Saturday, June 28, 2008

Going Fishing

When learning a new language ones confidence level often does nose dives. Feeling illiterate, and/or incompetent are often normal feelings during language learning. While there are times that I fly high thinking - "Yippee, I understood what she/he said!" There have also been times when I'm in tears trying to grasp a concept or figure out how communicate my point or read a sentence. While looking at language mistakes as learning opportunities is a good idea - depending on the situation - there are times when I'm just not able to laugh at my mistakes.

"I don't get this - YET." "I will understand this - maybe not to day - but I will get it." Are some key phrases I've been repeating to keep a positive attitude while staring at a seemingly incomprehensible grammar forms and confusing writing systems . That and "God - help me!"

I've asked numerous people to pray for my language learning process (THANK YOU! - I can't imagine doing this without your prayers!) - one request I've had was that I'd have opportunity to practice what I'm learning in the community. WELL, it seems the "language partners" have been coming right to my front door!

In the last few weeks I've had sporadic Japanese visitors come to the door to initiate conversations with me.
I've also had telephone marketers that are trying to convince me to visit a new apartment building or photo processing service.

Today I visited a car dealership - to sit in some used cars (didn't actually test drive them - just sat in them). And again I found it amazing how many compliments one gets on Japanese when the other person is hoping you'll buy something from them.

Each time I interacted with these salespersons they complimented my Japanese (no matter how poorly I was speaking). Then they would ask how many years I'd been in Japan and show shock to learn I've only been here for 7 months - not years. Letting out a whole new round of ohhh's and ahhs,  "上手ですね!" "Jyouzu desu ne" which sort of means - "Skillfull isn't she".

Most Japanese think it's impossible for 外人 gaijin (translated as foreigners, literally "outside person") to learn their language. So no matter how poorly you speak Japanese you can often find people complimenting your attempts. I'm told when they stop complimenting your Japanese and instead interact with what you're actually saying, then you've reached the next level of competency.

Perhaps next time I'm feeling blue about my lack of language learning progress -I'll go fishing - I'll just strike up a conversation with a salesperson and wait to hear how WONDERFUL my Japanese is - perhaps this is the gaijin's way of fishing for compliments.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Classes, Quizzes, Cubes and Church

Random assortment of topics that wrap up my week and preview the next.

It was fun to attend the teleclass Wednesday morning - as they interviewed Robin Pascoe's on Raising Global Nomads. She is the author of the book Raising Global Nomads: Parenting Abroad in an On-Demand World. Amazing to have a virtual classroom spanning across various countries with 3 friends I know of in 3 different countries attending the same class.

My last week was filled with language school classes - learning various ways to communicate in patterns that seem to be counter-intuitive to an English speaker. Today - Friday, I have a day off and I'm using it to catch up on cleaning my house and doing laundry (Thankfully - although this is rainy season - today it's not raining - good since I hang my clothes on my balcony to dry). I've connected a new internet service/phone line, tried calling the states, and will be studying for next week's classes.

Next week will be a loaded week in class -
  • Monday - There is a Kanji quiz on the readings of our first 150 kanji (Chinese characters used in Japanese writing). And I am scheduled to give an oral presentation.
  • Tuesday - Is a Grammar Test covering the last month or so of classes and some verb forms I'm still working to understand. (transitive, intransitive, passive, and causitive)
  • Thursday - we'll have a Vocabulary Quiz
  • Monday another Kanji quiz on the next 150 Kanji readings.
The current Japanese semester continues until July 11. Then there is a 3 week summer term. Starting August 1, will have 2 weeks off of class before the fall semester starts August 18 - at least that's the plan.

Tomorrow I hope to be checking out cars in Tokyo.

While in the states I raised funds for a vehicle and after 7months in Japan avoiding the gas prices at 177 yen per liter - by using public transportation - I will soon be getting a car. (For you non-metric/non-yen using people that's about $6.70/gallon.) While its been nice not having had to worry about car issues during my first 7 months here - the time has come for me to get a car. The property management person on our field has been working diligently to find a car for me and found a few very real possibilities.

Car styles and names in Japan and US are different -a few interesting names include the - Fit, Life, Cube3, Vitz, Naked, Move, Moco, March. Basically I'm looking for a small car, that gets good mileage and enough space to hold passengers - at the right price. Saturday - I'll be going to a car dealership with a fellow missionary to get behind the wheel of a few cars and see how they fit. Right now the top possiblity for my future car is the Nissan CUBE3 (see above photo). I've learned this car may be released as a plug-in hybrid in the states with the name "Denki Cube" starting 2009. (Denki means electric in Japanese )

Church -
As the new missionary on the field one of my job responsibilities is to get to know the Japanese Baptist Churches in the Tokyo area. By doing this I build relationships with the pastors and church members as well as see various variations on "church" in Japan. I've visited at least 7 different churches - one with as few as 13 in attendance, and one that was the oldest in the denomination - but this weekend I'm headed to one of the largest churches in our denomination - they have 3 services on Sunday - Oono Christ Church in Sagamihara. In each service I will be talking about how God led me to became a missionary in Japan.

(I'm using the same topic as my oral presentation on Monday in Japanese class. There is one non-Christian student and one non-Christian teacher in my class so I'm curious to see how it will be received.)

Oono Church is about a 2 hour commute from where I live. Since I need to be there at 8am on Sunday I've arranged to stay overnight Saturday at my host family's home, a few train stops from Sagamihara. I haven't seen my host family for a month and am THRILLED to get to hang out with them. Especially since Saturday night is extended family night and the grandkids will be there too!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Worth waking up for at 5 AM!

I'm inviting you to join me and others around the world for the TCK teleconference - June 24.

I've recently learned about this amazing (free!) opportunity to learn from specialists - about the Third Culture Kid (TCK) community. In a teleconference/webcast - last week I tuned in to hear Ruth Van Reken, co-author of Third Culture Kids: The Experience of Growing Up Among Worlds, and Paulette Bethel, an international transition coach, talk about TCK relationships and grief. It's like a conference but without any travel or conference fees -- you can listen to it online or on the phone. It took place at 4 pm Eastern timezone which meant it was at 5am in Tokyo. however, I (who loves to sleep in!) found it worth waking up for!

This week (tomorrow!) it will be an interview with Robin Pascoe's on Raising Global Nomads. She is the author of the book Raising Global Nomads: Parenting Abroad in an On-Demand World.

The interview is interactive - and will cover the following topics . . .
* Preserve your family’s mental health before, during and following relocation.
* Identify with our child’s emotions during a move.
* Survive the challenges of parenting while abroad.
* Maintain one's co-parenting relationship in an overseas assignment.
* Navigate parenting abroad in an on-demand world.
* Benefit from “lessons learned” through Robin’s experiences of raising children abroad.

If you are a teacher, parent, and/or global nomad/TCK I highly encourage you attend.
If you a family member or in the support community of TCKs I think you'll find this very worth while for providing support to TCKs.

It's high quality and FREE! To learn more click here . Sign up to get the connection information, post a question if you have one and then at the appointed time in your time zone - grab your cup of coffee and join me in class.

EVENT: Robin Pascoe: Raising Global Nomads
Tuesday June 24, 2008.
Time: 1:00 PM (Pacific) / 4:00 PM (Eastern) / 9:00PM (London, England) / 5:00 AM (Tokyo, Japan).
DURATION: 60 mins (approximately)
FORMAT: Simulcast! (Attend via Phone or Online Webcast -- it's your

Friday, June 20, 2008

Shinjuku - Skyscraper city

Saturday, June 7, I went out to lunch with my friend, Mihwa and her daughter in Shinjuku (Western7 Tokyo) (A 35 minute train ride from my local station). We met at the station and then went to *Times Square/ Takashimaya Department store to find a unique place for lunch - most department stores have restaurants on the upper floors of the building. So we explored the 12-14 floors and enjoyed a fun walk along a terrace with an amazing view of the city. These photos are a result. In the above photo - we're looking at the Tokyo Tower in distance. For lunch - we went to the Blue Lotus - a Thai restaurant - great place for some very spicy green curry and tapioca dessert.

Shinjuku-gyoen (park) is an oasis of green within skyscrapers. We explored this park after lunch. For a few photos in the park click here for more roses click here,

The NTT (phone company?) building is just ahead in the photo above. This is the south exit/entrance of Shinjuku station - and the constant construction zone in front.
the photo below is looking in the same direction but with a better perspective of the area.

*Times Square is a large shopping center which contains a Takashimaya department store, Tokyu Hands (hobbies, hardware and craft) store, HMV and many other stores. There is an entertainment section including Tokyo IMAX Theatre. Next door is Kinokuniya - a large book store with one floor of foreign language books.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Dreaming in Japanese

Last night was the first time since arriving in Japan that I had a dream in Japanese.
I remember it quite clearly because when I woke up I had to concentrate to determine if it was a real experience from yesterday or a dream.

So, what did I dream? I was in Japanese class and we were discussing the schedule of classes for the week - recently the schedule has been different every day. Our conversation went like this . . .

Me: 明日は何時始まりますか?ashita wa itsu hajimarimasu ka?
(As for tomorrow - when do we start ?)

Then I heard my Japanese teacher say

"明日は休みですよ。” ashita wa yasumi desu yo!
(Tomorrow is a day off, remember.)

Then I woke up. It was all so real I had to ask myself - What day is it today? Did she really say today is a day off? Do we have class? Then I realized my teacher was wearing a black ski mask in the middle of summer - yep - most likely it was a dream!

Not sure I want to figure out the meaning of the black ski mask - but I figure it's my brain's way of saying - I WANT A DAY OFF!

Until the weekend arrives - I'll rely on afternoon naps and strong coffee in the morning! For now, I'm off to Wednesday Volleyball practice - time to move this tired body!

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Happy Father's Day!

Celebrating Father's Day 2006 - with a backyard BBQ - (Lisa grilled)

Above celebrating a birthday Feb. 2007,
below my family at my commisioning service Nov. 2007

To my Dad -

Some may know that you were a pastor, and that you now work for the Baptist General Conference coaching missionaries in ministry partner development (Yes, my dad was my coach, too). And if people have met you in person they've also probably seen your digital family photo album on your palm pilot and heard the latest news on what your daughters and granddaughters are up to. =0).

But they may not know about your wild side . . . Hope you have a great Father's day - Try not to get into too much trouble!

Saturday, June 14, 2008

The Visitor

Read the "Prelude to the Visitor" post here first. What follows is part 2 . . .


Last week Saturday morning there was a man at the door asking in Japanese for “Mehn-san”. (san can be translated as Ms., Mrs., or Mr.) The Visitor had introduced himself but I couldn’t understand what his job was and quickly forgot his name. I had never met him before and I didn't know why he wanted Mehn-san. (I’ve recently had lots of visitors – Jehovah’s witnesses, mop vendors, newspaper delivery people etc. So wasn't surprised by yet another visitor – but this man was a clean cut middle aged man -wearing a blue button down shirt and dark navy pants. He carried a black folder and drove a silver car. I looked for clues as to what he might be selling or what he wanted - with no business card, no uniform and no nametags/badges - but had no guess.)

He said that the address he had for Mehn-san was this house. I told him Mehn-san had moved to another prefecture (state) and things got even more confusing. He asked if I knew if Mehn-san was in this area yesterday. I said I didn’t think he/she was.Then he asked me a question about shopping in my local area by train. I often get my Japanese words for train (densha) and bike (jidensha) messed up and wondered if he asked if Mehn-san was shopping in my area by bike yesterday. But the answer would be the same - no - he/she lives over 2 hours commute from here. So I offered to call Mehn-san on the cell phone to clarify. But instead the Visitor called someone (I assume his supervisor).

All of this conversation was going on in my drive way/ door step out side the house.
As he was on the phone my neighbor opened his front door, gave a polite good morning - looked at the car parked on our street and let the dog out in the yard. My neighbor returned to the house. The dog (named Genki, is over 15 years old and hardly Genki (Japanese for healthy) I didn't think the dog would be much help if I needed him to act as a watch dog - but realized the neighbor was letting me and the visitor know we weren't alone. (My guess is the neighbor continued to listen to our conversation from the other side of the door.)

After the Visitor finished his phone call, he asked me if the bike in front of my house was one I used. I said yes. He then opened his folder and then things started to make sense to me. On the inside of his folder was the word POLICE in bold ENGLISH letters. He asked me if I had used the bike yesterday- yes I had. Then asked if I had a bag taken from my bike yesterday. Yes I had. Then asked what was taken.

After explaining what it was (tsumaranai mono = boring little stuff), grabbing my dictionary and learning the words for yarn, rubber bands, folder, socks, candy, etc. He took a photo of my bike and then me next to my bike. I gave him the receipt, he wrote for me his name and telephone number. I think he was planning to have an English speaking officer call me during the week. He said they were looking for the criminal and hoped I (the "victim") would help cooperate and would let me know when they found something.

Then curiosity took over - I couldn't resist - so I asked -

"HOW? How did you know something was stolen? How? this robber - do you know who he is?"

From what I understand of his answer - this is what happened.

Somehow at the store someone saw or a video camera saw the bag being taken. And my bike registration number had been written down. Every bike in Japan (or Tokyo anyway) is supposed to be registered to a specific address. I am borrowing Mrs. Mehn's bike while I'l living in Tokyo– the bike happens to still be registered in her name to the address I currently live at (she lived here before me). Thus he was looking for “Mehn-san” when he arrived here. They do not yet know the robber (or at least aren't giving me that information).

Reflecting on the Visit

Later I had a conversation with my Japanese teacher about the incident - she said that "undercover police" or private clothes police men are known to wear the clothing I described. They are known to drive silver cars of the description I gave with license plates in the 800's. - So probably the neighbor - when he saw the car and the guy at my door knew it was a plain clothed police officer - while I had no clue!

It's been a week and I haven't heard back from the police department - perhaps they think the things stolen were of little value and not worth their effort (I'd agree) - or perhaps another visit will come. Meanwhile my feeling of always being watched - has increased - the "living in a fish bowl" with my life always on display for others - or the "big brother" feeling - is a bit scary - while at the same time - to think the police reacted to stolen goods in less than 24 hours is - pretty much amazing!


Have you ever been interviewed by the police while overseas? How did it turn out?- post a comment!

Friday, June 13, 2008

Prelude to the visitor

Ok - for those of you who are faithfully checking this blog to see when I'll post my story about the "interesting surprise visitor Saturday" that I mentioned here. You need to know what happened BEFORE the visitor came. So read this story first . . . . then visit again for the next part of the story.

A week ago Friday, I had a day off of language school and although rainy season has recently begun the day was beautiful! I couldn't resisted getting out of the house and going for a bike ride. My goal was to find a local recycle shop

(Side note: In Japan recycle shops collect various goods from clothes to furniture and electronics they refurbish/repair and then set the items out for sale for others. Unlike stores I've seen in the states - here you can often find items still in their original package!)

Ok - so I'd tried previously to find this certain recycle shop, which I'd been told specialized in furniture, I thought I found the building during my last attempt but it was already closed for the day. Well this time I successful in finding the store while it was open - but found nothing to buy. I was also successful in finding a 100yen store (similar to dollar stores in the states but with a bigger variety and quality (in my opinion) of goods). I purchased a few items (mostly quirky items to send friends and family in the states) and then went off to explore more of the area by bike. I then found a recycle shop for clothes - similar to "Goodwill" or "Savers" I found 2 shirts and a skirt
to purchase and then started to head home.

On my way home, I saw a grocery store and decided to stop for a liter of milk and some other staples (chocolate bars!). I parked my bike outside the store and left my bag of 100yen stuff and the bag of clothes in my bike basket (admittedly not a wise idea) and I went into the grocery store.

When I came out the bag of stuff from the 100 yen store was gone. Apparently stolen. I looked around and saw no one looking suspicious. My other bag was left untouched. I had no idea who I should tell - or how to report a theft. Since it was only about 1300yen ($13) worth of small things, I thought it would be more work than it was worth to report it (trying to communicate in Japanese). Besides the fact that no sentimental value was attached - all of the items could be purchased again at the 100 yen store.

So I went home more irritated with myself (for foolishly leaving things in my bike basket) than I was at whomever had taken my bag of stuff. When I arrived at home I did what any irritated person would do - I took the chocolate bar I'd purchased and made chocolate chip cookies! I also reminded myself that with all of my experience in Japan this is the first time I've ever had anything stolen. However, while living in the states and I have had my wallet stolen twice.

Question: Have you ever had anything stolen while living overseas or in America? How did you react? Was there any resolution to the problem?

Photo: The above photo is the street where I live. My house is the light green one at the end of the road.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Photogenic Photographer

This is my classmate Mihwa's adorable 3 year old daughter - enjoys taking photos on her mom's camera. Her mom enjoys the fact that its a digital camera and the fuzzy photos can be deleted. =0) I enjoyed taking photos of her with the flowers. The photo she took of this rose turned out great by the way!

Location: Shinjuku Gyoen, Rose Garden

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Saturday, June 7, 2008

So much to say!

I have much to write about! I have a list of things to tell you and then today happened - filled with enough activity for about 5 more blog posts. But I am tired from a fabulous day out with my friend Mihwa and her 3 year old daughter Boeun-chan - so you'll have to wait. Today we had lunch in Shinjuku, an afternoon in an amazingly huge park and then a went to a neighborhood matsuri (festival) where one of my Japanese teachers performed in the taiko drum concert. We even squeaked in some shopping - and a view of the nightlife of Shinjuku on our way home. I took tons of photos today too!

Before the fun began - I had a very, well, um, interesting surprise visitor ring the doorbell this morning - but I'll leave that story for another post too. - Stay tuned.

Monday, June 2, 2008

The road less traveled

After class one day last week when the sun was shining and the temps were in the 80's. I had the opportunity to see just how close Ochanomizu (the location of my language school) is from Ikebukuro (location of the major train station I use). I travel this route by train daily during the week (takes about 12 minutes) - but this day was different as we went by foot.

With a compass and a major landmark (Sunshine 60 a tall skyscraper) as a guide, my classmate (whose known for taking the road less traveled) and I walked for about 2 hours from one city center to another. It was an interesting time taking the road less traveled - with a 30 minute break to stroll through a 400 year old park, located in the shadow of skyscrapers and "the big egg". When we reached Ikebukuro, we took a detour through a Buddhist temple and cemetery. The route passed by the Tokyo Dome (the big egg) and Tokyo Dome City (amusement park) the Toyota building, and Tokyo's largest horse race betting place. We traveled some major streets as well as narrow back roads, dodging bikes and cars. (I counted passing 4 Starbucks before we decided to go farther off the main road.)

My favorite spot along the way was Koishikawa Korakuen - Park, with multiple bridges to explore, irises in bloom, and recently planted rice paddies (see above). I realized when I got home that I'd only taken photos at the park and temple -perhaps because skyscrapers have become "normal" and parks are more photogenic. Maybe next time I'll take a few photos of the sky scrapers - maybe.

Prayer update

Thank you for your prayer for the meeting May 28.
The meeting went as I expected and there is not much new information to pass on to you.
  • My mission replied through a letter to the school's request.
  • We are still praying for qualified teachers to be provided for the school year.
  • At this point my language learning plans will continue as scheduled - with me staying in Tokyo until early spring 09.