Friday, April 29, 2005

If I could...

Lately I've been lacking inspiration for the blog, so I will succumb and do this. Plus I think it looks pretty fun. Also, 2 of the coolest bloggerettes (JettyBetty and Crittermer) I know have done it, and I want to be a cool kid, too. :) The object is to pick any 5 sentences from the following list and complete them. Feel free to steal this as your own blog padding. :)

The "questions": If I could be a scientist...If I could be a farmer...If I could be a musician...If I could be a doctor...If I could be a painter...If I could be a gardener...If I could be a missionary...If I could be a chef...If I could be an architect...If I could be a linguist...If I could be a psychologist...If I could be a librarian...If I could be an athlete...If I could be a lawyer...If I could be an inn-keeper...If I could be a professor...If I could be a writer...If I could be a llama-rider...If I could be a bonnie pirate...If I could be an astronaut...If I could be a world famous blogger...If I could be a justice on any one court in the world...If I could be married to any current famous political figure...

If I could be a doctor... I would be a medical missionary. Whether I was living and working full time abroad or just going when I could, I would do it. I think it is one of the most amazing ministries a person can have. Were I not so very squeamish with IVs, I would definitely go into nursing. After my experience a couple of years ago with being sick, I came to realize what an amazing blessing that a kind, compassionate nurses can be at a person's most vulnerable time. If you'd like to learn about or support some great medical missionaries, go here: Predisan.

If I could be a gardener... I would grow fields of flowers. I would spend my day pulling weeds and be very happy. At Hidaka (my new school) during souji time I am working in the school's flowerbeds. I volunteered myself to these efforts, and if anyone wants me to stop then they should learn how to say it in English. :) And I'd like to thank my mom for instilling my love of flowers at an early age by making that huge, beautiful flowerbed at our house in Stephenville.

If I could be a linguist... I could spend my time studying the function of languages without having my day to day function dependent upon my ability to speak the languages I was studying. :) In case that was too vague a sentence, I miss studying languages that I'm not under the pressure to use all the time. That's why Hebrew is so perfect. :) Also, were I a linguist, I would make my services available to a Bible translation organization like Wycliffe or Pioneer Bible Translators.

If I could be a professor... I would try to implement the qualities of several amazing professors that I was blessed to study under. The compassion and love of Bailey McBride. The Intellect and dedication of Bob Carpenter. The passion and excitement of Glenn Pemberton. The involvement and personalized attention of Scott LaMascus. The list could go on, but I'll restrain myself. :)

If I could be a world famous blogger... I would hope to give Christianity a good name.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Trains Gone Wild

I don't know how well publicized this was in America, but this week it seems as though Japan has been having a railway crisis of sorts. On Monday there was a huge wreck near Osaka when a train derailed and hit an apartment building and car. Right now the death toll is at 95 and the injury toll is well over 400. Then as the Prime Minister was apologizing for the wreck, another accident occured a little ways north of here. That time a truck stalled out on the tracks, but I don't believe there were any serious injuries. Then today marks accident number three. In Yokohama a van ran into the side of a train. The passengers in the van were injured, but the train commuters were alright.

I wish I could give you some special exclusive glimpse into the Japanese society's reactions to these events, but I really haven't heard anyone talking about it. I haven't watched TV lately, so I don't know how well it's being covered. I don't know if the trains are receiving less business than usual. I do know that tonight my friend mentioned that from now on she's going to ride in the rear cars of the train. :) I think that's kind of funny, but it's a good idea I suppose. I think if I were Japanese I'd be freaking out. I come from rural America where public transportation is virtually unheard of, but it's an integral part of the community here. I ride the bus everyday to school. I ride the train to church and to nearby cities to see my friends. Many high school students ride the train each day, as well as many business people. All this to say that it is scary to realize your vulnerability while on the train. Que sera sera, I guess.

Coming soon-- Ann's commentary on Japanese textbooks. :) It may not be what you're thinking!

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Eleven thousand, four hundred and eighty-seven

Some days I find myself pining away for Brazil. Today is one of those days.

For those of you who don't know, I have been to Brazil three times. I fell in love the first time I went, and it kept drawing me back every summer I was physically able. I went on LST projects the first two summers, then a "traditional campaign" last year. They were each very different, but very wonderful experiences. The people I went with continue to be some of my best friends.

Some people ask me what I love about Brazil... I love the people, the language, the places, the culture, the food, the weather... But really, how do you explain something you're just drawn to? Brazil was the first foreign country I went to, so at first I wondered if I would love every country I visited. But I have been to several now, and now realize that my feelings for Brazil are unique.

My dream was to move to Brazil after I graduated to do mission work for 2 years with a program through my university and home congregation. However, the powers that be decided it was too risky to send a young woman by herself to Brazil. I'd love to tell you that I accepted the decision gracefully, but I took it pretty hard and it made me bitter for a while. But as much as I hate to admit it, Campinas, Brazil is just not where God wanted me to be at this point in my life. He closed the doors to Brazil and opened wide the doors to Hitachi, Japan.

I can see the blessings now. I won't profess to having it figured out, and I'll admit I'm still holding onto some hurt about the whole situation, but I am starting to see a greater plan. However, I still have Brazil on the heart. I believe that when God instills passions like this they aren't without reason. I believe I will go back to Brazil again. I don't know what God has in store for that desire, but you can be sure I'm keeping my eyes, ears, and heart open for opportunities He provides.

The post title is the number of miles from Tokyo to Sao Paulo.

PS- This is not a put-down to Japan. Japan is a great place to live and work, and I have made wonderful friends here. I have no regrets in coming here. When it is finished, I will look back on my time here with joy and thankfulness. So don't take away an "Ann hates Japan" message from this post.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

A linguistically trying day

I need someone to give me a shoutout if they've felt what I'm feeling.

Today I had a completely idiotic day concerning Japanese. These days come every so often (and seem to be increasing in their incidents lately-- alarming!), and they most often appear on those days which I have my Japanese lessons. I don't know how to describe it. It was just one of those days where I could not seem to either communicate or understand anything that was said to me in the elusive Nihongo. You would have no idea that I've been in this country for nearly 8 months!

It really makes me want to tear my hair out. In college I considered myself quite a good language student with somewhat of a knack for languages. Apparently I am much better at studying foreign languages than second languages (the difference being that you are in your own culture for the prior and immersed in the latter). It's so frustrating. I have studied a lot, and it's in my head, but when I want it to emerge in a useful situation, something happens and the communicative effort goes awry, only to be lost in the vast sea of sentiments lost over time due to cultural barriers.

I'll get over it. It was just a linguistically trying day. Perhaps this is part of culture shock. I don't know if this is related to culture shock, too, but recently I have been reading "Brave New World" by Aldous Huxley and am fairly certain that the civilization he is speaking of is Japan. :)

I just wanted to direct y'all to an article that I found to be pretty amusing. The guy who is featured is pretty smart and pretty funny. His quotes are hilarious, and yet CNN still seemed to try to make a serious story out of it. :) Oh well! Enjoy!

"Sin" to Sell Papal Domain to Porn

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Worship in Wonder

"At the end of the day, when I am lying in bed and I know the chances of any of our theology being exactly right are a million to one, I need to know that God has things figured out, that if my math is wrong we are still going to be okay. And wonder is that feeling we get when we let go of our silly answers, our mapped out rules that we want God to follow. I don't think there is any better worship than wonder."
--Donald Miller, Blue Like Jazz

Seriously, people-- read this book.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Feliz Cumpleanos, Mi Amiga!

Today is a very special day, as it is my dear friend Amber's birthday. Amber has been an amazing friend and influence in my life. In college she was a faithful friend and attempted to be a voice of reason when my own failed. :) We were church buddies and honors buddies and lunch buddies and chapel buddies. When I was sick I could always count on her to be there whenever I needed anything.
Now that we're kind of grown ups, she is inspiring me by living her dream. Let me take you back a few years. When Amber and I were freshmen at OC, she was quite the laid back follower of sorts. She had a certain friend from home that she did everything with, and that seemed to suit her fine. However, when spring break rolled around, on a lark she went on the Memorial Road Church's campaign to Honduras, and absolutely fell in love with the country and the people. Since then Honduras has been on her heart and she has been determined to find her way back there.
The seed of passion that God planted in Amber has come to bloom, I believe, and she has been there for about 9 months now serving in different ways. Most recently she is serving as a foster mother at a boy's home. You can go to this website and read her reports. Her email address is also there and you can take a moment to encourage her and wish her a happy birthday. :) Her stories never fail to make me cry and inspire me to seek ways to serve those in my life. Meredith and I visited Amber for a week last summer, during which I gained a whole new perspective and respect for the work she's doing. It was hard. I don't think I could do it, which makes me want to support those who have the heart and desire for it all the more.
I miss Amber dearly. She was and is one of my best friends, and although distance makes our talks more infrequent than they used to be, I'm grateful that those miles don't faze the heart.
So happy birthday, Amber. God bless you and those you minister to daily. I love you!

Amber on the Mount teaching her kids in Honduras :)

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Sunday, April 17, 2005

Mourning Into Dancing

Time for another "song that is ministering to Ann" post. Last week Judith was kind enough to let me borrow her Zoe Group, "Deep Calls to Deep" CD. If you don't know the Zoe Group, they are an acappella praise and worship ministry. I thought it was funny that I was craving acappella praise music. I've never really been a big fan. :) But hey, homesickness can come in many forms. And I have to admit that there's something very powerful about pure voices worshipping the Lord.

Anyway, it's a great CD. You should check it or any of their other many CDs out here. One song in particular stayed with me this week. It goes a little something like this:

This is How We Overcome

Your light broke through my night
Restored exceeding joy
Your grace fell like the rain
And made this desert live

You have turned my mourning into dancing
You have turned my sorrow into joy

Your hand lifted me up
I stand on higher ground
Your praise rose in my heart
And made this valley sing

This is how we overcome
This is how we overcome

If you've heard it, you know this is a great clap along/raise your hands and worship song. I think this just became my prayer for the last week. It comforted me in my current struggles with homesickness, culture shock, and adjustments to change at work. It also helped me to look back on all the places I've been in my life and remember how God has brought me through. I don't claim to have suffered any pain uncommon to humankind, but I have seen some low times. I definitely don't have a history of dealing with times of adversity with grace, but the grace of God has brought me through this far. I believe faith is a gift from the Lord, and He has blessed me with faith to peek through those darkest moments in my life. Even though I'm not over this hump of trial I'm going through yet, I do have faith that there will be dancing again after the mourning. My sorrows will turn to joys and these trials will be overcome.

Isn't that the beautiful victory we have in Christ? Tonight at LKT we talked about the resurrection and ascension of Jesus, and I was struck by how these so perfectly sum up the power of the Gospel. Christianity doesn't claim to take away pain and struggle-- in fact in many ways it guarantees to increase it. But our hope doesn't lie in the seen-- the day to day, apparent "ways of the world." It lies in our faith that God has a plan, and although we don't know or understand it at times, we know that His plan is good and will come to fruition in the perfect time and way.

Okay, enough theological rambling from me. It was just on my heart and I thought I'd share. Go listen to some Christian music and be blessed by it! :)

Stability vs. Spark

I know I'm jumping on this bandwagon a little late, but cut me some slack, I just got the videos a week or two ago. :) I had forgotten that when I was home for Christmas I asked my mom to tape "The Bachelorette" (the reality show) for me. I was pleasantly surprised to find the videos in my last care package! Alina and I have been watching the series in installments for the past week. We ended it last night, and although I will not spoil what happened for anyone even more behind than me, I will say it was utterly disappointing.

However this post is not all about what happened on this season's Bachelorette, but instead a somewhat philosophical (is love really philosophical?) question raised by the final two contenders. One was a guy who was the embodiment of stability and commitment. However there seemed to be that certain spark lacking between them. The other finalist and the bachelorette oozed chemistry. They had a connection from the moment they laid eyes on each other. However he lacked the stability and security that guy #1 offered.

So what do you go with? Is love about the stability or the spark? I thought I knew, but I'm starting to wonder. Everytime I lean towards one, the other looms over me. Obviously I'm not an expert in such arenas, so I should just keep my thoughts to myself. I think my true hope is just that there's a person who instills both of those in me. Someday. :)

Anyone have any thoughts?

My LKT Group

These are three ladies I love very much. Mizumi and Sooin, the two on the left, are the two women I study the Bible with in English on Sunday nights. Mizumi has been studying with LST (Let's Start Talking)/LKT (Let's Keep Talking) for the past five years. She knows an amazing amount of Bible, but there is something holding her back from accepting it for her life. Please pray that the seeds of God's desire for her love and commitment will bloom in her heart after all these years.
Sooin I just met about a month or so ago. She is a Korean-born, high school student who just recently returned from studying in Australia for a year. She found out about us and has been coming to keep up her English. She is a Christian; her parents help start a Korean church in Hitachi when they first moved here almost 15 years ago. She is incredibly wise for her age (or any age) and encourages me each time I talk to her.
Tomoko McClain is on the right. She and her husband Mike went to OC and now own an English school in Taga. They are an incredible family that inspires me with their love and ability to have fun together. Tomoko especially strikes me by the grace with which she handles so many stressful situations that come with raising a family and owning a business and by her faith that guides her life.
Just wanted to share a bit of these wonderful women with you!
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Friday, April 15, 2005

Spring Blossom photo album

"They are all perfect."
--The Last Samurai

Sorry I've been lax on updating or being entertaining on the blog. This week's been busy (and will continue to be for several days), and with every spare minute I've had, I've tried to get out and enjoy the sakura (cherry blossoms). I'm just going to link to my new "Spring Blossom" photo album and let you take a look-see if you want.

Grace and peace.

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Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Night time flower viewing
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"I'm not dead yet!!!...

...I'm getting better!"

Ah yes, there's always a Monty Python quote appropriate for the moment. Just wanted to update you on how school is going. Today was my first day to teach, and I think actually meeting individual students helped make things a lot better. I got to see that they really are cute and sweet and potentially lovable. So today was the first day in a week that I'm not rapt with the idea of quitting my job and leaving this crazy country. So that's an improvement, huh? I believe that the prayers and support of the wonderful people in my life have made all the difference, so I thank you. I will continue to try my best. These kids deserve it.

Hopefully soon I'll be posting more sakura pictures. It has been nasty cold and rainy for the past few days, which has made hanami (flower watching) difficult. But tomorrow the weather should turn for the better, and you can bet I'll be out there with camera in hand!

Monday, April 11, 2005

First Day Jitters

Although I have already been to Hidaka (my new school), tomorrow is my first real day of class, which will be my introduction lessons. I am really really nervous. Which is kind of weird, since I have done this before and have experience and all that. I just want them to like me. Here I go regressing back to junior high myself. :) But really, I'm quite anxious so I would appreciate prayers and/or encouragement. I'll let you know how it goes. Hope you all have a great week.

UPDATE 4-12-05
Well today was my "first day", and in an odd answer to prayers, all my classes were cancelled today. The teacher got sick and we had a school assembly. Not really the answer I was looking for... just postponing the inevitable one more day... but whatever. :)

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Sakura Matsuri

Photo blog time! I'll keep the word count low today. Just wanted to post some pictures from the Hitachi Sakura Matsuri (cherry blossom festival). It was my first festival in Japan and I had a blast. I took tons of pictures. Here is a link to the full photo album: Sakura Matsuri. Enjoy!

View of Heiwa Street (keep in mind that the cherry trees are just starting to bloom)

Children's dance troop carrying a shrine

Yakisoba stall

Dance competition crowd

The huge puppet stage and team who man it. Please take note of the man on the right taking a picture of me taking a picture. There were tons of photographers out today, and many of them love to get shots of foreigners at the festivals.

Mother and daughter dancers (too cute!)

Lit up cherry tree (Remember-- these are just starting to bloom! I'll have many more pictures once they're filled out!)

Thursday, April 07, 2005

How it went

Well I figure I should update those of you who keep up with the drama that been going on in my work-life. Yesterday was my first day at Hidaka (or Hitaka-- I'm not sure!) Junior High. It wasn't terrible, but I wasn't overflowing with joy. I can be honest and admit to you that the reason it wasn't "great" is because of my own attitude. I tried my best, but I was nervous and sad and all around unexcited. Everyone I met at Hidaka (as I will call it) seems great. One of my fellow teachers from Namekawa, a big (I mean big!) PE teacher named Mr. Yamazaki, also moved to Hidaka, so he was super-nice to me and looked out for me. He yelled my name and waved at me from across the school yard when he saw me walking up to school. My head English teacher told me that he told her he was worried about me-- how cute. :)
I went through the opening and entrance ceremonies just fine, and was introduced to the students and did my bowing. I'm a little disappointed because the students seem really timid around me. Maybe it's my skewed perspective, but the students at Namekawa seemed more eager to talk to me when I first arrived. Although I will grant that the Hidaka kids are coming off some bad ALT experiences. So please pray the kids will open up to me more and make me feel welcome. And also that my attitude about the whole situation will improve. Right now it's quite rotten.
One great thing of the past two days is that I've gotten to go home early! Yesterday was perfectly beautiful-- the first real day of spring. The kind of day I have been literally dreaming of since about last October. Aah. Which was great, because yesterday I had a "series of unfortunate events" trying to get home from school. Since I left early, I wasn't sure of the bus schedule. So I walked to the bus stop and realized I had just missed a bus, and the next one was in half an hour. So I decided to just walk to the nearest train station (about a 10 minute walk) to catch a train home. As I came within view of the station, I saw a bus waiting, so I thought "oh, I'll just take that bus home." But it drove off just as I walked up. So I high tailed it up the 3 flights of stairs to the station and just missed the train to Hitachi. So I had the opportunity to sit outside for about 45 minutes and soak up the sun and warmth waiting for the train. Ultimately I made it home about an hour and a half after I started out from the school (and realize that it is only a 15 minute bus ride away). :) Had it been raining, I would not have been good humored. But since it was beautiful, I counted it a blessing.
And guess what! Today I saw the first sakura (cherry blossoms)!!!!! Spring is springing!!!!!!!

Happy Blog-versary to me!

Yes folks, it is one year today that I have been posting my thoughts up for the world to see. I would like to think that the quality has gotten better over time, and I think my readership has tripled from 1 to 3. :) I would have a snazzy stat like how many blogs I've posted, but good old blogger has said that I have had 168 for about the past 6 months, so who knows how many posts I have. I can tell you that I've blogged from 5 countries (America, Brazil, Honduras, Japan, and Singapore) and received 219 comments. I've even made some new friends along the way.
Seriously though, I do hope and pray that my blog has been edifying to you in some way. If you're still coming to read, then I guess I must be doing something right. I am trying to reflect my reality to you, whether it's the reality of living in Japan or of being a recent college grad in her first job, or being a Christian who struggles with faith and truth and service and sacrifice.
Thank you for reading. Stick around, who knows what'll happen next. :)

Interview Questions from JettyBetty

My friend, JettyBetty, offered up an interview challenge on her blog. Since I have never responded to one of these calls, I thought I'd take her up on it. Here are the questions she gave me along with my answers.

1. What is the biggest challenge for you by living in Japan? Biggest joy?

I would have to say the biggest is the language barrier, because many other challenges spawn from it. It is through the language barrier that I often feel isolated and unable to communicate my wants or feelings. It is also what causes me to feel useless many times, which is a challenge to overcome.
The biggest joy is the pride that comes from knowing that I am doing this. I stepped out of my comfort zone to do something that I was totally unsure of, but felt that God was drawing me to. That's not to boast-- since I have been here I have struggled over and over with doubt and disappointment-- but I know I would have regretted it forever had I not come.

2. You mention Bailey McBride several times as someone you admire. How has he impacted your life? Do you have any other "mentors" you would like to mention?

Bailey has played a huge role in my life. Little did I know what I was getting into with the honors program at OC (and how many people can amen that?)! I have said before that Bailey was much more than a teacher-- he was a role model, an elder, a cheerleader, a counselor, and above all, a friend. He has held me up and prayed over me during some of the hardest times in my life when I was too weak to do it myself. I have million examples I could share, but there's not world enough or time. :) If only he would start a match-making service! ;)
As for other mentors, there are lots! I would say my parents and grandparents. Although our choices and life directions have been very different, their examples of Christian service and unconditional love have profoundly impacted my life. So many other people I could name. Bob and Donna Carpenter for their generosity of their time, experience, and love. Robin Dutton for faithfulness and joy throughout trials. I could mention each of my friends, but I'll limit to just one-- Amber Foster for her unstoppable passion willingness to sacrifice to serve those she's been called to.
This list could go on forever! :) What a great cloud of witnesses I have been blessed with!

3. What songs have you downloaded off lately?

My last 10 were: "The Valley Song (Sing of Your Mercies)" by Jars of Clay, "Foolish Games," "Hands," and "You Were Meant For Me" by Jewel, "Homesick" by Mercyme, "Who Am I?" by Casting Crowns, "Elevation" by U2, "Kiss Me" and "There She Goes" by Sixpence None the Richer, and "Breath of Heaven" by Amy Grant. I usually download either Christian music or songs I want to sing at karaoke that I need to practice. :) I'm also a sucker for love songs. I am trying to limit myself since I recently found out that it is technically illegal for me to be buying music from them (if you search hard enough there is a disclaimer on the website that says you must be in the United States to buy their music. However, I am sure they have the technology to know that I am doing it from Japan yet they have done nothing to stop me. What can I say, I am rebelling on this one).

4. You say "some of the time I do things I say I won't". What have you done lately that you thought you never, ever would?

I never would have thought that I would be such a brat about language learning. Since this was my chosen field of study in college, I know the things that would help me most in learning Japanese. However, I am being a very very bad student and doing many things wrong (out of timidity and just plain laziness!). I never thought I would be so tempted to waste such a great opportunity to learn a foreign language-- especially one I am immersed in! But as much as I'd like to, I'm not giving up! Gambatteru! (I'm trying my best!)

5. What do miss most about living in the US??

Superficially-- Mexican food, Walmart, reasonable prices, indoor climate control, and people holding the door open for me
Deeper-- People. Understanding church and feeling involved in worship. Being able to communicate with few barriers. The cultural ideas of fairness and justice.

This was fun! Thank you Betty for taking the time to ask questions so well tailored to my experience and blog! :) If anyone else wants to ask your favorite sojochick a question, please feel free to comment.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Day of change

“Fall seven times, stand up eight.”

— Japanese Proverb

I woke up this morning with honest dread, because today was a day I did not want to experience-- the farewell ceremony at Namekawa Chu. Being on vacation for two weeks allowed me the luxury of dodging the proverbial bullet of reality, but today it caught up to me. But I will tell you about the traditional, Japanese junior high leaving ceremony.
I arrived at school like normal, but found that my school had changed greatly since I'd been gone. All of the leaving teachers had moved their stuff out, new teachers had moved in, and everyone had changed seats. They even moved my/the ALT desk. The other departing teachers and I-- 18 of us in all-- gathered in the kojo-sensei (principal)'s office to wait for the ceremony to begin.
All of the students, including many of those who just graduated, along with all the teachers and the PTA, gathered in the gym and stood to applaud us as we filed in the back and walked to the stage and sat down. I was so terribly nervous. I don't get nervous that often, but my hands were freezing and shaking as I sat on stage. The kojo-sensei read through the list of our names, how long we'd been at Namekawa (some had been there shorter than me!), and where we were moving to. Then we each proceeded to make a short speech.
Thankfully I was last so I knew about how long they should be. Also, several of the teachers started crying during their speeches so I knew it wouldn't be terrible if I cried. Finally my turn came and I prayed for the strength to at least get the words out. I thanked the PTA for their support, the teachers for their kindness, and told the kids how proud I was of them (in more words than that, but that was the gist). My voice shook a little, but I didn't cry. Then we all sang the school song (such a catchy tune ;) ) and a student representative (one of my favorite little students) read a message on behalf of the student body for each of us. I don't know exactly what mine said, but he ended it with "goodbye", which was cute. :) Then all the teachers filed out again and we were all given a nice bouquet of flowers by the PTA. Here is mine:

Hana ga daisuki desu. I love flowers.
Then was the great walk. The road of no return. :) Maybe not that dramatic... All the teachers and students lined up along the entrance way and clapped and wished us well as we left the school. I will admit there were some tears shed then. But it was nice. One of my dear students, Ayana, who I coached for a speech contest once, gave me an awesome present:

If you can't tell what it is, those little things are tiny oragami cranes. They are strung together and there are several strands. I don't know if she made it or bought it, but it is so thoughtful! Once upon a time she was in the teachers room and she had a tiny crane and I told her how cute it was and how much I liked it and she gave it to me. And now this. Too sweet. Finally, after all was said and done, one of my fellow departing teachers, who is also a friend of mine, took me home.
Overall I handled it well-- didn't fall apart, got some closure. Thanks to God for giving me the strength and peace to make it through and really be able to enjoy the moments.
Oh, but that was only the first half of my day! After lunch I went up to the office to meet my new boss, Mr. Hosoya. He is Mr. Suzuki's replacement (see last blog entry). I had heard nice things about him from everyone, and I had a great first impression. I was sitting at the ALT desk when he came in, and when he saw me he smiled really big and started waving at me. :) After talking with him I think I'm really going to like him. He's very nice and always seems like he has a few too many things on his mind, which is kind of charming in it's own way. Shortly after our meeting, Mr. Hosoya drove me to Hidaka Chugakko to meet my new English teachers, kojo-sensei, and kyoto-sensei (vice principal). Everyone was great, and I am grateful that I will be working with more nice people.
So there you have my day. Today I said my final goodbye to Namekawa and said hello to my new bosses and school. Talk about changes.
Lest you think that I have it all together, let me be honest. I'm having a melt-down. Reality has struck and I'm scared of all the changes. I can't do this on my own-- I need the grace of God to carry me through and the support of my friends, who have already been wonderful so far. So please keep me in your prayers through this time of re-starting.
Tomorrow's my opening/entrance ceremony at Hidaka. I'm nervous again. Please pray for me. I'll let you know how it goes.

PS-- The proverb at the top is more wishful thinking than actuality, I'm afraid. :) But gambattemasu! I will try my best!

Monday, April 04, 2005

Shidoka Farewell Party

Last Friday night was the farewell party for the Hitachi Board of Education. In our small, 14 person department, we are somewhat tight knit. I think most people in the BoE look at the AETs like their kids. Well maybe just Alina and me. They probably consider Ian a peer since he's been there longer than most of them. So on Friday we said goodbye to 3 members, including the 2 that were closest to us ALTs.

Mr. Suzuki and Mr. Shinohara

Mr. Suzuki (on the left holding the flowers) was the ALT supervisor and hired us all. He was our go-to man when we needed anything and he really took care of us. He was our friend, and we will miss him. But he is moving on up in the ranks of the Japanese educational system, so we're happy for him. Also leaving is Mr. Shinohara (aka Kacho, on the right). He is our department head and the real keeper of power in our neck of the woods. He is an incredibly funny guy and a constant tease, and always joked around and talk to us ALTs (which is somewhat amazing considering his position compared to our position). He will be sorely missed from our department.

My favorite part of the night included a Japanese ritual that I've seen a couple of times before. First floor cushions are taken and piled up. Then the person of honor kneels on top of them (see picture of Kacho).

Shinohara on cushions

Then the cheerleader (in our case Mr. Imahashi) leads a cheer that goes somewhat like this (shouting loudly): "Freeeeeh! (right arm raises) Freeeeeeeh! (left arm raises) Shi---no---ha---ra!!!! (then the group joins in) Freh! Freh! Shinohara! Freh Freh Shinohara!"

Mr. Imahashi leading the cheer

It's a fun Japanese thing that never fails to crack me up-- but I think that's alright because it's supposed to. So we did that for Mr. Shinohara, Mr. Suzuki, and Mr. Ohuchi (the other member leaving). Then suddenly they took all the seat cushions, towered them up, and pulled little Ms. Ishii on top. Then we cheered for her! THEN they pulled ME on top and cheered for me, as well as the rest of the ALTs. I'm not sure why we were honored in such a way, but it sure was hilarious. I'm just glad I didn't fall off the top of the cushions. Not everyone was so fortunate!

After that we went and karaoked for a while, which was a blast. I am very blessed to have such an awesome office staff to work with. I remember back when I first got here (waaaaaay back... ha ha) I had heard horror stories about enkais (office parties) and how terrible they were. But I have had great experiences. Maybe it's because I work with fun people; I don't know. But I'll just count that among my many blessings.
Despite the fact that these two men bore the burden of being responsible for my move from Namekawa, I hold no hard feelings. I now understand the phrase, "It wasn't personal. It was business" (although that doesn't make it suck any less). I will miss these guys. They were amazing bosses. I will ask a similar prayer request for Mr. Shinohara and Mr. Suzuki as I asked for my English teachers last week. Please pray that God will continue to show His love and glory to them as they move into their new positions.

All Shidoka Farewell Party Pictures Here
They're fun! I promise! Thanks to Alina for the pictures!

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New arrivals!

What an exciting past couple of days I have had. Mito Japan was invaded on Friday night by 15 fresh ALTs (let's see if any of them try to correct me and say they're "AETs" :) -- and for the record, ALT and AET are the same thing). I was especially excited because the new group included several of my good friends. So I trekked down to Mito Saturday afternoon and was reunited with some people that I love dearly. Saturday night we went shopping with them and took them to eat at a ramen restaurant. Thanks to sympathy jet-lag, we were all worn out by the end of the night. Then Sunday was a full day of fun and new experiences for the new guys. It started with church, which I think might have been a bit overwhelming for everyone involved. :) But it was great and they were welcomed well by the church leaders and members. I hope some of them will come up north to visit us at Taga sometime! Below is a picture of all the newcomers in a row introducing themselves to the church. After church about 40 gaijin (foreigners) invaded a local restaurant and thoroughly freaked out the waitressing staff. Naturally we drew quite a bit of attention to ourselves and made some new friends in the process. After church Sunday night many of us went and played a rousing game of soccer. It was pretty fun, but perhaps I am not serious enough to play with the big boys. :) I do think I was nice ornamentation for the team, though. After that I caught a train back up to H-town. Although it seems much more real now than it did before I saw everyone, it is still pretty surreal. I am so excited to have the new people here-- both for myself to have more friends in the same country as me, but moreso for them to be beginning one of the greatest adventures of their lives. Please join me in praying for them as they start the transition of living in a new culture and working at a new job.

Newbies Part I

Newbies Part II

Newbies Part III

The gang's all here! Travis, Blake, Peter, Ann and Chisato--photo by Denver Schow

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Sunday, April 03, 2005


Well my prefecture in Japan, Ibaraki, finally made the news! Apparently there was an earthquake last night, and CNN reported on it here. It was while I was sleeping, and I don't think I woke up for it, although before I went to bed it did seem like we were having several small quakes. So if you heard this news, no worries, I am okay. Daijobu desu!