Monday, January 31, 2011

Glimpses 1.31.11

Here is a glimpse of the desk that sits empty.
Due to some complications with the move it may be a little longer before our new student joins our class.  Students are sad we have to wait a bit longer for our new friend to come.  Meanwhile his mailbox is piling high with letters of greeting and special drawings.   And the students are praying, "Dear God, please let him come soon."

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Glimpses 1.30.11

Today I'm reflecting on the statement . . . 
"The love of God cannot be measured but it can be demonstrated."

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Glimpses 1.29.11

Marist WJAA HS Boys Basket Ball Tournament  - held in Kobe yesterday and today.   Some differences between games in Japan and USA - indoor shoes are worn in the gym.  This could be clean gym shoes (for players) or slippers (brought from home) for the fans.  Sometimes - like today-  the rules are flexible and they allow the fans to wear outdoor shoes - inside.  Another difference, the gym is not heated so hand warmers (called kairo) are key to enjoying the game. 

KCS won 5th place in the tourney by winning against Sons of Light.  What a growing season it has been for the KCS students! This year Coach Dugan has been a huge blessing to the team bringing skills and leadership that they've needed.  Last year I helped "coach" this group (basically, the students ran practice,  my job was to travel to Saturday games help make substitutions, call time-outs, and drive a van full of students.)  So I REALLY appreciate Coach Dugan!

^K.I.U.  won 1st place in the tournament for the 2nd year in a row. Great kids! Amazing ball players.

^The name of the Most Valuable Player for KCS was Chapman - I'll let you figure out which one.

^The tournament was held in Suma, Kobe a town with a white sandy beach and great waterfront views.
This sunset is the typical - looking-through-the-power-line view, seen oh, so often in Japan.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Glimpses 1.28.11

^Setsubun - the Feb. 3 Japanese holiday welcoming Spring -
Is celebrated by  Mamemaki  - "Bean throwing".  Its a ritual said to rid the house of evil from the previous year and drive away evil for the year to come.

This ritual is done by throwing beans out the door or at a family member wearing a mask of a demon or ogre. The throwers yell, "Oni wa soto, Fuku wa Uchi"  "Evil out! Luck in!" 

Then the family eats soybeans or peanuts - one for each year of their life.

Makizushi - or hand made sushi is also typically eaten at this time.  Tonight in the grocery store I saw shelves of soybeans and peanuts on one side (see above photo) and nori or seaweed and the ingredients for the makings of temakizushi on the other.  There was also a banner with an ogre on it - you can see his orange legs and club in the top right of the photo. Sorry -couldn't get a clear photo of it.

Another thing I  noticed in the grocery store is shown in this photo.  The aisle of cup noodle, ramen, udon, and other instant noodle meals - it reminded me of cereal aisles in the states. These are popular lunches for the students - especially on cold days. The school canteen has them for sale, too.  Simply add hot water and sauce then wait about 3 minutes. Lunch is served. There is a range of prices this photo shows them being sold for 128 yen and 69 yen ($1.50 and $.85).

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Glimpses 1.27.11

 Flower Basket* practice tonight. Sang for almost 2 hours.  I'm thankful to be singing melody but it'll be a bit of a task for me to memorize the Japanese songs.

 This year we're sing a Japanese song called "Itsumo Nando Demo" from  Studio Gibli's Spirited Away movie. (rough translation: Always Numerous Times. or Always With Me)  This year's English song is Chitty Chitty Bang Bang  from the Musical of the same name, by Robert Sherman.  However in Japanese its チキチキバンバン pronounced Chiki, Chiki, Bam, Bam.  And explaining"Fine four fendered friend" was hilarious!
Today they practiced the song while looking at my mouth to see how I moved my lips so they can get the right sounds to come out. Felt awkward!

The other Flower Basket members have already performed these songs at two different concerts that I wasn't able to go to so I need to put some time and effort into preparation for our next concert the end of March.

*Flower Basket is the name of the singing group in my community that I unintentionally joined. I thought I was going to a "welcome to town" dinner, they thought I was coming to a "welcome to the singing group" dinner. It all works out in the end.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Glimpses 1.26.11

33 stamps 
+ 22 pieces of original artwork from my nieces and nephew 
+ Christmas gifts
 lots of love!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Glimpses 1.25.11

A new student will soon be joining our class.  The current students are overjoyed. (That's a fancy word for very happy).  One student was overheard saying, "I'm so excited, I might explode!"

 Today for writing class they composed letters welcoming the student and in their free time a group designed a poster welcoming him to our "1st and 2nd glad classroom".   I think they meant to write "grade" but "glad" is a fitting description of this bunch, too!  

The new student's first language is Spanish. When I speak to the new family and I try to dig out the old college Spanish learning files in the "foreign language folder" in my head it all comes out Japanese.  - Like when I try to say "thank you" - ありがとう- arigato comes to mind instead of gracias!   Thankfully all the students have figured out that a smile is a language that everyone understands.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Glimpses 1.24.11

Kansai Christian School is preparing for a new season - DRAMA SEASON!! Our drama club is called "Eagle Theater Company".  In the past They've performed: Holy Moses!, The Chronicles of Narnia, and A Heart's Desire, among other titles.  This year we're doing a musical called HONK! Jr. a Broadway junior version of the Ugly Duckling.

The box containing the "show kit": scripts, scores, CD, directors book, choreography DVD, etc, arrived today.  I'm very excited to kick off the season with the informational meeting for students and parents Jan. 31 and auditions on Feb. 7 and 8. Drama is something that can only be done successfully when parents and students join together. I'm so thankful for all of the volunteers who are and will continue to be at work behind the scenes to make it all possible. Over  half of our 1-12 graders are signed-up to participate.   As co-director of the musical I look forward to seeing the talents in these kids shine on stage!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Glimpses 1.23.11

Life seems to be rushing by like the traffic on a busy street.
Thankfully God gives the grace resources needed to meet the demands and challenges each day presents. I'm learning to face each day with the hope God has placed in it and leave the worries at his feet.

Lamentations 3: 21-27 (New International Version)

21 Yet this I call to mind
   and therefore I have hope:
 22 Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed,
   for his compassions never fail.
23 They are new every morning;
   great is your faithfulness.
24 I say to myself, “The LORD is my portion;
   therefore I will wait for him.”
 25 The LORD is good to those whose hope is in him,
   to the one who seeks him;
26 it is good to wait quietly
   for the salvation of the LORD.
27 It is good for a man to bear the yoke
   while he is young.

1 Peter 5:7 (Amplified Bible)
    7Casting the [c]whole of your care [all your anxieties, all your worries, all your concerns, [d]once and for all] on Him, for He cares for you affectionately and cares about you [e]watchfully.(B)

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Glimpses 1.22.11

Enjoying the gift of time together, Andrea (right) and me.

Yesterday was "Missionary Fellowship" (MF), a monthly meeting of missionaries in this area who get together for food, fun conversation, worship and prayer.  Prayer with others who understand the struggles on the field, who share the joys and sorrows of ministry in this country is a priceless encouragement.  

Andrea, has been a welcome addition to our MF group this year. She lives an hour and a half train ride away in Kyoto so when the meetings are near my house we use it as an excuse for a sleep-over. Fun times!

My camera was left at Missionary Fellowship so today's photo credit goes to Andrea.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Glimpses 1.21.11

Missionary Fellowship included the game of "Whoonu".  In this photo Caleb is playing guitar while the rest of the group await the score keeper's announcement of the winner.

For those of you who have followed the blog long enough to remember Cookie. The host of missionary fellowship - the Chapmans - are  Cookies' owners.    

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Glimpses 1.20.11

Since it has been a busy week, today I decided instead of taking photos I would take a nap. (It was lovely!) So for today's photo post I'm digging back to January 2010.  This is a photo of the view from a Korean restaurant at Nara Family Shopping Mall looking toward Heijyo Palace Throne room. (Look for a red and white building near the top left corner of the photo.)

^ Can you see it now?

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Glimpses 1.19.11

The day started with a beautiful sunrise. 

 ^At lunch time I made waffles for the worship team to celebrate their faithful service over the first semester. Shout out to the KCS WORSHIP TEAM - Rockin' the school for the LORD!

Thank you to Bible Baptist Church, (Mauston, WI,) who sent maple syrup in their Christmas package! Students with a plain waffle and a variety of toppings devised some creative combinations - example a.)the marshmallow-chocolate chip-blueberry- raspberry-blackberry-waffle example b.) peanut butter -chocolate chip-waffle.

For our Wednesday bible study we watched this  video comparing our Christian lives to walking on a balance beam.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Glimpses 1.18.11

It was a busy day at school - the students' "finished work box" is overflowing.   This week is the end of the semester so there are many reports, tests, and projects wrapping up.  Their outbox is my inbox so it means I have a few hours of correcting ahead of me.

Despite the overflowing box I left school by 4pm to stop at the train station to pick-up a fellow Converge Worldwide missionary Barb.  My home was the location for the January Executive Committee meeting.  I'm the secretary,  Barb is the treasurer. The field coordinator, John, joined us by Skype from Tokyo. We had a very relaxed yet effective and efficient meeting.

When the business was over Barb stayed for dinner.  I enjoyed our discussion of ministry, musicals and kids.  I've heard it said (and definitely agree!) who you do ministry with largely determines how much you enjoy ministry! 

Now -its time to get ready for tomorrow - Wednesday will bring another day of teaching, the lunch Bible study with the worship team and after school a staff meeting.  I promised to make waffles for the worship team to celebrate the end of the semester. Better get off the computer and into the kitchen!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Glimpses 1.17.11

The building on the left is Saidaiji Station. (also called Yamato Saidaiji-Eki) This road by the station has been under construction for the past 2 years. 
Buildings have been torn down and replaced with wider roads, a sidewalk and taxi 'pratform'.  The station has been updated with a shopping area and observation deck. 
The main bus terminal and taxi area are on the other side of the station, but there are shuttle buses to Heijyo Palace on this side of the station.
This station is convenient for traveling by train to Osaka (45 min.), Kyoto (35 min.)  or Nara (5 min.). 
If I were to continue walking on this sidewalk I would see Heijyo palace after about 10- minutes.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Glimpses 1.16.11

I attend a church about 15 or 20 minutes walk from my house.
I walk across the tracks and then on the road along side the tracks to get to church. 

^This train goes from Nara (Kintetsu line)  to Kobe - (Hanshin Line) 

  ^I could go to church by car and take this street, but it's rather narrow.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Glimpses 1.15.11

Christmas decorations are back in the box.  I had contemplated just exchanging the ornaments for hearts on the Christmas tree and leaving it up for Valentine's Day - but found a burst of energy today to complete the cleaning project.

And yes, I do save wrapping paper.  a) it's hard to find good quality wrapping paper here b.) snowmen and flowers are much better than Santa paper in my opinion and c.) I'm an elementary teacher - wrapping paper makes for great craft projects.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Glimpses 1.14.11


This morning an email was discovered in my inbox from my sister and my 6 year old niece, with a picture of this masterpiece they created.  I LOVE salmon and had just yesterday purchased some at the grocery store. So my immediate response was to wipe the drool off the keyboard and reply with a request for details on the recipe.   The photos above are what I came up with - I didn't have fresh basil, rosemary, or green onions.  I had lemon juice and grapefruit instead of lemons.  So it lacks the pizazz that the greens add in flavor and looks. I did use dried spices and then threw in some steamed broccoli. I cooked it on the stove top with low heat for about 20 minutes.  Served on top of rice. Delicious for a simple and healthy Friday evening meal! Clean-up was a snap, too!

Here's the recipe for the Salmon pouch dinner
One 5oz salmon.
line the bottom of the foil with 5 basil leaves . . . salt and pepper.
Place salmon on top . . . salt and pepper (white pepper).
drizzle with olive oil.
lay 4 grape tomatoes on the side.
Grate lemon zest on top.
chopped green onion and the sliced lemon atop the salmon.
then one more basil leaf and a rosemary or thyme sprig.
juice a little more lemon on top and then seal the foil, leaving a little pouch for steam.

Bake 10-12 min at 475.

Open and serve.

She says you can make the foil packs up to 6hrs ahead of time.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Glimpses 1.13.11

Glimpse of what is in my car's CD player. "Don't Be Afraid"  a sermon series from Pastor Leith Anderson. A Christmas gift from Wooddale Church.

It is a a huge encouragement each morning and perfect fit for the 30 minute drive to school.  THANK YOU, friends at Wooddale for your partnership!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Glimpses 1.12.11

Glimpses of a gift.  One of the KCS parents brought in a crate of mikan (similar to a tangerine) to school.    Arigatou gozaimasu!  There was enough fruit for each student and staff member (about 50 people) to have one mikan.  I have never seen individually wrapped mikan before.
  It was one of the sweetest mikan I've ever tasted.  
If you know Japanese and can read the packaging please leave a comment to tell me where it's from. 

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Glimpses 1.11.11

Glimpses of the quiet, frost covered swings on the Kansai Christian School playground before the rush of students on Tuesday morning.

The playground equipment at the school is something the students don't take for granted.  When the school opened at this new site fall 2009 a dirt field was the playground.   Students weren't even allowed to use balls on the field because there was no fence separating KCS property from the neighbor's rice paddy. Imaginations were necessary for creative play to outwit boredom.

"Thank God for a playground!"  Is a prayer of gratitude that many students as well as teachers prayed last fall and continue to pray this year!  Besides the sandbox and jungle gym set, there are basketball hoops and soccer goals.  There isn't enough land for a regulation size soccer field or basketball court but there was a fence constructed last spring so balls are now allowed.

Side note: I've been playing around with a feature on my camera called "accent".  It allows me to take photos black and white photos with one accent color.  For this photo I chose blue.  Which pulls in the sky and swing color with out the yellow slide distracting.  (Other photos using this feature were (Glimpses 1.1.11 (red accent), 1.6.11 (blue accent), and the Tokyo Tower photo at the top of the page.)

Monday, January 10, 2011

Glimpses 1.10.11

Glimpses of a neighbor's garden.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Glimpses 1.9.11

Welcome to my weekend kitchen.  I've gotten into the routine of cooking enough food on the weekend to last me through a week's worth of lunches.  Over the weeks I've made lasagna, pizza, stir fry, curry, donburi, soup, etc.  Today I tried a new crock pot recipe for Mexican chili.  It simmered while I worked on mission expense reports. When it finished cooking I divided it into individual serving size dishes and stashed them in the refrigerator.  I don't mind eating the same thing 5 days in a row for lunch if it means I don't have to put much time or effort into preparing lunch during the morning rush out the door.  I just grab the prepackaged serving, some fruit and perhaps crackers and go.   This idea may not work if you were feeding a family but for one person it simplifies life just enough to focus on more important details.

I was thrilled to discover this 2 qt crock pot at a recycle shop in Tokyo for about 1500 yen or $18.  In Nara I've  discovered plastic containers for rice that are individual serving size.   So I can make 5 servings in my rice cooker, than put them in the plastic containers and place them in the freezer. The container has a doughnut like shape so when its heated there are no frozen centers.  After about 2 minutes in a microwave the serving of rice is ready to be eaten.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Glimpses 1.8.11

Today's glimpse comes from a Saturday morning walk around my neighborhood. This photo faces east looking toward Nara City. A mountain range in the background, older homes to the left of the photo, new housing development to the right. Small garden plots and rice paddies in foreground.
Mt. Wakakusa also called Mt. Mikasa is one of the mountains in the background (This is where the famous deer of Nara live.)

More about Mountains from Wikipedia:
Nara prefecture is covered by mountains and forests for most of its part, leaving only an inhabitable area of 851 km², smallest of the 47 prefectures of Japan. The ratio of inhabitable area over total area is 23%, ranked 43rd nationwide.[1]

A place for more AMAZING mountain photos. My friend Holly and her husband, Ben, have recently moved to South Asia and are working with Wycliffe in language research and development.  Ben is blessed with amazing photographic skills, his blog posts have inspired me to get out my camera more often.   Blessings on your language study my friends! Thanks for sharing your story and photos on your blog!

Glimpses 1.7.11

 A glimpse of my drive to work.  Going from Nara to Heguri. Ahead is Mt. Ikoma. The other side of the mountain is Osaka. I turn left before I get to the mountain.

 A year and a half ago a friend from America visited. She is a faithful reader of my blog and so I asked her about what I should post on my blog to give my readers a better idea of my life and ministry in Japan.  One of her suggestions was - the mountains.  I realized then that I've become so used to living near mountains that I don't always post photos of them.

Thursday, January 6, 2011


We studied the season - SPRING - in science today - what a hope filled topic on a cold day.

Read the poem "SNOWMAN" by Shel Silverstein from Where the Sidewalk Ends
about a snowman who wants to live to see July.

Twas the first day of springtime,
And the snowman stood alone
As the winter snows were melting
And the pine trees seemed to groan,
"Ah, you poor sad smiling snowman,
You'll be melting by and by."
Said the snowman,"What a pity,
For I'd like to see July.
Yes, I'd like to see July, and please don't ask me why.
But I'd like to, yes I'd like to, oh I'd like to see July.

Chirped a robin just arriving,
"Seasons come come and seasons go,
And the greatest ice crumble
When it's flowers' time to grow.
And as one thing is beginning
So another thing must die,
And there's never been a snowman
Who has ever seen July.
No, they never see July, no matter how they try.
No, they never ever, never ever, never see July."

But the snowman sniffed his carrot nose
And said, "At least I'll try,"
And he bravely smiled his frosty smile
And blinked his coal black eye.
And there he stood and faced the sun
A blazin' from the sky---
And I really cannot tell you
If he ever saw July.
Did he ever see July? You can guess as well as I
If he ever, if he never, if he ever saw July.
- Shel Silverstein

Conversation followed in the classroom as to who thought the snowman lived to see July and who thought he wouldn't.

One second grader reasoned: "If he lived in the North Pole he would see July,
If he lived in Japan he wouldn't.

That lead to more discussion about what clues were in the text that may tell us where he lived.

Do robins live in the North Pole? Thumbs up for YES, thumbs down for NO.

Glimpses 1.6.11

Brrrrr, its cold outside, even Frosty's cousin is wearing his jacket!
Windchill in Nara is -6 C tonight with chance of snow!
Which may not seem that cold compared to places like - um,
Minnesota (-12 C without windchill).
BUT when you consider the Japanese heating system and realize at school the hallways and bathrooms are not heated you would also be thankful for the layered look
and heated toilet seats!

^ Photo of Frosty's cousin is from my 1st and 2nd grade classroom at Kansai Christian School.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Glimpses 1.5.11

Back to school. I had a lovely day with the kiddos. Typical first day after break for 1st and 2nd grade - full of stories, generous with hugs and thrilled to be back at school with friends. (OK, so to be truthful they have this "I-love-school-attitude" everyday! But, there was even MORE energy today in class today. Thankfully I had anticipated this and scheduled wiggle breaks into the day.
The highlight for me today was when I received a letter.
Dear Ms. Harms,
I missed you so much from winter vacation. Did you go somewere?
Love, Your student.

I wish I could post pictures of their adorable faces for you.

Instead today's glimpses of Japan photo is of my new purchase at Costco. Contact. I've had a cough all Christmas break that I tried hard to get rid of. But its stubborn! This medicine seems to be helping. As well as reminding me of reason # 307 to learn more Japanese: The importance of being able to read the details of a medicine package.
But don't worry, Mom, I know enough Japanese to figure out how many
capsules to take each day.
As I tell my students - "Good readers read the pictures too!"

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Glimpses 1.4.11

Akihime Strawberries- the gift I received from my neighbors as omiyage (o-ME-ya-gay) or a souvenir from their New Year holiday travels.

I love berries! Especially fresh berries in January! Strawberries dipped in sweetened condensed milk is a typical Japanese way of enjoying this fruit. I'm currently out of condensed milk so I ate the strawberries with my morning cereal and snacked on the rest throughout the day.

Berry Picking in January anyone?

It is common in Japan to buy souvenirs while on a holiday trip to give to neighbors or other people in your circle of friends. Perhaps as a way of letting them enjoy a taste of your travels. Each region in Japan is known for one or two foods or flavors that can be found in area gift stores. Each highway rest area we went to during the road trip had some omiyage for sale. I didn't buy many souvenirs while in Tokyo during the holiday, so I gave my neighbors some chocolates from Minnesota, instead. Did you know Minnesota is has some amazing chocolates?

Monday, January 3, 2011

Glimpses 1.3.11

Nengajo - Post Cards that are sent on New Year's Day.
In Japan they don't often send Christmas cards or birthday cards but Nengajyo are very popular. Even the post boxes change the labels on the mail slots for just such a purpose. If you plan ahead and have your post cards ready to send out by mid December the post office will hold your postcards and deliver them on January 1st. Extra mail personnel on red bikes help deliver the nengajo. Some cards are photos, other's drawings, often the animal of the Zodiac year is on it. This year is the year of the rabbit.

Most nengajo carry lottery numbers on them and if you receive a card with a winning number you can claim your gift from the post office. Depending on the level of the prize it may be anything from a free stamps to a TV or a trip to Hawaii, South Korea or Hong Kong.

Here's how to say 'Happy New Year' in Japanese:
Akemashite omedeto gozaimasu.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Fellowship after church

With the blend of 2 churches there were 24 people today at worship. Some people were gone due to traveling for the New Year's holiday and other people were visiting.

Here is a video from our after service fellowship.
At about 15 seconds into the video you can see the food served: sweet azuki bean & mochi soup, green tea, tangerine (mikan) jelly, pineapple cookie, and plum cake. You may notice the soup is eaten with chopsticks (not a spoon), it is acceptable to pick-up the bowl and drink from it.


Glimpses 1.2.11

Saidaiji Baptist Church and Ikoma Baptist Church are preparing to merge congregations and move to a new location. Until the new location is found and the merge completed, the first Sunday of each month we have been meeting together. January's worship was in Saidaiji. In the picture above you can see the building where the church meets on the 3rd floor. The top white sign with a cross on it is for the church. First floor is a kimono shop. Second floor, I believe is type of educational facility for young children.
Today, the first Sunday of 2011, we celebrated the new year with a special red bean & mochi soup.
^Noguchi-san prepares fried o-mochi (pounded rice) for the New Year dish.
^The pastor's daughter eating o-mochi from her azuki bean soup (sweet red bean). The mochi is soft and chewy.