Thursday, February 21, 2008

yeah, this is gonna be totally random.

So yeah, it's been a little while since I have posted. The funny thing is, I am constantly thinking of things to write about and I take a ton of pictures to put here. I just usually can't sit down to actually write and put up pictures. Yeah, I'm a bum. So here's an update.

Tomorrow begins Spring Retreat. We have two mandatory retreats for the missionaries in our program every year, Spring and Fall. Fall is more retreat style, where we get to go off location and have a bit of rest, and spiritual nourishment. But Spring Retreat is always in Tokyo. This is the time when we do our farewell ceremonies for the missionaries who are leaving in March.

Spring Retreat can be a very stressful and difficult time emotionally. There are a lot of dynamics involved when you bring all the missionaries together. Usually it's good, but sometimes it's hard. But mostly, I've discovered that I tend to go into "reverse culture shock" when I'm around large groups of Americans. I get really stressed out by the loudness, and the large group atmosphere. But this year, I think maybe it will be ok. I think it's mainly the thinking about it before it happens that stresses me out. Actually, I really do love my fellow missionaries. I just usually prefer to be with them in smaller groups. I don't function well in large groups actually. I need one on one time with people to feel like I've really connected. Well, two or three people at a time is fine too.

Lately I've been running on overload. There has been a whole lot to think about. Preparations for the next school year (school starts in April in Japan), preparations for my next event (which, stupid me, decided to make it more fun and exciting, thus increasing my stress in preparing for it! Haha. But I'm getting excited now. I think it's going to be really fun!), preparations for Spring Retreat, plus my regular schedule, throw in a birthday and a shopping trip and I'm wiped out.

That brings me to my next topic. Here's a quiz for you. (no cheating and looking ahead at all the pictures. What do you think this is? Check out the first picture.

Well, what ever you are guessing... You are wrong. Try the next picture.

Still haven't guessed? (now I'm guessing...)

By now I'm sure you have figured it out. It's a restroom! Yeah, go figure. Japan has some of the best restrooms in the world. They are super high tech. They have fun sounds that play so you aren't embarrassed by the sounds you make, heated seats, automatic flushing, and a ton of other fun gadgets. It's really amazing. And of course right along side of that is the squatty potty, (sorry, forgot to take a picture of that stall...)

Anyway, I found this while out shopping with some friends. We were all impressed by the niceness of the restroom. (they laughed at me for taking pictures.)

Here is a picture of the girls I was with in one of the famous areas of Tokyo, Asakusa. Actually, this is the next story I wanted to tell. Let me tell you about craziness.

So these are girls I hang out with when I go to see the band. One girl I walk home with every weekend. Well, it turns out that we both have a love of beads. She likes making things from beads and I like crafts of all kinds. So she knew of this great shop for beads in Tokyo. So I asked her to take me there sometime. After a great deal of scheduling (and putting it off for about 2 or 3 months) we finally set the date for last Monday. Two other girls were invited to join us. So we met at 10:30 AM. A little early for me on my day off, but hey, it was only a little shopping right? I figured at the latest, I should be back home by about 7 for a nice leisurely evening. That's what I thought...

So, it turns out, they really like being out. I guess. I got home at about midnight (and they were still going after that.) I was really tired. I didn't know shopping took so much energy. We ate twice together, and even walked(after shopping half the day, also all walking) to a famous temple in Tokyo. (At the end there are some pictures from the temple. It was just getting dark, so the gate and a famous 5 story pagoda were lit up to make for some nice pictures. I took them with my cell phone, but they turned out pretty good.) It was quite a long and tiring day for my day off.

Next picture is of a scarf I made for Mako's birthday. I made it in about 9 hours on Sat. We had his birthday party on Sunday. This was the first time I had been able to attend his party, since his birthday is usually the same weekend as Spring Retreat, I can't get away in time. So it was nice to be able to go. He was really happy with the scarf, and I was happy, because he opened it and put it on right then. (He is a band member, so there were a lot of girls giving him presents and he didn't have the time to open all the presents. But he did open mine, so I was lucky with my timing.) So there are a couple of pictures of Mako and his "muffler" (as they commonly call scarves here.)

In other news... I had a great Bible study today. On most days I have a Bible Study directly following my first adult class of the day. This class is all newer students who have never studied the Bible before. So we have been covering the very basic stuff. We just started reading from the Bible about two weeks ago. We are reading in Genesis about creation. Today was the fall.

But it was really good. My students were really confused for most of the class (about several things.) But in the end, they could get the main idea, but there were still a few things they couldn't piece together. So I told them we would re-read the same passage next week. But just as they were about to leave, as they were talking about what they were confused about, the right question was asked to put everything into place. It is what I like to call a "naruhodo" moment. ("naruhodo" means something like, "I see" or "I get it now." Think, "eureka") So it was wonderful when my students could finally get the point. "Ah! God did that because He loves us!" I was so happy. It was so wonderful to hear them say that (esp about "the fall" since that story is hard to see where God's love is...)

I'm really thankful that God is blessing my students. I know it's not what I'm doing (I'm sure I'm more confusing half the time than helpful, and I know I go over their heads most of the time). It's all God. It's wonderful. God has been doing good things with that class. Praise God.

Ok. That's all for now. Tomorrow is Spring Retreat, so I should probably get some sleep, and finish my last minute preparations.

Friday, February 08, 2008

It's official.

So it's finally official. I will be working at my current site one more year.

I kinda guessed for a while, but nothing was "official" until a meeting today where the NRK (Japan Lutheran Church) approved the suggestions of our director. One more year. My students will be happy.

But, this should be my last year. After this, I'm definately going to need a new job. One that pays money. Students loans are looming over my head too closely for comfort lately. There's only so long I can put off paying them, as much as I'd like to continue working here.

This year wasn't nearly as nerve wracking as last year though. So that's good.

Here's to another year! 今年もよろしくお願いします。

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Adventures in... You name it!

Wow. It's been a bit busy lately. Snow, hair color, birthdays (not mine), deadlines and more.

Anyway. So lately I've been doing a lot of thinking, praying and internal processing. I've come to some good conclusions about the reasons for a lot of my behavior and choices. A whole lot of it boils down to pride. I have a whole lot of it. I never realized how much pride I had before, because it's not the real obvious kind (well, at least to me...) But it's there and it has been guiding many aspects of my life for a long time.

Well, I've decided that I don't want to stay a prideful person. I want to start changing myself, or rather, opening myself up to be changed by God. So, little by little, God is making some changes in my heart. It's becoming a little softer and a little more open. The funny thing is, inner and outer are very connected. So when I start making changes on the inside, it often shows up on the outside too. But in my case, it has shown up in strange ways. Haha.

So, this year, I have once again started using Make-up. My students (and virtually any Japanese person I know) think this is a wonderful idea. I have been highly encouraged to keep up with this. I've managed to wear make-up for 3 weeks now. We'll see how long I can keep it up.

Also, I ended up (in a rather round about way) getting my hair dyed for the first time ever. Now I'm a lazy person, and I tend to be cheap, two very good reasons for me to not dye my hair. But I was bullied (eh, I mean, convinced!, really, no bullying involved!!!) by some American co-missionaries to dye my hair two weeks ago after prayer. It was a rather amusing experience. I had mentioned that in Japan my hair had gotten very dark and rather dull (but curly, and I like curly!!) so if there would ever be a time when I would seriously consider hair dye, it might be in Japan. They thought this was a great idea, and despite all my protests, they pooled some money, dragged me to the store, bought the dye, and we dyed my hair that very afternoon. I was a bit shocked, but it was fun. So now I have a bit lighter hair color now. I'll have to look to see if I can find some before pictures, but they might be hard to find.

Here are some pictures of the process. (I wanted to put them last, but I can't seem to navigate right now in this version of blogger. The page is also all in Japanese, so sorry, I was going to make it more interesting with comments and such, but oh well. You will notice that there is one shot where I look amazingly like a sumo wrestler crocheting! Haha. Also, my mother would be happy to know that the girls took to calling my braid a "rat's tail" in the process. Since that is what my mom calls it, I'm sure she will be happy. But no, I'm not going to cut it.)