Monday, February 28, 2011

Glimpses: Home away from home

I'm still trying to catch up on posting photos from my Tokyo trip.
The blessing of family away from "home" is one that is hard to express.

^Here is Mion showing how she's learning to crochet.

^Ta-chan at his drawing table. He's really into Star Wars right now.

^His 4 year old take on R2D2.

^Mion mentioned she may want to be a Christian and a piano teacher when she grows up. Here she is giving Ta-chan (her cousin) lessons. 

^This is one creative kid! He made a Kaiten Sushi play set. (Conveyor belt sushi shop) It actually rotates on a string.

It was hard to say good-bye.
But I was thankful for the fast mode of transportation (Bullet train) that would get me home without much effort on my part. 

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Glimpses: Visitors

For the Women's retreat I stayed at the Mehn's home in Tokyo.  As we were leaving guest from the states were arriving. Ray Swatkowski and Gary Harrison are connected to our mission, visiting churches in Japan and preparing to lead a seminar at the Church Planting Institute on healthy churches - "The Retool Kit", which is being translated into Japanese.  You can read more of their adventures in Japan at this blog.  I enjoyed reading it to see Japan from a new perspective.

As they went to speak at churches in Northern Tokyo, I visited Yurigaoka Baptist Church. What a blessing to be back fellowshipping with some dear friends. I quickly learned that it was a celebration Sunday as they were honoring, Aiya, a nursing student who was about to graduate and move back to Okinawa. 

^There was Takoyaki.

^Osekihan, Festive Japanese red beans and rice (in an antique box!)

^Chirashizushi (bowl of sushi rice topped with various sashimi and garnishes.)
Everything was so delicious! 

After the meal we honored the graduating student, Aiya. The Sunday School kids sang and danced for Aiya. (Mion, my host family's granddaughter is in the black vest.)

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Glimpses: Retreat

The women of the mission in which I'm a member - Converge Worldwide (formerly Baptist General Conference) enjoyed our yearly women's retreat.  This year we followed the pattern set last year: connecting relationally while exploring a new area of Japan.  This time we chose YOKOHAMA, JAPAN. 
Our first stop was Sankeien Gardens

Open to the public in 1904 this historic garden contains 17 buildings some reconstructed after being transported here from other areas around Japan. The building above was built in 1649.

^Here are the ladies: Jane, Elaine, MaryLou, and Barb in front of a thatched roof building from 1603 that had been transported from Kamakura.

Barb had conquered the stars to the top of the hill to get a closer view of the 3-storied pagoda that was reconstructed from Kyoto originally built in 1457.
MaryLou at the top of the hill looking for the coastline only to find view obstructed by the industrial growth.  

Friday, February 25, 2011

Glimpses: Transplanting

For multicultural kids and third culture kids (TCKs), such as the ones I teach, transitions and good-byes are a common event.   I surveyed the 15 students in grade 1-4 about transitions.  Turns out that 13 have moved to a new home at least 1 time.  Most have moved at least 3 times, and some more than 10 times.  All have changed schools at least one time or had a teacher or classmate move during the school year, sometimes suddenly without giving them a chance for good-bye.

In chapel, I talked about how to say healthy good-byes. 
* How to build a R.A.F.T.
R= Reconciliation of conflicts
A= Affirmation of important relationships
F= Farewell performed in culturally appropriate ways
including: People, places, pets and possessions.
 T= Think Destination (realistically and positively)

*Stages of transition compared to the transplanting of a plant. 
*Talked about TCKs in the Bible 

And then we took our learning outside and got dirty planting flowers in new soil. 
The kiddos listened well and proved they not only have a green thumb
 but know how to show tender loving care.
 I must say the conversations that flowed after this with some of the most mobile students 
were the most touching thing in my day!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

The Way of Japanese Women Abroad

Found this  video interesting about Japanese women who move to the States.  I'm interested in hearing some feedback from Japanese women who've lived overseas if this matches with your experience or not. 

Mothers' Way Daughter's Choice

According to the documentary's website
The documentary “Mothers’ Way, Daughters’ Choice” explores how several Japanese women struggle to reconcile their traditional upbringing and their desire to create unique lives. To understand these struggles, the director, Kyoko Gasha, shows the deep, powerful influences of Japanese culture on her own life. Kyoko also uncovers stories of other Japanese women in New York City, weaving parallel tales of guilt, denial, sacrifice and joy. This is a story of cultures clashing on a personal level.

Check the website for screenings.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Glimpses: Easy Way Out

There was a potluck at school today for the staff after a morning of meetings.  I wanted to make pumpkin cranberry muffins but then I assessed my priorities, looked at the clock and decided NOT to bake anything. I felt a twinge of guilt - but then realized I wouldn't  lose any friends by bringing something from my cupboard instead of the oven.  So I brought tortilla chips and salsa (Thank you Costco, and Andrea!!), Swiss Miss (Thank you CarePackage!) and apples.  It was the easy way out and I'm glad I chose sleep over cooking.

Today while the teachers were discussing curriculum, the students were learning dramatic skills and life lessons from the Covenant Players.
They worked with 1-12 grade students   all day and made a presentation with students at 2pm. Iris was new to the group this year but Kurt and Kathy have been traveling with Covenant players 25 years and have been coming to KCS for 20 years! I highly recommend this drama troupe if you're ever looking for a church outreach or  ministry.  If you have drama skills that you'd like to use for the Kingdom - check them out! Their lives are not easy - living out of a suitcase and traveling so many months of the year - but the impact their ministry has is changing lives.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Glimpses: Tension

I didn't even pull the camera out of the case today.  So I'm posting a photo from the weekend. 

I'm struggling with the tension of expectations - what do I expect from myself? Is that realistic?

How will I fulfill all the roles I have accepted, without neglecting someone or something?

I realize I can't do it all.  So how do I manage the tension?

At KCS I am an elementary teacher, drama director, worship team leader, and mentor. I've been putting in long hours at school trying to keep up with the tasks and relationships in each area.  When I come home I'm often finishing a project for school or correcting papers. 

Its my job, and I can't imagine doing anything else. God is at work in the lives of these students and I love getting a front row seat -  but I must admit I'm tired.   It's the middle of the school year and the beginning of drama season - always a busy time of year for me.  

Here's what my week looks like:  yesterday and today we've had drama practice after school, in my spare time I'm working on calculating mid-term grades, Wednesday is our yearly curriculum planning meeting, (Wed. Bible study was cancelled),  Thursday after school worship team practice,  Friday I lead elementary chapel and then conduct four 1st grade entrance exams.   

This weekend (Friday-Sunday) I'm traveling out of town for a "retreat" with the women of my mission. Part of me is excited to meet with my friends and colleagues and step off of the treadmill of activities here while part of me is staring at a list of things I need to do now to prepare for a weekend out of town and be ready for next weeks events.

Most missionaries don't mention this but there are also mission responsibilities that we have. A prayer letter is way over due, emails to respond to, a list of thank you notes to be sent and meetings to attend. I've received emails from supporters requesting more letters from me and calls for prayer requests. I know there are people who don't read the blog or can't find the information they're looking for here.  I need to improve in the area of communication but haven't figured out how to manage the tension of my roles as a teacher, missionary, language learner and friend.

So here are some prayer points (supporting churches feel free to post this in your prayer list):

Pray for wisdom in what to say yes to, what to delegate to others, and how to keep my focus on God while ministering among people. Pray for effective and efficient use of my time. Pray for the grace necessary to meet the needs of each day, peace in what is left unfinished and energy to invest in relationships on both sides of the ocean.  Pray for diligence in guarding the Sabbath.  Pray for a God honoring attitude through it all. Pray for more workers to join the work in Japan.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Glimpses: Ume

^Ume (plum) blossoms are starting to appear.
^The view looking from my balcony to my backyard.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Glimpses: Renewal

Got my Japanese driver's license renewed today. 3 hour process of standing in lines, filling out papers, paying money, proving my eyes work and then listening to a lecture. Most of it was just standing in line, or waiting for your name to be called so you can go to the next line. Renewing it was much easier than getting it the first time! (try # 1, try 2, try 3, try 4)

 The lecture was 1 hour plus a 30 minute video.I was in row 14, Seat 117 about 130 people in this room.  There were 4 rooms this size. Most of the audience was asleep or focused on their cell phones until they started handing out the licenses. 

It took about an hour to drive to the place and an hour back so it was 5 hours of my day. But I was expecting worse.

After I had my license I took some photos without people there to show some of the process.  We had to follow the big red numbers. Window #3 where you type your code number then  wait in line to submit your paperwork.  Window #4- Where they call your name to go get your photo taken. And the "Hagaki (postcard) Window" (far right) I think that was for people who had issues with their application or postcard. From what I could tell you didn't want to get called there.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Glimpses: Laundry

 Wash. Dry. Fold. Repeat.

Sunny Saturdays = time to catch up on the piles of laundry

Friday, February 18, 2011

Glimpses: Singing in the Rain

Thanks to my dear friend, Betty Crocker, who shared this yummy recipe with me.  And thanks to a box of super moist white cake mix, sent by Bible Baptist in WI, this not-so-secret recipe that I found here for White Chocolate Cranberry bars were a simple answer to the "What should I make for the bake sale?" question.

In music class (grades 1-4) we're studying musicals.  Since many of the students have NEVER seen the classics (Oliver, Annie, The King & I, My Fair Lady, Fiddler on the Roof, etc.) , and the weekly class isn't long enough to show a whole film, I thought it would be fun to have an after school showing of some of the best of the best musicals.  Going to the movies in Japan is about $20 USD per person, which means most people rent movies or own DVD's to save money. So a free movie is a fun gathering and (from my perspective) educational!

As we discussed the idea of Movies at school the idea grew -
"Hey let's make it an ALL school event!"
"We could open it up to families and make more of a KCS community event."
"Drama club could sell cookies and snacks to raise funds for this year's production of Honk! Jr."
"Yeah, we could sell popcorn and drinks"
"What if we did one movie each month?"

Today we showed "Singing in the Rain" from 3:30 -5:30.  God helped to set the mood - as we had a rainy day!  It was a great musical to show the history of musicals and movies with bits from vaudeville acts to silent movies and then "talkies".  The giggles were at their height with "Make 'em Laugh".  Watch the link to see what's so funny! The kisses made some of the elementary students say, "Yuck!" but overall I think everyone left smiling! I recommend you rent the video if you' haven't yet seen it or if it's been a while! (Rated G)

Here is a VW commercial remake of the title song from the musical.  Fun comparison!  (Thanks, Mason's for introducing this to me!) I'm not necessarily endorsing the product.

What are your top 3 favorite musicals? Any one want to share their favorite musical memory - either going to a live production or movie version?

My favorite memory of a musical - was when I was young (probably 5 years old or so) we saw the musical "Annie" in Chicago! We even got an autograph of one of the actresses! I've been in LOVE with musicals ever since.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Glimpses: Bread

“Man does not live by bread alone, even presliced bread.”

D.W. Brogan

^ The typical size of a loaf of bread from the grocery store, six slices and this was the thinnest sliced bread I could find.  (Sometimes I can find 8 slices in a loaf. They also sell the same size loaf with 4 slices.) I usually make bread in a bread machine or buy wholewheat english muffins.  Wholewheat bread is not easy to find here. 

Monday, February 14, 2011

Glimpses: Snow Day

I glanced out my window as I drank my morning coffee, enjoying the sunny view of melting snow and shadows of the plum tree branches on the bare ground. 

I listened to this message on Love.

Read this again and decided to make,  "Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly," my theme verse for the year. 

Thought about making this on my day off, but after yesterday's cookie overload I opted for a walk in the sunshine instead.

Although there is no snow in the photo you can read  this post from yesterday's events to understand why we had a snow day.

Glimpses: White Day (Part 2)

Monday, Valentine's Day, our classroom calendar helper/weather reporter announced, "The weather is sunny and cloudy but it will snow later."
  "Really?!" I blurted out.  I didn't believe her. After all it was sunny at 8:45am and on Friday we had just experienced the biggest snowfall in 14 years in Nara (which all melted about 10 hours later).
 But this student insisted, based on information from her local weather expert, "It's true Miss Harms! My mom said so this morning!"

 I've learned to never question a mother's weather report!

*By lunch time (12:15)  snow was falling but it was still too warm for anything to stick to the ground. Due to the wet conditions recess was held indoors ( My sympathies to the now deaf teachers on indoor recess duty - the Valentine's day sugar high combined with snow excitement resulted in uncontainable wiggling and shouts of joy.)

*2:00  There was talk of canceling after school activities.  However, since it was our 1st drama rehearsal, we decided to go ahead with things as planned.

*3:00 One or two  inches of snow had fallen and stuck to the ground and students in my class were heard telling everyone they met in the hall "IT IS SNOWING! LOOK AT THE SNOW."  I spent the last 20 minutes of school pulling kids away from the windows and refocusing them on the fact that the sooner they cleanup and pack their bags the sooner they can go outside and play in the snow.

*3:30 Drama rehearsal starts. Giant snow flakes still falling as some parents decide to take their children home early so as not to get stuck on the roads.

*4:15 Principal reports that the roads are getting worse and makes the decision to end practice and send the students home.

*5:00 I'm the last to drive away from the school. As I'm driving I find that the main roads that I take home are closed.  I try alternate routes attempting to find relatively flat roads but most are met with traffic jams. No snow plows here to remove snow.  Road are slippery and inexperienced drivers on snow are a bit scary to watch as I inch along.

*6:00 I'm still on the road, along with everyone else trying to get home. It takes hour to travel what usually takes 20 minutes.  I decide to call Chapman's and wait at their house until the number of cars on the road is reduced.

*About 7:00pm received a cellphone call from the principal to see if I was ok, (since he couldn't reach me on my home phone.)  Assured him I safe at Chapman's house, taking a break from driving until later.  Conversation continued: 4 teachers who live on the mountain had needed to park their cars and walk up the mountain to get home.  10 inches were reported on the mountain and it was still snowing.  We talked about the potential of a 2 hour delay for Tuesday. Conversation continued and by the end of the phone call he had convinced himself that given the weather conditions and hazards of traveling on the mountain, school for the next day would be CANCELLED.  (Insert sad face here for 1 & 2nd graders who love school! Insert shouts of joy for other students thrilled its a Snow Day!)

*I spent the next hour demonstrating how a small school (without the help of WCCO radio or TV) announces a school closure, I called every student in my class to tell them the news.  

*Jeff spent some time putting chains on my car's tires (only one worked) and then deciding it was safer to drive without the chains. 

*11:30 PM,  Having enjoyed a lovely evening eating Shabu Shabu with Minnesotans (Chapmans and visitors: Dan from Duluth and Gladys from Mora) and watching a recorded version of the Superbowl. (GO PACKERS!)   I left their house to find the roads were wet but not too icy, and there were very few cars on the roads.  The temps has actually warmed up a little, so snow was melting and it was a pretty easy drive.  Thankfully where I park my car at my house is covered so I haven't needed to shovel. I probably would be stuck with a broom, a small dustpan and a bucket if I needed to move the snow.  

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Glimpses: White Day (part 1)

Typically in Japan on Valentine's Day (2/14) the girls give Chocolates to the guys.
On White Day (3/14) the guys give chocolates to the girls.
Watch this video to learn more White Day Video.

Adorable cookies made by a 1st grader & her mom.
Drama Club Fundraiser: Valentine's Day Cookie

At our school love was demonstrated to boys and girls by sugar cookies, chocolates, gummy bears, hugs and homemade goodies.  We also delivered the Drama Club Valentine's cookies and cards that we made on Friday and tried our best to keep the students from bouncing off the walls with all the sugar!

Kobayashi Sensei's cookie

Drama Club Valentine Card

Glimpses: Coming

Guess who's coming to visit in 10 weeks and 4 days? 
Photo hint . . .

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Glimpses: Planning & Piles

I brought home a pile of teaching books this weekend to work on some lesson planning for the next few weeks. I'm hoping a few hours spent planning this weekend will free up some after school time to focus on other things like drama club, worship team, staff meetings, and relationship building with students.

I'm also planning to make adjustments to this "Glimpses" photo a day project. While I enjoy looking for unique moments and items to capture on film I'm not always able to post the photos the day I've taken them.  Thank you for your patients as I try to find a manageable way to fit blogging into my life.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Glimpses: i HEART snow!

^ Friday - a national holiday
Woke up to about 3 inches of snow on the ground. 
Beautiful White fluffy snow!
Here is a view of the Ume (plum) tree in the back yard.
A friend said he hasn't seen this much snow in our area for about 14 years!

^Typically on my days off I do laundry and dry it outside. 
But since my laundry poles were iced over and I decided against it.  

^ I spent the day at a friend's house decorating cookies for the KCS Drama Club Valentine's Day fundraiser.  About 8 dozen cookies were carefully decorated and personalized with the names of the students, teachers and friends.  Reminded me of my days in the church youth group decorating Christmas cookies for our mission trip fundraisers.  (I don't think I've made gingerbread cookies since!)  

THANK YOU to Chris for her amazing cookie baking skills and Mikako for her artistry with the decorating!  

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Glimpses: Cast List

^ Auditions for the musical Honk! Jr. were held Feb. 7 & 8.  The Cast List has now been posted.  This year's production is a 1-12 grade event. We have 19 students in the cast and 6 in the crew, which means two thirds of the whole school is participating!

 I'll be directing the musical with Miss Zorinpuii, and am excited for the drama season to begin! We're VERY thankful for the parent volunteers who signed-up to help with set design, choreography, promotion, piano accompaniment and fundraising!  Fundraising began today with our first bake sale.

Opening night is April 15! If you're in the area save the date! Tickets go on sale March 25th.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Glimpses: Overcome

To be overcome by the fragrance of flowers
 is a delectable form of defeat. 
 ~Beverly Nichols