Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Walk and not be faint

Today - I had one of those "This is why I love my job - even now" moments - but first let me back up.

Background - I may be breaking a few bubbles here when I say - there are some parts of missionary life that are - just not glamorous and exotic. (Shocking, huh!) As you may be able to tell from previous blog posts language study is exhausting, and living in a place where less than 1% of the population is Christian is can be more than a bit overwhelming at times. Starting from scratch trying to build relationships with people also requires time and emotional space. This week is time for annual budget planning and ministry planning. And to top it all off - I've now been in Japan long enough for things to fall apart (I have a list on my frig of things on I need to have fixed) but haven't built up the courage to go, ask someone in Japanese to help me fix it. Including my flat bike tire - which is causing me to slow down and walk to the train station these days.

The Passion:: Tokyo event (Oct. 13) did a lot to awaken my soul once again. It renewed my HOPE. I was reminded that I serve a God that can move mountains, That I am a friend of God, that whether I can see it or not God is at work in a million of big and tiny ways in the lives of people in Japan (including my life), greater things are still to be done here. I was inspired to EMBRACE my part in God's global plan for the nations.

While it is exhausting - Japanese language study is something I asked for time to do before I dive into the classroom to teach third culture kids (*see note below). I've lived in this country before, I know that although my "job" as a teacher in an English speaking school does not require that I speak Japanese - my desired lifestyle in Japan does require it. I want to be able to speak to my neighbor in her language. Hope to develop friendships with Japanese people. I want to be able to pray - to talk to the God I love in front of my host father in his heart language. I want to share with my host family's granddaughter that God knows her and loves her.

Oh, yeah, and some day it'd be nice to be able to read my bills and the ingredients & cooking directions on the food I'm purchasing in the grocery store. =0). So while I face regular struggles with language learning fatigue, and at times wish I could be in another city where I get to pour out my passion for teaching on all the bundles of energy in my classroom- I am reminding myself, this time here - doing this - it's worth the effort.

As my friendships with non-Christians Japanese people increase my understanding of the fact that - "I'm in way over my head here!" - increases. - Which is good since it forces me to seek God's face, his strength and wisdom - and pray like crazy that more workers will be sent into the fields here in Japan! (rock pickers, seed tossers, weed pullers, corn detasselers, and harvesters needed!)

In America, I could take for granted that people may have stepped inside of a church at some point in their life or perhaps have a Bible in their home (even if they have no idea where it is or what it says). Here I look at people on a crowded train and think - I could be the only one here who has even heard the message of God's love articulated let alone responded to Him. There is a sense of urgency - there is this growing need to share - to glow for Him.

Today - I had one of those "This-is-why-I-love-my-job-even-now" moments. Once a week I talk one-on-one with young adults (one hour each) as a way to help them improve their English conversation skills. (Arranged by my language school.) Each student is unique, today I talked with 3 students, the topics ranged from the global economic crisis, to movies, hair coloring, and "chick lit". I never know what the student will want to talk about but recently have started pray that I'll see chances to introduce him or her to God's love.

Recently I've been talking with one student (I'll call him M-san) about English sayings/quotes (prompted by his English t-shirt). Last week we worked with "Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you're going to get." (Forrest Gump) and for homework - I challenged him to come up with an original saying "Life is like . . . " and explain it to me.

Today he said, "Life is like walking."
"Oh, hmmmmm" I said (not yet certain where he would go with that) "Tell me more."
"Life is long," he continued, " so I need to slow down. I will get tired if I run, so I need to walk and enjoy the moment I am living now."

After it occurred to me that is a nugget of truth that God is teaching me in my morning walks to the station - it reminded me of some verses in Isaiah.

So I said, "I've read something similar to that let me see if I can find it." I tried to find an Old Testament English Bible in the room to quote it accurately. I fumbled through the chapter - thinking it's 41, isn't it? - but couldn't find the verse - so I quoted what I could from memory (thank you, my former AWANA teachers!) and tried to explain it to him . . .

They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.

He agreed the last lines are similar to his saying - and what followed was a 3 minute conversation about the Bible. He doesn't have a bible and has never read it - and asked if I had.

"It's one of my favorite books!" - I said. "It's got poetry, story, history, proverbs, and wise sayings. Written by many different people (with God's direction) over the course of thousands of years but all together tells one big story. These days, I especially like the poetry (psalms) because it talks so much about honest human emotions."

For some reason I couldn't find the verse before our time together ended - so I said - "I'll bring it to our next meeting."

Of course, 2 minutes after he left I found it in chapter 40. Now, I can't wait to talk about the verses preceding the "walk and not be faint " part . . .

Isaiah: 40:28-31
28Do you not know?
Have you not heard?
The LORD is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
and his understanding no one can fathom.

29 He gives strength to the weary
and increases the power of the weak.

30 Even youths grow tired and weary,
and young men stumble and fall;

31 but those who hope in the LORD
will renew their strength.

Please pray for M-san to desire to know Everlasting God! Pray for me as I attempt to memorize and reflect on these verses during my walk to the station.

*(note: to explain "asked for time" . . . While the school I plan to teach at needed teachers and offered a position for me to start fall of 08- I made a formal request of my mission organization that my language study time to be protected and if possible extended through Dec. 08 so that I would not be teaching fall of 08 (right now). My mission unanimously agreed and extended my language study through spring of 09 with opportunities to continue study in the summers. They have greatly encouraged and supported me in my pursuit of language. I'm also very grateful to the teachers who are at the MK school now making it possible for me to be here. )

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Plans and Blessings

"If you want to make me laugh
tell me your plans." - God

"Many are the plans in a human heart,
but it is the Lord's purpose that prevails." - Proverbs 19:21

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord,
"plans to prosper you and not to harm you,
plans to give you hope and a future." - Jeremiah 29:11
Surrender is not passivity or abdication - I crown/recognize another to be Master - Lord of my life. I offer my gifts energies, resources and heart to him.

One of the problems the illusion of being in control leads to is that by insisting I am smart enough to engineer my life, I close myself off to wonderful surprises.

When I try to control something too tightly based on my own little ideas, I miss all the creativity and serendipity of life. How often when I insist on my own way I miss a way that is far better.

Surrender opens me up to God's blessings.

Trusting God means learning to let go of each moment so I am free to fully in habit the next one.
The quotes above are from the Bible and also Chapter 6 of "It all goes back in the box" - by John Ortberg

I've been doing some goal setting and ministry planning, which makes me reflect a little more on the topic of plans, control and God's wonderful surprises.

Recently, a friend/classmate of mine has been sharing about the amazing blessings God is bringing to his life that he never expected. He's a talented writer - so you should read how he describes the million blessings in his words here. But as he was telling me about it - I felt it was one of those conversations were all I could do was smile and nod in agreement and amazement at how God passionately and insanely shows his loves to each of us - his children - in specific ways. That's why I believe . . .

We are uniquely created,
intimately known,
passionately loved,
persistently pursued,
purposefully gifted,
insanely blessed!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Wants - Needs - Or just stuff

Today I went shopping at Thrift Shop.

Its quite the experience. Held 2x a year. Picture a school gym filled with a large garage sale in one of the most expensive cities in the world. Everything from clothes, toys, and books to furniture, appliances and other random and hard to find items in Japan. The items for sale are donated by people associated with the international Christian school here - representing many nationalities. Open to people with PTA connections Friday and the general public on Saturday. The lunch is typically Korean BBQ and Kimchi - made by the Koreans moms who have kids at the school. (No photos - sorry I had my camera with me but was too distracted by shopping and chatting).

Shopping List
Last spring I went to Thrift Shop right after I moved from living with my host families to the mission owned house. I had lots of space and only 2 suitcases of stuff. So I went with a long shopping list of stuff I "needed" for living.

This time my list was a bit shorter - I wanted a pair of jeans (my size is not typically found in stores here) and was curious to see what books (in English) or CD's (of Christian music) I could find. (in stores it is like $22 for a CD - at thrift shop it was $1!) I was pleased with what I found and the great deals that I got. I think I had a shoppers high after I was done (either that or it was the sugar from the brownies and cinnamon roll!)

Thrift shop is also a great time to chat with people who are on campus for the day. I got to see Tim and Lisa - who are parents of my former student Sarah. And David - a former Japanese classmate (click here for class photo). Made a few Canada connections, Philippine connections and even Bethel connections. I also met a lot of new people - mostly teachers at the International school. After lunch we (fellow BGC missionaries and I) attended a Middle and High school band concert on campus where I got to see Grace play clarinet. (Erick was in Guam at the Far East Cross-country Meet).

Pondering - is it Just Stuff?
Now that I'm home - I'm beginning to ponder the difference between "wants" and "needs". I felt I "needed" a new pair of jeans since one of the 2 pairs I own is falling a part. But I realized I didn't "need" a CD and book but "wanted" to find some in a language that I could understand from a worldview that would challenge, encourage, and perhaps entertain.

The line between need and want is blurring - I have so much stuff! And I'm in the process of communicating with family in the States as they prepare to ship the rest of my "stuff" from MN to Tokyo. I tried to sort through my things before leaving the states, (click here for a peak at previous posts on packing) and now my sister and parents are doing the grunt work of getting the stuff organized in bins to be shipped here. (What a gift of service! THANK YOU SO MUCH!)
Part of me thinks - I've lived a year without it. If the shipment was lost at sea - it would not be the end of the world. I have been richly blessed - and realize as I look at the shipping list - I'd forgotten I owned some of this stuff - perhaps that's a sign that I don't need it - I can have it given away to someone who does.

Another part thinks - that stuff contains memories. Gifts from dear friends, photos and artwork that give the feeling of home. That stuff is "needed" - kitchen supplies,teaching supplies and books that will be put to use when I start teaching again. As well as, other books - that I , as a bookworm living in a country where I'm illiterate - feel I "want" and "need" to have here.

I had a roommate who used to say "Everyone needs a fire or a move every 3 to 5 years- to help you downsize." I've moved 3 times in the past 11 months and anticipate another move in 5 months. I know this is not the last time I'll be pondering this topic -the issue of "want" and "need", especially in association with the blessings and challenges of moving and packing. Perhaps it's good to live with it in the forefront of my mind - I'm sure missionaries in developing countries face this issue in different ways. Here in Japan - I live in such an economically wealthy country it seems so easy to be sucked into the consumer - materialistic mentality.

What do you think? How do you make wise decisions on purchases? How do you distinguish between wants and needs? How has moving and location influenced how you live and view your "stuff". Let your voice be heard - Leave a comment - with your name - or anonymously if you perfer.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Scrumptious Pumpkin

Weekly, I visit "Coffeegirl Confessions" , a blog written by another woman in cross-cultural setting sharing God's love outside her home culture. Recently she asked a survey question about the availability of "pumpkin pie filling" in her reader's locations, which caused me to wonder - can I get Pumpkin pie filling in a can here? The search met with success.

Then I visited my friend Stacey's blog, who got me yearning to bake something with the pumpkin. Seeing as my recipe box is still in the states - I went online and collected a few more ideas. When I found a recipe that called for ingredients I had on hand - and includes one of my other favorite ingredients - dried cranberries - I was excited to try it. And the results are OH, so yummy! I couldn't keep this recipe to myself. Try it - I think you'll like it!

Pumpkin Cranberry Bread

from allrecipes.com

One batch makes two large loaves; one for now and one for later. Or bake into mini loaves. They make great gifts for teachers, neighbors and friends!

Estimated Times:
Preparation - 10 min | Cooking - 1 hrs | Cooling Time - 30 min cooling | Yields - 12 slices per loaf

Ingredients: (US measurements)

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 3 cups granulated sugar (or 2 cups granulated and 3/4 cup brown sugar)
  • 1 can (15 ounces) LIBBY'S® 100% Pure Pumpkin
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup orange juice or water
  • 1 cup sweetened dried, fresh or frozen cranberries

Here are the ingredients in Metrics Measurements

  • 375 g all-purpose flour
  • 9 g pumpkin pie spice
  • 9 g baking soda
  • 9 g salt
  • 600 g granulated sugar
  • 1 (15 ounce) can LIBBY'S® 100% Pure Pumpkin
  • 4 eggs
  • 235 ml vegetable oil
  • 120 ml orange juice
  • 95 g fresh or frozen cranberries

PREHEAT oven to 350° F (180*C). Grease and flour two 9 x 5-inch loaf pans.

  • COMBINE flour, pumpkin pie spice, baking soda and salt in large bowl.
  • Combine sugar, pumpkin, eggs, oil and juice in large mixer bowl; beat until just blended.
  • Add pumpkin mixture to flour mixture; stir just until moistened.
  • Fold in cranberries.
  • Spoon batter into prepared loaf pans.

BAKE for 60 to 65 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pans on wire racks for 10 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely.

Recipe makes two loaves.

as above. Bake for 55 to 60 minutes.

as above. Bake for 50 to 55 minutes.

I made two loaves and used the rest to make mini muffins pan.


Substitution for Pumpkin Pie Spice

I can't find Pumpkin Pie Spice in the grocery store here but the following recipe works well as a substitute.| Edit...

Makes - 3 teaspoons (double this recipe for amount needed Pumpkin Cranberry Bread recipe)

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger (scant)
1. Stir of shake ingredients together
2. Store in a closed small container
3. Use in place of pumpkin pie spice in your recipe

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Strength that spills over into Joy

We pray
that you'll have the strength
to stick it out over the long haul
-not the grim strength of gritting your teeth
but the glory-strength God gives.

It is strength
that endures the unendurable
and spills over into joy,
thanking the Father
who makes us strong enough
to take part in everything bright and beautiful
that he has for us.

-Paul's Prayer for the church in Colosse

Taken from the Message - Col. 1:11-12

These verses - especially in this translation - have been encouraging to meditated on as I walk to the train station this week. (See the previous post for background information.) I want to change from the "gritting my teeth strength" approach I've been using to receive the "glory-strength" God gives. I've been pondering the idea that this strength not only enables me to "endure the unendurable" but there is some leftover to "spill over into joy." (not drip or splatter but SPILL)

When I think of people who have demonstrated this glory-strength to me,
- I first think of the people in the photos . . .
Top Photo- my Japanese host mom and host dad (photo taken about 10 years ago). My host mom is the only Christian in her family and has been praying daily for many many years that her family would take part in the bright and beautiful things God has for them. She lives daily serving her family as a witness to God's love.

Bottom Photo - Bob and Nancy (Photo taken Spring 2008)- They have recently retired from the mission field to return to the states having faithfully served in Japan for longer than I've been alive! They are a huge encouragement to me as I think of the slow pace in which the gospel spreads in Japan - yet the persistence and joy they showed as they allowed the glory-strength to spill over into joy on the lives of all they met. Sorleys - may God continue to give you strength to take part in the bright and beautiful things he has for you as you transition to a new location. (Nancy - you were dearly missed at the women's retreat!)

Pressing On - Ganbatte

Do you ever have one of those days where you hope you can just get through the day.
You know it's not going to be easy to get through the week. And you can look back at the year and say - Wow - I never thought it was going to be this challenging.

Perhaps you are learning a new language and it seems your brain is fitted with a non-stick coating. You look at the calendar and see the completed 11 months of language study (Reason to celebrate!!) but aren't sure how you will make it through the next 4 months of study. And know that when you leave the language school - the learning doesn't end.

Perhaps, for you, language learning is like climbing a cliff - but it seems the harder you work to climb up the more likely you are to slip back down, bruised and battered by the fall. Where are the safety ropes?

You feel like you have no more energy to give - just making the effort to actually open the book to do the homework takes as much strength as you can muster.

Perhaps you meet with your teacher and present to her the draft for the speech you've been working and it's on that day, after reading your speech, your teacher tells you -
"You've been making a lot of really basic mistakes lately. You need to be more careful."

- And you realize she's trying to help you but what you really want to hear is just one place where she sees you have improved. Because it seems your own vision is pretty clouded with all the red pen marks on the page.

You realize no matter what others say - how the day went - or how far it seems you still have to go - you desire to learn this language - you want to press on.

In Japanese there is a word for this - Pressing On - ganbaru がんばる = as a verb - work hard, persevere. Ganbatte ne   がんばってね!Press On/Good luck! - given as a word of encouragement.

(see next post for encouragement)
Photo: crossing the street near my language school - taken last spring.
Besides the variety of clothing in the photo I love how everyone is caught mid-step, and wonder where are they going?

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Wow! Passion:: Tokyo

Theme: Seeing God's Grace in High Definition
  • Encouraged by the crowd 2,500+
  • Challenged by the message
  • Smiling, Singing, Dancing, Worshiping
  • Crying tears of amazement
  • Wondering how God will shine His light through us

I'd like to write a longer post to tell you more about my experience at Passion:: Tokyo but a few other things are taking priority right now. Besides which, I have class tomorrow and then will be heading to an over night retreat for the women in our mission.

So I'll just link you www.268generation.com.
You can see what Louie Giglio wrote about the evening and see some amazing photos that the Passion team took. (I snagged the photo above from their sight - I'm in the balcony directly opposite the camera person.) Then take some time to read some of the comments. The previous Passion event was in Seoul and to have Koreans praying for people in Tokyo - given the history and some feelings of animosity that exists (at one point existed) between the two countries - was VERY powerful!


Go to the "passion podcast" from their website or iTunes and click "i heart Tokyo" (its free). Listen to Louie - to his passion for a God's light to be shined in this city and some sound clips from the event (including Chris Tomlin leading How Great Thou Art in Japanese!)

Now Passion::Tokyo attenders are praying for The Passion:: Hong Kong event taking place tonight. (OCT 16). May they see God's Grace in High Definition!

Sunday, October 12, 2008


Today I'll be heading to the CC Lemon building in Shibuya to volunteer at the Passion::Tokyo event. It's an event focused on 18-25 year olds. Here is the vision from the website.

"The heartbeat of PASSION TOKYO is to:


Foster UNITY among those who love JESUS

Spark VISION for the UNIVERSITIES of Tokyo and the nation

Tell the STORY of REDEMPTION in compelling ways

INSPIRE students to EMBRACE their part in God's global plan for the NATIONS"

There are some pretty big names coming to lead us into worship - names like Louie Giglio, Matt Redman, David Crowder*Band and Chris Tomlin. I would appreciate your prayer for this event! Oct. 13 the event is from 5-8:30pm, volunteers will be there from 1pm to really late and Lord willing the impact of this event on the people will last for many years - bringing to reality that God is the God of this City.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Refrigerator privileges

I just realized I have a friend in Japan with refrigerator privileges.

I once heard someone (my sister?) talk about the level of a relationship as compared to rooms in the house. I don't remember the specific terms but I liked the concept - it goes something like this. The level of closeness of a relationship can be determined by what room in the house they are invited to enter (literally or figuratively). (Jennifer - do you remember the book you got this from?)

As far as friendships go -
  • the Porch friends are those you may converse with but are not invited into the house. You may or may not know their names but would greet them if you passed on the street.
  • Living room - these are friends you feel comfortable inviting into your home but the relationship can still be quite formal and reserved
  • Dining room - These friends are invited to eat with you. You enjoy their company and conversation. The level of formality may vary.
  • Kitchen - these friends are invited into the kitchen as you cook - they can see the messes in your life and there is a flow of give and take in this relationship.
  • Refrigerator - these friends not only have permission to join you in the messes but you let them make the mess with you. When they come over they may open the frig and grab a drink if they're thirsty - knowing they have permission to do so without asking. These friends are the ones who realize it's dinner time and take control of the chopsticks and fry up the yakisoba for lunch while you finish setting the table and answer the phone.
A little over a week ago (before I came down with a cold) - I had invited Mihwa (Korean friend who is also a classmate in my Japanese language class) and her 3 year old daughter Boeun-chan to my house. This was Mihwa's 2nd time here and this time the purpose was to make cookies together.

As I started making yakisoba (Japanese fried noodles and veggies) for lunch she skillfully stepped in and cooked the meal. It was at this point I realized - I have a friend with refrigerator privileges. Mihwa has become a close friend - despite the fact that we can only communicate in Japanese with the other. Or perhaps it is because of that fact, combined with our history of the past 9+ months of struggling together to understand and be understood in this language that our relationship has grown close.

I appreciate the fact that she isn't afraid to speak her mind. She doesn't hesitate to tell me potentially embarressing things - like when I have something in my teeth. If she wants something she says it, if she wants to do something - go somewhere, she arranges it to be done. Compared to when we first met - and were only able to have short times of question/answer - "Where are you from?", "What are your favorite colors?" - We are now having interesting discussions about future plans, embarrassing cultural experiences and relationships in different cultures. We have inside jokes. We have built many shared experiences. One of my favorite part of the day is sitting down with a cup of coffee (usually at "staba") after class to chat with Mihwa. Today we talked about the idea of "skinship" in American, Japanese and Korean culture. (potential future blog post material)

I'm so thankful to God for giving me the gift of this friendship. And I intend to treasure all the time that we have together - before I move to another part of Japan (in 6 months!). Many of you have been praying for the process of developing relationships here in Japan. I believe my friendship with Mihwa is an answer to those prayers.

While we were making lunch Boeun chan was creating her own meal out of the play dough.

We got together on Saturday to make cookies - Crunch Muesli Cookies (above photo) and Chocolate chip cookies (below) (actually for cost effectiveness we chopped up a candy bar instead of using choc.chips) B-chan thought the cookies were
いっぱいおいしい "ippai oishii" or full of delicious。=0)。
(adorable Japanese however not a phrase a native Japanese would say)
Bouen chan, calls me "auntie" in Korean and I love trying to interact with her in Japanese. She was fascinated by my house. They live in a different part of Tokyo in an efficiency apartment so the fact that my house had 2 floors connected by a staircase was more exciting than the playdough or Anpanman DVD! She continued to ask her mom - can I go look at the stairway again? Can I climb it again?

She was fascinated by the toilet too - I have 2 toilet rooms in my house (the bath is in yet a 3rd room - most Japanese homes have separate rooms for the toilet and bath). My upstairs toilet is pink, the downstairs one is blue. B-chan said her toilet at home has no color (white).
Climbing on my bed was the other fun activity for B-chan. She sleeps in a futon (Japanese mattress on the floor) and found excitement in climbing up and then down from my bed.

We at supper together, too - I made "Italian Gyooza" (known to most people as Cheese Ravioli).
It was a fun Saturday with friends.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Hanging out

I found this praying mantis hiding in my planter recently. I screamed when first realized what I thought was a leaf was moving. He was very cooperative and posed for a photo on my front step before finding another place to hide.

And while I don't have pets, I did have another animal visitor recently. When I was looking out my kitchen window (which has a "great view" of the neighbor's house) I saw this little guy just hanging out.
Here's a close up in case you missed him above.

You know you live close when . . .

You know your house is close to your neighbors when . . .

  • You can hear your neighbor yawn.
  • You can hear your neighbor sneeze.
  • You recognize the TV/radio program your neighbor is listening to.
  • You are awoken at about 6:30am to the sound of your neighbor hanging her laundry out to dry.
  • You can lean from one home's 2nd floor balcony to the other to return laundry that has blown off the line.
  • You leave the house in the morning and when you meet the neighbor she asks you about your health. And if your new cold medicine is working to relieve your symptoms (cough/sneeze) but making you tired (yawn) and then asks your opinion on the TV program they overheard you listening. She finishes by politely offering suggestions on which laundry clothes pins are the best for securely fastening laundry.=0)

Ok, just to clarify - I don't live in an apartment - I live in a house. The closest neighboring house is about an arms length away. There is a house on 3 sides of my home, and before you say - "it could be worse - at least the backside doesn't have a house" - You should know my "back yard/rock garden" butts up against a parking lot for the neighboring apartment complex. (aka "all natural" concrete and loud motorcycle/car noises)

And yes, the first five on the list are true life experiences. The last one - could happen if my language abilities/comprehension allowed. This action of listing what I can hear coming from my neighbor's home makes me wonder what they can hear coming from mine. - Ahh - the sounds of community living!

When I lived in the states, I enjoyed chatting across the fence in our back yard (I actually had grass and a vegetable garden then) with my neighbors (retired couple who had lived on that block for over 80 years!). Now my "chatting with the neighbors" is reduced to the greeting:
行って(い)らっしゃい itte-rasshai" (translated as-(please) go and come back)
行って来ます "Itteーkimasu" (I'll go and come back).

Which is typically done as the neighbor moms are getting their daughters off to preschool and I'm heading out to language school. Do you live close to your neighbors? What sounds do you hear in your community?

Top: the side of my house (on right) with neighbor's home (on left) and apartment building and parking lot in the distance.
Second: The front of my house (it's supposed to be a light green color).
Third: My back yard/pebble garden - just after it had been weeded this summer. (I miss sitting in grass in the back yard in the states reading/studying but I'm glad I no longer have to mess with the lawn mower I always had trouble starting!)

Bottom: My attempt to plant something (Keeping it real - this photo was taken in May right after I created this "container garden" , the plants have since been chewed up by bugs).
To see my front "yard" (more like my driveway and three dying bushes click here)

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

A visit to Dr. Stonebridge

Monday I missed language school to visit the clinic and see what the doctor had to say about my "kaze" which I'm learning in Japanese means more than just "cold" as it also covers influenza and other health problems. So I went with my fellow missionary - to the clinic, it was the 29th of the month and the waiting room was filled with people which I accounted to the fact that it was Monday morning. (We later discovered a sign at the entry which asked people - if possible to avoid visiting the doctor at the end of the month as that is when screenings for the elderly is done for the national health care insurance.)

The place looked like a typical American Clinic waiting room - fish tank, reading material, TV, health posters etc. - the main difference was it was much smaller in size. So all of the sick people were sitting very close to each other. Sorry no pictures for you as it was too crowded.

Here's how it worked.
1. Fill out form - Amazingly this was all in English and was only one page -
mostly stuff like name, address, phone number and check why are you here (I checked "internal medicine"). Nothing like the 5+ page form about health history I'm used to filling out in the states.
2. Wait for your name to be called. (I waited an hour)
3. Have a consultation with the nurse. This took place in a hallway and was all in Japanese and basically consisted of getting my temperature taken and then me trying to explain my symptoms. (I'm sure the nurses watching from the side room were enjoying the crazy hand gestures and broken Japanese!)
4. More waiting (about 20 minutes)
5. I was called for consultation with the doctor (his name means stonebridge (Ishibashi Sensei). I went into a room that looked like a tiny office - sat down by the doctor and he again asked my about my symptoms and then typed things into the computer at his desk.
I was told that He studied at University of Washington and has many English speaking patients so his English was very good. He asked about 4 questions - listened to my lungs, looked at my throat and nose. My lungs at that point were clear so he figures I had a mild asthma attack and am suffering from a sinus infection, then prescribed some medication. (took less than 10 minutes)
6. Wait in the waiting room for the prescription to be printed. After about 20 more minutes - I paid my bill for the doctor about $36, received my clinic ID card (for future visits), and got instructions to pick up my medications at the pharmacy two stores down the street from the clinic.

7. Pick up prescription.
I was the only customer at the pharmacy (so I took some photos while I waited.)
I received 3 types of pills to help with the sinus infection and sore throat then some "tape" which is like a sticker that I put on my chest or arm which helps alleviates the asthma symptoms. (opens my bronchial tubes so I can breath)
All of this medicine cost $36.

I'm told that typically doctors in Japan give 2 days of meds and then expect the patient to return for another visit and more meds but apparently this doctor has had enough experience with American patients to know the last thing we want to do when we're sick is make multiple visits to the doctor. So he prescribes 7 day cycle and says come back if they aren't working.The whole process took from 9:15 to 11:45.

These photos are from the pharmacy (the clinic was way too crowded for photos) The paper above is my prescription -(click on it if you want to see a larger version) I appreciated the images of the pills on the form so I can see which pill matches which name, we added the English writing to tell the purpose of the drug. The photo to the right are the forms the drugs came in - no prescription bottles just pill packages. (far left is the tape/sticker)

So, am I feeling better? - I'm well enough to go back to language school and I haven't had the breathing problems (the tape must be working)- but I'm not yet at 100% with the other symptoms and get tired very easily.