Tuesday, December 14, 2004

of mistaken identity

Ok, so about 6 or 7 years ago I created my first e-mail account. I thought long and hard over what I wanted my address to be. It had to be original and describe me. It also needed to be short and easy to remember. I also wanted it to be two words (don't ask me why, I just wanted it that way). Well, after much deliberation I finally came to the perfect two words to describe me: Blue Paradox.

Well, I thought this would be sufficiently original that I wouldn't have to ever add numbers to my new name or have people mistake me for someone else. Well, apparently I was wrong. Over the last few years I have had to add words to my little name to get some e-mail addresses and I have had several people IM me thinking I was someone else. Yes, I am sad about this.

(I really don't like sharing my name. I like my name, Amber, but growing up I always had to share it with someone else. So I think that's partly the reason I really wanted an original screen name. *sigh* It was not to be so. But I certainly won't change it now because I really like it.)

Anywho. This story has a point. Today I had another IM from yet another person who thought I was someone I am not (in this case some guy named Ryan). Well, apparently Ryan likes to joke around because it took a little while to convince the girl that I was in fact, not Ryan. The whole thing was about this poem Ryan was supposed to write for her boyfriend, Dan's, birthday. Well, somehow along the way, she decided to ask me to write a poem too. So, writing a random poem for some stranger's birthday strikes me as hilariously funny. Of course I agreed. So anyway, without further ado, here is the poem I wrote for some girls boyfriend named Dan. Happy Birthday Dan. :-)

Happy Birthday, thou I don't know you
I am in Japan, but not writing haiku
"Kyou wa anata no tanjobi desu"
is what the Japanese might say too.

I met your girlfriend by mistake online
she asked me to write a poem and I said "fine."
the meter is bad, but at least there is rhyme
I think it's pretty good for not so much time.

I know it's not much, but I hope you find this funny
I think a good poem is better than money
I hope this new year for you is always sunny
and that your nose doesn't often get runny.

I pray good friends you always have
that will stick with you in good and bad
But just so you know, this is always true
no matter what, Jesus loves you!

~Amber (Missionary in Japan) :-)

Sunday, December 12, 2004

of reflections

So I was standing on the train as I am prone to do when there are no seats available. I often stand by the doors so when we exit the subway I can see the scenery as we pass (if by scenery you mean lots of buildings). Well, when you are in the subway, and when it is dark outside, you can see reflections in the window. I find this is a good way to observe the people in the train without staring at them.

Well, all this got me to thinking about the nature of reflections. Reflections are handy things. You can see things you wouldn't normally be able to see (can you imagine living your whole life never seeing your own face?). But the problem with reflections is that they pale beside the original. Reflections can't catch all the details. If you only watched the reflections, you might think it was enough. But then you see the real thing and wonder why you thought the reflections were good enough.

Ok, so yes, all this rambling does have a point. All of this made me think of how reflections work in our lives, esp mine. Ok, so maybe it means more to me since I have this whole reflection theme going on. But for instance, lets use my theme as an example. When you read my posts, these are reflections of me. Of my thoughts, my experiences, etc. But it is not the same thing as knowing me in person, or experiencing these things with me.

Well, this makes me think about my relationship with Christ. I believe that Christians are reflections of Christ. But like all reflections, we are a poor substitute for the real thing. Each Christian is a different kind of reflection as well. Maybe some of us shine like mirrors. But maybe some of us are like muddy water. I think most of us are somewhere in the middle (maybe like the windows in the trains). But it's true that no matter what we do, we reflect Christ, if we want to or not. So my thought is: What are we reflecting in our lives? Are we showing Christ through muddy water, or are we mirrors reflecting His perfect light? I think in the end, Stacie Orrico says it best in her song "Don't look at me."

Don't look at me, if you're looking for salvation
Don't look at me, I will only let you down.
I'll do my best to lead you in the right direction
But don't look at me, look at Him.

He's the One that lived the Perfect Life
He's the One that always gets it right
He's the One and Only Guiding Light
He is everything that you'll ever need.

Saturday, December 04, 2004

of "un-disappointments"

Yes, it's an odd title, but you have to understand, I am used to being disappointed. It had always seemed that whenever I really looked forward to something, I would inevitably be disappointed. So this whole concept of what I look forward to actually being fun is a new thing for me. So far, these past months have been wonderfully full of un-disappointments. I really am having the time of my life.

My latest un-disappointment happened today. I have been looking forward to meeting with my new language partner for a while (not that I dislike my old one, she is wonderful and I really enjoy meeting with her as well). Today was finally the day. We met in a famous meeting place and walked around for a while talking (yes, mostly in English because really, I don't think I can carry on a full conversation in Japanese yet). We wandered around and found the Meiji Shrine. So we decided to check it out. The trees are turning colors (he taught me the word for this, but alas, I have forgotten) and some were quite beautiful. It was a nice walk and we had good conversation. He is not only very interested in learning about English and America, he also seems to be very interested in Christianity. He brought it up several times in the conversation. After the shrine we sat for a while in Wendy's and he very kindly made me have a conversation in Japanese with him. I really like the fact that he insisted on teaching me as well as me teaching him. It was fun. Then we went to another place for dinner. All in all it was a nice day. I spent about 6 hours total with my new language partner, which even beats my record with my old one (of course I can stay out to outrageous hours like midnight with her because we live in the same area and don't have to worry about catching the last trains home). I am definitely looking forward to the next meeting (assuming I can find time for it again). The amusing part of the day was when he seemed very nervous that I wouldn't be able to find my way back home on the trains (we had walked several stations away from where we started). I don't know why he thinks I can't figure out the trains. I have been living here for two months now. I actually had the train system down pretty much my first week here, so I take it for granted I guess. But I definitely had to assure him that I would be ok. When I told him to be safe too (I am used to telling all my friends that) he told me he would be fine, he is Japanese. I had to smile at that, but I let it go.

So yes. Today was nice. I slept in, had a good hair day, and spent 6 hours with a new language partner. Who could ask for more? Life is good.

of recurring "Chance" encounters.

Ok, so in the last post I wrote about the young woman with the dog (a long haired dachsun named Chichi btw). Well tonight, the three of us (we are referred to as the O'vers or Orientation Volunteers) were coming home from our director's house (where we were graciously served dinner and conversation). Well, amazingly enough, we met the same young woman (in almost the same spot as before) walking the same dog. I almost didn't recognize her, but the dog apparently remembers me and enjoys running to meet me (well, ok, he doesn't remember me and he runs to meet everyone). This is the second encounter and I was able to introduce her to the other two missionaries. One girl has studded Japanese for about 7 years and was able to speak to her in Japanese (but the woman understood English very well so it wasn't necessary). She was able to explain to us these funny little signs with lanterns that are hanging from so many shops (end of the year sales signs, good to know!). It was fun. And then when we parted ways from the other two (they live quite a bit farther from the station than I do) I told them I would see them on Sunday. The girl remembered that I would be seeing them at church. This is a wonderful thing to me. Now I know enough to not really get my hopes up that this young lady will immediately start attending church and become baptized just because she met me on the street. But I can rejoice because I know a seed has been planted. I may never see any results, but it is there now. I know this is probably because I am really new to the whole missionary thing (Japan being my first ever "missionary trip"), but I am excited because God can use me here. It it not even anything I have done. I have merely allowed myself to be where God wanted me when He wanted me. It is humbling to know that I am allowed to be one of His tools. Well, anyway, if you are so inclined, please feel free to rejoice with me for the seemingly "random" encounters that seem to continue to come my way.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

of chance encounters

Today, or rather yesterday, or is it today where my family is? Yes, so time is a bit confusing so, let's just pretend it's still today. Yes, so now back to what I was writing. Today I met with my Language Partner once again. And yet again, we talked until after midnight (hence my time problem). Well, this in and of itself is nothing to write home about (or my blog I suppose), but several interesting things happened on my way home from our meeting. It can't be more than a 7 minute walk from where we were, but it was certainly interesting. First of all, we were approached by a rather disreputable looking young man who had something to do with some sort of Host service. We ignored him and kept going. Then a man on a bike kept watching our conversation (we were still speaking in English and he was Japanese) and when we laughed, he started laughing! It was very odd. He said something to her, and she ignored him. These things make her uncomfortable, but they don't really bother me so much. So that was odd. But then, after she went her way, I was walking alone to my apartment, and this young woman was walking her dog. The dog decided to be friendly with me, and since I love dogs, I said he was cute, in Japanese. She was nice enough to start talking to me. She spoke English quite well, and we started talking since we were walking in the same direction (which was nice since there was a rather large group of disreputable looking men we had to pass, and I am rather glad I didn't do it alone.) So it turns out she would like to take English classes, and I was able to refer her to the church here and I invited her to the Christmas Party. She actually lives a stone's throw from my apartment and works at a place I walk by everyday. So, that is my story of chance encounters. She will hopefully call the church for more info on English classes. All of this is because I enjoy talking. Yes, God works in mysterious ways.

So, that was today. I haven't written in a while, so I guess I can give a brief report. I was sick for a while, missed a couple of classes, played catch up, we went on a field trip to the National History Museum (it was fun, I spent money there) and I wrote a speech for our Speech Day (in Japanese). I met with my sensei today to go over the first draft. There were surprisingly little grammatical errors, and she gave me some wonderful suggestions for making it better. Now, just so you aren't confused, my speech isn't so much of a speech as it is a simple story. I have to be different you know. So I will get to make props and have a good time performing my "speech" This will greatly aid in my memorization of the speech. I am excited about this. Oh yeah, I also went to a cultural performance. It was great. I saw some traditional Japanese dance and music. I really liked it. We also visited another church and decorated someone's house. It was interesting. So yeah, that's the brief version. Anime is on now, so I will try to figure out what is happening. Thank you for your time.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

of accomplishing simple tasks in a foreign country.

Today I managed to get my new TV working. Normally this wouldn't be a big deal, but when you can't read, it becomes rather complicated. Fortunately, I am able to figure most things out on my own. It's like working a puzzle. So, the point of the whole story is, I am proud because I was able to determine why my TV didn't receive channels, where my antenna plug was (and what it was), and I was able to go to the store, buy the correct cable and connect it all on my first try. I think this is an amazing thing. So now, I can watch a bunch of programs I don't understand. Hopefully I will be able to find anime programs I don't understand. LOL. At least I can practice listening to Japanese now. Anyway, that's the most exciting thing that happened today. Well, one other thing happened. I am now the webmaster (or webmistress?) of an English Page for our program. We will see how that works, considering my lack of web experience. Ok, that's all folks.

Monday, November 22, 2004

of a day like this.

Ok, random FYI: the title of each post is supposed to be a continuation of the title of the Blog, Reflections. They are designed to be read like so: Reflections of the trodden path, Reflections of me, Reflections of a day like this, etc. So now you know (and knowing is half the battle, GI JOE!!!)

Anywho. Today was not too terribly exciting. I woke up early and went to breakfast with a wife (as opposed to my previous outing with a husband). We had a wonderful talk and I made it to Japanese class for the first time after being sick. As my brain still feels like mush most of the time, I spent most of class in a light fog of confusion. It of course didn't help that I had missed the prior two lessons. I left the class not much more informed, but several days of homework heavier. Good news is tomorrow is a holiday, so no class. Bad news is, I will probably sleep half the day and then waste the other half, thereby getting no homework done. Well, hopefully I can get motivated to accomplish something.

Yes, my brain is mush and I am tired. There is nothing more I can reasonably accomplish here, so this will be one of my shorter posts to date. So have I spoken (er, typed) so shall it be done. The end.

Sunday, November 21, 2004

of the trodden Path

Ok, so I figure it is time to write up the backstory here. I am Amber. Hello, nice to meet you. I am also called Shihu (as in "She-who-does-such-and-such-a-thing) and I am known as Blue Paradox, or Blue, online. Those are really the only names you need to worry about as far as I am concerned. I was born in Texas, and have lived there 98% of my life. I am one of those Texans who is very proud of her Texas Pride. Now here is the paradox of my Texas nature: I don't eat Mexican, (or spicy food for that matter), I don't like football all that much (I can actually stand it now, which is an improvement) and I don't want to live there right now. But yes, I still love Texas with a passion beyond reason. (I really enjoy the phrase "passion beyond reason", so it's entirely possible, even probable, that I will use this phrase to death, resurrect it, and use it again.) Also, I don't speak with a Texas accent (or what people associate as a Texas accent).

Ok, so now everyone is aware of my love of Texas. Now on to other things.

I belong to the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, or LCMS for short. Since I was a small child, I have grown up learning about God. Somewhere along the way, I decided that I should live my life for Him. At the time, I thought that meant living a good Christian life wherever I might be. I never seriously considered being a church worker. So I made it through two years of junior college not really knowing what I wanted to do with my life. I had many interests, (most of them in the creative fields) but I didn't really want to live my life as an artist (of any kind) because that is a rather risky way to live (stability of job, salary etc). So nothing really grabbed at me, until I decided I wanted to go to this private Lutheran college. While applying, I found they were starting a new program for church workers (called a DCE, or Director of Christian Education). This caught my attention immediately. This was just about the perfect job for me. I could incorporate my many diverse interests and talents, I could work with kids, AND I was able to serve God. This would be a job with stability that wasn't mind-numinbly boring. Perfect! I applied.

My first sememster or so was wonderful. My GPA didn't fall too terribly much (I transferred in with a 3.56) and I was invovled in many things. Then my life changed. I became depressed. This is a serious medical condition that I lived with for about two years. It was such a difficult time for me. I was on many different medications during the course of my treatment. (I am also ADD, which complicates the whole medication/remembering to take medication issue) This, I now believe, was an important time for me. I was forced to grow as a person, and grow spiritually. I was forced to depend entirely on God for everything. I believe now that I am a better person as a result of my experiences. Of course, I would never want to do it again. Well, a side effect would be a disastrous drop in my GPA. By my last semesmter, I could no longer stay in my program. I was so close to graduating in my field, but it seemed impossible to do. So my advisor (who kindly helped me through the whole process) worked with the registrar to find a way for me to graduate with a Liberal Arts degree. At the time I was disappointed, but I really couldn't afford to keep going to school. (private schools are exceptionally expensive and I acquired quite a large debt) So I managed to graduate.

This left me with no job though. I spent some time searching, and praying, trying to see if God really wanted me to work in the church, or if He had other plans for me. Turns out the answer was yes, and yes. He wanted me to work in the church, just not in America. I had been brought to a point in my life to seriously consider mission work. As it turns out, I absolutely love Japan, and had an interest in it for several years (fueled by my addiction to anime). So when I found out I could use my training for church work AND go to Japan, I jumped at the chance. So here I am now.

Hope that clears things up. :-)

of creative juices

Today has been a creatively exciting day. I engage in this wonderful activity called role play. I role play online with several friends. This boils down to, we write a story together, each person from his or her character's point of view. This is fun and exciting. Several of the people I write with are awesome. (I know so many talented people) So today, we were online at the same time for a short period of time. (we were in three different countries, so this is an amazing coincidence) This was so cool. I was able to meet with my co-collaborator for a while and work out wonderful and devious plot lines. I think we are also going to start the ball rolling on writing novels together. Anyway, this was wonderful because it is one of the best things in the world, being able to brainstorm with someone. I get so excited when I find people I can click with. The creative synergy is amazing! I feel far more capable of writing a good story when I am working with another creative person. Plus, you feel like a part of something bigger. Yes, it is wonderful. Yes, I know, I am far too excited about this, but I suppose I am easily excitable. :-)

Also, at church today we had Coffee House. This is an English event designed to get the English students connected with the church. This is my second Coffee House at this church. It's fun because I am starting to get to know the people. They like it because I am still new and exciting. We had a wonderful time playing Uno. I think I might have a little "clique" started, since a lot were the same people I played with last time. But I think that's ok. In a larger group, its good to break down into smaller ones. It was lots of fun. Also, I gained a new unofficial language partner. I am excited.

And the Random Thought of the Day:
Sermons seem much longer when you don't understand what's being said.

Saturday, November 20, 2004

of the Amazing Japanese

Yes, I know, this is my second post of the day. I am awful chatty today I suppose. But then again, I generally have a lot to say. Eventually I will write up a background post explaining everything up until here. But for now I will stick with today's events.

Today after my wonderful CD wrapping experience, I came home, blogged, and then made my way to the local church here for a "Family Music Night." Now when I was invited to this, I really wasn't expecting much. It was explained as a night where the kids would play some piano, and there would be various other musical numbers by some adults as well. (Hence the word Family in the title) My friend who invited me was going to sing, so I thought I should go to show my support. Honestly, I wasn't expecting all that much. I was envisioning your typical "piano recital" type evening. In a word, boring.

Well, like so much else here, I got something totally different than I expected. It was wonderful. The kids were amazingly talented (1st and 3rd graders, it was amazing!) and it just got better from there. One duet was astonishing, the man played the guitar and the woman sang. I felt like I should have bought tickets or maybe a CD. The first song she sang was great. Picture a Kentucky state fair with someone (Loretta Lynn maybe) singing an old folk song. Now picture it with Japanese words. It was great. And the woman was very talented. (I found out later she has a band here that plays locally) The second song was a beautiful goodbye song. Then there was a man who played the flute, then he played the violin, then he played the piano. The first time he was with a group, second time was a duet with the piano, and the third he was solo. It was amazing, each time, he played better than before! (This man is a truly amazing person. I will tell more about him in a bit.) There was harmonica playing ("A Mighty Fortress" on a harmonica: strange, but good.) and a small stringed instrument (I can't for the life of me remember what it's called, but it reminded me of a really fat, round ukeleile). And then there was an amazing piano duet (two people playing on the same piano). Everyone was so talented. Just when I would think that I had listened to the best of the evening, yet another talented person would step up. I know I have overused this word, but really, it was amazing. I was so glad I went.

And then, to top off the evening, remember the man who played all those instruments I promised to tell more about? Yes, he is amazing. He helped me last week set up internet in my apartment. He is good with computers and his English is wonderful. While he was in my apartment, he noticed that I like anime. He asked me if I watched it on TV. I had to tell him that my TV didn't work. He felt sorry for me and said that he had an old one he could give me if I wanted. I felt bad and said it was ok, I didn't really need a TV, and there would probably be one when I moved to my next site. Well, today when I went to the music night, he pulled me aside and told me he had brought a TV for me. I was shocked. The man had his family there, he had prepared three musical pieces (on three different instruments no less) and he was involved with running the sound system, and in the midst of all that, he remembered to bring me a TV! Then he tells me that it is small and old, so I might not want it. Yeah, it's about a 15 inch flat panel TV. I couldn't buy that thing used in the states for under $300 probably. But I might not want it. Right. That's a tough call there.

Wow. I feel so blessed. Now my problem is that I don't know how to say thank you. He has gone out of his way to be kind to me, and there is really not much I can do to repay him. (he is not the only one to be this kind by the way.) He seems to be very involved in this church, and I thank God that there are people like him here. It makes me glad to be here. It is also good to know (and be reminded) that even though I am a missionary here, I am also being ministered to. The people in these churches basically provide everything for me and the other missionaries. I think it is a wonderful thing. It is comforting to know that I am completely vulernable here, yet I am being abudantly taken care of. All my needs and far more are seen to by these wonderful, caring people.

Yes, Japan is full of Amazing people.

of friendships with married men.

So today I found myself spending the afternoon with a married man. No, I don't date married men. Ever. But I seem to have accumulated quite a few friendships with married men. Actually, this was the first married man that I have met after his marriage. Most men I am friends with meet me as singles, and then proceed to marry other women. Now all of this is rather pointless information, but as this is a space for my reflective thoughts, I decided I should write them down. (well, type them down in any case) All of this rambling leads to the main idea of this paragraph: I have a lot of friendships with men. And all of them are married. So it occasionally strikes me as odd when I spend time with these friends one on one. Not terribly disturbing thoughts, just occasionally odd.

Now, on to other random thoughts.

The question came tonight as I walked home: Why is it rude to stare at blind people? It's not like they will know you are staring at them.

Also today I had the privledge of watching a CD get wrapped. Now normally I wouldn't consider this such a privledge, but this is Japan, and things are different here. So here the presentation of a gift is just as important, if not more, than the actual gift. So when I got the CD wrapped, I knew it would look nice. But as I watched the woman wrap, it was like a work of art. The only way I can describe it would be, origami Wrapping. Yes, it was that complicated looking. It was definitely the most unique way of wrapping a CD I have ever seen. I am very much impressed.

And just a side note, the CD in question is for my language partner (we meet once a week to speak to each other. She helps me speak in Japanese, and I help her with English. Yes, I need much more help than she does.) She has been taking English classes at a local church here, and has started going to Bible Study and church services. She is not quite a Christian, but she seems very interested. So, as we met, we were talking about music. It seems that Stacie Orrico is a popular singer here in Japan, but almost no one knows she is Christian. She had recently found this out and had been surprised. So, I decided to buy her a Stacie Orrico CD today. Not too terribly interesting, but if you are so inclined, please pray for her.

Friday, November 19, 2004

of me.

of blogging.

So this is my first time blogging. I decided it was about time I got with the program and started writing down my experiences. I am terrible when it comes to keeping journals, but hopefully I will be able to keep up this blog. This is a time in my life that I want to remember, and since it is new and exciting, I should have plenty to write about. Anywho, it's time to enter into the fun and exciting world of blogging. Yeah, that's it for now.