Friday, November 28, 2008

Celebration of New Life

Our small group celebrated the joy of a new little life last night. Also, we were able to have some Turkey and pumpkin pie which was a delightful feast. I didn't think we would get to have any turkey at all on Thanksgiving Day. But, thanks to some amazing small group members the turkey was had!! We really enjoy our small group. There are several countries and cultures represented which makes for a lot of fun times. We have people from Kenya, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Gabon, the UK, the US, Japan, and Indonesia. We are very thankful for these people and we are thankful for the time we got to spend last night celebrating the birth of little Takudzwa Lesley Njowa. Takudzwa is shona for respected or honored.


Wina and Taku


Wina and Jason gettin some food.



The Bartons, Violet, and Nancy (the mama). And River's on the floor.



Myself with Taku. He is absolutely beautiful!



The group. Minus a few people.

The proud Papa...Diamond.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The Past Little Bit

I really wish I was better at this whole blogging thing....sigh. It has been so long since I have told you what we are doing that I have too much to write. So, to try to give you an effecient yet complete version of what we have been up to I bring you my least favorite way of giving information....a bullet list.

"Fun" things we have done this past month or more:
  • Jason and I attended the Tokyo Passion Worship conference here in Tokyo. It was fabulous. The worship was amazing....Chris Tomlin, Matt Redman, and David Crowder Band. Mr. Giglio spoke and it was great as well. A funny thing happened at the end of the conference. We were leaving and some of Jason's students spotted him in the lobby and were SO excited to see him that they began screaming! Seriously, you would've thought Jason was a movie star or something! Well, one Western fella did. After the girls gave Jason some room a man came up to Jason and shook his hand saying, "Thanks for the great concert tonight." HAHAHA. Because of the students having such an "over-the-top" reaction some man thought Jason was in one of the bands. It was TOO funny!
  • Jason and I have been able to take some school trips with the grades we work with. Jason went to the western most part of Japan to Nagasaki which is in Kyushu. There Jason saw some really great historical sites. The J3 (Freshman) went to the A-bomb museum. Jason said it was intense and it really got to him and shook him up. I hope to see this museum one day too. I remember feeling a lot of shock after the Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, TN as well as a small exhibit at a Holocaust Museum. I can only imagine Jason felt much of the same or worse. It seemed that way as he described some of things documented as well as hearing a testimony from a woman who was 4 at the time of the bombing. Also, Jason got to see the memorial dedicated to the many Christians that were martyred in that part of Japan. He had a really great time on this trip. I too had fun but my trip was on a little bit of a smaller scale.
  • We have enjoyed this journey of pregnancy! We found out that we are having a baby boy! Let me tell you, he moves A LOT! We can't wait to meet him and hold him in our arms.
  • We voted by absentee.
  • Have added new dinner items to our menu. This was a big feat for us. Not having an oven can be a little limiting and sometimes it's hard to read the labels of some of the food. One new item we love...Tofu Chili! Seriously, so good. I never knew I would/could cook with Tofu.

Fun things about Japan:

  • I have wanted to share this for quite some time but have gone back and forth about it's appropriateness or embarassment factor but what the hey...I really want to tell you about the flushing sound button. The toilets in Japan are fantastic! Heated seats, automatic raising and lowering of toilet seats, and the flushing sound button! I don't know about you but I hate having to go to the "bathroom" when others can hear me. Ladies, you know what I mean. But, with the "flush" button that worry is a thing in the past....or at least waiting for me in America. When you sit down to go you just wave your hand in front of this sensor and then out of a small speaker comes a flushing sound. It's loud enough to cover up anything and also common enough that when present every woman uses it all the time! It's the best. It's a fantatstic invention.
  • The Japanese (for the most part) are a very cautious people. I have noticed this a lot since being pregnant. Many of my co-workers are so sweetly concerned with my activities during pregnancy. When I took the trip with the J1 class I was asked if it was safe for me to ride on the charter bus we were taking. The question took me by suprise but my co-workers weren't put at ease until I received an email from my doctor clearing me for the two-hour bus trip. This is just one example. They are very considerate.

Some "not-so-fun" things:

  • We have to find a new apartment because the one we live in is TOO small for us and a new little baby. We went with our Japanese friend from our small group and ran into some problems. People don't want to rent to foreigners. The real estate agent was very difficult to work with and not exactly nice. That was a frustrating experience. Thankfully our persistent friend strongly encouraged to try one more place and we had a MUCH better experience.
  • I have to make a decision about next year's work situation and I don't feel like I can do that until I find a good day-care and I can't search for the day care until I know where we will be living....sigh. So for these not-so-fun things please pray for us.

I hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 7, 2008

I.O.U.S.A.: The Movie

Please watch this video. It's about 30 minutes long but very informative about the state and condition of our nation's spending.
I.O.U.S.A.: The Movie

Posted using ShareThis

Monday, November 3, 2008

Japan and the Movies

We went to the movies on Saturday this weekend. I love going to the movies and it is a special treat in Japan because it is just so darn expensive. On the first day of the month movie tickets are 1,000 yen. About the equivalent of $10 USD. They regularly run somewhere about $17-$20 USD. So since the first of the month hit on a Saturday we seized our opportunity for some discounted cinema entertainment. Like I said, I love going to the movies and Japan makes that experience even more delightful (despite the high prices). At the movies you can choose between butter popcorn OR carmel popcorn OR you can get both delightful options in a tub with a divider! How cool is that? I get really excited at the smell of caramel corn here in Japan. It's just delicious. Also, when you pre-purchase your tickets you get to pick your seats because there is reserved seating! Could it be any more convenient? No stress about wondering how early to get there to make sure you have a good seat! You can show up 5 minutes before the show starts and have the best seat in the house (provided you booked this seat on the internet or from your cell phone in advance)! Awww....the little things I like about this country.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Remembering Why I like it Here

Lately I have been having some difficulty with the Japanese culture. The reason being, we have entered stage 2 of culture shock, "Frustration/Rejection Stage". In this stage many things about the culture you are living in becoming frustrating, annoying, and seem stupid in comparison to the way things are done in your home country. I have been dealing with this for about the past month or so now until today when the character of the Japanese people reminded me of how much I really do like this country in spite of the things I have difficulty adjusting to.

Here's what happened...I was riding on a train to go to my doctor appointment in downtown Tokyo. It was around 9:30 in the morning which is still when most of the trains going into Tokyo-proper are still very crowded and my train was no exception. On crowded trains in Japan you lose all sense of personal space...it no longer exists. People are pushing you in the back without any spoken words, grunts, or looks. It's quite odd really. Silent pushing and cramming....nothing like that would ever go on in the states. Well, as weather has cooled down here some of the trains haved turned off their AC system. Why? I don't know. Many bodies + Enclosed space = NEED FOR AC!! So, a crowded train with many, many bodies crammed into one another without any air blowing on you makes for one miserably hot ride. It seemed miserably hot to this pregnant lady, at least. As we were pulling into our destination station I started to get a little woozy. Then, my ears began to ring and everything around me seemed to go silent. So, I leaned forward and grabbed onto the nearest rail not caring who I was reaching over (I can reach over people here...they aren't so tall). I couldn't catch my breath. "Stay up, Abby. Stay up." This of course was my pride cheering me on...not wanting to look like a stupid gaijin (foreigner). But, in spite of trying to cheer myself on my knees gave way and I blacked out...at least I think I did. Maybe for a second or so. The next thing I remember someone on my right was touching my arm and trying to look into my face and on my left was a woman trying to give me her seat. I wanted to take it but as I was going the train doors opened and the crowd of people behind me pushed me forward. The ladies who were to my right and left grabbed me by the arms (Japanese women may be small but they are strong) and helped me off the train and onto the platform. I was wobbly and was trying to stand up but couldn't. They stayed near me until I was ok and even after I said I was I think they followed me for a little ways just to make sure. These ladies took care of me. It was a care and concern that I would expect from my friends and family, not strangers. I was a stranger and they helped me. For this and so many other reason I am thankful to get to interact with these people. Although I may not understand why they do things the way they do sometimes (i.e. in my work place), the people of Japan have been nothing but kind and hospitable. If I had to faint on a train in a foreign country, I am thankful I was in Japan when I did it.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Mundane #2

I have been having the urge to update this blog within the past few days but have come to a type of "blogger's" block everytime I sit down to write. So...I thought maybe I would just update with the mundane. I have yet to update you on our trip to Hong Kong and India and that is only because I can't stomach thinking/talking about it long enough to give you the good details so maybe I can commision my amazing husband to type it up and add a few pics. But, until then, here is just a little bit of what is going on in our lives since starting back up the second semester of school.

We have recently become addicted to the tv show "Heroes". It is quite an intriguing story and at first we thought it was even a little odd. But we pushed through and we are now hooked. We are just starting season 2 and can't wait for season 3 to begin. We have also started back up our Japanese lessons. Jason and I are quite a pair. I wish we could combine our powers to make one good language person. Jason has good pronunciation while I suck at it and I have good listening and can pick out the words and phrases while he has trouble hearing seperate words. Our teachers jokes that hopefully our baby will be able to put these two together and can speak Japanese. I think she thinks we are a lost cause and hopes our child will be the redeeming factor. :)

I am quite tired all day long....courtesy of pregnancy and my "morning" sickness occurs at night. I really think we need to find a new name for "morning" sickness. :) One thing that doesn't help my nausea is the man that sits next to me. He burps a lot at random times during the day. It didn't bother me until now again, thanks to the pregnancy. We have many decisions to make in the near future. We need to find another apartment because ours is too small and we need to figure out the timeline of my pregnancy leave. We are just unsure about all of it. There are many details that need to be taken care of in between all of this. I hope we will be able to move into our new apartment at least a month or two before the baby arrives!

Pictures will be posted soon of India....I hope. Anyone have a good recommendation for a website where we can post all of our pics and just provide people with a link to see them. We have SOOOO many pictures.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Baby Kuiper!!!

Exciting news..... we are pregnant! I am about 10 and a half weeks which puts our baby arriving on April 7th (approximately of course ;) )!! We are super excited and can't wait. We were a little anxious at first because I was about 6 weeks when I got very sick in India. I had a fever of 102F and after doing some reading I discovered this could be something that could harm the baby. Needless to say, I was super worried and anxious up until today when I had my first doctors appointment. The doctor put my mind at ease with all his knowledge and then I was even more relaxed once we did the ultrasound and found out that everything was normal. So, please pray for the baby whenever you happen to think about it. Throughout all of this anxiety and worry the Lord has been so faithful. Not only because things turned out well but just His presence. The Lord would quickly call us to pray or speak softly to our hearts that He was near and good and in control. Many times I was faced with my lack of trusting in the GOODNESS of God but I am grateful beyond words of His tenderness towards my doubts. He did not scold me or tell me to have bigger faith.....He just walked with us. He was there. He never left. Also, in my fear I was reminded of how narrow my view of what "good" really is. "Good" isn't necessarily "normal". Good is the Kingdom and the things of His Kingdom and that shine His character, nature, and glory. Good is much bigger and SO different from the world. How wonderful that is!!! Thank you for celebrating with us!

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Hanabi (Fireworks)

I tried to post this before we left for India but the video wouldn't load properly. So, i tried again today and was successful! I wanted to share this sooner but I guess better late than never, right?

Japan is a country that celebrates the seasons. In Fall, the Japanese celebrate the changing of the color of the leaves. With spring comes the Hanami, the viewing of the Cherry Blossoms. When the summer rides in on the wave of heat the Japanese celebrate with many festivals! One festival is the viewing of fireworks. And man, do the Japanese KNOW how to put on a fireworks show. It easily rivals what is seen in NYC or even Disney World. We were invited to celebrate with our friend, Tomoyu who we know from the gym we go to. The experience was fabulous!! I tried to capture as much of the splendor as my little Canon would allow but pictures just don't do the experience justice. The fireworks show lasted for about an hour and 15 minutes with a few breaks in between. ENJOY!



A couple of little Ladies enjoying the show. Notice the peace sign comes out at an early age! They were SOOOOO KAWAII (rhymes with hawaii and means CUTE!)


The crew enjoying the show! Tomoyu is the one next to me.


The ladies


Before it all begins


We are excited!


It was a SEA of people. This shot is MAYBE 1/4 of the crowd!



Here is a video of the fireworks action....FYI this is NOT the Grand Finale!!! In Jason's words (at the end of the video)....SUGOI!! (means AMAZING, INCREDIBLE, WOW!)

video

Saturday, August 23, 2008

We Are Safely Back!!

Well, we have arrived back in Tokyo!! It feels sooo good to be back. The trip to India was long and hard. I, Abby, got VERY sick. But the Lord was very good to provide all that I needed at the perfect times. I will write more about our adventure later and post some pics but for now I just wanted to put the word out that we are back! While we were gone there were some storms in Japan that we think may have fried our internet modem and we have to wait until Monday to get that fixed and tonight is Saturday. :( As soon as the internet in our apartment gets back up and running I will fill you in on all the details.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Birthday Package from Friends!!

I got a package for my birthday from my amazing friends, Evonne and Jennifer! I was super excited and it was such a thoughtful gift. With each little thing they put a fun little rhyme on it. How great are they!?




Divin in! Loved the package stuffing!


Reading the card. Amazing and encouraging words...yes, there were tears. i am sooo blessed to have friends like them! They are two amazing women in my life who always speak truth to me and listen to me! Thank you dear friends for your consistency while I have been here....and the fun skype calls!!! Love you!


The First gift...Lotion! can't find any here!! and when Jen and Eves came to Japan they brought me some! Because of them my skin will stay hydrated! Thanks, ladies!


Jason also liked this gift....well, mostly the rhyme.


Second gift....Stickers...the rhyme...
Get Excited!
Hike up your knickers, cause here's some STICKERS!


Third gift...a BIKE BELL!!! our bikes our are main mode of transportation, second...our feet, third, the trains. the bell has flashy lights too when you ring it! i have the coolest bike bell in all of Japan!
How about a BIKE BELL to keep you humming....
on your new bike so they'll know you're coming!


Fourth gift....FIBER ONE bars. I love these things! And when Jen came to Japan this was another one of my requests....thanks, JEN!


Fifth gift....School of Rock! Oh yeah! I love Jack Blacke.
Be the coolest teacher on your block....
Start your own Japanese School of Rock!!!


sixth gift....COOKIES! Oh how I miss cookies. They were white chocolate macadamia nut! Whenever I would go to Subway with Eves....I would always be tempted by these things and many times...I caved. Thanks, Eves!!

Here are some COOKIES to make your tummy mooshy
So you can tak a break from all the Sushi!


Seventh gift....Mini Mario Game! This thing is fun on the long train rides and the short ones! :)

To play on the trains some Super Mario Brothers
Don't go to sleep like all the others!



Also, thanks to my husband the photographer! P.S. My husband is AMAZING!

Rumblings beneath the Surface

It's 1:30a.m. and I am still wide awake. Not really sure why....I think it might have something to do with the restlessness of my heart that is making my mind and body that way. Not really sure what it is all about exactly. I just know what it is doing to me. It is making me discontent, insecure, frustrated, angry, annoyed....

I want to slap it around and tell it how I feel so that it will leave me alone. I want to not care. I want it to not matter. I want it to stop making these rumblings beneath the surface. When did I give it permission to keep me up at night? Maybe when it found a friend or two to help it slap me around....to laugh at my face, to make fun of me, to say things behind my back but really I heard it all. And then it turns around, as if i didn't see anything, and wants to be my friend and parade around as if it cares....but really it will move on to another heart and just leave me trying to figure out what happened.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Where we work

So, I realized that I have never posted pics or talked about where we work here in Japan. My apologies. The tree in the pictures is the Japanese cherry blossom. I can't wait until next April when they pop out again.
Tamagawa Seigakuin - Main BuildingTamagawa Seigakuin- Annex building

There are about 1080 students that go to this school. I see new faces everyday and love getting to smile and wave at each one of them. Sometimes they just stare at me...probably because they aren't too sure what to say or they are just insecure about their English speaking abilities. We teach everyday. Some days the teaching load is lighter than others. Jason teaches J3 and S2 (the equivalent of Freshman and Juniors in High School) and I teach J1 and J2 (the equivalent of 7th and 8th graders). I never thought I would want to teach jr. high students but the Japanese students are really well behaved....for the most part. Some of course like to challenge and push a bit but it is nothing too bad like what I have experienced from some students in the States.

The Summer is beginning now and I am glad to have the time off. However, it doesn't seem that the students get too much time off. I just sat down at my desk and discovered a paper that lays out the student's homework for the summer!! It seems that the Japanese never take a break. So one term down and five more to go! We are enjoying it!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Interesting

So, the law is changing now for smokers in Japan. Now, all smokers have to register for a certain kind of identity card specifically for the purchase of tobacco. Starting on the 1st of July no one in Japan can purchase cigarettes without this card but even further action has been taken to prevent underage smoking. I received this email from the Japanese newsletter I subscribe to and I found today's article interesting and wanted to share.

from Namiko Abe
I read an article about a tobacco vending machine that can detect if the purchaser is a minor. In some countries, the purchase of tobacco can be very strict. In Japan, it can be easily purchased from vending machines, which are located everywhere. This newly developed machine has a built-in camera that measures facial wrinkles, pupil size and other features. The population of smokers is quite high in Japan. It is 29.2 % (as of 2007) and the fifth highest in the world following Greece, Turkey, Netherlands and Hungary. I think people are concerned about health nowadays, but when I was little, the men of my dad's age were almost all smokers. I wonder how effective this new machine will be in preventing youth from smoking?

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Where is the Relief to the Pressure?

It all started when one of my friends (who is fluent in Japanese) was talking to another teacher in the break room. He said one sentence in Japanese that confused me because of all that was eliminated from it. He said, "eki kara demo" which means "station from also" however we would reorder that to say....But, what about from the station? But, you see, this is the thing about the Japanese language...much is omitted from the sentences. Many times it is the subject. Can you imagine speaking English and almost always leaving out the subject in your sentences? I know I can't. As Americans, words are very important to us. We need them to understand. Well chosen words create good writers, good speakers, good teachers, etc. This has been one of the difficult things for me in comprehending the Japanese language. Much is omitted from sentences. So, then, how do you know what someone is talking about? The answer: you pay VERY close attention and you try to guess. Yes, guess. Foriegners have to do more quessing, I think, because the culture isn't our own. But, if you are Japanese, you should know what the other person is thinking, feeling, wanting. You should assume. It is expected that you should get it right. Talk about pressure!

The Japanese, being raised in this expectation have an uncanny ability to figure this out. However, if they are wrong, they immediately feel shamed and embarassed. There is no room for failure in this culture. Many students don't speak up in class for fear they will be wrong. When my students finish the simpilest of exercises and I try to check it, they quickly cover it and say, "not yet". Then proceed to check and recheck and this worksheet isn't even for a grade. Put this mentatlity into a work environment. If your boss requests something of you, you don't ask too many questions. You figure out what he wants and you check and recheck to make sure it's right. The result....long working hours and a lot of stress. Because the expectation is that you should know.

I learned this while my friend explained it to me after I asked questions about his sentence. The language reflects the culture or rather the culture reflects the language. Which one, I am not sure, maybe it is both. Not linear but ciclical. As I pondered all this new information and tried to wrap my American/Western mind around it I wondered about all of this in realtionship to knowing Jesus Christ. So, I asked. How can the Japanese understand grace when it doesn't exist in their own culture? How do they see this picture of Jesus? How do they even explain it? I got an answer from one of the Bible Teachers at this school who happened to be standing at the sink. Her answer was something like this: Some Japanese come to see this grace because it has been shown to them through other believers from other countries (i.e. America, Canada, Australia, England, on and on). The Japanese see grace in other people and then can therefore come to understand for themselves in relationship with a loving God who doesn't "shame" you if you fail.

I began thinking about Matthew 9: 36-38. "When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, "The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field." Please pray with me that the Lord would send His workers. That out of Japan, out of other countries, He would bring His laborers to love on these people. These people who know pressure but not a burden that is light. They know shame but not grace to redeem. My heart breaks for this culture. They need Jesus. He has so much love to give them, pray their hearts would be open to receive it.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Lost in Translation

A funny thing happened today in class. I was teaching my students adjectives that describe people. For example, artistic, athletic, musical, funny, friendly, and smart. Well, with each word I asked my students to give an example of the teachers at the school whom they thought matched the adjectives. I would give them suggestions and they would either agree or disagree. However, something really funny happened when we got to the word smart. I gave an example of a male scienct teacher and the girls began to laugh a lot!! They noticed the confused look on my face and said...in broken English....That teacher is not slim! Realizing what was happening I began to laugh. I learned something new today...smart in Japan means slim. How those connect or are related I have no idea but it is just too funny. Oh, the joys of living in another country. :)

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Good Times

I just got back from a wonderful weekend with a couple of my friends. Alina and I went down to visit our friend, Millie in Kobe. It was such a wonderful and nice break from the crowds and stiffness of the city. In the Kansai area (southern part), men gave up their seats for us and help me with my luggage!! I have NEVER had that in Tokyo. So, I was thankful to get a little "Southern Hospitality".

One night we went to a Bath House where we lounged around in several different "types" of saunas. (No, we weren't naked in this kind of "Stone Spa"). We went with two of Millie's friends from here in Japan. These two women were TOO much fun!! Since they knew what they were doing they were our "tour guides" in the spa. Our first room was a HOT salt room. We laid on rocks of salt and let the heat consume us. The temp was 55 C!! Yes, that's 131 F! After each hot room you go into a cold room. It reminded me of a really fancy walk in cooler in a restaurant. :) Then it was off to the charcoal room. Japanese believe in the healing properties of charcoal. The marbled stoned floor was heated we had to run out because it was so hot. But it was wonderful while we were laying in there. (p.s. we are given a hug towel to lay underneath us while we relax) That room was around 44 degree Celsius. After another quick stay in the Ice room we made our way to a wonderful room. It smelled of cedar and cloves. Its was so sweet and a delight on the senses. It wasn't too strong at all! This spa was absolutely wonderful! We had such a good time! Also, on this trip I participated in my first Yoga class! Wow! Talk about amazing. Why i haven't done it before, I don't know but I was sure missing out. Great exercise with minimum impact. PERFECT! And you feel great afterwards.

The trip was such a delight. It was relaxing and peaceful. I really hope I get to go to Kobe again soon. It would even be great if one day we could live there!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Answers to Emi's Questions

One of my favorite people posted these questions on my comments and I wanted to take the time now to answer them! Thanks Emi for asking!

1) What is the life of a child (ages 6-12)in Japan like, from what you have observed?

The life a child in Japan seems to be very similar to that of a child in the states. Go to school, come home and eat, homework, and then off to bed.

2) What sports are in Japan?

Japan has many of the same sports that are in the states. But some are more popular than others. Baseball is a very popular sport and tennis is increasing in popularity. Basketball and Football are not so popular.

Tamasei (the school where we work) has a LARGE variety of sports that are imported. Basketball, Volleyball, Softball, Tennis, Rythmic Gymnastics, Dance, Cheerleading, Badminton. I think there are others but I am drawing a blank. Tamasei also has a traditional sports club known as Kendo (Japanese sword fighting with swords made from bamboo). Here are some pictures of a Kendo match we saw while we were in Nagano-ken at the Matsumoto Castle festival. P.S. These are not Tamasei students.

Getting ready for the match.


The fight is on!

3) What are the hot things to do in Japan?

Hmm....this is a good one. I think anything to do with friends. This includes going out to eat and hanging out and talking for a long time. (you can do that at restaurants here, where as in the states you eat and leave quickly) Free time is rare for adults in Japan. The Japanese work long hours sometimes seven days a week. College students mostly like to go out with their friends. One thing that is popular among young girls is Pulikula. This is a really fancy picture booth where you get to take fun and crazy pictures and then decorate them on a computer in all sorts of crazy ways afterward. The states should really get one of these things. Check out the example below. It's a lot of fun!

1) The Booth 2)Collection 3)The Decorating Monitor 4)Finished Product





4) What do they like to do during free time? (If they get any.)

For housewifes they like to go and chat for a long time with their friends or go shopping. For the men it is usually sleeping, golf, or using their free time to do more work.
A recent thing is for couples to go play tennis together with other couples.

Thanks for asking! Please feel free to ask more if you got 'em!!

Friday, June 13, 2008

Mundane

So, I think I always approach this blog writing thing thinking I need to give you some great story and while I may not do so good at that part I still put pressure on myself to make it worth your while....which i still want to do but today...i don't think I have anything worth while...just wanted to share a little of the mundane here in Japan. So, here goes....

Today my eye hurts. Not really sure why but I think it might have something to do with staring at the computer all day. Today at school is a light day of teaching so what I usually end up doing on Fridays after lesson planning for the next week, is sit and try to catch up on emails and facebook and other misc. tasks. So, that is why today I did a lot of staring at the computer. Yesterday was my birthday and a few of the people made it really special for me. Especially my husband. He is awesome! He bought me tickets to go see STOMP in July and I am super excited about it. This has always been something I have wanted to see!!

We are preparing for our trip to Hong Kong and India and it's hard to believe we will be leaving in about 7 weeks already. I can't wait and I am excited to share all of the pictures and adventures with yall. Also, classes are almost finished here. The last day of classes is July 9th! Hard to believe this semster is almost over! It feels like it just got started.

Today I need to go to the grocery store. I go about once a week and that is taking some getting used to. People in Japan don't buy in bulk. You only buy what you need for the week. Also, we just got our bikes!! Which I am so glad about! We bought one new and got another one for free used from a friend. This will make trips to the grocery store much easier! Thankfully!

Got any questions? Please feel free to ask! I would love to answer them! :)

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Summer is starting!

We are feeling the heat come on as the humidity in Japan begins to increase. I haven't worn my hair down all day since May because it turns into a ball of frizz after I leave the apartment. However, even though the weather may be uncomfortable we are still loving our jobs and we are currently in the process of deciding whether or not we want to stay until April 2o10. It's a tough call and we have been praying a lot and once we know I will update this thing. But, until then just wanted to share a few things about our time here that have been really funny or have just been fun because it is so different.

First....Story:
Jason and I go to Japanese lessons every Tuesday night and when we arrive there is a room where we have to take off our outdoor shoes, put them in the designated shoe lockers where we exchange them for slippers appropriate for indoors. You may not know this but this is the Japanese way. In many cases you remove your shoes before entering a building and put on indoor shoes or slippers. Well, when arrived at lessons the other night I took off my shoes and put them in the locker and got out my slippers. That night I wore flip-flops. I tell you this because flip-flops are NOT at all common in Japan because they look too much like indoor shoes. So after lessons were over I went to go put on my shoes. I opened the locker I thought I had put my shoes in only to discover a pair of black men's shoes. I thought to myself, "That's odd. Well, maybe I have the wrong locker." So, I checked all the other lockers and couldn't find my shoes. Then a thought popped into my head, "Ohh man, what if someone is wearing my shoes!?" So, I put the indoor slippers back on and headed into the lesson room. I told my teacher what I thought had happened and she got the biggest kick out of the possibility that someone had on my shoes. So, in the scuffle of it all other teacher's got involved and a search party bigger than was necessary began. It was quite humorous to watch us go around the room peeking under tables at peoples feet and getting questioning looks. But, then, I spotted my shoes across the room! And they were on some man's feet!! Now, what? I have never had to approach a stranger before to ask for my shoes back! I mean, what does a person say in that situation especially when the person isn't a native English speaker? All I could do was point, smile, and say, "Um, excuse me, you have on my shoes." In the background huddled around me are the Japanese teachers laughing at the awkwardness of the situation and trying to help me understand the mans rapid explanation. He was late and he didn't pay attention. So, we awkwardly exchanged shoes amidst the laughter and conversation (which I couldn't understand because it was all in Japanese) and I walked away with embarrassment and delight because this is really only the kind of thing that can happen in Japan.


Second.....video:
Coldstone in Japan. Even here they will sing one if you fling one!


video

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Smells that take you Home

Smells are an interesting thing. They are a catalyst to memories either sweet or bitter. I never really remember which smells will immediately take my mind back to a place or time until they wash over me or go floating by on the air. Smells immediately trigger emotions. Sometimes this is a refreshing escape and other times, scratches the surface of pain or sadness. Or, makes you recognize that what was once present in your life is momentarily or indefinitly absent.

I am in a place far away from the smells that are familiar to me. I have never noticed how removed I am from such familiarities until today as I was walking to the bathroom. In Japan, it is rare that you find hand towels in the public bathrooms. So unless you want to wipe your hands on your pants or wait until it dries, you have to carry your own hand towel around. So, in an effort to fit in a little better, I try to remember my hand towel. However, I often forget. Except for today....I remembered. As I grabbed my towel and dabbed it across my slightly sticky, sweaty face (Japanese don't get as hot as westerners so the AC isn't set quite as low and it is always humid here.) I was suprised by a familiar smell....downy fabric softner (this brand of fabric softener isn't as familiar here as it is in the states. So, finding some is a small accomplishment). Instantly, the fragrance made me feel comfortable, it made me feel familiar. In Japan, I am constantly aware that I am different. This isn't too terrible of a thing, it's just that it is always there. So, I was immediately thankful to have a smell that was an old companion. This land is full of unfamiliar smells....foods...air...insides of shops...everything it seems.

Although I was momentarily able to escape, I became aware of the familiarity that was missing here. Friends, family, language, stores, knowing where to go, how to cook, and the list goes on. This is just a part of the process. This is just a part of where the Lord has us. But, I am thankful for the days/moments when smells remind me of things that used to be part of my daily life. So, I was thankful that today, on my way to the bathroom, familiarity suprised me and took me home.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

The Beauty of Sakura (Japanese Cherry Blossom)

Cherry Blossoms in Ueno park along with the thousand of people.
Sakura (Cherry Blossom) with a Pagoda in the Background.
A close up of the blossom.
When I enter Heaven, I hope to see the beautiful Sakura there.
The Japanese love the Cherry Blossoms. The Sakura bloom in the Spring and sadly, their glory only lasts about a week. (I wish they could last a month or more.) There is even a group that "chase" the bloom of the cherry blossom. They start in the south and then work their way to the north. The Japanese come out by the millions to see these trees in various parks around the country. They put tarps down and have picnics under the tent of blossoms. You can't see it in the pictures but people are squeezed in close underneath the trees. Here they laugh, drink, and relax. Which is rare for the Japanese. I may be silly, but I see this Sakura season as the Lord giving grace and mercy to these people. I see the blossoming of the trees as the Lord's deep love for these people who don't know Him. He calls them out to sit beneath His creation and to give them a time of rest. He showers them with beauty and beckons them. He is the True Giver who mercifully gives even if those who receive the gift don't acknowledge Him.

To the Japanese, the Sakura are a strong symbol of the breath of a life against time. Meaning, once we bloom we are only here for a short while to make it beautiful. I love this analogy. It is another way that the Lord teaches His lessons through His creation. He uses the grape vine, the fig tree, the mountains, the valleys, the deserts, and on and on to teach us about His character and His nature. I pray that the Japanese's hearts would be captured by the beauty of God in His world and that they would see that it is the Lord who has made all these things. They do appreciate nature and creation but they turn and give thanks to false gods. I pray the Lord would rip through this deception and instead they would worship Jesus for the beauty of His world. Please pray with me for this. Amen!

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Back in the swing of things....sort of.

We are back in Japan! I am thankful to be here and I am excited/nervous/scared about becoming a teacher all over again. For some people, it seems, teaching comes really easy. I have many friends who are teachers and they seem to do it with so much confidence and ease. I'm really afraid I am just going to suck. They, whoever "they" is, say that you need confidence. Where can I find that? and how much does it cost? because I am all out.

I know that it will all be ok. I know that in my head but it doesn't keep the rest of me from freaking out just a little bit. I know that the Lord will sustain me and give me wisdom but I am just going to have to walk through all of the awkward newness to understand that in my heart; For the Truth to spill and saturated me until I am in peace along with Him. Underneath it all, I am excited.

Things have gone a lot smoother this time around and we arrived just in time to see the Cherry Blossoms (Sakura) pop out. They are so beautiful. Think "Last Samurai" and you will have a glimpse of that tree. Jason and I are looking forward to going into Tokyo tomorrow to take some pictures of the trees. The weather here is really nice right now. It's a perfect temperature and it's not very humid. Which is nice because come summer I drip like a water faucet. The Japanese carry around hand towels to wipe the sweat off their faces and backs of their necks. However, the women don't wipe....they pat.

I appreciate Japan. I am very glad we are here.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The Makings of A Good Almond Bar

There is something I would like to share with yall. It is a recipe that I got from my sister-in-law, Michelle for Almond Bars. It is simple in all aspects. My husband and I LOVE them and, if you give it a try, I hope you will too.

Almond Bars

1 1/2 C. Sugar
1 1/2 C. Flour
1 1/2 sticks of Butter (softened)
2 eggs
1 tsp. Vanilla Extract
4 tsp. Almond extract

Spread into greased 9X9 pan. Sprinkle generously with sugar before baking. Bake 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until light brown.

ENJOY!

Saturday, February 23, 2008

A Few Picks of Our Travels

We have been to a lot of places since we have been back to the states. Just the other day we counted how many states we had been to in the past two months. We have been to: Texas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri, Kansas, Iowa, Nebraska, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. This brings our grand total to ten states in just 60 days. Now, I know some people can easily surpass us with how much they may travel for business or many other reasons but we are quite shocked by it. We are tired but grateful for our time. So, to commemorate some of our travels I have included some of our pictures from the trip.



A sunset in Iowa in December.

Before we made it to Jason's family Christmas in Nebraska, we headed into Branson to visit many of our friends. The first pic is of me with the amazing, Angela Dube and the second is with the fantastic, Kati Burkdoll.

We had a great time with Jason's family at Christmas. Here is Teresa, Jason's sister, playing with our niece, Samantha. Samantha belongs to Colleen and Erik. Colleen is Jason's second oldest sister.

Some more of the Kuiper family making some Christmas memories.

After Christmas at the Kuiper family we went skiing with my family in Red River, New Mexico. It was soo much fun to be with the Marcum family. Jason and I learned how to snowboard and there was a lot falling as well as aches and pains. The picture below on the left is of Kelly, my sister and her boyfriend, Logan. Logan was a great teacher. On the right is a picture of Jason and me acting like snowboard pros....yeah right.

We were able to be in Boyd for my youngest sister, Sarah's, 16th birthday party. I got a picture of the cake and not much else. Sorry, sis. :( I think i just really liked the candles. hehe.

Jason and I got to visit Memorial Stadium. Home to my husband's favorite team, the Nebraska Huskers. Here we are posing in the Heisman Trophy room with our best Heisman stance we could muster up. The bottom left picture is of us standing inside of Memorial Stadium and the bottom left is the outside of the arena. I felt a little like a cheater..you know, going and looking at all that Husker paraphanalia. I'm a Red Raider at heart but I did it to support my husband. However, I did sing the Matador's song inside my head from time to time. I guess it was my weird little way of proving my loyalty. Silly.











After our trip in Nebraska we journeyed further north to Wisconsin. Here we are with Nate, Jason's cousin, and Nate's wife, Summer in a local coffee shop. They taught us how to play cribbage which is now our favorite game. Also, on this particular day it was -40 degrees outside. I don't think I have been in that cold of weather in my life. Phew. After Eau Claire, Wisconsin we went to Milwaukee to visit Jason's sister, Colleen and her family. We had so much fun playing with our niece, Clara in the snow.


We have had such a great time and it isn't over yet. We are in Texas now and I plan on taking more pictures of our time here. I will post those next.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

The Count Down Begins

Today is February 20, 2008 and we leave for Japan on March 19th. It’s hard to believe it is now less than a month before we take off for Tokyo for the second time. This time when we go back to Japan we will be living about 50 minutes closer to Tokyo which puts Tokyo only about a 15 minute train ride away.

We will be teaching conversational English at an all girls Christian school. The school has about 1,000 Junior and Senior High students. We have already visited the school and we are looking forward to getting to know the students.

We are also excited to see our friends in Japan again. We have just recently committed to going on an adventure to India in August with several of our friends. I am looking forward to the adventure and getting to experience another culture. We also have hopes to explore some of China, Malaysia, Australia, New Zealand, Korea, or Thailand. It would be great to visit all of these countries but even just two would be wonderful.

I feel more comfortable about going to Japan this time around. The first time I was really nervous but this time I am super excited. I believe it has something to do with knowing what we are getting ourselves into this go-around.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

2008 Hopes

Many of my friends have a "to do" List for their lives. On this list my friends put things that they hope to do one day no matter how big or small. These lists include such things as running half-marathons, going rock climbing and milking cows. So, I began to think about starting a list that is similar. Instead of a life to do list I would like to create a "to do" list to be accomplished in one year. Here it goes....
  • Learn how to speak Japanese enough to have a small conversation
  • Run a half-marathon
  • Memorize 1st, 2nd, and 3rd John
Ok....so maybe this list isn't that long. If you have any suggestions or have done fun things that you think I should try please give me a comment and let me know. I am taking suggestions.
Love to you all!