Well, I know it's almost the end of the week, but it's been a busy week and I wanted to tell you all about Sunday.
This past Sunday we were invited to go to a Japanese church about an hour away. There are two American missionaries that teach in the town, and they come to our bible study on Sunday nights. They go to this church and the people at the church offered to come and pick us up, once a month on Sundays.
So this past Sunday we went. They have a translator who sits in a booth and translates the entire service for us, while we wear ear pieces to hear the translation. Kind of like the people at the UN wear - very cool. (Gladdy should look into getting these - he'd love them!)
Anyways, even though we had to go an hour away, the people at the church were so nice and welcoming. Our Japanese is very minimal, but we can communicate a little, and people like to try out their English on us. So we already made a few friends, one who has already emailed us and wants to get together sometime. After church they host a lunch each week, so we had Japanese meatloaf, which is way different than American meatloaf, but pretty ok tasting.
The most encouraging part was seeing so many Japanese Christians together in one place. Japan is only 2% Christians, so it is a very lost country. It is not a part of their culture, so people grow up and many haven't even heard of Jesus. I had been wrestling with all of this lately - how can people never hear? It's just so foreign to me. So, seeing over 100 Japanese Christians gathered together, in rural Japan, was so encouraging!
We're going to go back in a few weeks, so I'll try to take pictures next time.
As a side note, most Sundays we go to a Japanese church in our town. We love it there, the people are very kind and wonderful to us - it's just nice to get a sermon in English occasionally, that's not a podcast.
Thursday, May 28
Well, I know it's almost the end of the week, but it's been a busy week and I wanted to tell you all about Sunday.
Wednesday, May 27
On Saturday, one of the Elementary Schools I teach at was having their annual Undokai. Undoai is kind of like field day, but all of the parents and grandparents come and watch, and it's an all day event.
I teach at least once a week at the school, and a bunch of the students are in my classes at the English school (after-school classes), so I got to see a lot of my students outside of class, which was a lot of fun!
The school kind of looks like a castle to me.
There are 2 teams - red and white. Look at those cute hats!
One of my second graders waving hello. Her English name is Carolyn.
Tug of War
One of the 4th grad teachers on the Japanese drum.
A fun time was had by all! And it was so encouraging to interact with students and some Japanese friends outside of school!
Friday, May 22
The family was having lunch today and asked us to eat with them. On today's menu: Raw Seafood Sushi.
I was so nervous about it - not necessarily the taste, but I have a real issue with textures, and slimy isn't one I do too well with. But I have to say that I had about 7 different pieces and they weren't bad - they weren't my favorite, but they weren't bad. The other teachers said I did a good job, especially for my first time. I couldn't finish everything so I brought the leftovers home and Chris ate them for an after-school snack.
My teacher said to me this afternoon, "Abbie Sensei, lunch was maybe interesting for you today."
I said, "Yes, it was different, but it was pretty good."
This isn't my lunch, but really my lunch looked pretty much the same, only it also had some eel, which isn't in this picture.
Here's to trying new things, and thanking God for how different and unique He has made all of us!
Thursday, May 21
The other day the 4 year olds at the Youchien (the kindergarten), asked the 5 teachers that teach at the English school (me, Bethany, Lis, Jeni, and Ashley) to come over for a Welcome Program.
The kids were SO cute! I really wish I had pictures of them, but we were busy introducing ourselves in Japanese. After that we taught them a song, the "Seven Steps" song. Basically you teach them to count from 1-7. They had lots of fun and so did I!
At the end of the program, 5 little kids ran out of the room and they came back in and presented us each with a Gerbra Daisy plant. They said "Domo Arigato Gozaimas" (thank you very much) and bowed and presented the plants to us - it was so adorable.
This is my plant - how perfect that it's pink, my favorite.
The 4 year olds drew little pictures and put them in the plant.
Wednesday, May 20
On Sunday we got the chance to go to a Japanese Tea Ceremony. It took place in our town's cultural center, which is actually a 100 year old barn. It was very interesting to watch. They have formalities for the way they get the tea ready, the way they actually make it, the way it is served and even the way it is cleaned up. It was so fun to get to see a new piece of Japanese culture!
The 100 year old barn. The roof is actually made out of straw and mud and they have to put a new roof on each year.
Making the tea. The women wear such beautiful kimonos.
Chris and Peter eating the treat - ground rice with bean paste inside. A Japanese favorite - they have bean paste in lots of things here.
Chris getting tea served to him. To drink the tea you bow to the person who made it, then put the cup in your left hand, turn it twice, and then you can drink it.
After the tea ceremony they showed us all of the old farm tools - this is a raincoat and rainhat.
The back of the raincoat - look at all that hay!
Monday, May 18
I had such a fun morning at the elementary school today! The 4th grade teacher asked us to help the kids cook American Macaroni and Cheese. So, Jeni and I, brought our aprons to school and had a great time!
First of all, when the students cook, they each have their own apron they wear, then they wear a bandana on their head, and finally a facemask. They look so cute!
They were all really excited about cooking the macaroni and cheese - they got to pick between Spiderman or Spongebob shapes. And they laughed at the shapes of the pasta. Each student in the group had their own part: put the pasta in the water, put the milk in, the butter, the cheese and the "stir-er". They had lots of fun cooking - and even more fun eating Macaroni and Cheese. Only 1 student out of 23 had ever had it before.
I think they all liked it, and they think it's funny that American kids eat it for dinner so much.
Sunday, May 17
Baseball is a big thing here in Japan. Japan has their own baseball league, and the games are usually on at night. Sometimes we watch them, just because we like baseball. Our favorite team is the Tokyo Giants, but I think that's because we see their games more than any other teams.
But they also show American baseball on TV. The American games are aired in the mornings, so we can only watch them on the weekends. Mostly we see the Mariners, Yankees, Red Sox and Rays, since there are Japanese players on each of those teams. But we heard that this morning they would be airing Saturday's Cubs game. Sure enough - at 8:10am the game came on!
It was so much fun to watch and see Chicago - we definitely miss our home town and for certain we miss Cubs games. If Kosuke Fukudome keeps playing well, hopefully we'll keep getting Cubs games here!
Chris put on his Cubs shirt and hat for the event. He wanted me to wear the shirt and hat you see sitting next to him, but everyone who knows me knows I don't wear hats.
Thursday, May 14
As you know, our washer and dryer were a bit tricky to figure out, since they have the Japanese buttons and all. Well most people here actually hang their clothes out to dry (when the weather is good, of course). So I tried it, and...I love it! Our clothes dry faster outside than in our dryer and they smell so wonderful!
You can see our plants in the picture, too. We don't have any green space at our apartment, but we are trying our hand at some potted plants - tomatoes, basil and some pretty flowers. I'll post more later on that to let you know if we have any success with this!
Sunday, May 10
On Saturday we went to Koriyama to see an art exhibit by a Japanese artist, Seiji Fujishiro. When we got to Koriyama, the next bus to the museum wasn't coming for an hour, so we decided to walk. We walked 45 minutes to get to the museum. And yesterday was the first really warm day, so I decided it was a great day to break in my flip flops for the Summer! Not so much! We hiked up hill and I ended up with blisters in between my toes...but...
It was so worth it! This art exhibit wasn't like anything I've ever seen before - it was so beautiful!
The artist creates his pieces by first drawing his picture on matte board. Then he cuts out each shape that will be a different color and layers different colored paper behind the board. In the end they are displayed with light shining on each image from behind, so the colors are so bright. It's really hard to explain, but it was so cool!
The other interesting thing is that the artist is a Christian, which is kind of surprising since he's Japanese. Most Japanese people don't really know much about God, and a lot of them have never even heard of Him. So the neat thing is that part of the exhibit was all artwork on Bible stories - the Garden of Eden, Noah's Ark, Crossing the River Jordan, The Ten Commandments, Christ's Birth and Death, etc.
So, I asked Jeni, one of our teammates, what people would think of the artwork, since some of them have never heard of God. She said that some would just think it's nice artwork, but that some of the pieces had descriptions with them, that explained the story. It made me so excited about the artist - his exhibit travels all over Japan, and even the world, but what a great way to tell the Japanese people Bible Stories!
This was a piece that he finished just a month ago. It's of the Taki-Zakura, the 1,000 year old Cherry Blossom tree that we went to see.
A close up of the new piece
Me and Jeni outside the Koriyama Art Museum
On Wednesday, our friend Lis had a concert in Koriyama (the big city about 30 minutes from us). She plays piano and her friend, Iichi, plays guitar. They were great!
They played songs both in English and Japanese and some of the songs were even worship songs. It was really neat to see all the Japanese people listening to them, and after one of the concerts some of Lis' Japanese friends were even asking her what the songs meant. What a great opportunity for her to be able to share with them!
It's really neat to me to see the opportunities God opens up for us here in Japan. While Chris and I still need to learn more of the language, God is still presenting people for us to get to know, and hopefully build relationships with. But how neat that God would present an opportunity to share His love to people at a club!
Lis and Iichi
Thursday, May 7
This week was Golden Week (3 Japanese Holidays right in a row), so we were off school Monday - Wednesday, which was really nice! But today was our first day back to school, and there was never a dull moment! So I thought I'd share some of my funniest moments so far:
At the English school they mowed the lawn today. And when I say mowed, I mean the man took a weed wacker to mow it - and yes, it's a HUGE lawn, so he was out there for 2.5 hours today completing the task. Maybe they don't use lawn mowers here - we're just not sure.
Last week I was teaching my 6th grade girls class. They are fun and quite energetic bunch. The classroom has a very high stage I need to stand on to write at the chalkboard, so I frequently move from the stage to the main level and back, throughout the class. There is a teeny, old, wooden chair that you step up to go onto the stage.
Well, yes, as I went to step on the chair to go up onto the stage, the chair cracked. The bottom of it broke (where you'd sit or stand) and the students just died laughing at me.
CHAIRS, YET AGAIN:
Today the infamous chair was fixed, so no problem, I thought. I was so careful to step everytime I wanted to get on the stage, but apparently one time I didn't pay attention. The chair slipped out from me before I could step on it and I fell to the ground, smacking my back and head on the stage. Again, my students laughed, but also asked if I was ok. What could I do but laugh?
The other week I was shopping at Funehiki Park, kind of like a two-story Walmart, with a grocery store. As I was leaving the store, the security alarm went off. Had I been in America I would have kept walking. But being the only American in the store, I thought that would be a bit obvious. So I stopped and proceeded to wait as one, and then two, and then finally three workers searched all 3 of my bags. They tried to talk to me for about 15 minutes, but the little Japanese I do know, is really only helpful in the classroom. So finally after waiting it out they let me go, but watched as the security alarm went off, again. This time I just kept walking.
Wednesday, May 6
Some of you know that I started to get into quilting just before I left the States. My one dream was to get a sewing machine in Japan, so I could make quilts for people. I also hope that someday I'll be able to use it as a tool for ministry, but for now I need some more practice.
So, the other day, Chris went over to the big store near us, and got my sewing machine for me! Of course, everything's in Japanese: the owners manual, all of the words on the machine, etc. But there was an intro DVD that came with the sewing machine - it's also in Japanese, but it gives me a visual step-by-step guide to how to get things started. So tomorrow will be the big day to get it set up and see how it goes. (I'll let you know!)
My new sewing machine - with top loading bobbin, what a bonus
More Japanese to figure out...
It even came with a free cover - another bonus!
Tuesday, May 5
On Sunday, we went to Sendai. Sendai is usually a two hour bus ride from us, but on Sunday it took four hours to get there. The bus driver warned us of that before we left, saying there was some reason, but of course we couldn't understand the reason. So we just settled in and enjoyed the ride.
We went with a couple of our friends - Rebekah, Patty and Ashley. It was so great to have them along because they knew how to buy the bus tickets and where to go in Sendai.
Our main priority was the apple store - Both we and Rebekah had to get our laptops looked at, but while we were there, we made sure to enjoy some other things: UNIQLO (kind of like H&M), a bookstore that actually had an English section, and some mexican food. I wouldn't exactly say it was tasty, but it left us remembering and wanting Garcias!
Overall the day was lots of fun and we were quite successful at the apple store!
Rice fields on the way to Sendai. The farmers all flood the rice fields before they plant them - we're not sure why.
Sendai - probably the closest "BIG" city to us
This one's for Rachel - we think Wicked and Lion King are playing in Tokyo!
Monday, May 4
The other day we went for a walk up the hill that is behind our house. After only a 10 minute walk we could see our whole town and we found some interesting Japanese Culture near the picnic area. Everything is so green here now that Spring has come!
We found this along the way, we're not sure what it is exactly.
This is our town - Funehiki
Our house is in this picture - the brown building, with the black roof. (Good luck figuring that out!)
This is what we found at the top of the hill
Last Wednesday was a national holiday here in Japan, so everyone had off school for the day! Our host family here took us to Nasu Highland Park, an amusement park. It was a fun day and it was nice to spend more time with our teammates! Since we all teach at different schools we usually just get to see them for Bible Study and team meetings.
These animals were close to the entrance - you paid 200 yen and it SLOWLY moved around for about two minutes. This is Adam having fun on the panda.
We were just posing - not actually riding.
This ride was called "Top Gun" and it flung you upside-down in circles so many times. I opted out of this ride, but this is Chris, Janelle, Adam, Ashley, Lanon, Lis and the Japanese friend (which they made on the ride), getting ready for the excitement!
This is Kono Sensei. He spent the day with us, and held everyone's bags while they went on Top Gun. What a good sport!
They don't have cotton candy for a snack...but they have some tasty looking fish!
This is Kawaai Sensei - she's kind of like our team mom and supervisor all in one. She didn't love the roller coasters, but she came on a few rides with us. We love her!
This picture was for Wesley - sorry it's blurry - but these cars were Fords...in Japan! So funny!
The whole group, with Woopy the bird.