Tuesday, November 30, 2004
Monday, November 29, 2004
The Latter Day Saints have their own dating service, located at www.hotsaints.com. The great part is their slogan: Chase and be chaste.
I love it! Genius! :)
The seasons are quickly changing, signified through shorter days, changing leaves, and the sharp chill in the air. Life without central heat has taught me a valuable lesson that you'd think I'd already know. The sun makes a huge difference. My dear friend and mentor Bailey McBride would always stress the importance of being in the sun on your emotional health, but honestly I never put that much stock into it.
That is until I came here. My first month and a half in Japan was filled with typhoons, rain and cloudy, wet weather. I think that contributed a lot to the severe culture stress and homesickness I went through. However, now that typhoon season is over and we have had more than our fair share of beautiful sunshiny days, I find that the proverbial cloud has lifted on many things. I wake up to the sun streaming through my blinds, bask in the sun as I wait for my bus in the mornings, and all day long get to enjoy a beautiful view of the sun gleaming off the Pacific Ocean through the windows of the classrooms at my school.
Beyond the emotional/spiritual benefits of the sun, I am also amazed at the sheer power of the sun. The temperature in any building plummets on a day that is cloudy from a day that is sunny. On a sunny day, if I leave my blinds open on my windows I return home to a cozy house that has been baking all day. As soon as the sun sets, I brace myself for the cold. Time to crank up the kerosene heater and electric blanket. And microfleece. Love the microfleece. :)
Perhaps this is a silly, simplistic blog. I don't know. But it's been on my mind. Thank God for the sun.
***feel free to draw any kind of spiritual metaphor you might want to with the whole sun/Son word interplay***
And oh yes, the changing of the seasons reminds me of a great song by Nichole Nordeman called "Every Season". It talks about how the transitions of nature can be a reflection of the seasons of our lives. This is the autumn verse:
And even when the trees have just surrendered
To the harvest time
Forfeiting their leaves in late September
And sending us inside
Still I notice You when change begins
And I am braced for colder winds
I will offer thanks for what has been and what's to come
You are autumn
Beautiful tree located across from the Mito Church. I love golden leaves!
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Sunday, November 28, 2004
Saturday, November 27, 2004
Thanksgiving in Mito
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Friday, November 26, 2004
Thomas carving the bird
Yesterday as I walked into school and said my "ohayo gozaimasu"s to everyone, I made sure to add the foreign and exotic phrase, "Happy Thanksgiving!" Although the vast majority of people looked at me in that "the poor gaijin is saying weird things" way, some actually knew that it was indeed Thanksgiving. One of the English teachers made sure to tell all of her classes, and I had all of one student come up and wish me a Happy Thanksgiving. But boy did it make me smile.
Although nothing could match being with my family for Thanksgiving, last night was a sweet substitute. A bunch of English teachers in town got together and had a true feast at Roxanna's apartment. I think we fit about 3o people in there. I was amazed at the spread of food. We had a smoked turkey, mashed potatoes (that I made, although they can't rival my mom's!), corn bread, green bean casserole, sweet potato casserole, and of course gravy. Plus many other side dishes that were wonderful. The Americans there were just drooling and googley eyed with wonder and amazement. The other foreigners just couldn't truly appreciate it like we did. And lest we forget that we're actually in Japan, one sweet little Japanese girl did bring sushi. :)
Ah, but I felt amiss today as I missed my ever so important tradition-- the biggest shopping day of the year. That's right, every year I join the throngs of people who decend upon the malls, but this year I was at work. So it goes, I suppose. The sacrifices I make to be in Japan-- ha ha. There will always be the day after Christmas sale. :)
I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving. I know I did. And I still have one more dinner tomorrow! Yatta!Posted by Hello
Ben and Ann in Brazil
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Wednesday, November 24, 2004
I am thankful for...
- A merciful and gracious God, who has and continues to meet my needs before I even realize that they exist.
- My family and friends who reflect God's love to me daily, and I cannot imagine living without. I would list every one of you by name and tell you why I love you if there were world enough and time. I pray you realize how much I appreciate you and how much you mean to me.
- Good health, good doctors, and good medicine.
- The opportunities I have been given to meet new people and experience new things.
- My incredible job, my co-workers, and students.
- Technology like blogging, email, long distance phone lines and air mail.
- Heat, which comes in the forms of kerosene heaters, thermal underwear, and microfleece.
- Good books and good music.
- Chocolate, grilled cheese sandwiches, Mexican food and Dr. Pepper.
I pray that you will have a wonderful holiday full of family, friends, and good food, and that you too will find many things to be thankful for. I love you all.
Give thanks to the LORD , call on his name; make known among the nations what he has done. --I Chronicles 16:8
Sunday, November 21, 2004
Hitachi-shi ALTs-- Alina the Elf, Ian as Santa, Jared the Wiseman, and Snow-Ann
A couple of hours after that shindig wrapped up, I went to the first of three Thanksgiving dinners I will be going to this year (so no worries for those of you who thought I was going to sit at home all sad for the holiday). This one was at Taga church, and it was a blast-- click here for pictures. It was a church/LKT wide potluck and there was a lot of good food, including the majority of the good old American Thanksgiving staples. I had yummy smoked turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, pumpkin pie, and apple cider. Of course it wasn't totally Americanized... I have never eaten a Thanksgiving dinner with chopsticks in America. :) I will definitely miss being with my family next week, but I am also thankful for my newfound family here. On Thursday our little Hitachi English teaching crew is going to have a feast, then on Saturday the Mito church is having their dinner. So I will be very well fed this week. :)
Taga Church Thanksgiving-- Heather, Ann, Roxanna, Jennifer (we're all single, boys!)
Song of the moment: Reputation by Derek Webb
Book of the moment: Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller (again)
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Friday, November 19, 2004
Her name is Asami, and she is in my 3-8 class. 3-8 is compromised mostly of students with learning disabilities, but Asami is in the class because she is "emotionally disturbed." Which she is. She sits hunched over staring at her desk and never looking up. She even walks through the halls like this. She rarely radiates any emotion besides apathy. If she lived in the states I am fairly confident she would be on medication, which I believe she probably needs. But that's not the way the game is played in Japan, I am afraid. Instead, despite her intelligence, she is placed in a class where she will merely play games and be kept busy. But as I said earlier, Asami encourages me. Whenever I'm around I always make it a point to specifically praise or encourage her, because she really is a bright girl. Lately when she knows I'm near she looks up and gives me a sweet smile and says a few words to me. I pray especially for Asami, and I ask you to, too. I am worried about her future... I am frustrated because of my helplessness. What can I do to make an impact on this girl's life, besides maybe giving her a few memories of good time with English classes? Of course I know it's not up to me; God is in control and is holding the life of this precious girl in her hands. So please join me and pray for Asami. I wish I could think of something wise and eloquent to pray for her, but I am at a loss. Please just pray.
I suppose this is a common struggle teachers face. They encounter so many students who are facing who knows what kinds of issues. I think it would be overwhelming if teachers didn't trust in a higher power to take care of these little souls.
Thursday, November 18, 2004
So this is a brief public service announcement to encourage all you folks who are holding out against Christian music to go on and give it a shot. Try it for a while, then go back to whatever you listened to before. You'll be amazed at the difference in your mood and outlook. These days whenever I listen to another genre I am amazed at some of the trash and unwholesome messages that the songs send.
Before I am badgered, I am not saying that all "non-Christian" music is trash, and I am also not saying that all "Christian" music is of quality. Just think about what messages you are putting into your head.
Here are some of the Christian artists who have blessed and ministered to me:
- Chris Rice
- Rich Mullins
- Caedmon's Call
- Stephen Curtis Chapman
- Nicole Nordeman
- Relient K
- Jaci Velasquez
- Jennifer Knapp
- Derek Webb
- Phillips, Craig and Dean
- Third Day
This is non-exhaustive, but a good start. Anyone else have favorites they would like to recommend?
Ooh, I thought of a good verse: Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable-- if anything is excellent or praiseworthy-- think about such things. Philippians 4:8
Wednesday, November 17, 2004
Tuesday, November 16, 2004
The first few days I arrived, I noticed that people around me were always saying, "Ano blah blah blah ano blah blah blah", so I thought they were always saying my name. Well it turns out that "ano" is the word for "um" here. So of course they said it all the time. Think about how many times we say "um". So I got over that paranoia.
Then recently I have been noticing that I hear my full name, Ann Marie, a lot. Except it is the Japanese version, which sounds like "anm mari". Since my paranoia is not as strong now as it was when I first arrived, I didn't immediately think they were talking about me, but I did wonder what "anm mari" meant. Tonight I finally asked, and I found out that it means "not really." So that means my name sounds like "Not Really" White. :) I wonder if any Japanese people ever noticed that...
After talking to some more people today, I found out that "anm mari" also means "too much." (yes I know, it can mean too much or not really... welcome to the confusing world of Japanese). So I am perhaps "too white." That would make more sense, huh? :)
In other news, one month from right now I will be on a plane somewhere between here and OKC. :) Yatta!
Monday, November 15, 2004
Sunday, November 14, 2004
Good Christians don't:
- skip church
Why doesn't our list look something like this? Good Christians don't:
- pass judgment
- hold prejudices
I suppose that we all think that good Christians shouldn't do the things on the second list, but it seems to me that the things on the first list are mandatory; you don't do those things- under any circumstance. But the items on the second list seem excusable, especially if you do them in the name of "religion". Why is that? I don't know. Seems to me it should be quite the opposite.
Yesterday morning I made the executive decision to skip Japanese class and sleep in. I woke up at 10:30am to a beautiful day outside, and decided to go enjoy it. So I hopped on my bike and headed down to the civic center where there's always something going on. About half way there I had an accident. For you who may not have much experience in riding a bicycle in a society like this, it's a scary deal. There ain't much protecting you from anything else once you're out of control. So down I went, landing square on the heel of my right hand. Long story short, I spent yesterday wondering if my hand was broken. However, today it is feeling better, although it is turning a nasty blue and remains swollen and tender to the touch. Pretty much everyone who bikes here has a war story like this one. So beware of the full-contact bike riding of Japan! :)
Other than the bike spill, yesterday was positively gorgeous. I am so glad I skipped Japanese and just hung out outside. Yesterday was also the monthly night bazaar in Hitachi, which is kind of like a flea market. It is cool to browse the booths to see the different foods and things they're selling.
Today was exciting. I was invited on a teacher's trip to the neighboring prefecture of Fukushima. I thought it was important for me to go and build those relationships. Apparently the ALT two back from me was not liked at all by the teachers and was never invited to everything. Luckily for me, Denver broke through the social barrier and I am following through on that path. About 15 other teachers and I left early this morning and took a beautiful scenic drive through the mountains covered in leaves changing color. We ate soba (buckwheat noodles) in an enkai type lunch then went to a really nice onsen (public bath/hot spring). It is amazing how much more the other teachers will open up to me once we're off of school turf (and they've got some liquor in them... :) ). So overall today was a very good experience and I'm glad I went. Who knows what will come from these relationships that God has put in my life. I just hope I can be a reflection of God to my friends here.
Song of the Moment: Caedmon's Call's Faith My Eyes. I feel myself relating to this song very well...
Friday, November 12, 2004
15 hours is such a frustrating time difference. It means that the best time I can really talk to people is late at night for me and early in the morning for them. It makes talking on the phone difficult. And I can pretty much forget IMing people. There are the few and the proud who keep odd hours that I get to talk to (which make my day!), but generally I just get people's away messages.
I'm still in a phase where I think several times a day about what time it is at home and what people are probably doing at home. Like right now, it's 11:30pm here. That means for most of my readers it is 8:30am. I know that several of my friends and family are at work or in class. I imagine what they're doing, just for a sense of normality. It's so strange to know that I am finishing the day while you guys are just beginning it.
In an effort to keep a good attitude, I will admit that there is a perk. When I fly back home, I will arrive in OKC only "3 hours" after I leave Japan. Cool, huh?
But then... tonight I was doing some link jumping around my friends blogs, and ran across the Oklahoma Christian University blog ring (I would link to it, but it's just too embarrassing). I was shocked and amazed by what I saw. It's enough to make an English major's blood curdle. It makes me feel as though my time as a writing tutor at OC was all for naught. Where were these people during the formative language years? What has the IM culture done to the writing skills of OC students?
I could go on and give examples of the horror I saw just in skimming of the webring, but it's too shameful to my alma mater as a whole. Until today I had been living in a bubble where I thought that the majority of blogs were tasteful and well written using grammar and punctuation that is acceptable. It turns out that I just happen to read blogs of high quality. :)
So to my friends who keep blogs that are worthy to be read, I say kudos! Keep up the good work! Fight the good fight against evils such as tacky templates and "e-props". Thanks to Marc for being unafraid to call people to repentance.
Wednesday, November 10, 2004
Song of the day: Chris Rice's Smile
Poem of the day: "The Road Not Taken" by Robert Frost
Email of the day: Questions from my aunt's elementary school class asking me about life in Japan
Website of the day: Memorial Road Church of Christ for putting their sermons online (I just listened to a great one by Shawn Fowler on Gideon)
Students of the day: Ayaka for coming in 4th place in the area speech contest and Hiroshi for just chatting with me after school
Food of the day: The apple slice that came with lunch (may seem simple to you, but remember that apples cost about $3 or $4 here!)
Phone call of the day: Getting to talk to my dear Joyce for about half an hour
The past several days have been really great. I taught at an elementary school (which is always adorable), got to see several friends at a speech contest (in which my student came in 4th!), got to hang out with a great friend yesterday, watched a really good movie last night... and the sun has been shining for several days now. Thank God for all of the above.
Monday, November 08, 2004
As mentioned in my "100 things" list, I am semi-obsessed with being right/doing the right thing; I consider this both my greatest strength and weakness. Where I once thought I had many things figured out pretty well, I am now realizing that I, in fact, know very little. It's humbling. Very humbling. I have had some hard decisions to make here. There've been many decisions to make where I had (and still have) no idea what the "right" answer is. The easy Sunday school answers that worked at the Christian college or in the Bible belt just don't fly so easily here. Whether it's financial situations, ethical dilemmas, prioritizing, socializing or anything else... many times I am just at a loss. Simply put, sometimes things are not as simple as they seem. My deep seeded need to always "be right" has been thrown into a tizzy. Yes, I just used the word tizzy. Weird, I know. For about my first month here or so I was constantly stressed out because I always wanted to do what was right, but I was never what that was.
Then I began to trust more and more in the leading of the Holy Spirit. In the CoC we tend to shy away from talking about the Holy Spirit, so I am not as well versed as to its working and purpose as I'd like to be. But I do believe that it lives inside of me and guides me daily, even in (especially in?) those decisions where I don't know what the right thing to do is. God has not left me alone to fight in these battles by myself-- He gave me the gift of His Holy Spirit, so more and more I am trying to discipline myself to look for its guidance. Does anyone have any good verses/passages on the Holy Spirit and its working that they would like to share?
Choral contest winners performing
Then Saturday night our little Hitachi crew had a going-away party for one of our own, Norma. Tomorrow morning she will fly back home to Canada. We live in an ever-changing world here in Japan. Most of our group is on one or two year contracts which begin and end throughout the year, so we always have people coming and going. Norma is the first person to leave who I really got to know, and I will miss her. But such is the life here in Japan, I think. I know I say this a lot, but it is appropriate often: "If you don't like saying goodbyes, you are in the wrong business." --TB. Ain't that the truth.
Friday, November 05, 2004
"Few of us will do the spectacular deeds of heroism that spread themselves across the pages of our newspapers in big black headlines. But we can all be heroic in the little things of everyday life. We can do the helpful things, say the kind words, meet our difficulties with courage and high hearts, stand up for the right when the cost is high, keep our word even though it means sacrifice, be a giver instead of a destroyer. Often this quiet, humble heroism is the greatest heroism of all."
- Wilferd A. Peterson
Hitachi Train Station
Alina and I were selected to represent our city and prefecture today at an English teaching conference in the far off land of Gunma. So we spent the better part of today (over 8 hours) on trains and in train stations to spend all of 3 hours in Gunma for the lectures, of which I understood only 1 hour (the rest was in Japanese). I'm not bitter, but I am tired and very curious as to why my employers found this journey necessary. But I've learned that sometimes... often... is best to not ask and just perform.
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Thursday, November 04, 2004
I'll save you from the gory details of the campaigning, but suffice it to say that both sides were perhaps a bit over-zealous. :) So two of my favorite college cohorts and I (who shall remain nameless, unless they so choose to out themselves) decided to lead our own campaign that year. We went to Walmart and bought the necessary materials-- paper and magic markers (which is all you really need for a campaign, right?)-- and worked long into the night making propoganda for our cause.
We made about 100 hand-made, unique signs each urging readers to not vote. Of course we weren't serious... one of our good buddies was actually in the running... but hey, we wanted to make sure all the options were represented. Some examples of our slogans were:
- Save the whales, don't vote.
- (Random Bible verse). Don't vote. (those were in the Bible building, of course)
- Save a tree, don't vote.
- Make love, don't vote.
- All the cool kids aren't doing it, don't vote.
And my personal favorite: Floss daily, don't vote. (I'm a big time activist for the importance of daily flossing)
We thought it was terribly clever and funny. We scurried about under the cover of darkness the night before the election, taping up our signs anywhere we could. We had a great time laughing it up and acting like spies on the hide out from the ever-intimidating OC security.
However, apparently some people didn't find it so funny. By chapel the next morning most (but not all... muah ha ha!) of our signs were gone. But hey, it was fun while it lasted. And I'll bet you we didn't stop a single person from voting.
So there... I've come clean. I might have already confessed to Gabe, and I hope he has forgiven me. :) I don't know why I felt compelled to share this story... I guess I'm just waxing nostalgic about the good old days.
By the way-- do any either of my partners in crime remember any of the other signs?
Oh yeah, here's one little tidbit from today to help demonstrate a strange part of living in Japan. Sometimes you'll hear foreigners here say that they feel like rock stars. That is not some kind of ego trip, it is just fact. For example, one thing that happens is that people like to take your picture. Today as Judith and I were standing around eating lunch, a little old man with a camera about as big as he was got up pretty close to us and stood taking our picture for several minutes. Unnerving, but oddly flattering. :) I'll try to put some more "Look at the Gaijin!" stories on the blog periodically.
Tour Guides - these 3 sweet girls were kind enough take care of us all morning!
Traditional Japanese Percussion
Hand Bell Choir
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Tuesday, November 02, 2004
Everyday when I leave school I walk by a house where a racist dog lives. Without fail, when I walk by he will go insane barking at me and continue to bark at me as long as I am in his line of sight (and a little more for good measure!). I see tons of Japanese students walking by him and he never stirs. Oh, it's hard to be the target of prejudice. :)
Also, yesterday as I sat in the office, the secretary came up and gave me an envelope of about $50. I questioned what it was for, and she informed me that every year the local nuclear power plant gives an allotment of money to all of the local residents. It was very nice to get the money, but it is also somewhat discomforting. :)
Ann and Mer in Honduras
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Monday, November 01, 2004
The kids were so much fun to begin with. They were all so excited to see us and were so proud to show us their English skills (though they were limited to saying "please, thank you, hello, and see you"). As a teacher I now more fully understand what teachers mean when they say that if students will just try they will do well. A student who can effortlessly spout grammar rules does not touch me nearly as much as a student who works their hardest to communicate a simple thought.
The lesson consisted of self-introductions, a game of "animal basket" (which is like fruit basket with animals), and then the much anticipated dance lessons. I came prepared with a CD of the original Brooks and Dunn classic, "The Boot Scoot Boogie," and then performed a simplified version of the line dance for them. I can't tell you how amusing it was to see 40 Japanese kids stumble around with country music blasting. Everyone was smiling and laughing... I think they enjoyed it. :) So yes, while I am a vocational missionary for the cause of Christ, I am also here to spread the joy of Texas and her beautiful culture. :) The kids then performed a traditional Japanese dance for us using these little wooden clickers which are comparable to castanets. We wrapped up and said goodbye and thank you, shaking hands with all the students.
Before today I had never worked with severely handicapped students. I was so encouraged by their joy and enthusiasm. It's days like today that I feel so blessed to be a teacher.