Monday, February 28, 2005

Happy 6 Month Anniversary to Me

6 months. That's half a year. A quarter of my 2 year contract. Wow. In some ways it's flown by, in others it crawled. I've learned so much-- language, culture, new people, about teaching and the work world-- and I've also realized that I still have so much yet to learn. That's the hard thing about growing. The more you grow the more you realize you have so much yet to grow.

On that note, today has been perhaps my worst day in Japan. This morning I was officially informed that I would be moved out of Namekawa chu gakko to another school. Perhaps I will blog more about this later, but right now I'm just too upset about it. So I would appreciate your prayers for peace and strength on this issue, because I'm taking it very hard.

Sunday, February 27, 2005

Rotary-- Worldwide!

My dad will like this story. There's a good chance no one else will, but this is a good example of interesting things that happen in Japan.

So tonight as I was riding the train back from Mito, we stopped at the first stop, Katsuta, and suddenly the conductor came through and was shoo-ing everyone off of the train. Needless to say I was confused, so I gave him the "sideways-head-tilt and furrowed brow" look of confusion but silently got off the train (after he told me to twice).
There was only one other person on my car, who turned to me as we disembarked and said, "Did you understand that?" I hung my head and admitted no, and he explained to me that they were removing the front several cars from the train at this stop, so we had to go to another car. I thanked him for helping me and we proceeding to sit next to each other in the next car. He asked what I was doing in Japan (using very good English) and I told him I worked at a junior high in Hitachi, and he told me he was familiar with the ALT program. I asked him how he learned English and he said a long time ago he lived in San Francisco for 8 months, and how he maintains it through work with the Rotary Club. "The Rotary Club!" I exclaimed, "why, my father is a member of the Rotary Club!" This delighted the nice man (Yoshi is his name) and he asked if I was involved in the Rotary Club in Hitachi. I said no, that I didn't know anything about Rotary in Hitachi. Yoshi replied that there is some kind of new family ties membership thing, and that since my father is a member I should also be invited to events. Plus, he added, he was sure they would love to have me give a speech sometime. :)

So now I have a connection to the Ibaraki area Rotary Clubs. This could prove interesting, if anything actually pans out. Can't you see me preaching to a bunch of Japanese businessmen? :) Heehee....

Friday, February 25, 2005

Japanese Lessons

In Japan, lot of community volunteer groups have Japanese lessons very cheaply. Some of my friends go to a town about 15 minutes from here (Tokai) every Saturday morning for them. I went for a couple of weeks, and the teachers and fellow students were great, but as you can guess, I quickly tired of that silly routine of never getting to sleep in, so I dropped out.
So now I take private lessons from a very nice and well reputed Japanese teacher named Honda Sensei (isn't that a great Japanese name?). Yes, I pay a pretty penny for them, but frankly for me it is worth it. Thursday night I had my first class, and it was really pretty fun! Perhaps a better word for it would be intense, in that it was an hour and a half of pure work. My first class was primarily Honda Sensei trying to feel out where I was in my level of understanding and ability to speak. But we still managed to cover about four basic grammar structures and new vocab.
I'm not sure I've really talked about my language acquisition on the blog much (which is odd, since that is what I studied in college and all...) but I am doing okay now. For the first four months (pre-Christmas) I was just overwhelmed and confused and not wanting to study the language at all. But coming back gave me a fresh attitude, which was desperately needed. They say the number one determiner of language learning ability is attitude. And emersion, of course. So now I have both of those things going for me. This should be a piece of cake, right? :)
Gambatteru! I am trying my best!

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Modern day prophet

Larry James' Blog

I have read this blog before on the recommendation of Mike Cope, and I will admit to you at first it was too hard for me to read. As someone who proclaims to care about the poor and those oppressed by the system, it was a slap in the face as to how little I really know about the situation or do to help. Well Cope recommended it again today, so I went back for another try. And I have resolved that this is the kind of thing I need to read. And for those Christians in the audience, I urge you to read it, too. I believe this is the kind of voice that the body of Christ needs to have in the world today. I pray you'll be moved by what you read.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

My kids are growing up

Today was a wonderful day but had some emotional moments. Today was my last time to teach my elective 3rd grade (9th grade) class before they graduate in two weeks. They are bunch of great kids who I've really come to adore. Of course we've had our moments, but I don't think I could have asked for a better group to break me into teaching. Like I told them today, they're my first class; I'm always going to remember them. I hope I've made some impact on their lives. I know they're going to go on to do great things, and I thank God for bringing them into my life.

My kiddos

Cute Girls

My Boys

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Sunday, February 20, 2005

Reason to Love Japan #289- Karaoke

For those of you who haven't experienced the great Japanese tradition of karaoke, let me tell you-- you're missing out. For those of you who don't know, let me describe the Japanese karaoke experience. You and however many of your friends go to a karaoke joint, and rent out a private room by the hour, and sit down with the big book of songs to choose from. People take turns entering their faves, and once your song comes up, it is time to perform. There are usually tambourines and sometimes maracas for those not singing at the moment to participate in the show. At most places I go to, when you're done with a song you are given a kilo-calorie rating to show how much energy you put forth into the effort. If you've seen the movie Lost in Translation then you've seen an accurate representation of karaoke (of course, you don't have to be inebriated to enjoy it).
I karaoked last night with some cool folks from Mito and had an absolute blast. I would like to give public mad props to Peter for bringing the house down with Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (I want to hear Elevation next time!) and Jessica's rocked out rendition of Bohemian Rhapsody. My personal fave to sing is the Grease MegaMix. For those with karaoke experience, what's your favorite song to belt out? For those of you who haven't karaoked, what song do you fantasize performing? :)

Friday, February 18, 2005

Singapore in the Spring

By the way, I don't believe I have mentioned on the blog that one month from today I will be leaving for the exotic, faraway land of Singapore! That's right folks, over my spring vacation I am going to go visit some good friends who work as missionaries in Singapore- Dave, Deb, and Breda Hogan. The Hogans were the visiting missionaries at OC my junior year, and Dave taught my Asian Civilization class. That was definitely one for the books. :) I still laugh out loud when I think of the day that he flaming piles of cow manure in the classroom. :) Hahahahaha.... I am sure that several of the Bible profs were about to have a heart attack when they saw and smelled the smoke filling the hallowed halls of the BSC. They have more cool stories to tell than you can believe, and to know them is to be blessed by them. I can't wait to hang out with them again; they are amazing people.

So... yep... a month til Singapore! Just thought I'd let y'all in the loop. :)

*Note: The Hogans wrote me and informed me that it is somewhat incorrect to say "Singapore in the Spring," because Singapore has "a perpetual equitorial summer." If you knew how cold it was here today, you could imagine how big my smile was at that.

I heart Namekawa

I don't know if I've really mentioned it on the blog, but I love the school I work at- Namekawa Junior High. I love the teachers and students, and am really starting to feel like I am a part of the life of the school. On that note, I have a prayer request. I heard it through the grapevine that the board of education wants to move me to another school, for reasons too complicated to go into on the blog. I really really really don't want to be moved. It would crush me in so many ways. So please pray that I am not moved away from Namekawa Junior High. I would appreciate it more than you know.
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Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Mochi makin'

On Sunday afternoon we had an ai sankai (potluck) and made mochi. Mochi is a gooey paste made from smashed rice usually around the new year. Wonder how the rice gets smashed? With some big hammers, that's how! As you can see in the above picture, there is a big wooden bowl type thing that a lot of rice is poured into, and two people take turns whacking the stuffing out of it with the big hammers as shown. I thought it was hard work, but then again I was also put to shame by Kaminaga-san, pictured on the right below. She is 88 years old and is much more genki (healthy, feisty, active) than I'll probably ever be! You should have seen her go at that mochi... look out, folks!

After we made the mochi the women worked their magic in the kitchen (where they belong, right?) and made several dishes out of it for us to eat with the potluck.

I was glad to be able to participate in this Japanese tradition!

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Monday, February 14, 2005

Valentine's Day-- Japanese style

First of all,
~Happy Valentine's Day ~

to my beloved and loyal blog readers!

Since this blog strives at times to be an educational resource for those of you who wonder what life must be like in Japan-land, I am here to tell you. Valentine's day is celebrated, but it is a day just for the guys! That's right ladies, time to bust out the chocolates. Women give the men in their lives chocolates for Valentine's day, ranging from simple little bags of chocolates for friends and children to very nice, expensive chocolates for those with a loooooove connection. Valentine's day is also a good opportunity to burst forth with your true feelings for your unrequited love, by surprising them with a nice box of chocolates rather than a tootsie roll (although I do think I'd rather have the tootsie roll).
At this point some of you ladies might be wondering, "But hey! Isn't that totally unfair?" Why yes, it would be, were there not White day on March 14th. That is the days that men must (in theory) reciprocate the gifts that the women gave them on Valentine's day. My friend Jun claims that men must actually give back twice as much. Similarly, it is also a day for a man to profess true love to his lady of choice. It can also be a harsh day, because if a women gave a man nice chocolates for Valentine's day and the man doesn't return the feelings, he can reciprocate with the simpler, platonic chocolates.
So there you have it, Valentine's Day-- Japanified. I kind of like it better, especially since if you give out Valentines there's a really good shot you'll get something back on White day. Good cookie!

Saturday, February 12, 2005

The Christian Ghetto

Reading the Wineskins blog this morning, this was a comment on one of the articles. I thought it was great and makes a fabulous point. Hope you enjoy it.

Fajita said...

I've heard the term "Christian ghetto," a lot lately and I think this is at least in part what you are talking about.

The Christian ghetto, as I understand it, is that network of relationships that all center on the Christian religion. Furthermore, there are few or no meaningful relationships that extend out of that network of relationships. So, even though everyone in the world is not just like you, you think they are(or should be) because the only people you ever associate with are people of your kind.

We need to get out of the ghetto. And, experience tells me that just sitting around hoping things will be different does not make a difference.

Escaping the Christian Ghetto:

1. Survey your relational (not necessarily geographical) neighborhood.
2. Determine whether or not you associate with people of another kind in any significant way.
3. Assess your level of ghetto-ness. (Low scores for most people being just like you, high scores for associating with a wide variety of people).
4. If your "score" is low (many evangelical Christnas will have lower scores), then label that a problem that needs correction.
5. Intentionally seek ways to develop relationships with people not of your religious kind, eceonomic kind, ethnic kind etc.
6. When you come into contact with those people, absolutely refuse to convert them.
7. GASP! Be good news to them. Give them lots and lots of experience of your goodness. Your faith will come through, and you won't come across as peddling religion. Now, if they start asking you a bunch of spiritual questions, answer them or wonder with them. If they give you permission to ask them questions, go ahead.
8. Never let the relationship hinge on their answers, their questions, or their conclusions. Loving someone for the sake of loving them, even if they do not "come to Jesus," is not evangelsitic failure. It is following Jesus.

PS- Fajita has a blog here.

Mata ne...

Today was a hard day. Today we had to say "mata ne" (see you later) to one of our dear friends, Jared. Maybe something I should explain is that the four of us, Alina, Ian, Jared and I (see blog on February 5), are more than just co-workers, we're like family. We live in the same apartment building (that's just the 4 of us), we work together, and we play together. So today we're feeling a major void in the family.
Jared played a big role in my acclimation to Japan. He was the one who met me at the airport and made it is personal project to see me adapt well to my life here. He was my fellow American, and moreover he was my fellow Southerner. He was my buddy who could truly appreciate KFC meals. We hate to see Jared go, but we know he will be back as soon as he can.
So I'm bummed. Goodbyes suck, especially when they involve hemispheres of distance.

Ann, Jared, Alina

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Thursday, February 10, 2005

At least our priorities are straight

I find it pretty disturbing that right now if you check CNN, FoxNews, or the BBC's websites, the top news story is the fact that Prince Charles is getting remarried, and the secondary story is that North Korea is openly admitting they have nuclear weapons and are ready to up their supply. Perhaps I am a little over-sensitive since I am in a country sitting frighteningly close to North Korea, but isn't this ridiculous?

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Water or Coke?

I'm not typically a person who would give forwards a second look, but I received this today. I had gotten it before and it really struck me then, as it did this time again. Now today I have a testimony!
Since I've been in Japan I just haven't felt so hot-- always tired and sluggish. I thought it was primarily due to stress (which was probably part of it). This morning I read this thing and noted that it said most daytime drowsiness is due to dehydration, so today I drank a big glass of water with breakfast and drank a cup of water between each of my classes, and felt fresh as a daisy all day long! I've never felt so good at school (and this despite my hacking cough!).
So there you have it, folks. I am once again a believer in the power of water, agua, or mizu.

PS-- I actually woke up feeling a lot better today than the two days prior, although I still have a cough that gets worked up at times. Thank you for the prayers and nice comments!


1. 75% of Americans are chronically dehydrated.
2. In 37% of Americans, the thirst mechanism is so weak that it is often mistaken for hunger.
3. Even mild dehydration will slow down one's metabolism as much as 3%.
4. One glass of water will shut down midnight hunger pangs for almost 100% of the dieters studied in a University of Washington study.
5. Lack of water is the number one trigger of daytime fatigue.
6. Preliminary research indicates that 8-10 glasses of water a day could significantly ease back and joint pain for up to 80% of sufferers.
7. A mere 2% drop in body water can trigger fuzzy short-term memory, trouble with basic math, and difficulty focusing on the computer screen or on a printed page.
8. Drinking 5 glasses of water daily decreases the risk of colon cancer by 45%, plus it can slash the risk of breast cancer by 79%, and one is 50% less likely to develop bladder cancer.


1. In many states (in the USA) the highway patrol carries two gallons of coke in the truck to remove blood from the highway after a car accident.
2. You can put a T-bone steak in a bowl of coke and it will be gone in two days.
3. To clean a toilet: Pour a can of Coca-Cola into the toilet bowl and let the "real thing" sit for one hour, then flush clean. The citric acid in Coke removes stains from vitreous China.
4. To remove rust spots from chrome car bumpers: Rub the bumper with a rumpled-up piece of Reynolds Wrap aluminium foil dipped in Coca-Cola
5. To clean corrosion from car battery terminals: Pour a can of Coca-Cola over the terminals to bubble away the corrosion.
6. To loosen a rusted bolt: Applying a cloth soaked in Coca-Cola to the rusted bolt for several minutes.
7. To bake a moist ham: Empty a can of Coca-Cola into the baking pan, wrap the ham in aluminium foil, and bake. Thirty minutes before the ham is finished, remove the foil, allowing the drippings to mix with the Coke for a sumptuous brown gravy.
8. To remove grease from clothes: Empty a can of coke into a load of greasy clothes, add detergent, and run through a regular cycle. The Coca-Cola will help loosen grease stains. It will also clean road haze from your windshield.

For Your Info:

1. The active ingredient in Coke is phosphoric acid. Its pH is 2.8. It will dissolve a nail in about 4 days. Phosphoric acid also leaches calcium from bones and is a major contributor to the rising increase in osteoporosis.
2. To carry Coca-Cola syrup (the concentrate), the commercial truck must use the Hazardous Material place cards reserved for highly corrosive materials.
3. The distributors of coke have been using it to clean the engines of their trucks for about 20 years!

Now, what would you rather put in your body?

Monday, February 07, 2005

Monday, Monday...

I love the Mamas and the Papas. But I digress (already, in my first sentence... how sad).

Today Ian and Alina and I are all coughing and sniffling and moaning about our tired bodies. I am afraid I'm getting sick. I was so proud of myself for lasting so long, even when so many of my comrades were stricken down. But now here I lie with a runny nose and scratchy throat, stuffy head and watery eyes.
I don't want to get sick here. I don't want to go to a doctor or go to work sick or miss work or take wimpy Japanese medicine. So I am already self-medicating with benadryl by night and sudafed by day. And besides, I am too busy to be sick. And it is entirely too cold to be sick. Thus ends my statement of why I shouldn't get sick. I will submit this to my body and see what it thinks.
So please pray for my tired body. It has been through a lot in these 22 years, so surely it can overcome some pollen in the air. The next thing you know I'll be looking really Japanese, walking around with one of those medical masks. If I do, you can be sure I'll post a picture.
I know many of you are just beginning your work or school week, so I pray that it brings you blessings and fulfillment.
Love you all.

Sunday, February 06, 2005

To Lent or not to Lent...

This Wednesday begins one of the most intreguing religious holidays to me, Lent. I have actually practiced Lent for several years. My friend Nina started me on it in high school, maybe.
For those of you who don't actually know me, no I'm not Catholic, nor does my congregation actually encourage or speak about Lent. I started it just because it seemed like a nice thing to do. Why shouldn't I sacrifice something for 40 days to prepare myself for the celebration of Jesus' death and resurrection? It's the least I can do, right? Most years I give up coke (this term used in the generic sense).
Now the season has rolled around again so it is on my mind. Part of me wonders if I should do it at all. I'm having trouble thinking of something to give up. I could do coke or chocolate or something like that, but doesn't that seem superficial in the grand scheme of things? Yeah, I gave up coke for 40 days to mentally prepare for Holy Week. Seems rather pathetic. But then I think, wow, if I give up coke maybe I can break myself of the addiction to caffine and be taking better care of the body God gave me. I'm not sure. I'm still kicking it around in my mind... praying for the Lord to guide me to the best way to glorify Him and discipline myself.

Anyone out there celebrate Lent? Any thoughts on the practice?

Saturday, February 05, 2005

My Peeps

I realize my blogging frequency has gone down as of late, but I have been busy. Sorry to all who rely on this blog for their daily dose of entertainment from the far east! :) Anyhoo, I just wanted to post a picture of me with some of my favorite people in the world that was taken last night. From left to right it's Roxanna, Ian, Jared, Alina, and me. Rox goes to church with me and lives and works in Hitachi, and Ian, Jared, and Alina are my co-workers/neighbors/best friends here. God has blessed me so much through these relationships. I'll write on this more next week, which will likely explain my random bursts of sentimentality.
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Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Moving to Japan? This blog's for you!

I don't think I've mentioned it on the blog, but in a few short months I will be so blessed as to have several of my good friends come to Japan to begin work as AETs in Mito-- especially the Barneches and Blake (who, in a recent email, said "Two more months and then we'll be reunited to torment each other" :) Those of you who know us will appreciate that!). In an effort to organize and collect my thoughts on tips to share and things to bring and so forth. So if you're moving to Japan at some point, bookmark this page! I will update it as I think of more things and hopefully collect comments from my compadres with Japan experience of advice they have. Gambatte, guys! I love you and can't wait til you get here!

Things I would suggest bringing
  • deodorant/antiperspirant
  • toothpaste
  • shaving cream
  • a good sleep mask (the sun rises early!)
  • shoes that are easy to slip on and off
  • if you are not Japanese sized, plenty of clothes
  • pictures of your life in your home country (family, house, school, car, favorite food, famous places)
  • a flag of your country (unless you're from Texas, then the state flag suffices :) )
  • a map of your country and/or state
  • books you like
  • slippers if you have large feet
  • lysol, wrinkle release (you don't need these, but you can't find them here)
  • if you are a medicine taker like me, then stock up on medicine. Of course they have medicine here, but it is much weaker. I have cold, sinus, allergy, stomach, and airsickness medicines, as well as tylenol and ibuprofen.
  • antibacterial hand lotion (which is great to use after you've been shaking little hands all day at school)

Things to Learn
  • Yoroshiku onegaishimasu-- one of the most valuable phrases to use when meeting your superiors at work. It literally means something like, "please look on me kindly," but is used very often when wanting to make a good impression. Your bosses will expect you to memorize this on the spot once you get here and have formal introductions, so save yourself some stress and memorize it now.
  • Domo arigato gozaimasu-- thank you very much
  • Sumimasen-- excuse me
  • Ohayo gozaimasu-- good morning
  • Konnichiwa-- good afternoon
  • Konbanwa-- good evening
  • Daijoubu desu-- I'm/it's okay.
I know there's a good collection of people with Japan experience reading this blog, so let's help these folks out! What's your advice?

My little rascals

Today when I walked into school there was a letter sitting on my desk, pictured below:

I read it and couldn't understand it, thanks to some tricky preposition usage. But of course, it was undeniably a love letter-- my first Japanese love letter, in fact. A rough translation of the Japanese (as provided by my neighbor Alina) is, "This was written in computer class. This is a love letter. Please keep it. From Numano." Now you might be wondering who this Numano character is. Well let me tell you-- he's one of my fellow teachers. He is the one with whom I co-teach my beloved 3-8 class. Before you start thinking misled thoughts about Mr. Numano, let me also mention that *he did not write this.* Some students did (who, I don't know). The students pick on Mr. Numano and me all the time saying that we should get married or be in love or something, simply because we're around the same age and both single. Don't get me wrong, I like Mr. Numano a lot, but there are many and varied issues that I fear would keep us from pursuing a relationship.
I don't mind the teasing so much... I think it's kind of cute and it keeps me laughing. What I am embarrassed about is that this letter had possibly been sitting on my desk for several days for everyone in the school to see. And those red correction marks? I didn't make those! One of my English teachers read and corrected it! Eeep! How embarrassing! And I just had another idea... what if those kids sent Mr. Numano a love letter "from me"? Oh dear. Kids these days. :)

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I just got done reading several articles on CNN's Special Edition, Sudan page. If you don't know what's going on there, take a look. Take time to pray. Find some way you can help. Does any of my wonderful readership know a good charity that is working in Sudan now? I'll update you if I find or hear anything.

Found this: Save the Children's Sudan Needs Our Help