Saturday, October 17, 2009

Funny Engrish

I can never quite figure out Japan and their English...or Engrish. You see, the Japanese often get their "R"s and "L"s confused. For example, when playing "Scattagories" with some of my English students and they were having to come up with nouns that began with the letter "L" they came up with "Lalph Lauren" instead of Ralph Lauren for a brand name. Or, a sign that is near our neighborhood has a picture of a lit match with a circle and crossed out that reads, "No Open Frame". It happens quite often.

Well, not only do they get their "L"s and "R"s mixed up but they also have the most interesting/confusing English translation on their signs and products. When my mom was visiting Japan I would often see her staring intently on a sign or reading a t-shirt trying to figure out what the shirt was saying. "Mom," I said, "Don't even try to figure it out. It doesn't make sense."

Lately, we have spotted many signs and advertisements reminding people of etiquette (train etiquette, social etiquette). Which have proven to be some of the most consistently entertaining signs. Below are some of these pics. I hope you enjoy them as much as we do.

Friday, October 16, 2009

The Sweet Taste of Bitterness

Have you ever wonder what God tastes like? The Isrealites believe the taste of honey is the taste of God. Not that God tastes like honey but that to taste Him is sweet. I think somewhere along the way I had forgotten this.

One night at the small group we attend we were having worship. I was singing a song that I had heard many many times. The familiarity had lost it's meaning. I was disconnected from the message of the music and my heart was not worshiping the Lord. The Holy Spirit brought this to my attention. "Lord" I asked, "what has happened to me? What has happened to my relationship with you?" I thought to myself, "there was a time in my walk with You when it didn't matter what song I sang or how many times I sang it because I got to be with you during worship. I used to be so excited to sing to you no matter how "familiar" the song."

Then He brought to my mind a verse I had heard and memorized about 7 years ago.....
"He who is full loathes honey.
But, to he who is hungry
even what is bitter tastes sweet."
-Prov. 27:7

I had become full. Full of pride and of thinking that I needed some other teaching that was "deeper" or "more intellectual". Or, some music that was newer with "fresh" lyrics. I am ridiculous....I am prideful. God revealed to me that I had come to loathe the sweet taste of Him. I wouldn't even open my mouth to "eat" because my pride had me thinking I was full.

I was convicted. I prayed and the Lord brought another verse, "He who humbles himself will be exalted." Humble yourself, abby....that's what the Lord was saying to me. The Lord revealed to me all the ways that I had allowed myself to foolishly think I could be or was ever full of Him. Then, suddenly, things began to taste sweet again.

I had forgotten the joy of obedience, the beautiful gift of surrender, and the peace from humility. The Lord, since He reminded me of this verse six weeks ago, has been so near to me. Really, He has always been this near to me...I just never realized that I was so hungry. He has renewed my heart and spirit and soul. My heart is overwhelmed by His love and His pursuit of me. He did not correct me with condemnation but with a gentle reminder spoken from His Love for me which I do not deserve nor did anything to obtain. He gives freely.

Now, everything tastes sweet again...even that which is "bitter".

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Airline Present and Jason's Humor

On our flight to Okinawa the very nice airline gave gifts to all the children on the flight. There wasn't really any great choice for an infant so we went with what looked the most interesting to us. So even though this present is meant for children Jason and I had too much fun playing with the toys ourselves. (Warning some images not appropriate for children :) ) And had a tribute to the movie "Napoleon Dynamite" in the process.

The package reads: Kisenue Doubutsu (Dress the Animals...roughly translated)

The package included two plastic four-legged animals and small pieces of reversible cloth with velcro that had patterns resembling a cow, a cheetah, a tiger, a zebra, and a little band for the mane of a lion.

A zebra (didn't you know that zebras have wiskers?!?) and a tiger....

The reverse side: A cow and a cheetah...

A lion and a tiger....OH MY!!!

The result of a lion and a tiger....ah hmm....a LIGER!!

Oh, the things we do for entertainment on an airplane!

Monday, September 28, 2009

Okinawa: A trip to the Aquarium

We really wanted to see the aquarium while we were in Okinawa. Which may not seem like the most exciting of things to do but the truth is, we love aquariums. We visited an aquarium in Vancover, Canada on our honeymoon and now it seems we are trying to visit as many cool aquariums as possible in as many different coutries as possible.
So far we have a grand total of.... 3 (US, Canada, Japan).

We dressed Deacon in a sailor outfit for the outing. Seemed appropriate. :)

He is excited to see the whale shark and Manta Rays!

We had a long taxi journey to the was about an hour and half drive from our hotel!! A little piece of information the travel agent failed to tell us when we bought the package with an aquarium visit. Chalk it up to language barrier. But, we made the best of it and we were able to "rent" a taxi for 6 hours for a reasonable price. Deacon fell asleep on the journey holding my water bottle!

A picture of a VERY large viewing area. One of the biggest or the biggest in the world. I posted several pics so you can see the massive size of the glass, the size of the manta rays, and the size of the whale shark. There are people on the bottom of the pictures so you can get an idea of scale.

The viewing glass...

The Manta Ray...check out that wing span! Their wing span can get up to 6 feet in length.

Whale Shark...easily the largest sea creature I have ever seen in person.

There was a model to demonstrate the thickness of the glass. It's a little hard to tell but from Deacon's left shoulder to the tip of the brochure is how thick the glass is. It has to be to with stand the pressure. I think it measured somewhere around 2 feet??

We caught a dolphin show (always one of my faves) and Jason got us a coconut drink. That is a real coconut we are drinking from. Very "Cast Away"-ish only A LOT easier to get to. We had the help of a guy with a machete.

Also, we stumbled up this...Sea turtles in buckets. Not a main attraction and I don't think it's meant to be seen by guests but entertaining none-the-less.

A sea turtle not in a bucket....maybe they rotate? Deacon enjoyed watching them.

It was a day of family fun!

Friday, September 25, 2009

First Family Vacation!! Okinawa...a Trip to the Beach

After the many visitors that came to see us in August we got to take a family trip down to Okinawa. It was nice to get away from the craziness of Tokyo for a couple of days and enjoy our first vacation with our son, Deacon.

Deacon had his first Japanese domestic plane ride. He did awesome! Slept almost the whole way. However, right when we sat down on the plane Deacon's diaper failed to do it's job. Jason turns to me and says, "I feel something warm. Did he pee all over me?" Nope...pee would have been much better. Poop got all over Jason's pants and in between his legs onto the airplane seat. We were incredibly unprepared! I am usually prepared..extra clothes, wipes, diapers, towels, etc. But, nope, not this time. We only had a couple of wipes left which made clean-up some what of a challenge. To add to the terrible timing of the moment the crew and passengers had to wait until we got cleaned up to take-off. But, the Japanese being who they are, continued to ask if we needed help in any way and never once told us to hurry because they were waiting on us. They showed us a lot of grace in many ways.

Checking out the aquarium in the airport.

When we arrived to our hotel we decided we would go check out the beach. It was quite a sunny day and on our walk back from the beach Deacon decided to bury his head into the crook of Jason's arm.

And, now, that's how he likes to fall asleep when Dad is holding him! Too funny! Always makes me giggle.

View from our room down to the pool.

Day at the Beach!!

First time in the Pacific Ocean!

Tired Baby

Beach days are always great days!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

The A-bomb Dome and Peace Memorial Museum in Hiroshima

Nagasaki and Hiroshima are the two cities that the United States dropped atomic bombs on towards the end of World War II. Last year Jason took a school trip to Nagasaki. On that trip he visited the A-bomb Memorial site. After hearing his stories of what he saw and heard there I knew that before we left Japan I needed to see one or both museums.

My sisters came to visit us in August and we all decided that we would journey down from Tokyo to Hiroshima to see the A-bomb Museum and Memorial Center. I don't think I was quite prepared to see all that I saw. It could be easy to walk into that place and just numb out. It could be very simple to experience it only with your mind and not your emotions. After all, pushing your emotions aside would be the safe way to walk through such a museum. That way you don't have to deal with the questions that will inevitably come....God, why did you allow this?? Why are the hearts of man so evil?? As an American, how do I respond to this horror that we caused on a nation??

My tears flowed as I walked through each room. Being a mom has now made my heart more vulnerable, i think. My heart would ache and the tears would come very easily at the stories of children who were killed during the explosion of the bomb. After a while I had to take a break from listening to the stories on my headset. Whole families, bloodlines were wiped out. So many people suffered so terribly.

If it is ever possible for you to visit the Memorial Museums in either Nagasaki or Hiroshima I think it is necessary you do so. Every person should visit it so they can see the damage, horror, destruction done by the use of nuclear weapons.

Below are some pictures of our trip to the museum and Peace Memorial Park. We didn't take many pictures inside the museum because I think we just didn't think about it. I guess our minds were preoccupied.

A-bomb Dome: The Hiroshima Industrial Promotion Hall was constructed in 1915. On August 6, 1945 it was instantly destroyed by the first atomic bombing in human history. Flames enveloped the ceiling of the dome and consumed the entire building, killing everyone within. The parts of the walls, which withstood the blast because it came from above, together with the steel frame have become a symbol of Hiroshima. (taken from a brochure)

There were many strands of 1,000 cranes hung around the Memorial Tower to the Mobilized Students.

The Japanese have a legend that states that anyone who folds 1,000 cranes will be granted one wish. Sadako Sasaki was a small school girl who believed in this tale. She was diagnosed with leukemia as a result of the radiation from the atomic bomb. She tried to fold 1,000 cranes because she believed if she could then she would be healed. Sadako didn't live long enough to finish her goal. After her death, her school mates picked up where she left off and fulfilled her dream of making 1,000 cranes in her memory. Now, 1,000 cranes together has also become a symbol for peace.

Cenotaph for the A-bomb victims

This jacket was being worn by a female student when the bomb dropped.

A picture of the aftermath (1 of 2)

Continuation of previous picture (2 of 2)

A drawing in the museum. "Injured with Their Clothes Torn Apart and Skin Hanging Down" The artist said this, "The injured were silently escaping for the suburbs like ghosts along the bank with their hair disheveled, clothes torn apart, and skin hanging down. They looked like nothing on earth." Drawn by, Kichisuke Yoshimura

A model showing the hypocenter and the destruction. Homes were wiped away as though nothing had ever been there.

The warhead

"Shinichi Tetsutani (then 3 years and 11 months) loved to ride this tricycle. That morning, he was riding in front of his house when, in a sudden flash, he and his tricycle were badly burned. He died that night. His father felt he was too young to be buried in a lonely grave away from home, and thinking he could still play with the tricycle, he buried Shinichi with the tricycle in the backyard.

In the summer of 1985, forty years later, his father dug up Shinichi's remains and transferred them to the family grave.

The tricycle and helmet were donated to the Peace Memorial Museum." (taken from the plaque that accompanied the tricycle)

Glass jars that melted together instantly from the intense heat of the bomb.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The End of India...Finally

On the third morning of our trip I woke up with a fever and an extreme case of dehydration. I could barely move. It was decided that it was best to take me to a small village called Kaza which was about a 3 hour drive away. There was a hospital there. Cheryl Barton went with me since Jason had to drive the motorcycle. Let me tell you how amazing and timely it was that I got sick where I did...we were out in the middle of nothing. Had I been sick one or two days later finding a place to take me would have been extremely difficult. If I had to get sick, the timing and location were perfect. :)

Along the drive I was in and out of sleep or consciousness...not sure which. However, I did wake up to the sound of a VERY loud boom....the sound of an explosion. I was almost positive we were being shot at but, as I learned later, we had barely cleared dynamite being detonated. As we were driving a man was running towards our vehicle screaming and waving his arms to stop. Our driver decided it was best not to because he was afraid the man was a robber and he didn't want to take a risk with two white women in the car. When the dynamite went off our driver was VERY angry....he said the man should have had a red flag or some kind of marker. Out there worker men don't wear brightly colored vests with reflective tape....just pants and sometimes a shirt.

When we arrived at the hospital I saw the doctor and he decided to admit me right away. He had diagnosed me with extreme dehydration, altitude sickness, and an infection that he was unsure of but would do blood tests for. I am not quite sure how to describe the hospital to you. The walls were made of bare cinder block. There was no glass on some of the windows. The electricity was out and in order for it to come on the doctor had to requisition it if/when he had to do procedures that required the use of machines. And the most disgusting toilets....well, at least not ones with running water due to some renovation of the plumbing that had apparently taken much longer than originally projected. The only clean toilet was outside about 100 meters away from the hospital behind a locked door and you had to ask the nurse for a key....that is if you could find the nurse. Inside there were toilets but NOT at all clean and wouldn't you know it....a case of diarhea decides to hit me. The only place to go was in a toilet where every square inch of the concrete floor was covered in human feces....feces piled in the corner like a pyramid...smeared into the was every where. It was awful....I still slightly gag when I think about it. It has taken months for me to get to this point where I can talk about it without gagging. I didn't quite make it to the toilet and as a result had to change clothes in that that was a trick! Feverish, shaky, clammy, light-headed, nasueas, and incredibly thirsty whilst trying to put on clean clothes with out dragging my pants leg through poop. believe it or not, i made it out of there without poop on the pants!! In the pants, however, not quite as fortunate. :)

While this hospital was lacking in many of the modern day technologies, the staff and the doctor were amazing. I had to receive an IV drip for my dehydration and this cute little plump nurse with missing teeth, leathered skin, gray hair tied back in a bun, and bright eyes was very skilled at getting that IV in my arm. She also had to draw blood and that was one of the most painless blood draws I have ever had. Her English was limited but we got along just fine with smiles and gestures. She may have been in a poor part of the world but she knew what she was doing when it came to her job.

Also, I had a wonderful roommate in my little hospital room. Gatuk was a 22 year old woman with kidney stones. She was in pain but that didn't stop her from changing out her own IV bag when it came time. I was impressed....I had no idea how to change my IV bag but Gatuk worked it with great skill and ease. I thought maybe she was a nurse also but nope, she was a teacher. She was from Nepal and had a two-year old son....she told me repeadetly how much she missed her baby and how badly she wanted to hold him again. She was worried about me because she had overheard that I was pregnant. She didn't say much to me about it but would often just stare at me with a worried look on her face.

It took me four days to recover. I slept a lot and often worried and prayed for the safety of the little one in my tummy. But, over and over again, I could feel the Lord saying to me that the baby was safe and to not fear.

When we headed out I still wasn't 100% better so I decided to ride laying down in the SUV for much of the first day back on the road. Our very last day of the trip I rode with Jason the whole way. It was quite fun and the roads were a little smoother. We got to camp out under beautiful skies the next few days.

We returned to Manali (where we started) and I was elated to be able to shower. I didn't shower for 5 days and I STUNK to high heaven!! I was happy to be back in Manali because, while I had a wonderful time, I was ready to go back to Japan. India had kicked me in my hind parts! We spent one full day in Manali before our return to New Delhi. The day before we left we had another scare with the pregnancy. I was spotting. We decided to take me to a mission hospital in Manali. My mind was racing all over the place. I kept praying and clinging to the Lord for His peace. "Lord, not my will but your's be done" Still over and over again I kept hearing Him say the baby was safe and not to fear. I am so thankful the Lord is so faithful to speak to us and give us His peace. He is so loving to His children. The trip to the hospital was filled with tears, I got scolded by a 22 year old doctor for riding motorcycles on the road we went down (it was extremely rough in parts). I put my hands in my face and said "i know, I know...I should've known better!" She immediately grabbed me (she was all of 5 foot) and hugged me and said everything would be ok just no more motorcycles. (i thought to myself after the doctor's appointment...duh, pregnant women aren't even allowed on roller coasters! what the heck was I thinking getting on a motorcycle!!!??) The exam and the sonogram showed that the baby was still tucked away safely inside. I was filled with relief and many tears were shed by our group at the good news.

Our trip in India was the trip of a life time. I am so thankful we went and got to see and do all that we got to see and do. Sadly, I still can't eat curry. :( I hope one day I will be able to again.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

India Trip (video)

Sorry for the shakiness of the video but here we are starting off. Notice the paved didn't stay that way for long.

Friday, June 5, 2009

India (Part 2) Into the Himalayas

The continuation on India (part 1)

So, after Taj Mahal we made the journey back into Delhi to stay at our guest house for the night. We were staying at a Tibetan Refugee Camp/Complex. It was quite an interesting stay. Twice during the night we heard knocks at our door which didn't help me sleep very comfortably. Throughout the day at the Taj Mahal and on our drive back into Delhi I constantly found myself hiding my face and my hair behind my hooded jacket because anytime we would stop at any point on the road for an amount of time beggars would bang on our windows. We were instructed not to look at them but only hold up a hand and wave them off. Outside of the Taj Mahal a little boy, who wasn't more than 10, came up to me selling something. I am not sure what he was selling because I wasn't interested in his merchandise but rather, his story. This was a first for me....a child beggar following me for 20 paces or more begging and pleading that I buy from him. Whining and exclaiming and pleading for my money. How did he get here? Was he doing this willingly? Does he get to go to school? Does he do this everyday? The begging happened on so many different old woman outside of our guest house in Delhi, the little boy, the teenage boy who beat on my window with a force that I thought it would shatter, the little girl wanting me to buy newspapers, this all happening in the first day and of course, it wouldn't be the last. So, when the knocks on the door of our room came late at night I was just sure someone was looking for us and any money we had. My fear is ridiculous...these people (for the most part) aren't criminals....they are the poor. I fear that maybe some where along the way I have merged the two....or at least I do when I am confronted by them which causes me to not see them. Sigh.....i have a long way to go and a lot to learn.

Early the next morning we hopped into another van and this time headed for a much longer trip into a village at the foothills of the Himalayas called Manali. It was about a 12-14 hour (can't remember exactly) car ride but thankfully this time we had AC! From Manali we would begin our motorcycle ascent into the Himalayas. Our route was initially meant to take us into Leh which is in Kashmir State but upon our arrival in Manali to discuss our travel plans with our guide we learned that there was civil unrest and protests in that state and it would no longer be safe for us to travel there. So, we had to plan another route. Which was actually really great as the altitudes on the new route were lower than those of the original route and I, because I was pregnant, was unable to take the altitude sickness medication. However, we would still be reaching altitudes of around 14-15,ooo feet. I had never been this high before in my life. I was worried about altitude sickness as it is NOT something to mess around with.

The next morning we began our 9 day journey. Now, I have to brag on my husband....he had NEVER driven a motorcycle before...well, actually he had but only two times and not on any long excursion but rather up and down a small street in tokyo on our friend mike's bike. Flat paved streets cannot compare to rocky, pot-holed "roads" of our Himalayan trek. and Jason worked it like a pro. Jugdish (not at all how you spell his name but that's how i remember to pronounce it) one of the 8 member crew told me by the end of the trip that Jason was a very good driver. I can attest to that too. Jason had to drive across some rocky passes through rushing water. If he had made one wrong move he would have been over the say I was nervous during those moments is an understatement. Terrible scenarios were playing in my head at such crossings. The common one...."my child is going to grow up fatherless!" But, praise God for His faithfulness for He protected us in SO many ways on our excursion.

Now, I won't break down every day of the journey, that would take to long and become a little monotonous because the days (for the most part) went something like this.....get up, eat breakfast, climb on the bikes, bike until lunch, after lunch we would bike until we made it to our camp grounds which was usually around dinner time. The things we saw and the people we met are something I will never forget. Nor will I ever forget how sick I was. I was more sick than I had been in all of my life and this is no exaggeration but I will get to that part later. I have some, unique stories to go along with that.

So we left Manali and wound our way up into the foothills of the Himalayas. They were astoundingly beautiful. Also along the way I got my first glimpse of a Yak! He/She didn't do much. ;)
Here are some pics of our first few days of travels.....

Here's where we began....Manali

This is a view from our guest house of Manali.

The Helmets....protecting our heads for only $3 USD!

One of Jason's shots of our bikes....

Starting off...

As we rode up a heavy fog began to descend over the mountains and brought with it some cold rain.

Our camp grounds on night 1....and there are our wet clothes drying after we got soaked from the first day's ride.

The next morning....can you believe what we got to wake up to? We arrived at dusk and under fog so the clear skies were a wonderful treat the next morning. The blue in the skies was some of the most clear blue skies I have ever seen.

View from our campsite the first morning.

Three of the eight crew members that followed us and set up camp for us. In this picture (L to R) is our cook, our mechanic, and the driver that followed us with our clothes and water. These were some fun guys and super helpful.

Day 2...I'm not smiling. Not for any particular reason....I guess I just missed the cue.

Stopping for some tea. India has the best tea. Chai...but it's not your Starbucks chai or anything else found in the grocery's just delicious beyond words.

THE YAK! with a saddle...which cracks me up! and I can't help but sing to myself..."yakkity yak...don't talk back"

Jason...this is actually a day 1 pic but doesn't he look good on this thing!? :)

Encountering a heard of sheep and goats. There were lots up there.

And here is our campsite for night number 2 where I got SICK as a dog. I climbed in and out of that tent approximately 8 times during the night to go throw up and know. And yes, it was all happening at the same time!!! I woke up dehydrated and feverish. So, morning 3 began with a mad dash to a small village hospital about a 3 hour drive away.....I'll pick up there next time.