Tuesday, December 28, 2004


Now that I have effectively butchered my loyal blog readership through my terrible neglect over the past week, I thought I should make an appearance to let you all know that I am in fact still alive. Christmas was wonderful, Santa was very good to me, and I have gotten to eat a lot and spend good time with my family. I will be in Edmond the next few days, so if you're in the area I hope I get to see you. I will write more later-- probably once I go back to Japan. Gotta enjoy these times while I can. Take care, everyone!

Merry Christmas from the Whites! Please note the coordinating shirts with our traditional Christmas eve movie on them and the matching elf hats. White family traditions!

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

A flurry-ful day

Today seems rather blogworthy, for some reason.

Today was church directory picture night, so the fam got all dolled up and smiled purty at the Olan Mills photographer, which was easy because he was so laughably rude. He managed to be condescending to both my and my father's occupations by stereotyping all English teachers as weird (although I will have to say there is some validity to that one) and pointing out some of JC Penneys bizarre merchandizing tendencies (which there is also truth in). But come on, you don't have to say it to our faces, right? :) Is it just a church of Christ thing or does Olan Mills have the monopoly on all church directories? Haven't churches gotten wise yet to the fact that they could probably make their own church directories with a digital camera for much cheapter? Just questions I have.

Then tonight you won't believe what I did. It's not quite as bizarre (or stupid) as cutting off the tip of my thumb with a pair of scissors, but still very strange. I read a Babysitters Club book. Specifically, I read #51, Stacey's Ex-Best Friend. It was just sitting around the house so I picked it up and ended up reading the whole thing in a couple of hours. I used to be obsessed with those books. Sure, they seem juvenille now, but those are the things that got me hooked on reading. So I am grateful to Ms. Ann M. Martin. I know I have quite a well read blog readership... what books did you guys read when you were little? I was Boxcar Children, Sweet Valley High, Babysitters Club, RL Stine, and all kinds of presidential trivia books. You could totally ask me anything about the presidents and I would know it. As you can tell, I read a lot. Always was the bookworm.

And last but not least, today it snowed! That's right, we had our brief glimpse at a white Christmas here in Texas. It was just enough to be pretty but not too much to make the roads dangerous, which was fabulous. By the way, White Christmas is one of my two favorite holiday movies. The other is The Christmas Story. Check them out this holiday; they'll make you very merry. :)

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Lost in Translation

I enjoy blogsurfing, just jumping to random blogs that my friends have linked on their own blogs. As I blogsurfed tonight I saw this and thought it was theft-worthy, so here you go. Perhaps this is slightly high-schoolish, but I was amazed at how true it holds for my own personal communication. Sometimes I really pity men. :) Enjoy!

Words women use...and then what they really mean!

FINE ~ This is the word we use at the end of any argument that we feel we are right about but need to shut you up. NEVER use fine to describe how a woman looks. This will cause you to have one of those arguments.

FIVE MINUTES ~ This is half an hour. It is equivalent to the five minutes that your football game is going to last before you take out the trash, so I feel that it's an even trade.

NOTHING ~ If you ask her what is wrong and she says NOTHING, this means something and you should be on your toes. NOTHING is usually used to describe the feeling a woman has of wanting to turn you inside out, upside down, and backwards. "Nothing" usually signifies an argument that will last FIVE MINUTES and end with the word FINE.

GO AHEAD (with raised eyebrows) ~ This is a dare. One that will result in a woman getting upset over NOTHING and will end with the word FINE.

GO AHEAD (normal eyebrows) ~ This means "I give up" or "do what you want because I don't care." You will get a raised eyebrow "Go ahead" in just a few minutes, followed by NOTHING and FINE and she will talk to you in about FIVE MINUTES when she cools off.

LOUD SIGH ~ This is not actually a word, but is still often a verbal statement very misunderstood by men. A "Loud Sigh" means she thinks you are an idiot at that moment and wonders why she is wasting her time standing here and arguing with you over NOTHING.

SOFT SIGH ~ Again, not a word, but a verbal statement. "Soft Sighs" are one of the few things that some men actually understand. She is content. Your best bet is to not move or breathe and she will stay content.

THAT'S OKAY ~ This is one of the most dangerous statements that a woman can say to a man. "That's Okay" means that she wants to think long and hard before paying you retributions for whatever it is that you have done. "That's Okay" is often used with the word "Fine" and used in conjunction with a raised eyebrow "Go ahead." At some point in the near future when she has plotted and planned, you are going to be in some mighty big trouble.

PLEASE DO ~ This is not a statement, it is an offer. A woman is giving you the chance to come up with whatever excuse or reason you have for doing whatever it is that you have done. You have a fair chance to tell the truth, so be careful and you shouldn't get a "That's Okay."

THANKS ~ A woman is thanking you. Do not faint; just say "you're welcome."

THANKS A LOT ~ This is much different from "Thanks." A woman will say, "Thanks A Lot" when she is really ticked off at you. It signifies that you have hurt her in some callous way, and will be followed by the "Loud Sigh." Be careful not to ask what is wrong after the "Loud Sigh," as she will only tell you "Nothing."

"So how's Japan?"

Ah yes, those are the words I hear most since my arrival on American soil. I knew this question was coming, so I had tried to think of a succinct and clever answer to it before I came back. But alas, I came up empty. So I have gone for the standard answer, "It's fine... great. Very interesting. Everything's different, but I'm enjoying it." So I'm sorry if you have asked me how Japan was and I answered that. I know you're just asking because you care, and I really wish I could give you a more interesting answer, but when we only have a couple of minutes to talk that is really all I can muster. But hey, if you're a blog reader then I suppose you don't need a lengthy answer-- you know how things are in Japan, right? :)
I had thought I evaded jet lag by staying up all night the night before I came back and sleeping the whole way on the plane, but apparently your body clock is a little more sophisticated than that. Jet lag finally caught me today as I accidentally slept until 1:30pm. Wowsers. I felt bad about missing half of a day at home, but I figure my body needed it.
I am trying to absorb and enjoy all of my time at home. I'm only blogging now because everyone in my house is asleep. I thought I had something interesting to blog about, but I can't remember it now. So sorry about that. :) On that note, I will wish you all oyasumi and I'll think of something better to write later.

Monday, December 20, 2004

Pics and People I love...

Although this is non-exhaustive and I did not get pictures of all the people I've seen that I love (including my family and several handsome young men in OKC), I thought I'd share some of the fun times and people I have experience since being in the states. I am keeping a running tab of my pictures from home in this album. Want to see yourself on my blog? Then let's get together sometime while I'm home! ;) Have a great week, everybody!

The McBrides

Traci and Ann-- congrats Traci!

Ann and Nina

The Goins

The Tryggestads

Posted by Hello

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Made it

Yes, I am back in good old America. It is good to be home. I have already had several good days where I was able to see many many people I love, and I am thankful for that.
Short post, I know. But I am busy and have too much on my mind. If you're in America, I hope I get to see or talk to you soon. If you're in Japan or traveling out of Japan, take care, be safe, and have a great vacation.
If you want a good read, go check out Mer's post on Amber. I love both of those girls.
God bless you all.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

A strange little hobbit

Here is a fair warning for all those who will see me upon my return to the US. Using the superb analogy of Peter-san in response to my "roots" blog a few days ago, I will be a strange hobbit. You can expect me to wear two layers of clothing at all times, bow a lot, sprinkle my conversation with words like "Sugoi!" (great), "Kawaii!" (cute), "Dozo" (please) and "Domo" (thanks), and take my shoes off in the entryway of any house I go into. So please excuse my oddness. Sumimasen. :)
But seriously, I have many emotions going through me as I am about to return home. Overall I am mostly excited, but there is also a bit of anxiousness to see what I find on my return. I am to a point in my stay here now where I am really starting to feel settled and taking root in my new life and also feeling myself detach from several things of home. I know I am changing. So part of me is afraid upon this first return because I am sure that I will find that things and circumstances and people there have changed, too. But more than that, I am confident in things that don't change-- like love between friends, shared experiences, and common faith in and devotion to God. And the feeling of home.
In 36 hours I will be in America. :::feel the excitement radiating through the blog::: I will close with the ever-appropriate words of Caedmon's Call: "I'm coming home, I'm coming home..." :)
Love you all.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

My To Do List

Things to Do in America:
  • spend as much time as possible with my friends and family
  • eat lots of American and Mexican food, and absolutely no rice or fish
  • bask in the glory of central heating
  • stock up on good music, DVDs, and books
  • watch "The Incredibles," "Meet the Fockers," and "Ocean's Twelve"
  • revel in the greatness that is Walmart
  • drive

Monday, December 13, 2004

My Day at Sakamoto Sho

Lest my posts of syrupy sweet children lull you into the false reality that my teaching career is all peaches and cream, let me share with you my experience today.

On Mondays we ALTs take turns going to local elementaries and kindergartens to do brief lessons, which mostly involve singing and games. Today I went to Sakamoto Sho-gakko (elementary school), which is about 45 minutes away by bus. To set this up, let me mention that last time I went there (which was my first time to go) I got off at the wrong bus stop and walked around Omika for an hour, and eventually the school secretary had to come pick me up along the side of the highway. So I was not on a roll with Sakamoto, although once I got there last time things went rather well.

Well today I was with 3rd graders, who are apparently demons disguised as seemingly innocent and rather cute Asian children. I taught 4 classes, three of which acted like hell's own angels, but one of which was good. There was screaming... oh there was screaming. I have never been so loud in my life as I was today trying to scream above their deafening roar. Then to add to the noise chaos was a violent game known as "karuta." This game involves a lot of slapping. Cards with pictures of the vocabulary are set out before a group of 4-6 children, and when I yell out a word and the first person to slap the corresponding card gets to keep the card. You can imagine what that leads to.

The day finally climaxed during my last class. The biggest boy in the class was being a real butthead (pardon my language ;) ) through the whole class, but of course the teacher was doing nothing about it. Finally as we were wrapping up the day singing that classic song, "Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes," the big boy ran at full force and bulldozed another kid in class. My eyes went wide, but the teacher didn't seem to care, so I kept on singing. About half the class ran over to the kid who had been plowed down, but the other half kept right on singing with me. The little victim didn't get up for a while, and the teacher finally started talking to the big bad boy, but she seemed to be consoling him more than anything. She took pity on the bully! I seriously almost told the teacher and the bully what for. So finally I go over to check on the kid lying on the floor, but I obviously couldn't do much. So I did what any good teacher would do; I ignored the situation completely and just kept on singing. The teacher began to talk to the bully and the hurt kid, and just ignored me completely. We sang Bingo, Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, and the Alphabet song. I stayed 15 minutes after class singing to try to babysit the other students. Ugh. During several points during the songs I just burst out laughing at the ridiculousness of it all, and made all kinds of vows not to come back to the 3rd graders at Sakamoto. So there you have it-- being an ALT is not all flowers and sunshine.

Ah, I focus on the negative, but my one good class was really adorable. When Japanese kids are good, they're very, very good... but when they're bad, they're horrid. :)

Friday, December 10, 2004

In case you've forgotten...

Remember this girl?

This is for my mommy anyone else who would like to meet me at the airport, in case you've forgotten what I look like over the past 3+ months. :) And if you are in the OKC area and would like to meet me next Thursday (LESS THAN 6 DAYS!), Lord willing I will arrive at the Will Rodgers airport at 5:29pm. :) I am hoping there will be some good Mexican food (read-- Ted's!) soon following my arrival. I am already praying hard for no delays, and I beseech you to do the same, onegaishimasu!
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Sweet Potato Casserole

Today was a very sweet day at school. A couple of weeks ago my wonderful 3-8 kids had the project of digging up the sweet potatoes being grown at school, then they bagged them up and sold them to teachers in our office. Of course I had to buy a bag, and since they worked so hard I decided to make them an American treat with the fruits of their labor: sweet potato casserole. Of course I never got around to it until last night, partially because I was intimated since I have never made sweet potato casserole before (and I don't have an oven). But I forged ahead anyway, using a recipe as a general guide but mostly just going by what I thought would be good (since I also lack any measuring utensils). I took my creation to school today and warmed it up in the microwave right before lunch to melt the marshmallows on top, and the whole teachers' lounge filled with the sweet smell of vanilla and cinnamon. All the teachers kept coming by and asking me what I made. Let me tell ya, they had a funny reaction when I told them it was sweet potatoes, orange juice, cinnamon, vanilla, butter, and marshmallows. Yep, I further confirmed the "crazy gaijin" myth. :) But everyone thought it smelled great, and I have to admit it did.
Then one of the English teachers went with me to the 3-8 classroom to present my gift and explain what it was and that it was made with their sweet potatoes. They were just tickled beyond all get-out and begged me to eat lunch with them, so the English teacher told me to stay there and she would take care of the other class I was supposed to eat with. So I ate with my wonderful kids and they all "oohed and aahed" and "oishi!!!"ed the sweet potatoes. It was a great feeling. Then one of the students scurried off and began working on a card, which they gave me along with a sweet little Christmas present. My kids in 3-8 don't really know romanji (roman characters), so the little girl, Yuki, used this little chart they have in their room, and you can see the results:

Here is my translation: "Ann-sensei, Oishi sweet potato. Arigato. Thank you- 3-8." Which also translates to "Teacher Ann, Delicious sweet potatoes. Thank you. Thank you. 3-8" :-D Oh my little heart almost burst with the sweetness of it all. I am so blessed through my kids.
In related news, today was my last day of school until January 11th. I'll miss the students and teachers, but boy am I ready for a break. This week has been crazily busy, and I will remain busy up until the day before I jet out of here.
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Tuesday, December 07, 2004

How did I end up a sojochick?

...I have been a stone doomed to rolling... -Gandalf, LOTR

I am a home body by nature. I like roots. I like routine and familiarity and the settled feeling. I grew up with that kind of feeling in my life. I lived in Stephenville, Texas for ten years. While all my friends talked on and on about how they couldn't wait til the day they could leave the place, I was the one dreaming of staying there forever. But of course life had other plans, and I ended up in Texarkana for two years. By and large I chose not to set too many roots down there, out of bitterness and sheer lack of interest, really. When the time came I up and moved out of God's country (Texas for those of you who don't know) and went to Oklahoma. I love the OC community and always will, but I always knew that those four years were just a time of growth and development, and I would soon leave there, too. Now here I am in Japan, where I have committed two years (another 21 months!) of my life. Then where will I go? I don't know for sure, but it would probably be another temporary stint somewhere, whether for graduate school or a fling in another country or what not. But once again I will uproot whatever life I develop here and start afresh again somewhere. Hence, my screen name contains the word "sojourner." (Well, a shortened form of it, at least)
How did I end up like this? Why does a person like me, who wants nothing more than to be settled and take root, end up having these wings that keep taking me other places? I have no idea. God and I have had more than one conversation about this, although I still don't have any great understanding or perspective.
Of course I have stability in my life, which keeps me sane. I will always have my faith in and relationship with God, which has traveled with me wherever I've gone and withstood whatever I've been through. I will always have my family. I will always have places like Pike Co., Arkansas, which holds meaning for me from my earliest memories. There will always be those special friendships that overcome the distance and continue to grow and deepen. And I am thankful for these, because for at least the next couple of chapters in my life, it looks as though these are where my roots will be.
I'm not sure what brought this post on. Maybe it is because in the past week or so I have been feeling myself start to settle in here; this is my life. That and I have also been feeling more disconnected with a lot of life at "home" lately.
This is probably going to end up being one of those deep, heartfelt, pour out your true emotions posts that no one ever comments on. I have noticed lately on other friends blogs that it's the cute fluffy stuff that people like to comment on, rather than when people really reveal themselves. Interesting, huh? :)

Sunday, December 05, 2004

A religious experience- LOTR

Last night ended a journey that started about a year ago. Last night I completed the trilogy, The Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien. Let me tell you, people, it was very nearly a religious experience. There were tears, there was laughter and smiles, there was deep philosophical pondering and the feeling of a journey finally completed. Depth on so many levels. I am amazed at how connected I feel with the characters and the plotline. Tolkien had a gift. Very possibly the second greatest story ever told. :)
I would try to dissect it and talk about my favorite characters or moments or quotes, but there are simply too many to try and choose! How could I choose between Frodo or Sam or Pippin or Gandalf or Aragorn? Impossible, I say! It is the way they all work together to create the entirety of the story that is so beautiful.
My goal was to read the books before seeing the movies, and I accomplished that. I also managed to not find out how the story ended until I read it for myself, which was marvelous. I can't wait to get home and watch "The Return of the King."
So if you folks out there haven't read these books, please, do yourself a favor and go pick them up. Who cares if they are "trendy;" they are popular for a reason. Fantastic. I am going to be enchanted with this for a while. :)

Saturday, December 04, 2004

The Sweet Duttons

This was written by Allen Dutton, a missionary in Campinas, Brazil where I have gone and worked three summers. The Duttons are some of my favorite people in the world, and maybe this will give you a little glimpse as to why. Please keep the Duttons and their teammates, the Graves, in your prayers as they continue to work for the Lord in Brazil.

I want to share with you two things that happened with our children in the last few days. Needless to say, Robin and I are very proud of our kids.
Yesterday we took them to a shopping center to see Santa Claus. Tyler is seven and Laura is five, so they still enjoy and are marveled by Santa. When it was their time, Robin went with them and told Santa how good the children have been and how they obey their parents. She told Santa the reason they did this was because they wanted to obey God. Santa's reply: "I am so happy to hear this. Most parents ask me to tell their kids to obey or I will not give them presents. Very seldom I hear that they are obeying." He then looked at Tyler and asked him if he spoke to God. Tyler immediately said he did everyday. Santa looked at Tyler and said, "Will you please ask God to heal Mrs. Santa? She just had surgery and is not doing very well." He had tears in his eyes. Today for lunch Tyler prayed asking God to heal Mrs. Santa.
Today when picking the kids up from school Robin was met by Laura's teacher who told her that Laura made everyone in class very emotional. Robin asked her what had happened, and this is the teacher's story.
"Today during class, Mrs. Daniela (teacher's aid) was telling me that her head was hurting so much she was going to the doctor after school. Laura heard this and came up from her desk, held Daniela's hand and said she was going to pray. She prayed like this: 'Dear God, please ask your son Jesus to help Mrs. Daniela get rid of her headache. In Jesus name, Amen.' She did this in front of the whole class. After some time, Mrs. Daniela told me that her head was not hurting anymore. She said it was because of Laura's prayer."
When Robin was leaving the school, another teacher came to her and said she had heard what had happened and was just amazed at our Laura. She said she has never met anyone so loving and caring as Laura.
I thank God every day for my family. Please continue to pray for us as we work in Brazil.
-Allen Dutton

It's beginning to sound a lot like Christmas

I love Christmas time. It means the time for breaks (unless you're in retail like my dad), family gatherings, bundling up, Christmas lights, and reflecting on that magical day when God came to earth as a human. A lot of people complain about the commercialism of Christmas, but I don't mind it so much. One of the things that helps keep me focused in listening to Christ-themed Christmas music. Some of my personal favorites are:

These are just my personal favorites, although I am positive that I am forgetting some. Any you guys want to mention? Look for more Christmas inspired posts coming your way.

PS- Yes, there is a typhoon going through tonight. Pray for those suffering in the Philippines! And as the typhoon was beginning, we also had a good sized earthquake. They come in pairs here, I tell ya. :)

Friday, December 03, 2004

The Immigrant's Common Bond

I read this great post from another blog, and just wanted to share the thoughts with you guys. It provided great insight for me and broadened my perspective on how expatriots all over the world must feel. It rekindles the excitement I used to have for working with foreigners living in the US. Hope you enjoy the read.

In America, there's millions of people doing what I'm doing, making a life in a foreign land, but most of them are doing it under far more difficult circumstances. In Texas, I saw them all the time, usually working outside under a hot southern sun, or scrubbing or chopping in the back of a restaurant kitchen, but I never thought much about how they got there. People often talked about how they couldn't speak English, or how they had different customs, or acted in a different way, but I never heard anyone wonder about the families and homes they must have left behind, about who and what they might have been in their home country and how that compared to now, or about what they thought of American life and how difficult it must have been to adjust, and especially not about what an admirable job of it they might have been doing.

The life I have in Japan, compared with that of most immigrants and expats, is incredibly fortunate. I don't work hard, I don't get dirty, my work is never dangerous, and for the most part I'm treated pretty well by my company, my neighbors, the local police and government. The reasons I came were simple too -- I certainly didn't have to come, and my life or the welfare of my family wouldn't have been in a bit of danger if I hadn't. I came for strictly personal reasons. All the same, it's never been easy.

I come from a country of immigrants and expats, and yet I had never really understood what it is like to be one. Despite all the different reasons and situations that may be involved, there must be some common feeling amongst all who leave their own country for another. I wonder now when I see someone from another place, when they become lost in thought staring out over some scene, what faraway landscapes might just then be playing behind their eyes, because this so often happens to me.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Blog filler

10 random things about me:
1. 2 weeks from right now I'll be on a plane home!
2. Tonight I went to glass class and made my own glass jewelry.
3. I really hate washing dishes.
4. I would like to get a tattoo one day, I just don't know what I would want one of.
5. When we were little, I told my sister dirt was candy and she ate it. :)
6. I depend on medicine a lot.
7. I get really stressed out trying to think of presents to buy people.
8. I think I could do pretty much anything with an instruction booklet.
9. I have a mental block on learning Japanese. Right now I'm itching to study Hebrew and Spanish again, but I just can't get motivated to study the language I'm immersed in.
10. Seeing the leaves changing color is one of my favorite things in the world.

9 places I've visited:
1. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
2. Foz do Iguacu, Brazil
3. Iguassu Falls, Argentina
4. Nasu, Japan
5. Orlando, Florida
6. Omoa, Honduras :)
7. San Antonio, Texas
8. Searcy, Arkansas (haha)
9. Tegucigalpa, Honduras

8 things I want to do before I die:
1. Go back to Brazil.
2. Sky dive.
3. Get married and perhaps have a kid or two.
4. Become conversationally fluent in another language.
5. Translate some more Hebrew.
6. Read some good books.
7. See the northern lights.
8. Talk to my friends and family more.

7 ways to win my heart:
1. Send me a card.
2. Write me an email.
3. Touch me when you talk to me (hand on the shoulder, etc)
4. Give me a hug when you see me.
5. Admit when you're wrong.
6. Respect me.
7. Challenge me... don't just go along with what I say.

6 things I believe in:
1. God is good.
2. God is faithful.
3. We are all sinners.
4. Everyone was made in the image of God. Everyone.
5. Honestly and communication are vital to relationships.
6. The greatest thing you'll ever learn is just to love and be loved in return. :) Couldn't resist!

5 things I'm afraid of:
1. Losing people I love.
2. Ticks.
3. Driving in bad weather.
4. Being wrong.
5. Living with regret.

4 of my favorite items in my bedroom:
1. My teddy bear
2. My electric blanket
3. My kerosene heater
4. My Bible

3 things I do every day:
1. Floss and use listerine
2. Take my medicine
3. Check my email

2 things I'm trying not to do right now:
1. Think about how cold I am. :)
2. Be bored.

1 person I want to hug:
1. You! ;)

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

O-tanjoubi omedetou gozaimasu!

Another birthday? :) That's right folks, the Lord was doubly good to the world in that November of 1980. Today I want to take a moment and celebrate the birthday of my dear friend Blake. Blake and I have an interesting friendship-- I am never sure whether we are similar or different. I use the term "iron sharpening iron" often in reference to him because through we agree on little, in our conversations I always feel respected and listened to, and ultimately better for it. Plus he's one of the funnest and kindest people I know. So happy birthday Blake! May God grant you direction and wisdom as you make your plans for the future!

Japanese Banquet, April 2003. The birthday boy is the one in the middle. :)
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Monday, November 29, 2004

Very catchy

In honor of my friends who like to talk about things like eharmony and MP (marriage potential), I give you this. Yes, I stole it from another blog (which is a great read, btw), but it was too funny to not share.

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! :)

What a difference the sun makes

Ah, winter is rapidly approaching. I have been meaning to write about this for a while, and tonight I noticed that my buddy Peter wrote on a similar subject so I thought I'd jump on the bandwagon.
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


Love is what you've been through with somebody.
--James Thurber

Amen, brother.

3 months today. That's a quarter of a year. Wow.

Saturday, November 27, 2004

Mito Church- Thanksgiving #3

Alas, today was my last Thanksgiving celebration. This morning I headed out to Mito to celebrate with the church there, and let me tell you, it was a fabulous time. I am so grateful that I was included in their dinner. There were probably a good 50 people or so there, and we feasted. As I first entered the building, the smell took me back to holidays at my grandparents with the scent of homemade rolls wafting in the air. The spread was amazing. Everything I put on my plate was delicious. The "fellowship hall" was decorated beautifully. We even had card games, board games, and a football game to watch for the rest of the afternoon. Major props to all the chefs and everyone who put so much work into the day. I was so blessed by it all. If you want to see pictures of all the Thanksgivings, you can click here.

Thanksgiving in Mito

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Friday, November 26, 2004

Thanksgiving #2- The Hitachi Crew

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!

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Birthday Salute to Ben-san

I'd like to take this opportunity to wish one of my best friends in the world a very happy birthday. Ben has been my Brazil buddy, my Hebrew buddy, my catch buddy, and overall a very faithful friend to me. We have seen each other through a lot, and I look forward to seeing where God takes and uses Ben and his lovely wife in life. God bless you with amazing opportunities and friendships in Memphis in this upcoming year.

Ben and Ann in Brazil
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Wednesday, November 24, 2004

I am thankful.

It's hard for me to believe that tomorrow is Thanksgiving. I keep having to remind myself. So here is a non-exhaustive list of what I am thankful for this year.

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

Culture Fair and Thanksgiving #1

What a busy couple of days. Saturday was the Hitachi City International Culture Fair. The city ALTs were responsible for putting together a day's worth of activities covering the topic of Christmas. We played games and made cards and sang songs. Oh yes, and we were costumed. I happened to be the cutest little snow chick you've ever seen. :) To see more pictures of us in our cool costumes and cute Japanese kids click here.

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

Special Student- Asami

There's one student has particularly captured my heart and encouraged me.
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

Oh Be Careful Little Ears...

Christian music is one of the greatest blessings of my life. I wouldn't have believed it until I experienced it, but what you put inside your head truly makes a difference in how you function. I'm sure there's a great verse in the Bible that says that, but I'm getting rusty on my quotation ability.
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
  • Avalon
  • 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


“The greatest happiness of life is the conviction that we are loved - loved for ourselves, or rather, loved in spite of ourselves.”
— Victor Hugo

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Fun with my name

Sometimes you get a little paranoid when you're in a foreign country. It is easy to think that people are talking about you when you have no idea what they're talking about. Well my name lends itself to me thinking that people are talking about me.
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

Bizarre thing in Japan #23498

Tonight as I was grocery shopping, I came across this. In case you can't tell what it is, it is a green tea Kit Kat. :-/ I had to get it for novelty's sake. :) I'll try to post more pictures of odd Japanese things.

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Sunday, November 14, 2004

Good Christians Don't...

Today I got to thinking about the things that our society says that "good Christians" don't do.

Good Christians don't:

  • drink
  • smoke
  • cuss
  • skip church

Why doesn't our list look something like this? Good Christians don't:

  • gossip
  • pass judgment
  • hate
  • 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.

Trip to Fukushima

Even though it's just been two days since I wrote, I already feel like I have a lot to catch up on.
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

A Day Ahead

This is my brief rant on the time difference.
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?

Amen, brother

About a month ago I read this entry on my friend's blog entitled "I hate Xanga." I really didn't know much about Xanga at the time, but I thought it was an amusing rant. Marc took a lot of flack through comments about his firm stance, so I soon realized that this must be a much bigger deal at OC than I realized. However, as amusing as it was, I quickly forgot about Xanga and didn't think about it much.
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

Day makers

Album of the day: Chris Rice's Short Term Memories

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

And He will lift you up

I am naturally a proud person; it is something I struggle with. Being at OC nurtured this sense of pride in me. Don't get me wrong-- I love OC and wouldn't trade my time there for anything-- but I was often put in positions where I got to feel like I had everything figured out. I knew what was expected of me and how everything worked and felt pretty good about my purpose and identity in general. Now I've been thrown in an environment where all of those comforts have been stripped off of me.
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?

Goodbyes and Bunko-sais

Saturday afternoon was my school's bunko sai. I really don't know how to spell that, so feel free to educate me if you do know. A bunko sai is translated a "culture festival," but honestly I don't think that is quite the appropriate name, because it makes you think it will be a festival about culture. :) It was more like a time to perform various skits prepared by the school. To be fair, I suppose there was a bit of culture. One girl gave a presentation about a trip she took to New Zealand, and some of my students gave a small speech about Halloween. I got to dress up like a spider. :) Regretably, there are no pictures of me in my get up. Shucks. The rest of the day was spent listening to the winners of our school choral contest and various strange, silly skits. Lots of dancing and boys dressing up like girls. Wakarimasen....

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


OC Honors its Heroes

"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

To Gunma and Back

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

Floss Daily... Don't Vote

The election hoopla brings back memories of another election in my recent history that caused quite a stir amongst my peer group. Yes, it's the infamous OCU SGA student body president election of 2003. Those who were involved in or witnessed this event are probably either moaning or snickering right now.

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?

Ibaraki Christian Culture Festival

Just in case you folks were worried that I am working to hard out here (ha ha), yesterday was yet another national holiday! This time it was Culture Day. Since I haven't actually celebrated any of the holidays so far, I thought I should celebrate this one. So yesterday morning some lovely ladies and I met up and went out to Ibaraki Christian University/High School/Junior High's culture festival. I wasn't sure what to expect, but it turned out to be great fun. Several people from the Taga church either attend or teach at the school, so we wanted to show our support and head on out there. I think the best way to describe it would be as a carnival. Each of the homeroom classes had booths set up with different games or foods. One of our friends was performing in the hand bell choir so we went and saw that. Some students who visited Abilene Christian University this summer performed some of the devotional songs they learned. I got to make a balloon animal, although it did turn out very poorly. Overall it was a great day and I'm so glad I went. To make things even better, the weather was completely cooperative and beautiful!
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

Hush Puppy and Hush Money

Two random bits of Japan life for you today.
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. :)

Happy Birthday Mer!!!

I'd like to give a hap-hap-happy birthday shoutout to my dear friend Meredith (also known as Mer or Meridoc). Mer has always been an awesome and faithful friend, and we have gone through many an adventure together (on a couple of continents). May God bless you this year with friendships and opportunities that will glorify his name and enrich your life. Love you girl!

Ann and Mer in Honduras
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Monday, November 01, 2004

Booto Scooto Boogie.

This afternoon Alina and I went and taught at a handicapped high school in Hitachi. I was unsure of what to expect, despite the fact that we'd been given a detailed outline of the lesson plan two weeks ago. When the teacher came at that time to plan with me, she had asked me if I would be willing to teach the kids a simple "folk dance" of America. Being the proud Texan that I am, line dancing immediately came to mind and I said, "Sure!" :)
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.

Sunday, October 31, 2004

Another hour apart

For your general knowledge, Japan does not observe daylight savings time. Thus I am now 15 hours ahead of most of you (CST).

See if you can work this tidbit into conversation today. You'll sound so smart and cultured. :)

Oh yeah, it's Halloween...

I woke up this morning feeling plenty of leftover funk from last night. Perhaps the funk even multiplied in my sleep. I felt sick, I didn't want to walk in the rain to church, and I didn't want to do much of anything in general. However, I was teaching class this morning, so I truly had no choice but to go anyway. And once upon a time I remember being taught that the times you don't want to go to church are usually the times you need to go the most.
As I sat at the bus stop in the rain, I thought back to the verse I quoted last night about God's mercies being new every morning and scoffed as I thought of waking up in a nasty mood. Thus I entered into a round of culture stress. I bemoaned everything about Japan on the bus and train ride, consumed with the idea that this is not where I want to be. First rate pity party. And for the record, the intellectual knowledge that you are going through culture stress does not make the process any easier.
But I made it to church, said my ohayo gozaimasus, and tried to mentally prepare myself for class. Then, of course, the Lord provided, and class turned my mood around completely. I thought of the people in class-- Mizumi, a non-Christian woman who comes every week and is truly seeking to know God; Sho, a junior high boy who answers every question in class and says the closing prayer each week (one of the most precious people I've met here!); Yusuke, a high school boy who made it a special point to come to class today even though he had to leave right after and spend all day working at school; Jun, a Japanese Christian who has become a powerful witness at Ibaraki Christian High School and is so encouraging each week... and they all touched my heart. These people are devoted to coming, despite inconvienence or busy-ness or effort. They come because the church is a priority.
The church. I have such a newfound appreciation for the church. My brothers and sisters. They are my family here. Before I came here I would seek comfort in the verse, "everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life" (Mt. 19:29). Leaving family and friends behind is hard (understatement of the year), but God's promises are true. The Christians here are amazing people. I wish I could list by name the people here and tell you about them, but that would be tedious and ineffective, I think. Perhaps instead you will hear snippets about different people and get to know them gradually.
So tonight, I am thankful. Funk over. :)

Saturday, October 30, 2004

Wrong side of the bed?

Today was really a great day. I went to Japanese class this morning, met some cool new people. The Kikuchis had me over for an amazing lunch, and they are always wonderful company. Then tonight I got to have some much needed, high quality conversation with a great friend. A day of blessings, really.
So tell me then, why am I in a funk? Maybe it's the rain, maybe it's the cold. Maybe because I didn't want to leave Mito. Maybe it's because I didn't get enough sleep last night. Maybe homesickness or culture stress or frustration with communication limitations with friends back home. Maybe misplaced expectations, disappointment in myself, or this notion of the depravity of humankind that has been haunting me all week. I don't know.
Maybe I should just go to bed and start over tomorrow. His mercies are new every morning; great is His faithfulness. Oyasumi.

Friday, October 29, 2004

Minor issue

Does it bother anyone else that it says "1 comments"? Hasn't computer programming technology advanced us beyond this point?

Thursday, October 28, 2004


Bush Campaign Site Inaccessible Abroad

I can testify to the truth of this article, because I, in fact, cannot access the George W. Bush campaign website. It tells me: "You are not authorized to view this page. You might not have permission to view this directory or page using the credentials you supplied." My credentials being that I am in Japan? Guess they don't want my type. :)

So much for non-political blogging... :)

Two Months Today

Quick recap.
Monday morning I ran to Mito to get my visa adjusted so I can re-enter the country after my visit home for Christmas, which was mostly a beaurocratic inconvienence (and not cheap). That afternoon I received two great packages from home which absolutely made the world a better place. :) Thank you mom! I spent Monday evening cooking a Brazilian/Mexican dinner for my co-workers and then playing hostess all night. I thought Jared was going to have a coronary when he saw pinto beans. Not to brag, but those beans and rice tasted wonderful after two months of not having them! It was great fun, but boy was I worn out by the end of it.
Tuesday was a cold day. I spent most of my time at work shivering, and vowed to never go to work without more than one layer on ever again (until May at least). Then the Hitachi group all went out to a local club where several of our own were singing that night. I was so impressed at the talent that we have pooled here! The sense of community here is awesome. That was great, but made for another late night.
Wednesday. Once again my 3-8 class made my day by giving me little paper flowers they made. They now decorate my desk at school. Have I mentioned how much I love those kids? It's strange to not go to church on Wednesdays. Makes you feel a little pagan, a little lost, a little empty, but I suppose it's part of the package I accepted when deciding to work here. Thankfully, I got to have a good talk with a faithful friend here who I hadn't gotten to have a good talk with in a while. It's always good to compare notes and check up on each other.
Lately I've been thinking (already) about what to stock up on when I go back home for Christmas. One primary thing is music. Internet radio is okay, but there is some stuff that I want to listen to. I'm going to get Chris Rice's first album (the only one I don't have), some worship CDs, maybe a Beatles CD, and probably some of Caedmon's Call's stuff. Hmm, I'll probably get some classic Acappella, too. Their early stuff still moves me. Anyone else have any suggestions of quality CDs worth my investment? I especially need input for the worship stuff. I'm probably going to try to order them online while I'm here so they will be at home when I get there. Same goes for books, but they have to be really good books. Donald Miller ("Blue Like Jazz") just came out with a new book, so that is definitely on my list. Let me know your input. I respect the opinions of those who read my blog, because you obviously have great taste. ;)
Song of the moment: Wedding Dress by Derek Webb.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004


...a candidate I can get behind. I would like to come out of my non-political closet and publicly join the Brits in endorsing Homer Simpson for president. See story here.
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Sunday, October 24, 2004

My genius idea

Today on the way to church I had a genius idea inspired by the upcoming election. Well, perhaps genius isn't the correct word, but I think it would be fascinating. What would the democracy be like today if every person were given a vote-- that means parents would be able to place votes for their children under the age of 18. I think it would be a very interesting political study to see the results. What do you guys think would happen? Has anyone else had similar thoughts, or am I the only crazy out here? :)

Sweet Taters

I have never thought of myself as a city girl, but today I learned that I am definitely not meant to work the earth. After church a group of about 12 of us went to a church member's field to help him harvest his sweet potatoes. I had envisioned this in a romantic autumnal sense... simply scooping up nature's bounty into baskets. But instead I found out that it was hard work! There were bugs and dirt and stubborn roots to contend with. :) I had a blast, but now I have a much deeper respect for anyone who works the earth in any form. We got to end the day by taking home as many sweet potatoes as we wanted and snacking on freshly baked sweet potato. Yum... I just hope the man invites us back to help harvest his strawberry field in a couple of months. :)

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Praying Mantis in Japan

I saw this today and had to post it in honor of one of my blogger friends, Praying Mantis. :)

PS- Ben and Monica, next time it rains on Sunday, guess who will be honored? ;)
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Saturday, October 23, 2004

Okay here...

Just in case you've seen this headline: Major Japanese Earthquakes or this headline: Major Japanese Typhoons, I just wanted to assure you that I am okay. People keep telling me that the weather (do earthquakes count as "weather"?) is really not normally like this, but since I've been here things have been a little nuts. I don't know whether to take that as a good sign or bad sign. :)
Isn't it strange and somewhat disturbing how much I talk about the weather?

Autumn Festival

Ann and Ayaka
Maybe it's because I'm getting older, but kids are becoming more and more adorable to me. Especially cute little Japanese kids in Halloween costumes. Today I helped out with an Autumn Festival that the McClain's school (World English Center) was hosting in Mito. In case you're wondering, I was Boo from Monsters Inc. :) I got to be the group leader of the black cats, which included a photo scavenger hunt and a carnival. It was a blast to get to play around with the kiddies all day, and I got to meet a lot of great new people. I look forward to helping again next year!
If anyone wants to see all the pictures from today's festivities (including the photo scavenger hunt results, which were too cute), then click here.
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Wednesday, October 20, 2004

One more down

Well last night I made it through another typhoon. It was loud, but I was tired, so I slept through it. I hear another one is following closely behind it, but I also heard that the second one might skip us and hit Taiwan. Of course I don't wish that on the Taiwanese, but a break sure would be nice! :)

More than you'll ever know...

I have always and will always maintain that God blesses me more than I could ever deserve through the amazing people he puts in my life. Here is a brief, non-exhaustive list of things that remind me how gracious God is to me.

I love...
  • my family because they always sound so happy to hear my voice when I call.
  • my friend who will take on the entire Honduran government to be able to work with her kids, if she has to.
  • my former professor who will go to the trouble to mail me a quick note to let me know he's thinking about me, when it would have taken 30 seconds to shoot it off in an email.
  • my friends who always IM me and ask me what time it is here. :)
  • my friends who may not agree with my views, but always respect me and engage me in lively debate. ;) Iron sharpening iron...
  • my extended family who print off copies of my blog and pass them around for everyone to read.
  • my professors who will read and respond to my emails when I have concerns or things I want to talk over with them.
  • my friends here who I can call at any time for anything.
  • the church members here who will walk with me the second or third or tenth mile to help me settle and feel welcome.
  • my mom who knows exactly what to put in my care packages.
  • my co-workers who have welcomed me into their group of friends with open arms and have also helped me with all the logistics of moving to a new place.
  • people who stumble onto my blog and leave encouraging notes that make my day.
  • my connection group in OKC that prays for me every week.
  • my dad who emails me stories and pictures and new bits that he knows I would want to know about.
  • my friends who write things like, "I pray for you everyday" and remind me that "friends may come and go, but they don't have to."

God, I am so blessed.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Back to the point

It seems like lately I haven't actually been posting much about life in Japan, so I will try to catch up on that some today.
Well first of all, we are bracing for another typhoon. CNN even pities us, see the story here: Japan Prepares for Tenth Typhoon of Season. There is a perk, in that typhoons make the weather slightly warmer. And while we're on the topic of weather, it is starting to get cold. It would be perfectly lovely if we had the luxury of only being in the "crisp air" between buildings and our car, but no... despite all of its technological advances, Japan lacks central heat AND insulation. Which means it gets pretty nippy at nights and in the mornings. I currently sleep with 3 blankets on my bed, and I just bought an electric blanket today. Pretty soon we'll be going to the gas station to buy kerosene for our heaters and such. I am going to be a tough chick after I survive the Japanese winter. :)
I reserved my ticket to come home for Christmas today. I'll be arriving in OKC on December 16th, Lord willing, and returning from Little Rock on January 5. That'll be some nice time home. When I get back I want to go straight from the airport to Ted's Cafe Escondito. YUM. You see, Mexican food is a rarity in Japan. What I wouldn't give for some of that queso on a flour tortilla right now... Okay, I've got to stop talking about that. :)
School is great. On Mondays we ALTs (in Hitachi, at least) don't go to our junior highs, instead we take turns going to different kindergartens, elementary schools, and special needs schools. In a couple of weeks Ian and I are going to a special needs high school, and so one of the teachers came by today to talk about the lesson plan. Guess what I get to teach them! The "Boot Scoot Boogie"! :) Of course it will be highly simplified and I will throw some hand motions in there, but I think it'll be fun. Hey-- they wanted an "American folk dance," so I am going to deliver the best I know how! :)
Thank you to everyone who's been posting comments and sending emails. They're so encouraging! It's nice to have reminders of friends and family when you're far from home.

Sunday, October 17, 2004

Hail to Oklahoma Christian...

I love my alma mater, Oklahoma Christian University. And apparently somebody out there loves me. I would like to give thanks and a shout-out to my wonderful department, Language and Literature (also home to STD), for featuring me on their new blog!
And I would also like to humbly ask the marketing department to forgive me for ripping off the logo. :) I believe there is a handbook that regulates logo usage, and I just may be in violation.
Posted by Hello

Saturday, October 16, 2004

Sunset over Nihon

This picture doesn't do it justice, but tonight we had a beautiful sunset. Many thanks to all those who prayed for a clear day in Japan, because the last 3 days have been great!!!
By the way, since I've gotten the internet in my apartment I've been listening to sermons online. Does anyone have any good or favorite websites with sermons on them? Please leave them in the comments! I really appreciate it!!!
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Something to think about

When's the last time you were intimate with someone? When's the last time you laid your heart on the line - not just skimming the surface of your struggles - but revealed the ugliness, the sickness that is inside your heart? Because if you strip away the facade, the layers of callouses built up from years past - you'll find out that as different as we seem, we're just the same. We're all fighting a fight, we're all seeking for answers, and we all just want to be loved.
So what's keeping you from being intimate?
--ripped off of Nina's AIM profile

Thursday, October 14, 2004


I completely forgot to mention one of the brightest spots of my job-- class 3-8. In the true manner of "The Wayside School," there is no class 3-7. All I knew before teaching in this class was that 3-8 was for special needs students, which my teachers translated as "emotionally disturbed." I was envisioning this class to be all of my shaved eyebrow gang that I mentioned before, that likes to cause trouble for the teachers on a daily basis.
Imagine my surprise when I get to class and see the sweetest little 7 smiling faces you've ever seen. Only 7 kids in this class, out of a school of 700. I'm not sure how that works. I heard a rumor that in Japan parents have to consent to putting their children in a special class, and many will refuse to do it. I can't swear to that fact, though. Some of the kids in there act just like "normal" kids, except you get the impression that much has never been asked out of them. I finally asked one of the teachers today how a child is chosen to be in the 3-8 class, and she told me that they scored as "unteachable" on an IQ test. An IQ test determined the course of the rest of their life. You see, compulsory education ends after junior high in Japan, so since these kids have been separated and pretty much babysat through school. So the chances of them making it into a high school are virtually non-existant.
The kids are fabulous. They know no English whatsoever, other than hello and goodbye, but I really think that they could get all the basic greetings down if they would just let me work with them some. Don't get me wrong-- there are some troubled kids in there. Maybe some of them can't learn. I don't know. But they are the sweetest children you'll find at Namekawa JHS. When I taught them last week we played a game of Uno, and my teaching consisted of me saying the number and color of the card in English. Of course they were doing the same for me in Japanese. :) By the end of the game they were doing pretty good on their colors and numbers!
The kids there are so sweet! Whenever one does something good they all rejoice with them with clapping and high fives. The brighter ones help the more troubled ones play their best cards. They seem to really love each other like a family. Their teachers in that class are just as awesome. At the end of my class with them they all walked me back to my desk at the office to make sure I made it back okay. :)
Ever since my first class with them I have made a point to walk by their classroom as much as possible, hoping to catch the door open so I can wave at them and say hi. Today I got to play with some of them after school. Just seeing any of them makes my little heart so happy it could burst.
I never thought I would enjoy or be good at working with special needs kids. I thought it just wasn't my cup of tea. But these kids have already taught me great lessons in loving and potential, and I can't wait to see what else they teach me over the next two years.