Sunday, January 25, 2009


A random summary of what I'm doING . . .

a 2 night trip with classmates and Japanese teachers to the mountains of Japan

Missing: Snow! (a few flakes were in the air Saturday) and Starry night skies (perhaps I'll see some on the trip)

Wanting: to go Cross-country skiing

Cooking: Oatmeal Scotchies & Chocolate Chip Cookies

Cleaning: the mess from baking

Eating: warm cookies from the oven

Reading: "A Severe Mercy" by Sheldon Vanauken (for a book club) and "Teaching Redemptively" by Donovan L. Graham (for a Philosophy of Education class) Mark & Psalms (for spiritual nourishment) Japanese Children's Bible (for Japanese reading practice) and "How to Eat Supper" (for inspiration in the kitchen)

Grooving: to a CD called "The Gaijin Years" oldies with new words about the life of foreigners in Japan - hilarious!

Watching: "Always" the movie

Finishing: my semester at language school 3rd week of February

Enjoying: time with friends while we're together

Feeling: a sense of belonging at Yurigaoka Baptist Church

Moving: again in a month and a half (the 4th time in 15 months)

Trying: not to think about all the good-byes - but failing since, "When do you move?" is the first question in many conversations

Learning: "balance" is not the goal - but not sure what should be - when trying to spend time with friends here while tending to friendships miles away and anticipating starting new relationships in a new location.

Thinking: What an answer to prayer to have developed amazing friendships over the last year!

Planning: to retake my drivers test Jan. 29th. (updating: took test, failed test, scheduled to take it again Feb. 2)

Traveling: to Nara in 10 days for a visit where I'll be officially introduced to my future teaching location, hang out with students and check out options for a place to live.

Realizing - I need to pack for the trip to the mountains.

Recalling: my laundry - which is still hanging on the line! Oops!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

HONK! Here I come!

This road sign means you should honk your horn to warn of your coming.
I am not sure what is in store for me Friday (1-22)- but I'm trying to be steadfastly hopeful.
I'm heading to the Japanese Drivers test site tomorrow.
This will be my 3rd time there. (For review see this and this).
Tomorrow I'm making the 2 hour train ride to the site to wait in line to reschedule a time to take the driving test. Then I'll make the 2 hour train ride home. Why don't I just save some train time and call to make an appointment? Well let me replay the phone call when I tried to do just that . . .

It went something like this (note- its all in Japanese)
Me: Hello, I um, I need to . .
Official - something really fast in Japanese
Me - Excuse me, can you please repeat that more slowly?
Official - Something in Japanese all I caught was the word for appointment
Me - I'd like to make an appointment again.
Official - Something in Japanese - I caught - the words for no, can't, and appointment.
Me - I'm sorry I don't understand, can you say that again please.
Official -(impatiently)- Is there someone with you that understands Japanese?
Me - (trying to stay calm & trying to speak in the most polite language I can remember) I'm sorry but no else is here. Please, kindly repeat yourself again more slowly this time.
Official - something about this number is only for people with appointments.
Me- I'm sorry, but I had an appointment scheduled but could not come that day and could not call - the phone made a busy noise. I tried again and heard a recording.
Official -(in an annoyed voice) something about not calling before the test was very bad and I must come to the office to schedule.
Me - I'm sorry, did you say I must go to the office to reschedule?
Official (seeming a little relieved to have got at least one point across to this dumb foreigner). Yes, that is correct.
Me - (trying not to let him hear me cry) I'm sorry but it takes 2 hours by train just to get to the office. Is there another way to make an appointment?
Official - (sounding a bit nervous that I'm crying but still annoyed with me) No, you must come to the office - only way - very bad of you to not reschedule same day.
Me - Thank you very much for your kindness, - I understand (kashikomarimashita) I'm very sorry.

I had to remind myself after I hung up the phone -A) this Japanese person was only trying to do his job B) No matter how dumb I felt - even 6 months ago communicating with him on the phone would not have been possible for me in Japanese. And C) Life will go on even without a drivers license!

When I told my Japanese teacher about this phone call (in Japanese) she was surprised to hear they wouldn't at least use phone or fax to make an appointment, she offered to call the office for me. She let her voice be heard and was an amazing advocate for me and other foreigners taking this test. But alas - the answer was the same.

Note to others taking the driving test here: learn from my experience - don't let this happen to you!

Please pray for me to get an appointment soon and PASS! I know of people who are VERY good drivers who took the test 8 times before passing! My US drivers license expires soon and its harder (and way-way more expensive) to get a Japanese license without a valid US license. Plus, since I'm from MN renewing my US license means a lot of paperwork, and a vision test in Japan using US measurements.

But like I said - I'm trying to remain steadfastly hopeful! I know nothing is impossible with God - yet I'm wondering what He's trying to teach me through this.

- HONK! Ready or not, here I come!

Monday, January 19, 2009

Haiku Lesson

I love the creative process! Whether that be with colors and textures of yarn for a crochet project, angles and perspectives in photography, flavors and techniques in new recipes or retelling stories and sharing my thoughts through blogging - - I love the process. Sometimes I like the process so much I don't want to get to that "all done" stage. Instead I'll start something new before finishing what has already been started. (This is known as multi-tasking to some - procrastination and disorganization to others but, Wait! Stop! - I'm wandering away from the main topic.)

So, when I heard we were going to learn to write Haiku in Japanese class I was thrilled! I am a right-brained learner -with testing as INFP on the Myers Briggs. Which in language learning means I look at the big picture (holistic) - not the details in sequence (linear) -Repetitive drills frustrate me. I like guessing the meaning from the context without necessarily working out all the details. (Intuitive) Ask me what the speaker is talking about and I'll tell you in Japanese, - ask me to repeat what he said and I'm lost.) In language learning I like creativity, innovation, and interaction with other people. I learn best with music, art, games and POETRY!!!

So what is Haiku?
  1. It is a Japanese style poem with lines of five, seven and five syllables. (5-7-5)
  2. Must use some word(s) to indicate the season (ie. a food, flower, sound or weather unique to certain times of the year)
  3. Must describe a scene
Today I picked a scene from my August trip to the mountains of Karuizawa and tried to describe a what I saw by a small waterfall. I've included photos for your visual imagination. For the back story on the photos click here or here.

Below are the haiku I wrote. Even if you can't understand the Japanese I think they are best when said out loud - the sound of the syllables are fun to hear and tickles the tongue.

I'd love to hear what you think - so let me know in the comment section which one you like best and why. どぞ私の俳句を読んでください。 どちらが好きですか?コッメントを書いてお願いします! 日本語でいいよ!もう日本語のまちがいがあればどぞ直して下さい!

滝俳句 Waterfall Haiku


Here it is again without kanji . . .


ha o otoshi
zaa taki nokkaru
Ko ga warau

葉が落ちて ーーー>ーーー葉を落とし  
I changed "ha ga ochite" to "ha o otoshi",
because I learned the first means the leaves dropped
(as if falling from a tree - no person involved, which would indicate a fall scene).

The new phrase means that someone dropped the leaves in the water.
"Ahh, forevers' topic," as my teacher would say - transitive and intransitive verbs!

Rough English translation (without attention to syllable count)

Leaves are dropped
Zaa - riding the flowing waterfall
Children laugh

(note: 'Zaa' is the sound of the waterfall)

Here is the second one


たき ザーザー

taki zaa zaa
ha ga kakekko
dare katta?

Corrections to the original:
かけこっこ Kakekokko - is spelled incorrectly -> should be かけっこ kakekko"
Since that reduces the syllables to 6 - any suggestions for how to add one more syllable?

Rough English translation

the waterfall goes zaazaa
the leaves race
who won?

(note: zaazaa is the sound of the water flowing)

For homework, I'm working on writing Senryu. Which is like haiku but doesn't have to be about a specific season and often includes humor.

In an upcoming lesson we get to learn Calligraphy, which is either 書道 shodoo or 習字 shuuji in Japanese. (Any Japanese speakers reading this who can teach me the difference between these two words? 書道 と 習字 のちがいは何ですか?教えてくれませんか?) I'll get to pick one of these haiku and write it with something that looks like a paint brush.

Have you ever written or read Haiku?
Will you share your favorite - or most recent poem with me and other readers?
俳句を読みことか書きことがありますか? 一番好きのは書いてくれませんか?

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Happy Birthday, Mihwa!

(3 language teachers (on left) 7 students (on right)
Cake topping sign translates something like: Ms. Mihwa, Meeting you is wonderful,
or It's wonderful to have met you.
One of our teachers always says "subarasi" instead of subarashi (wonderful)
hence the "C" on the cake.
Happy Birthday to my friend and classmate, Mihwa!

Hard to believe I met you only a year ago at language school and our relationship is completely in Japanese! (I can't speak Korean and she doesn't speak English!) Friendship with you is a huge motivation to learn to communicate in this language!

 The kanji for her name means: 美 =beautiful 花 = flower!
Your friendship is one of the most amazing blessings God has given me this year!

Monday, January 12, 2009

His name is love

I've had a tune stuck in my head for a while now. And while I don't often post song lyrics its taken up such a residence in my head I wanted to share it with you.

I heard the song, "Before the Throne of God Above", (lyrics below) for the first time last fall and it struck me as an amazingly concise and eloquent telling of the authors love relationship with Jesus. I have since worked to memorize the words and find it gives me . . .
  • perspective when Satan is reminding me of my guilt
  • hope when so much change is happening around and in me
  • boldness when I think of the insignificance of me and the immense need for God in my life and in Japan.
Unpacking it a bit:
His name: Love
His position: High Priest, before the throne
His work: Pleading for me

My name: graven on his hand, written on his heart
My position: with him
My status: guilty
My circumstances: edge of despair
My hope: there is an end to my sin

How is that possible?
God (a God who hates sin) pardons me because of Jesus life & death & resurrection
The price: His blood
My new status: pardoned
My position: with Christ, my Savior and my God.

Names for Jesus: risen Lamb
My perfect, spotless, Righteousness
The Great unchangeable I AM
The King of Glory and of Grace

Before the Throne of God Above

Music by Vikki Cook
Original lyrics by Charitie Lees Bancroft

Before the throne of God above
I have a strong and perfect plea
A great High Priest whose name is love
Who ever lives and pleads for me

My name is graven on His hands
My name is written on His heart
I know that while in heaven He stands
No tongue can bid me thence depart
No tongue can bid me thence depart

When Satan tempts me to despair
And tells me of the guilt within
Upward I look and see Him there
Who made an end of all my sin

Because the sinless Savior died
My sinful soul is counted free
For God, the Just, is satisfied
To look on Him and pardon me
To look on Him and pardon me

Behold Him there! The risen Lamb
My perfect, spotless, Righteousness
The Great unchangeable I AM
The King of Glory and of Grace

One with Himself I cannot die
My soul is purchased by His blood
My life is hid with Christ on high
With Christ my Savior and my God
With Christ my Savior and my God

Heb. 4:16
16Let us therefore draw near with boldness unto the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy, and may find grace to help us in time of need.

For more Biblical references from this song click here.
Want to hear the song? It is performed by Selah, Shane & Shane and others, feel free to search for it on your favorite online music source.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Me and 100,000 other people

Kanda Myojin (name of shrine)- Here are photos from a cultural outing my Japanese class took to a shrine dedicated to commerce and industry. In other words people - mainly businessmen and women and company presidents go here to pray for lots of money - and a successful business year. The same day we visited (Jan. 5 - The first business day after the New Years holiday) the papers reported that over 100,000 people visited this shrine. You'll see my first attempt at posting a video at the bottom of the post.

I was surprised to see a large amount of people talking on their cell phones at the shrine.

I learned - in economically difficult times - shrines become very wealthy - as more people are buying fortunes and paying for prayers for economic success.

I was saddened to see so many who believe you have to clap to get the attention of a higher power and pay for him to answer your prayers - when all they need to do is call - and he'll answer, seek and they shall find.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Starting 2009

I'm starting out the new year by "pulling a cold".

風邪を引きました かぜをひきました kaze o hikimashita;
hiku = to pull

So while I start the year with coughing and sniffling, life continues to move ahead.
Today was the first day of the year back to language school - we had a cultural outing to a shrine, where Japanese business men pray for a good business year. It was an interesting if not somewhat disturbing time of observation. But more on that after the photos are uploaded.

Yesterday, I heard sad news that my 92 year old friend, Toshio Seki-san passed away.

His wife (photo left) is a member of Yurigaoka church, she is like an adopted Japanese grandma for me. The Seki family hosted me a few times while I was a short-term missionary over 10 years ago. While I haven't seen him recently, I remember his kindness to me and his adorable sense of humor even joking in English with me when I stayed with them. I remember him taking me on a tour of the Tokyo Diet building (he used to work for the government), and my first visit to Tokyo Tower.

His funeral will be Friday at noon- at the church. I'd appreciate your prayers for this service. While I'm uncertain about Mr. Seki's relationship with God, there will most likely be many people at the funeral who have not yet heard of Jesus saving grace available for them. Pray that their spiritual eyes may be opened so they can see and respond to the God who is reaching out in love to them. Pray also for the testimony of Mrs. Seki's faith during this time of grief.