Thursday, April 30, 2009

All dressed up and nowhere to go

KCS High school students

Above: Mrs. Nagata (Kimono expert), Marilyn (High School English Teacher)
and me.
Below: I'm with Kobayashi Sensei (Japanese teacher who has been at the school for 20 years!)

After school on Wednesday, I had the opportunity along with 4 students and one other teacher at Kansai Christian School to wear a Japanese kimono. This was part of the Japanese teacher's introduction to Japanese culture. I own a summer kimono called a yukata but I have never worn a silk one. A kimono has multiple layers and is difficult to put on without help of 1 or 2 other kimono experts. (It is also very expensive!)The bow (obi) was the most intriguing part for me! The above photo is where she asked me to spin around two times as she wraps the obi around me before she used the end hanging over my shoulder to tie it in a bow at the back.

It was a fun experience getting dressed up and taking photos. It would have been fun to have a special event to go to all dressed up - but I don't think I would want to wear it for very long - at least it would take practice to wear it with grace and still be able to carry out your daily activities. (I'd probably spill coffee all over it!) Kimonos are not thought of as "everyday clothes" for Japanese women. Kimonos are worn for events like graduations, weddings, or special holidays. Although the shoes are beautiful - I thought they were painful to wear!
click on the photos to see a larger view

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Got Property?

Recently, Kansai Christian School (KCS -where I'm currently teaching 1st and 2nd grade) has been working on purchasing property so we can move out of rental property. The last three years have been especially challenging as we lost the use of one of the rented buildings after it was condemned due to termite damage. (The building in the above photo was the building that was torn down). Currently we are using 2 rented buildings from a Bible College.

After an extensive search by the school board, a new location for the school was identified and a plan to purchase the property, remodel the buildings on the property and build a playground was put into place. The hope was to purchase the property last fall, move over Christmas break and start classes January of '09 in the new property. But due to details regarding land zoning rules there was a delay in the purchase and move. For many of the school families and staff it's felt like we've been in a holding pattern for many months looking longingly to the move to our new home. But God has been faithful to teach us many lessons during this time of waiting - and has been working in the lives of students in obvious ways.

After months of raising funds, completing paperwork and waiting on zoning agreements to pass - it was announced today that Kansai Christian School official owns the property!!!
THANK YOU to so many of you who have been praying for this event for many months! We are so excited! Thank you to many of you who have given financially to help fund this project! We did not need to take out any bank loans to make the purchase! Praise God! However there have been some loans from various missions agencies that will need to be repaid -so funds are still being raised.

On Thursday, the school board has a meeting with the contractors to discuss the remodeling that needs to take place in these buildings to prepare it for our anticipated move in August and start at the new location in September. The second photo of this post is of the new property (3 buildings and a shed). As you can see it is surrounded by farmland. It looks like it is in the middle of nowhere but there is actually a train station about 5 minutes walk from the school.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Love Letter

Last week we studied letter writing in 1st and 2nd Grade.

Today, when I found this note my desk this morning
I couldn't stop smiling . . .

I love you!

Dear Ms. Harms

I hope that you will teach us fabulos.
It is a sunny day Today!
God made the Sunny day.
Because God made the darkness and the lightness!
He is a kind Father to us.
Yesterday I went to church.
And on Saturday I had so much fun!
that is all for today!

God bless you
(Student's name here)
(Imagine lots of hearts here.)

Thursday, April 23, 2009

My New Routine with the United Nations

Week 2 of teaching
I'm attempting to stay one step ahead of my students - which although there are only 9 students - is a difficult activity considering at times it feels they are each heading in a different direction. I teach 1st and 2nd grade, have 5 boys and 4 girls in the class. 3 of the 9 just started at the school 2 weeks ago, the same time I did. My students represent at least 4 different nations. I love my teacher's assistant, who happens to be from Canada - couldn't do this without her!

I also teach 1st through 4th grade music once a week. There are 5 students in 3& 4 grade, each holding a passport from a different country. The countries represented in the elementary students : New Zealand, USA, Japan, Korea, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Ghana,
There are about 40 students in 1st through 12 grade at the school with 7 full time teachers and 5 part-time teachers. Staff come from South Africa, Ghana, India, USA, Japan, Canada, & Malaysia. (Which makes some very fun discussions at staff meetings; like "What's a 'prickly pear'?" and a great spread at school potlucks!) It feels like I'm stepping into a mini United Nations when I step onto the school campus.

My New Routine
6AM Wake -Up

25 minute drive to school

8 Attend school morning prayer meeting

8:15 Greet the students and start the school day

Teach, learn, smile, redirect, receive a hug, smile, teach, and learn some more

3:15 dismiss the students,

inhale, exhale

Prepare to repeat again the next day

4:30 - Try to leave the school building

5 finish "one more thing" then ahead home

5:20 detour to grocery store on the way home (or some other errand)

6 pull leftovers out of the refrigerator and read the international newspaper while I eat

7 pack lunch for my next day

8 check email - try to build energy up to answer at least one -

try to think of something coherent to say for a blog post put it off another day

9 review "To do" list & try to muster up enough energy to complete something.

Fall into bed thinking only 2 more days til Saturday - then remember it's only Tuesday!

(Times are approximates and vary depending on unanticipated visitors, phone calls, and responsibilities).

Above Photo: My current classroom with Susie, former 1st & 2nd grade teacher, taken in February.

7 year "sabbatical"

I am back in teaching in a classroom - after a 7 year "sabbatical".

That's what I'm calling it anyway - the time between when I last taught elementary students (2002 - 3rd graders) and now (2009 - 1st and 2nd graders).

Just to recap a few of the events in that 7 year sabbatical I . . .
  • Got my Master's degree in Intercultural Studies
  • Worked at a University in the Office of International Studies

  • Gathered a ton of awesome Ministry Partners
  • Volunteered with an AMAZING jr. high youth group (Miss you guys, tons!)
  • Bought a house with my sister in MN

  • Spent some quality time with friends and family
  • Became addicted to coffee and discovered a few unique coffee shops

  • Moved to Tokyo, Japan

  • Studied Japanese

  • Moved to Nara, Japan =0)

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Photo update

Moving crew in Tokyo - Sayaka さやかーhelping unpack my kitchen in Nara 奈良市

Visiting Nara Park and meeting the friendly deer

In front of my house with Steve & Debbie (vistors from the home office)

Nara sightseeing - deer and Todaiji(temple) with cherry blossoms


Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Work in progress

Hello again -

Still no internet at my house - so I'm grabbing some computer time while I'm visiting fellow missionaries. So here's an update. . .

I'm starting to feel settled in but as much of life it's a work in progress! I have put the empty boxes away. I've learned major driving routes in my neighborhood. I have a phoneline at my house now and as of today - I am hosting guests! My missions' Director of International Ministry and his wife are visiting Japan and will be attending the Japan Field Council (April 6-9).
The cherry blossoms are starting to bloom and it's a beautiful time to be in Nara!

I haven't started teaching full-time - yet - but have been in contact with the school - attending staff meetings, teacher orientation, observing the class I'll be teaching and looking at the curriculum. Yesterday, I was the "subsitute teacher' for the day in the classroom I'll eventually be teaching full-time. It felt SO GOOD to be back in the classroom! The students were adorable and eager to obey the new teacher so there was much fun in learning to be had (for both teacher and student!)! I start teaching (1st and 2nd grade) at the beginning of their 4th quarter (April 13). The first week I will team teach with the current teacher. She flies back to America on the 19. Then I'll be teaching my 9 students full-time.

I've been blessed to have friends of Nancy, the missionary who used to live in the house I'm now in, take very good care of me. Mrs. Ura - assisted me in going to the City office to update my alien registration, to the police department to update my driver's liscense and to visit the neighbors for the formal "greetings". Another neighbor, Mrs. Okano , has stopped by twice and has given me many gifts to help me in the transition - my favorites were the google map of the neighborhood and homeade apple pie!
I'm meeting new people but am missing the close relationships that I left in Tokyo. My circle of friends has shrunk considerably - but am glad for the emails and times for phone calls - sorry I haven't had much internet access to respond to many of you!

I've visited 3 different Japanese churches in the area and will continue to visit churches as I introduce myself as the new missionary and try to find a place for worship and fellowship. I love using the Japanese I have and am so thankful for the time of language study which has prepared me for this!

Nara - where I live now is known for their deer. And I have gone to Nara park and seen the deer roaming and eating rice crackers out of peoples' hands. I'll try to upload photos once I'm back online on my own computer.

Thank you for your prayers during this transition - It's gone much more smoothly than I expected. Please continue to pray for relationship development and transition into teaching - Pray also for the Japan field meetings April 6-9!