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!
Posted by Hello

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.
Posted by Hello

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! ;)