered in lush green and hazy mist, and on the east is the Pacific Ocean. Mountains and ocean... simply beautiful. I'll take some pictures.

Monday, September 06, 2004

Big Weekend

Long time no write, I know. Not that you guys can really tell immediately, anyway. Friday night went well; Judith came and picked me up and I went to dinner with her the spent the night at her house. We had lots of good chit chat just kind of catching up on each other's lives. Kind of like old friends who just met. :) Saturday morning I went with her to her Japanese class, which is a couple of towns away (which means like, 10 minutes on the train). They let me observe (which really means participate in... no simple observation there! :) ) the very beginner class, which was compromised of myself and a man from China named Yang. He arrived in Japan a month ago, but is just now starting classes. I intend on waiting about that long before starting Japanese classes-- it is a little too overwhelming to try to do everything suddenly. Yang and I learned how to tell time and tell when things open and close in Japanese. For example, I can now say "Go-ji san-ju fun des" which means "It is 5:05." The teacher was a hoot and a holler. She spoke English and Spanish and some Chinese, I think. She was very genki (which means healthy, active, energetic and is a term used a LOT here). I had a good time and really learned stuff, so I might choose to go back there for classes when the time comes.
Then Judith and I went to a recycle shop, which is kind of a cross between a garage sale and a pawn shop, sort of. It is all second hand things, but they only buy the best of the best stuff that is either never used or looks brand new. While there I happened to notice an adorable couch that was really cheap for its size and cuteness, so I bought it to replace my brown-falling apart couch thing that I inherented. I'll put pictures up as soon as I can. Getting the couch back to my apartment was an adventure. We borrowed Roxanna's car (because it's bigger) and went to my apartment to get the old couch and take it to the city dump. We made it to the dump literally five minutes before close and got rid of the brown thing, then went back to the recycle shop to get my new couch. My new couch was very nearly too big to fit into the car... we had to lay the backseat down and move the front seats as close to the front as possible. I doubled over laughing seeing Judith trying to squish into the extremely compact front seat... I'm still not sure how she managed to drive, but we made it back to my apartment. Then we had to somehow get the beautiful blue beast up the stairs and through the narrow doorways. To get in my front door we had to put the couch slightly over the railing and I was like, "Judith, is there a car underneath the couch?" She replied, "Yep, but don't worry." I was like "if this couch goes over the balcony onto that car I am packing my things, leaving Japan and never looking back." :) Thankfully nothing like that happened, and now I have a lovely blue couch in my living room. Domo arigato gozaimasu to Judith for all of her help!!!
Sunday I took the train all by myself from Hitachi to Mito for church. My dear friend Chi-chan met me at the station and took me to the church building. I felt so accomplished for being able to conquer the train system-- that is not to say that I won't have some kind of train mishap in my future. :) That is almost a guarantee, probably. ;) Church was great-- it is so good to always see everybody (and hear English!) and come together with all kinds of people for a common purpose. I've got to admit, I just love seeing my friends, too. After church it was a regular OC reunion-- Chisato, Chie, Tomoko, Izumi, Aaron, Denver S., Peter and I all went to lunch together. We had so much fun just catching up, remembering old times, and making plans to do more things together in the near future. How much fun!!!!
EBC went very well. I sat in on Peter's class as an observer and I was reminded of just how much I love to teach English. That just gets me revved up to get back into the classroom. And might I also just mention that Japanese kids are toooo cute. :) Eloise Ives was kind enough to take me home so I didn't get another adventure on the train, but I had a good opportunity to talk to her. She's an American who has been living in Japan for almost 20 years, including raising her two children here. Her daughter is starting at OC this semester, so I think she feels an obligation to help out an OCer who happens to be in Japan. :) She was very encouraging and kind to me. After I got home I ended up going downstairs and visiting with Ian for several hours, and it was great to get to know him better. He's lived in Japan for 7 years and is fluent in Japanese, so I'm sure he will be a great asset and friend.
Today at work was great, because it was an office day (which means we don't really have to do much) and I got to spend it with my co-workers this time. I am still so fascinated by how different all of us ALTs are. We're different, but complimentary I think. Everyone has different perspective and background and insight. I think we'll make a good team. Let me tell you about our section leader, Taka-san. He is an older man who likes to tease people. :) Today he used Ian as his interpretor to pick on the new girl (all in good fun, of course). :) He asked if I knew how to use chopsticks and when I said yes, decided to put me to a public test. He went and got a bag of something like chex mix and a pair chopsticks and made me prove myself after getting the attention of everyone in the office as my audience. Then after everyone saw me and applauded when I was successful, Taka-san made it harder by shaking the plate while I had to grab a little round cracker thing. I was laughing so hard I could hardly do it, but once again I represented the Amerika-jin and proved myself worthy. Had that happened last week I would have crumbled, but today it was all part of my adventure. :)
Our staff (the Hitachi Board of Education) went out to a lunch in my honor. I was asked to give a short address (which I hear they're quite fond of doing here in Japan) and we all ate some good Chinese food. It was such a funny process, though. I have never seen anyone on the staff (except the ALTs) go any slower than 100 mph at their work. Then today at about lunch time everyone stood up and began milling around. They acted like they were in a great hurry, except no one made any moves for the door. After a couple of minutes of that, the noon chime rang signaling the beginning of the lunch hour and thus began the mad dash that was lunch. We walked quickly to the restaurant, ordered quickly, gave quick "addresses", ate faster than I have eaten in a loooong time, and then ran back to the office all before 12:50. :) It was a good lunch, good time, but it just struck me as funny. :)
Tonight after work I decided to be adventuresome and strike out on the town by myself. I went to the mall that's farther away from my apartment and looked around. Also important to note, I found a vending machine that sells Dr. Pepper. I have seen several before, but I was always in a car and never able to stop. But finally I got my DP. :) Hip hip hooray for imports!

Sunday, September 05, 2004


Earthquakes Rock Japan

So... yeah... I just heard about these earthquakes. No worries, I didn't even hear they had happened, but apparently they are causing trouble for a lot of people, so keep their safety in your prayers. I will let you know if we feel any aftershocks or have any tsunamis. :) It is exciting to live in a beach city!

Friday, September 03, 2004

Clouds lifting, skies clearing... :)

Somebody out there must have been praying for me today, because I could definitely feel it. After writing that last little bit at lunch, the clouds of the world seem to have lifted, but literally and figuratively. Let me explain.
First of all, the weather here hasn't been exactly optimal since I arrived, thanks mostly to the big typhoon that hit the south of Japan the day I arrived. So since then, the weather has been off and on scorching hot and unbearably humid. I wasn't sure I'd seen a blue sky since I'd been here. So today as I walked back to work after lunch I decided to pray for a clear blue sky with cool weather. And guess what... the Lord provides. After I got off of work the sky was clear and there was a cool breeze blowing through. Blue skies have always had a semi-symbolic meaning to me... I think they represent God in a sense. The blue skies are always there. We may have a hard time seeing it sometimes because of our point of view... there may be rainclouds or what not blocking our view... but the blue skies are always there. And they will show themselves to us in due time. Now I hope you all have "Blue Skies" by Point of Grace stuck in your head. :) Good song!
Anyway, on a second note, after I got back to work I got online and decided to look up webpages that would help me quiz myself on hiragana. I not only found those, but I found an awesome site that takes a step by step approach at learning and understanding Japanese. It made a thousand time more sense to me than this silly, "Japanese for Busy People" book did. That book basically gives you phrases to memorize without bothering to really explain the grammatical construction (which we all know is what I really love... isn't that sick? :) ). This website was awesome. I understand so much more now. It actually seems manageable!!!!!!! Thank you !!! (I have to give a shoutout).
Thirdly, I now have air conditioning!!! Let me tell you the story. Apparently the air-conditioning units in our building only work with remote control. Well, a couple of ALTs back, the girl who moved in here didn't know what the remote was, so she threw it away. Oops. That means poor Denver suffered without it. Back on Tuesday, which you will remember was the mother of all hot days I spoke of, heard about it, Ishi-san asked me if I had a remote and when I told her no, she became very concerned. Ishi-san is a 24 year old woman who works in our office with us. She is the only woman working in the board of education office, and boy is she sweet and helpful. She ordered the remote for me, and it came in today! She even translated all the buttons on it for me and came back to my apartment with me to make sure it worked. I wanted to hug her so much, but the Japanese don't do hugs. :) All I could do was say "domo arigato gozaimasu" over and over, which means thank you very much. She speaks very good English, but they like it when you speak what Japanese you know. :) BTW- she also copied of charts of hiragana and katakana for me today when she saw that I was studying Japanese all day. Yay for Ishi-san! Some of the people in my office are incredibly nice to me. There is one girl who looks to be about my age, I don't remember her name, but she works for an office other than ours that happens to be in the same room. Everyday she comes up to me and talks to me in English. It means so much that she makes that effort at conversation everyday. Today she even asked me if I'd eat lunch with her the next time I was in the office. Isn't that sweet??? Then there a man that I think of as Bob. I actually know his name, it is Kaminaga-san, but he reminds me of a certain Bob I know. He is so nice to me all the time. Like the other girl, everyday he comes and tries to speak to me in English. He brought me a pile of information about Hitachi yesterday, including a map and a tour guide and the English bulletin and such. He's a sweet man.
Good day. This morning Suzuki-san and I went to Namekawa, which is the school where I'll be working. I got to meet the principal, vice-principal, and all of the English teachers. Denver had left me a letter giving me the low-down on how things go around the school, which was awesome and I am so grateful for. Denver did a lot of helpful stuff for me before he left. I hope I can do the same for my replacement in a couple of years. Wait-- it's too early to think about that! :)
So now I'm sitting here in my cool apartment listening to Chris Rice, and all is right in the world. In a couple of hours Judith is going to come pick me up so we can hang out tonight, which I'm sure will be very good for me. As a general statement, I hope I can be a blessing to as many people as who are being blessings to me right now. In the past year I have received an insane amount of help... through my illness, through my attempts to go back to school despite my illness, through the several discouragements about my future that I went through, and now here... It is unfathomable to think back on all I've been given. I know it is impossible to pay back, so I have the grand goal in life to just pay forward all the kindnesses shown to me.
I know this may be a temporary high, but I'm going to soak it up while I can. God is so good and faithful to us; can I get an amen?

Thursday, September 02, 2004

Good friends

The weather is re-cooling off. The humidity here is something else, though. Good thing T-town prepared me for it. :) Last night I came home from work, crashed into a nap, then Peter, a friend of mine from OC and an AET in Mito, called and we got to have a good talk. It was so good to just compare notes and express the stresses I'm feeling with someone who completely understands. Peter is known far and wide as a wonderful guy who everyone loves and respects, so I consider it a tremendous blessing to have him here as a friend. I'll admit to you guys that this is not as easy as I thought it'd be. I thought I was prepared and knew what to expect, and in many senses I was prepared, but that doesn't make it as less difficult. When I worked with international students at OC I understood some of the Japanese mindset, and when I was around it too much it could wear on my nerves... well now I'm around it alllllll the time. Don't get me wrong-- there are also great advantages to being in the Japanese culture. I just feel like I should be honest on my blog, and not gloss over everything with a "wow this place is amazing I'm never going to leave and I can't believe it took me so long to get here" type of portrayal. It is good, and I am so glad to be having this experience, but it is difficult. Peter helped me put it in perspective, though. He said that whenever he spoke to Bailey about coming, Bailey always referenced it as his "Japanese adventure." When you look at this as an adventure it makes things seem much more do-able and tolerable. In an adventure you don't know what to expect, but you can look forward to it. In an adventure things don't always go perfectly or as planned, but that's what makes it adventuresome. So when I think about this as my adventure it sounds much more manageable than as "MY LIFE." :) Thinking of this as MY LIFE is definitely scary. My life makes it sound like I should be in control of everything and know exactly what will happen next and what to expect... and that is definitely not the case at all. :) That Peter kid sure is a smart one... I am eternally grateful for his listening ear and empathetic advice.
After talking to Peter I felt better about life in general and watched Spiderman. Then I talked to Alina and Ian and his sister for a while, then Izumi called me. She had heard through the grapevine that I was feeling a little overwhelmed and wanted to check on me (the gaijin grapevine moves fast!). She told me that she's feeling the same way right now, with reverse culture shock. I can believe it. This is a crazy place. :) Thank God for good friends.

Another day in Nippon

Last night was nice. One of my biggest packing regrets is that I did not pack any enjoyment reading-- just stuff about Japan and Japanese. Needless to say, I am tired of that already. :) Lest you think I'm lazy, just remember that I spent all my office hours staring at hiragana and hearing Japanese being spoken around me. So I went down to Jared's and he was kind enough to let me borrow some of his DVDs, and I watched Seabiscuit last night. I'd never seen it before. There was just something unappealing to me about watching a movie about a horse. But it was in ENGLISH, and it was good. I will probably watch Spiderman tonight. Can't have too much Tobey Maguire, I think... jk. :) After my movie I tried to call a pal of mine in Mito but couldn't get through, so I prayed for God to send someone for me to talk to. And lo and behold, here came Roxanna! She dropped by to check on me, and then we went out for a little bit. We walked through Kamine park, which seems to be a really neat place. We stayed up there and talked for a while, which did my spirit good. Then I came home and went to bed. This getting up and going to work thing makes me stay on a regular sleep schedule. :)
Today at work I was introduced to everyone in the office-- about 10 people individually and about 30 people as a group. They were all so kind and welcoming. My office is a little intimiating... everyone is so busy and absorbed in what they're doing all the time... but it's a cozy place, too. The four ALTs spend every Monday up there, just trying to look busy. Once I have classes it'll be time to prepare for them if there's anything to be done. I'm told Ian and Jared use the time to study Japanese. Today I was blessed to be able to use the internet up there... yay! Too bad I didn't have all these little blogs, or I'd have posted them. I love love love getting email. It warms my heart and makes my day. I guess it'd be nice to get snail mail, too. I hadn't thought about that, really. But it'd be cool.

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

Nature Strikes Back

Yesterday was the hottest day I can ever remember in my life. You see, a typhoon went through on Monday night, and apparently after a typhoon it gets really hot. I woke up burning up at 7:30am, that's how hot it was. Not fun. Since it was pretty much too hot to move, I just laid in bed most of the morning drifting between asleep and awake, then finally got up to take a cold shower and go back to my office. I left an hour early so I would be sure not to get lost, and lo and behold, I didn't get lost! I took the extra time I had to walk around a department store that is next door to the office. It was a good experience. I felt quasi-independent, almost. :) Ms. Ishi and I went back to city hall and I got my bank account squared away. Well, she got my bank account squared away. Then my employers wanted me to come back to the office for a while, so I did. I'm not exactly sure what I'm supposed to do while I'm up there, but if they want me there then I'm going to go. I came home and sat on the balcony of my apartment, which was mucho cooler than my apartment itself, and then Tomoko called me! She wanted to know if she and her mom could come take me to dinner and grocery shopping tonight. I can't turn down offers these days, so I said sure! And we went to Denny's. Yep-- Japanese Denny's. Not like American Denny's. But I had a nice sandwich and Tomoko and her mom helped me shop for groceries, so now I have food. Then when I got back to my apartment they surprised me with donuts!!!!! Yay for donuts and the Kikuchis! That provided a good end to the day, which I was ready for. I am always so exhausted at night.
Today they wanted me in the office at 9:30, so I was. Thankfully today wasn't as hot as yesterday. I pretty much spent the day doing absolutely nothing but sitting at my little table and trying to look busy while a bunch of hurried Japanese people scurried about me. I almost felt guilty that they were so busy and I was so bored. I'm never sure what to wear to the office. Today I went with a white button down shirt and a black knee length skirt, which I think was okay. I just don't know how dressy to go. I'll have to ask Alina.
Oh yes, today I experienced my first earthquake. It was weird... I was reading and suddenly I felt like I was shaking. I looked up to see if anything else was shaking and it was! It lasted maybe a minute, and the majority of the Japanese didn't even look up from what they were doing, but a few looked around and laughed when they saw my "what on earth!?" face. :)