Thursday, July 31, 2008

Sometimes all I can do is Smile

I've Only Just Smile

The only time you can't afford to fail
is the last time you try.
- Quote from an English t-shirt in Japan

Today I finished my summer semester of Japanese. Which means I have also finished 8 (count them: 一、二、三、四、五、六、七、八!) consecutive months of full time Japanese study. I have about 7 more months of full time study - before I transition (March? April?) to a new location, more language study (part-time) and new ministry focus. - But for now I have a 2 week holiday (vacation?) from language classes.

Now, lest you start to worry about me being sad and lonely - with nothing to do for 14 days - let me just say that the next two weeks - will probably be more of a test of my Japanese abilities than the last two weeks. WHY? - because I'll need to be using the Japanese to be understood and understand people at times where my grammar book and dictionary (as well as teachers and classmates) are not readily available to fix my mistakes, misunderstandings and failures.

The next 3 days will be a major test as I head to Karuizawa for a summer church camp with various other church members from churches around Japan (? Maybe just Tokyo? not sure).
I'll be living in a cabin with other women and interacting with Japanese people for 3 straight days - starting tomorrow morning at 8:30 am, when I'm meeting my ride - (other Yurigaoka church members) for the road trip up the mountains and ending Sunday evening. From what I understand of the schedule we'll have worship, sermons, songs, business meeting, prayer meetings, special speakers, a kids program, lots of food and even some free time.
Prayers for patient and graceful interaction with the language, culture, and relationships - welcome!
Prayers for endurance, energy and encouragement for myself- and for other camp attendees also welcome!
Prayers for refreshment and time to simply BE with God amid the meetings and language barriers, while away from the city - very needed!

Photo: Japanese flowers found in Kamakura in July

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

A new normal . . .

Here are a few things that have become normal in my Tokyo life . . . .
  • Riding my bike 1.5 km (about a mile) in 35 degree weather (95*F) twice a day, aware of the fact that I should ride with my elbows in so as not to be hit by the passing car on the narrow street.
  • Greeting the adorable おじいさん(Grandpas) that work at the bike parking lot where I park in the morning and in the evening trying to remember where I parked.
  • Commuting to class using public transportation and seeing it as a good time to read a book, or listen to the latest podcast I've downloaded. (When I want a sermon in English I listen to this, when I'm hungry I turn to this this, when I want to be challenged as a leader I go to here and when I feel homesick I listen to this.)
  • Texting my teachers in Japanese on my cell phone when I'm running late for class because the train is delayed due to an じんしん じく jinshin jiko ("Human accident" for explanation of this term read here)
  • Eating at a new restaurant with classmates and tasting food from another country (Ethiopia, Spain, India, Korea, Singapore, France, Italy, China, etc.)"
  • Passing by a small farm in the city and stopping to see what fresh veggies/fruits are being sold in the vending machine (this week selling: tomatoes, last month: cabbages)
  • Messing up frequently in public (which by the way is what I'm adopting as my new definition of a disciple)
  • Wanting some comfort food after a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day and realizing I'm craving sushi. (the bad day isn't normal - it's the comfort food that's become normal)
  • Paying my bills at the post office ATM machine without using English
  • Passing the view above (Ochanomizu station near the river - lit. tea water) and the view below (bamboo grove) on a daily basis.
  • Buying loaves of bread that have a total of 4, 6 or sometimes (if I'm lucky) 8 slices
  • Smiling as I hear a Japanese woman cheering at the grocery store on the rare occasion that butter is in stock.
  • Trying to limit myself to only one package of butter as per the store rules (read more here)
  • Baking a new recipe (muffin/scones/etc) in my convection oven/microwave and sharing with others to hear their critique of my latest attempts.
  • Attempting to speak English with other Americans and saying things like "Which is less bad?" or "Hot today, ne?"
  • Realizing God is showing me yet another one of my previously ignored sin habits and becoming ever more thankful for his sacrifice on the cross.
  • Beginning to feel settled into this house, this country, and my daily routines -and finding myself wondering what transitions are around the corner.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Taiko -

Taiko -
After visiting the Zoo in Ueno we went to an outdoor Taiko performance. Various clubs were showcasing their skills. There where adult groups, children's groups, and mixed groups. There were groups playing on one drum, groups playing on several drums, there was Okinawan style, Japanese style, Korean style and even some masked drummers.
Above is my Japanese teacher's group.
Below Mihwa and Watanabe sensei with me (wearing the taiko headband.)

The Kids

This was the group of Korean performers.
The Masked performersIt was an Amazing Afternoon of drumming!

Out in Ueno

About a month ago I went to Ueno (Eastern hub of Tokyo) with my friend Mihwa and her daughter Boeun chan. (This is the same area we went to for cherry blossom viewing click here and here to review.) As it was June we were in the midst of rainy season and we were hoping it'd stay dry as our plan was to visit the zoo. (Plan B was to visit the National Museum of Western Art). Thankfully it didn't rain until the end of the day - and we were able to stay dry at a nearby Starbucks while enjoying some good conversation over frappaccinos.

Here are some photos of the area around the station.

From Ueno zoo . . .

Ueno Zoo is famous for it's giant panda -so we took a photo of Boeun chan with this stuffed panda. Unfortunately the real panda died about a month before our visit. bummer!My favorite part of the visit was when Boeun chan saw an armadillo for the first time and said that looks like a "roly-poly" or pill bug. She's right on as the bug's actual name is
Armadillidiidae. - Smart girl! (Did I mention she's a 3 year old Korean kid and speaks Japanese better than I do!)

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Happy Birthday!


Tanjobi omedeto, obaasan!


I was excited to talk with you on the phone on July 16th! I hope you had a fun day celebrating!

Your faithful prayers and regular letters are such an encouragement to me! It's fun to hear that you're reading this blog too!

Hope you get to enjoy some time with your great grandchildren too! Greet the great grandchild coming in 2 months for me!

Photos: Top Grandma Alice and I in Minnesota October 2007,
bottom - Grandma with Grace (great granddaughter #4, my cousin Erin's daughter) Thanksgiving '07

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Children and Poets

There are ancient civilizations
with strange virtues buried like treasures.
If we wish to understand them
it must not be as tourists or inquirers,
it must be with the loyalty of children
and the great patience of poets.

- G.K. ChestertonPhotos: - Boeun-chan, my classmate's 3 yr old daughter at Shinjuku Park.
Above - enjoying a "pretty" flower; below -studying a parade of ants.