Wednesday, March 29, 2006

The "G" word

Racism and prejudice have been concerns of mine for several years, so imagine my delight when I heard about a new show called "Black. White." In case you don't know the premise, a black family and a corresponding white family "trade places" for a month or however long through the magic of movie makeup. The families are similar-- age, education, income. The idea is to see how the families experience the world looking through each other's eyes.

Although I think I expected too much, it is an alright program. Of course since it's television, it does have its share of sensationalism and melodrama. But one of the big conflicts on the show between the families, especially the fathers, is the "n" word*. I think it's fairly common that outside of the black community we don't know what to make of it. I can understand how it is confusing, especially when we see African-Americans using it freely amongst friends as a term of endearment. I've heard black people come down on both sides of the issue; in an interview with the cast of "Crash" (a must see by the way), Oprah adamantly claimed that the word should not be used ever by anyone, while Ludacris and Don Cheatle said that it was an African-American symbol of overcoming oppression. I lean more towards one side than the other, but I truly don't think it matters at all what I think. I can just tell you that I would never ever use that word because of the history it carries.

Although I will never understand the power that this word carries to African-Americans, I have gotten just a glimpse. The title refers to the word "gaijin", which is Japanese for foreigner. Several of my Japanese friends would chastise me at this point and say, "No! It's gaikokujin!" But that's kind of the entire point. You see, "gaijin" is made up of 2 kanji (Japanese symbols)-- outside and person. Pretty clear, huh? Well "gaikokujin" translates literally as "outside country person." Most of the Japanese I know consider it rude for a Japanese person to call a foreigner gaijin to their face. I think it gives the message that "you're an outsider, you'll never be one of us."

The thing is, you hear foreigners making gaijin jokes and comments all the time. Unless it's very polite company, I've never heard a foreigner refer to themselves as "gaikokujin." We refer to gaijin hangouts, gaijin idiosyncrasies, and even the gaijin card that we all have to carry. And although I wouldn't get angry, I would think it was impolite for a Japanese person to call me gaijin.

So, is this hypocritical of me? I don't know. Maybe it is, but maybe it's a unity mechanism. Maybe it falls along the train of thought that "no, we'll never be one of them, but we'll always have each other."

I'd like to stress again that the "gaijin" issue doesn't really compare to what African Americans have faced, in most circumstances (you can still find a random elderly Japanese person who hates all foreigners... but I think we have our fair share of those in the US, too). In Japan, foreigners are generally treated with an enormous amount of respect and dignity, as opposed to the relatively recent history of blacks in the US. Just my disclaimer.

But that experience does help me understand.

Originally when I was plotting this post out in my head, I was going to write on the "gringo/a/oes" issue as well, but I feel unqualified. But if my friends with Hispanic experience would like to comment on how they take being called "gringo," please share. Maybe it's not comparable, but I've somewhere along the line acquired the notion that being called a "gringo" was a little jab.

I was also reminded of the word "Gentile."

Any other delicate terms you can think of?

*I think it only exasperates the problem by calling it "the 'n' word," you know, the whole Harry Potter, "the one whose name we do not speak" (Voldemort) issue. But 1) I don't have the guts to use it, 2) someone somewhere would be hurt by it, and 3) I don't want people googling that word and ending up at my site.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Truth is Truth

My personal faith mantra is "God is good. God is faithful." I'm convinced this is the key to my sanity. One of the truths that I hang my hat on is the fact that the Bible is the word of God. Generally, most Christians I know have what I believe to be a somewhat skewed understanding of Biblical truth, usually that is a historically accurate rule book for life. If you're looking for a history book, there are probably a lot of better sources than the Bible. And if a rulebook is what you're looking for, then that could be confusing because sometimes the "rules" contradict each other.
But what I do believe the Bible is is a revelation of the character of God and timeless truth. I read a book a few months ago called Velvet Elvis (an attempt to be the new Blue Like Jazz, but an overall good book), and the author made a point that I took to heart. The Bible is our story, not just the story of a bunch of people thousands of years ago in the middle east. We were the ones who fell in the garden of Eden, we were led out of Egypt, we wandered 40 years in the desert until God handed over the promised land to us, etc etc. It was like being given fresh eyes when I started thinking of the Bible like that. The Bible stops being a historical account of how God once worked and starts being a timeless account of humanness and God's unrelenting faithfulness.
Mike Cope wrote a blog series on the Bible a few weeks ago, and one of the most beautiful points I thought he made was that he feels like "the Bible knows me." I dare suggest that everyone who encounters the Bible in a healthy environment has felt it speak a deep truth they recognize (I say healthy environment because sometimes people have taken that "sword of the spirit" thing the wrong way and chopped off some peoples' heads). I've seen the Word speak to people many times through LST.
I would add to Cope's statement that not only does the Bible know me, but it likes me. As cliche as it is, the Bible is one big love story. I think sometimes we breeze over this statement because it's not a love story we are taught to long for. In the words of Chris Rice, "sometimes love has to drive a nail into it's own hand." It's a true love-- sacrificial and committed and forever.
Not sure what brought this blog on... maybe I'm just falling in love all over again with my true love.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Very Important PSA

If you didn't know I was neurotic before reading this post, you will shortly. :)

One of the great passions of my life is oral hygiene. I haven't always been this way, but somewhere along the line in college the spirit convicted me. Growing up, my family always had their bi-annual dental checkups, and although I always took alright care of my teeth, I usually had at least one cavity.

But it all changed one day in college. I was at a meeting of Outreach, OC's missions club, and for some reason the speaker asked anyone who flossed daily to raise their hand. Out of a room of 50+ students, only one girl raised her hand! I mean, I flossed a couple of times a week, but not every day. I became convinced that this was gross and I must change immediately. So since then I have been a daily flosser. My favorite floss is the plain, waxed, mint kind from Johnson and Johnson, but some others can substitute.

From the daily flossing grew the habit of brushing my teeth thoroughly. At one point in college I would use an electric toothbrush then follow up with a manual toothbrush, although now I'm down to just a manual, but boy what a toothbrush it is!!! I just bought a new one the other day, and decided to upgrade, so I got the Oral B CrossAction Vitalizer. I am already super-impressed and recommend it to everyone. My gums already look a healthier pink.

Along with brushing goes toothpaste, of course. And I happened to run out this week, so I had the pleasure of choosing new toothpaste, which is fun but high pressured for me. I ended up choosing Colgate Total. My priority in toothpaste choice is tatar and plaque control, although the market shows that most people care about whitening. I care about whitening, but for some reason I'm distrustful of whitening toothpastes.

Last but not least is the piece de resistance... Listerine! I can already hear some of you moaning, but really, this is a fabulous product. I think I started using Listerine on the advice of my roommate, Tomoko's, mother. I really find it quite the miracle product. It keeps breath fresh (no nasty morning breath when you wake up), kills germs, and I believe keeps you healthier. I know it burns, but that just means it's working!!! ;)

It is my hope that at least one loyal reader will take inspiration from this blog, and make a positive change in their dental upkeep habits. No telling how much you could save in time, money, and pain if you take simple precautions now! AND I heard on TV the other day that regular brushing and flossing reduces the likelihood of a heart attack. Not really sure about the science of that, but an actual doctor wearing scrubs on TV said it. :)

So go on, make the time and relatively tiny financial investment and do something good for yourself!

Monday, March 20, 2006

Thoughts worth thinking

"Don't allow fear of the unknown to cause you to miss out on what God wants to do through you. Worse than failure is living with the regret of never having stepped out in faith to pursue your vision."
~ Andy Stanley

"No reserve. No retreat. No regrets."
~ William Borden

"We can choose to live more simply that others may simply live. There is enough to go around, but sharing our abundance with others will call us to cut back somewhere, to limit ourselves voluntarily, to live a lifestyle that reflects our knowledge of the condition of people in our world."
~ Paul Borthwick

Blatently stolen from the blog of meu amigo de peito.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006


As many of you know, I majored in teaching English as a foreign language in college, and I also studied a few langauges. So, as I figure, in theory, I should be pretty good at learning foreign languages since I've studied technique and theory and all of that. But the cold, honest truth is that I'm really not! And while there are a few reasons, I can give you the #1 reason why I and most people have such difficulty learning foreign languages...


Studies show that the true, defining factor of success at foreign language learning is attitude and drive. But I suppose that's probably true in many arenas in life... but we're talking about languages. :)

So I look at my own history. Spanish... yeah I liked it, but I liked it in the sense that you like knick knacks... a fun thing to have and play with once in a while, but not really that big a deal. Hebrew was great; I loved it and did really well while I was actually studying. I think I did have motivation there... a great teacher, the best study partner in the world, and some healthy competetion. :) Japanese... yeah, that didn't go well at all. And I admittedly had a horrible attitude about it from the beginning. Any coincidence? And of course Portuguese... let's just say I've found motivation. :) We'll see how it turns out!

So all that to say... well... not sure what the point of this blog is. Feel free to draw your own conclusions. Tchau!

What, did you think this was going to be some big spiritual anecdote? ;)

Wednesday, March 08, 2006


Thought this might interest those linguists of my friends.

Saudade (pronounced saw-oo-da-ji) is my favorite Portuguese word, unless you're judging strictly by cuteness of the word, in which case it's abacaxi (pineapple-- pronounced ah-ba-ka-shi) or by frequency of word use, in which case it's probably querido/a (dear one-- pronounced ke-ri-do).

This word has been on my mind lately. It even has its own Wikipedia entry, located here. Apparently saudade was ranked in the top ten of most difficult words to translate... in the whole world (interesting list, by the way!).

The simple definition is "homesickness," but if you follow the link you'll see it's more complicated. I think they define it well, as "feeling of longing for something you are fond of, which is gone, but might return in a distant future." It's a word of hope and love, I think.

I think words are an incredible gift from God, and carry enormous power. That's why I feel that "political correctness" (a terrible phrase with negative connotation), or let's say "lexical sensitivity", is so important. Words shape the way we view the world, connect with other people, and oftentimes praise God. God brought the creation into being through speaking words, Jesus spoke words to calm the storm, raise the dead, heal the sick, and teach us to pray. Consider these verses:

The tongue that brings healing is a tree of life, but a deceitful tongue crushes the spirit. --Proverbs 15:4

When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. Likewise the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell. All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and creatures of the sea are being tamed and have been tamed by man, but no man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God's likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? My brothers, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water. -- James 3: 3-12

I'm thankful that English is a language that borrows words from so many other languages to help get the exact definition. I'm thankful to have other languages to borrow words from when they're more appropriate. And I'm thankful for good times and good friends who give me the fond memories, teaching me exactly what saudade is.

Short and Sassy???

Today I had a consulatation with my hair stylist about the mullet problem. I'm very very tempted to chop it all off... well not ALL off, just even it up. But that will be short short short. I've never had short hair. I'm not sure what to do, but my hair does look ridiculous in its current state. So... opening up the polls... should I go for it and just get it cut? I would post a picture of how I look now, but like I said, my hair looks stupid and I'm too vain for that. :)

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Who'd have thought...

It seems that against many odds, I have made it to 24. 23 was quite a year. I lived in Asia, had my first real job, my first real vacation, and then almost died. But hey, we made it.

Here's hoping for 24 (or more) more.

Thought for the day: "I am loved, and life is mine" by the always appropriate Chris Rice

Friday, March 03, 2006

Not a Mullet!

So... one of the side effects of months upon months of malnutrition is hair loss. Yeah. So my hair has thinned out A LOT. When I go to wash my hair I joke with my family that I'm going to "wash my three hairs" (Simpsons joke-- Homer has a 3 hair comb-over).

This whole situation had started to really worry me. I'm not really a vain person, I don't think, but what girl really wants to lose more than half of her hair! Or boy for that matter!

But alas, there is light at the end of the tunnel. I have new hair growth that is about an inch long all over my scalp! But right now it's at a terrible length to work with. It pretty much sticks straight up or out, depending on location. So, between the short hair making an appearance and my thinned-out long hair... I believe it looks like I am sporting a mullet.


Hahaha, I laugh about it, but it does make me sort of self-conscious. But it's a good lesson in humility, I suppose. So if you see me while my hair is still in it's awkward adolescent phase, be kind and remember, it's not a mullet. :)

Thursday, March 02, 2006

'Tis So Sweet

’Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus,
And to take Him at His Word;
Just to rest upon His promise,
And to know, “Thus says the Lord!”

Jesus, Jesus, how I trust Him!
How I’ve proved Him o’er and o’er
Jesus, Jesus, precious Jesus!
O for grace to trust Him more!

I heard this song today. Honestly, not one of my favorite songs. I think it's the music... very rigid or something. But today as I listened the words really hit me, and I once again appreciate the beautiful and timeless truth found in so many hymns.

Where better place to put my trust? People disappoint, bodies fail, science only goes so far... God is real, God is truth, God is good, and God is faithful.

I love the line, "How I've proved him o'er and o'er..." I can look not only to my life and the gift of faith I have from God, but also at the lives of so many people I know and love. They've proved that trust in God isn't futile or foolish. And then the end, "O for grace to trust Him more..." Faith is a gift given through the grace of God.

This song (written in 1882-- timeless truths, huh?) reminds me a lot of the Natalie Grant song, "Held". If you haven't heard it, I highly suggest it. It's written specifically about the pain of losing a child, but I think anyone who has gone through a serious trauma can relate well to its message.

Two months is too little.
They let him go.
They had no sudden healing.
To think that providence would
Take a child from his mother while she prays
Is appalling.

Who told us we’d be rescued?
What has changed and why should we be saved from nightmares?
We’re asking why this happens
To us who have died to live?
It’s unfair.

This is what it means to be held.
How it feels when the sacred is torn from your life
And you survive.
This is what it is to be loved.
And to know that the promise was
When everything fell we’d be held.

This hand is bitterness.
We want to taste it, let the hatred numb our sorrow.
The wise hands opens slowly to lilies of the valley and tomorrow.

This is what it means to be held.
How it feels when the sacred is torn from your life
And you survive.
This is what it is to be loved.
And to know that the promise was
When everything fell we’d be held.

If hope is born of suffering.
If this is only the beginning.
Can we not wait for one hour watching for our Savior?

This is what it means to be held.
How it feels when the sacred is torn from your life
And you survive.
This is what it is to be loved.
And to know that the promise was
When everything fell we’d be held.

I love that. "The promise was when everything fell, we'd be held."

Just a thought for today, folks.