Saturday, November 17, 2007

Rainy Half Marathons and Such


On November 11th, I ran my first half marathon in Japan. It was a birthday present to myself. Strange? I think so too, but that is what I asked for, so that is what I got. I got some great gifts not the least was an acorn from one of my students (I am pretty sure he was just carrying it around in his pocket and when he heard it was my birthday, seized the opportunity for brownie points). Anywho, I rode to the race with three friends and to two people I had just met. As I toed the line, I looked around at all the people around me and I felt a surge of adrenaline that I haven’t felt since my last race about a year ago. I have missed that feeling. About 5 minutes before the start, it began to rain. As the gun went off we charged into a sheet of rain that succeeded in dampening our clothing but failed to dampen our spirits. That task was left to a distance of 21.1 kilometers (13.1 miles). At each turn I surprised people with my pale skin and curly hair. I heard muttering as I ran past. I succeeded in accomplishing my goal for the race. I had hoped to break 1:20 and I finished in 1:17.48. I was surprised. The last 5k was a struggle and I felt like I was teetering on the brink of cramping the last 2k. As I strode into the final 150m I realized that we were to finish on a track. The track happened to be a dirt track that had licked up the moisture from an hour earlier and had turned to a soupy mess. Sliding around the curve heading into the finish line I decided that next year I would bring a canoe for this portion of the race. As I crossed the finish line I was exhausted. It has been said that, “It is better to have run than to run”. In most cases I will agree with this statement. There is nothing like being challenged by a distance and the triumph of covering that distance pouring out your strength and soul in the process. The hazy contentment that follows a taxing effort is definitely well worth the effort. It is almost a week after the race and my body still protests to stairs and chasing children around the playground but I am slowly regaining mobility and losing the pain that has doggedly chased me the past few days. I had better recover fully because I am running a relay race on next Friday.

After many days of praying and thinking I have decided to remain in Japan for another year (until April 2009). It was a tough decision but God has given me peace about it and I feel like God led me to right decision. It is tough to miss out on so many things in America, but God has carried me this far and he will continue to do so.

My newest project (as if running, teaching, studying the Japanese language and Kanji and my many other responsibilities weren’t enough) is creating a chess set. I love to carve and make things out of wood. I have found it to be very relaxing. The results are pictured above. So far I have completed 8 pawns (1 has a chip in his head so it should only count as 7, but you don’t know that, except for I just told you.). My plan is to use some bamboo to make the board. Wish me luck. I have been at it about a month so if I stay on pace I might be finished in the next year. I really enjoy carving in my room. There is something strangely satisfying about making a huge mess and knowing that you don’t have to clean it up at that moment. I guess that is one of the perks of bachelorhood. I don’t know many women who would let me whittle away for hours on their hardwood floors, leave it for 10 or so days and then sweep it up at my leisure. If you know of any let me know.

Saturday, October 27, 2007


The other day I had a very enlightening conversation with my Kouchou Sensei (Principal). He informed me in the restroom that he would be coming to my next class. I didn’t understand what he said until about 4 minutes later (he talks fast and in anither language to boot). He arrived and waited on the class to come. Unfortunately they did not come. We chatted (more like speaking on his part and grunting on mine). He told me they weren’t coming and we should go back to the teacher’s room. I followed him and sat down at my desk. He pulled up a chair and we shot the bull for about 45 minutes. It was the longest conversation that I have had in Japanese. We talked about fall in Japan, apples, salted fish, salmon, hot coffee, iced coffee, winter in Japan, snowboarding being a young man’s sport and skiing and old man’s sport. We talked about ramen, miso soup and salmon eggs (I told him that in America we used them for fish bait and he laughed and said he loved to eat them. I don’t really love to eat them (they are really juicy in your mouth) but I have definitely eaten worse things.) I really enjoyed the chance to talk to him and he helped me with my Japanese. I have had a hard time adjusting to the work environment here in Japan. It seems much more serious to me. I do have a skewed view of things because I don’t understand what people are talking about most of the time so I am sure it seems much more serious than it actually is.

I have been training for a half marathon on November 11th. I hope that I don’t completely fall apart. It is strange to me to be away from the college running scene and away from so many of my running friends. I usually run on my own unless I plan far ahead and invite some friends along. I am really excited about racing again and I think it will be interesting to race among so many Japanese people. In the races I have run I usually stick out because of my height and frame. I can only imagine what it will be like to be running in a pack of Japanese runners. I think that I might win the awkward award and I will definitely be a lock for the Clydesdale award. I also plan on running an ekiden (a Japanese style relay race) on the day after Thanksgiving. We get Nov. 23rd off of school and a friend of a friend asked us to join their team. From the results last year I think that we might have a shot at winning. Because of the races I have planned I decided to purchase some racing shoes. I looked all over town and on several Japanese websites but I was hard pressed to find anything that was remotely close to my size. I had to order shoes from the US. I was hesitant to do so when I noticed that it would cost around $60 for shipping only (the shoes weigh less than a pound). I decided to ship them to my parents house and then ask them to ship them to me (hopefully I can weasel my way into having them send me some goodies too.)

If you happened to drive by Kencho a couple of nights ago and caught a glimpse of someone walking beside their scooter, it was probably me. I have recently noticed that my scooter hasn’t been quite itself. I decided to take it for a walk. It broke the leash that I put it on, so from then on I had to push it. We strolled along enjoying the evening air. I stopped to let some children pet it but they weren’t interested (neither were their parents from the scowls they gave me). When we got back home I tried to start it up but no luck. The next morning I had to leave her at home. She kept whining when I tried to start her. I rode my bike to school and when I came back I walked her down to the gas station. Have you ever walked a scooter into a gas station? The looks that I received were interesting to say the least. I even tried to sit on it and get a rolling start so it looked like I was pulling in. No luck. Fred Flintstone must have been really strong to build up any kind of speed in his car because after three seconds of “Flintstoning it” I was exhausted. I got off and accepted the walk of shame to the nearest pump. As you may have guessed some delicious fuel was all she needed. Maybe I should get the fuel gauge fixed, along with the odometer and the speedometer.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Misadventures in a foreign language…


I have to admit that my mastery of Japanese has been thwarted thus far by the fact that I my brain is small and there is only room for so much. I think a breakdown of my brain space is the best way to make the point clear to you.

27% a detailed list of my favorite sweets both past and present (the time I ate a quart of chocolate brownie ice cream in a day, the nights of dipping oreos into peanut butter, buying and sneaking enormous amounts of candy into movie theaters and then eating it all, throwing up after eating too much Halloween candy when I was 6, I think it was a vanilla tootsie roll that put me over the edge while driving back from trick or treating at Jane Archers house.)

23% memories of my childhood

13% the English language

13% a detailed list of my favorite foods both past and present

11% memories to tease my parents with (the Clovis zoo, burned toast, baseball to the face, etc.)

8% memories of participating in and viewing athletic events

2% useless facts

1.5% things I learned in elementary school

1% things I learned in college

* I slept through junior high and high school

0.49% remembering my telephone number and every computer password that I have ever used except the one that I need right now.

0.01% Japanese

As you can see I am all fulled up (despite the squiggly red line under fulled, it sounds better this way). You can imagine how painful Japanese class can be. With each new vocabulary word I am weighing my options. Do I really need to know sentence structure? I would much rather keep remembering that my 325nd favorite candy is Bit o Honey. Should I try to remember the phrase for,” I am lost” or can I get by with “Where is the 7-11?” If I can ask where 7-11 is I bet I can ask for directions to my house from there. Except that there are billions of 7-11’s in Japan. Oh and…I neglected to remember how to ask for directions in favor of keeping the memory of filling up the hole (5ft x 5ft x 3ft) in the back yard with water and making Jana (sister) walk over it on a 3 inch beam (she was muddy afterwards). I just forgot what I was trying to remember, crisis averted.” Because of this dilemma I am forced into difficult situations when speaking in Japanese. The partial nature of my memory can cause problems. I often say things that do not make sense and because of that the skin on my face is a permanent red. I no longer have to blush to show embarrassment at the meaning of the words that came out of my mouth. People don’t even know when I am embarrassed anymore. In fact I eliminated the ability to register embarrassment in favor of learning the Japanese equivalent to “Three packets of ketchup, please”. I would like to share some mishaps from my misadventures in clumsily wielding the Japanese language (if it was a sword I would no longer have limbs).

After being introduced to all my coworkers for the first time I wanted to say, “yoroshiku onegaishimasu” (“Nice to meet you.” and other things depending on the situation). It came out as “yukkuri onegaishimasu” (“Slowly please.”)

When asked if I enjoyed climbing Mt. Fuji I wanted to say, “fuji-san wa kirei desu.” (“Mt. Fuji is beautiful.”) It came out as “fuji-san wa karai desu.” (“Mt. Fuji is spicy.”)

In replying to “Are you hungry?” I wanted to say, “watashi wa onaka peko peko.” (“I am starving”). It came out as, “watashi wa onaka piko piko desu.” (“My stomach is shiny”)

And my all time favorite, while studying adjectives I learned how to say something is funny or interesting. When practicing this phrase I pointed at a girl and I wanted to say “anohito wa omoshiroi desu.” (She is funny.) It came out as, “anohito wa omorashi desu.” (She is to wet your pants (literal translation “to wet oneself”)). The good thing about that last mistake is that now I know how to tell people I didn’t wet my pants when I get soaked from the rain (refer back to July 5th).

All joking aside I am really enjoying the challenge of learning the language and working up the courage to put it to use in daily life. My teachers have been so gracious in helping me learn and have invested so much time in teaching me I am very thankful for what they are doing. Now that my Japanese has improved it has been nice to communicate with people who I could not communicate with before and learning some of the nuances of the language has helped shed some light on the Japanese culture itself.

Recently I have been struggling through some hard times missing family and friends, but I have been comforted by friends and “family” here. It has been nice to deepen some of the relationships that I have formed and to be encouraged by those. I was able to attend a church workshop this past weekend and I really enjoyed learning some new songs in Japanese and enjoying the fellowship. We spent time studying and then had some skits that displayed some of the characteristics of some of the different cultures that make up the church. It was a great time to reaffirm what the church as a body should be all about.

I also went to Costco yesterday in Chiba (2 hours away) and it was nice to wander through huge aisles of familiar things. They even had samples. I hit every stand at least once, and some twice. I think that I was borderline on the last fly by. The ladies were starting to eye me and they were gripping their wooden spoons in preparation for an assault on my greedy hands. Being a well trained sampler I knew when it was time to lay low for awhile. At least until the memory of my hungry eyes and dripping mouth had faded. Unfortunately as I began planning out the logistics for my final strike they began to roll their carts to the back of the store. My howls of pain and misery were drowned by the chatter of endless shoppers and the tears that slowly rolled down my cheeks were caught by a bag of rice that began to swell from the moisture. I was consoled by the fact that I still had shopping to do. I tried to make purchases that I could not make in Mito. I bought oatmeal, raisins, salsa, peanut butter, soap, hot chocolate, chai, pickles and my prizes Reeses Pieces and Gummy Bears. The latter 2 purchases concern me the most. Since Costco sells in bulk, both bags of candy are the largest I have ever purchased. That in itself does not concern me. The fact that candy is my kryptonite does. I reserved a bed in the hospital for tomorrow. I wonder what it will be like to have a belly swollen from a five pound mixture of peanut butter with candy shells and gummy bears. I will probably have to drink lots of hot chocolate to wash it down. One thing is for sure, I will have a hard time explaining why I will have to miss the next week of school because I ate too much candy.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

New Pictures (Undokai and World Champs)



I am really enjoying the EBC class that I am a part of. My reader is very knowledgeable and has an astounding vocabulary. He has already taught me many things and I know that our relationship will be a blessing to me. I hope that I can be a good example and a helpful teacher. It still humbles me to think of how much wisdom and life experience that he has and I am trying to teach him. There are so many people I have met that are full of a different wisdom and knowledge than I have ever been introduced to and I can’t help but be changed by meeting them. From the dedication exhibited by my Japanese

coworkers to the women who sacrifice their time and energy to teach a thick headed rock like me, Japanese, I have learned from all of them and hopefully will continue to do so. God has blessed me with so many opportunities.

September 16th was the school undokai (sports festival). Imagine elementary track and field day on steroids and you have one-fifth of an undokai. The rest is made up of dancing and shouting and opening and closing ceremonies. I really enjoyed watching my first undokai and was lucky enough to participate in one event. I was passing out ribbons for fourth place. When suddenly the PTA ladies that I was working with stood up and beckoned me to come with them. From my experience these situations rarely turn out well. Sometimes I am asked to give a speech or sing a solo of some song or something that I am entirely uncomfortable doing. I looked around nervously and one of the teachers shooed me along. I just knew I was going to be asked to address the crowd and tell them about the difference between quantum and molecular physics (I would have to make something up quick). I readied myself with some of my biggest and best vocabulary words (little, red, you, nice, train, apple, dog, you know impressive words like these) and I prepared to storm to the microphone and rant and rave for at least 45 seconds. However I was steered away from the microphone and into a long line of parents. I was on the red team they told me. Great!! I love the red team. I stood waiting for an explanation of what the competition was and what my part in it would be. I waited longer. I could see that this was going to be one of those faith experiences. I looked around and saw six lines. Apparently each pair of lines were on the same team. They rolled out these huge balls (about 4 ft in diameter) and I immediately envisioned Indiana Jones fleeing from a giant boulder in the heart of a forgotten temple. I stood watching and waiting. The line of parents across from me looked at the ball expectantly. I heard a whistle blow and the ball came hurtling through the corridor of parents, each one giving it a slap to keep it rolling as it past. It came closer and I cocked my arm to give it a good wallop, however the man directly to my right gave it such a hard smack that it flew right past my swinging arm without any contact. My arm continued on its course only to meet with the arm of the man next to me. I pretended like it didn’t happen. It wasn’t very effective so I moved on to plan B and apologized. It was then that I realized the race wasn’t over. The people at the end of the line were pushing the ball around a cone and then picking it up over their heads. We began passing it back over our heads until it reached the starting point. It was a blast. The red team won. But wait, someone was saying something over the loudspeaker. I don’t know what was said but I like to pretend that one of our team members was suspended for using performance enhancing drugs (or it was a practice round). We played once more and the red team met a bitter defeat at the hands of the blue team. I wept unabashedly, tears gushing, rolling down my cheeks, my breathing came in ragged gasps. Some first graders comforted me off to the side while the other events continued. Once I had regained my composure I went back to my post of handing out ribbons to the fourth placers. After the undokai was finished and cleaned up the teachers went to a really nice restaurant and relaxed.

The next Monday was a holiday and I went with some friends to a hiking trail in Iwaki. We hiked/climbed across chains and ladders for several hours enjoying the natural beauty of Japan. It was the most beautiful place that I have been in Japan. We swam in the frigid waters below a small but powerful waterfall.

This past Sunday and Monday I went on a church retreat to a small camp north of Mito. It was a great time of fellowship and relaxation. It was a great way to get to know some of the church members better and I was lucky enough to have several great cabin mates to study and talk with. I don’t have much on the schedule as far as adventures are concerned. Unless you consider fighting ninjas an adventure…

Friday, September 7, 2007

The World Track and Field Championships, Osaka 2007

Where do I begin? As a runner and a huge track fan I love to watch huge track meets. I was privileged to travel to Osaka and watch the final day of the World Track and Field Championships. What an opportunity! Austin and I busted out of town last Friday night (8/31) on an all night bus headed for southern Japan. I was excited and couldn’t wait for the track meet on Sunday night. It was amazing to think that in a few short hours I would be watching the best runners in the world compete for a World Championship title. I had been keeping up with the meet via my Japanese cell phone (keitai). It has TV capabilities and I can watch local TV. So for the past week I had been watching the meet on a 2.5 in by 1.5 in TV screen. I would soon be watching them in real life! With the help of a few Tylenol pm I fell asleep. I woke up about 30 minutes later and again 20 minutes after that and again….let’s just say that Japanese buses aren’t designed with 6’1 in mind. We arrived in Kyoto around 6 am. We had planned on riding the bus all the way to Osaka and then riding the train to Kyoto and spending some time sight seeing and then return to Osaka for the night. We didn’t know that the bus would stop in Kyoto, so we hopped off and started walking. We bought an all day bus pass and spent the day riding/walking around looking at very old temples and palaces and castles. We rode the train to Osaka that night and I met our hosts for the first time. We stayed with a very nice couple (Gavin and Lindsay) and they showed us around Osaka that night and the following morning. We ate at Outback and went to a bookstore with a huge English section. I didn’t need any books but I enjoyed being in a place that I could actually read the writing on the books and magazines. And now for the main event: the track meet was scheduled to begin at 7:00 pm. Our bus left for Mito at 9:30. Could we watch the entire meet, catch a train to the bus station and then catch our bus to Mito? We did a test run in the afternoon and realized that we would be cutting it close. We went to the meet a couple hours early to get good seats. The evening was spectacular. Even though most of the races were tactical and slow they featured huge moves in the final laps and meters. We saw a total 4 of American medals (3 gold) in 7 events and watched medal ceremonies from the day before. We heard the USA national anthem 4 times (pole vault, 4x100 M&W, 5000M). Overall it was a great time and it was definitely worth the trip. We stood at the exit to watch the final race of the night. The men’s 4x400. Jeremy Wariner opened up a huge lead and crushed the field to help the relay team win another gold. As he crossed the finish line and his race ended, our race began. We sprinted from the stadium drawing frightened glances from the event staff. We had purchased train tickets ahead of time and our first leg to the train station was smooth. We arrived at the bus stop with 15 minutes to spare. When we boarded the bus we had to bend sideways at the waist to walk down the aisle. The ceiling could not have been taller than 4 and a half feet. It was a double decker bus so they had to make both floors small. It was by far the shortest bus (ceiling height) that I have ever been on and it was even short for Japanese standards. We sat down, relieved about making the bus and settled in for the 12 hour ride. I still had a decision to make. The bus was scheduled to arrive at Mito station at 8:15. Mito station was about 15 minutes from my school and somewhere in there I would have to change into some nicer clothes. I could just be late and try to explain or I could get off an hour before Mito at a train station and hope that I could catch a train. This was a pretty risky option because I could miss the train that would get me there on time and then be stuck waiting for the next train which might make me even later than if I stayed on the bus. I went to sleep not knowing what I would do. I woke up at each stop and renewed the decision making process. I decided that if we arrived to the train station early enough that I would try to make it. I sprinted off the bus at about 6:50 hoping to make the 6:59 train to Mito. After rushing through the station trying to figure out which platform I needed I waltzed up to the train with a few minutes to spare. What a victory! I rode a packed train feeling very self conscious about the fact that I hadn’t showered in awhile or brushed my teeth. When we got to Mito I threw on some nice clothes in the bathroom hopped on my scooter and zoomed to school. I arrived about the same time I usually did chalked it up as a victory (though a painful one: I still had to teach 5 classes after not sleeping much the past 3 nights).

The next day I went to the Japanese version of the DMV. I was there to attempt (for a second time) to obtain a Japanese driver’s license. My first time was an utter failure. The instructor ripped me apart (although in Japanese so I didn’t really understand until a friend translated). I was disappointed and felt like a failure. After I considered the circumstances I lightened up quite a bit. I don’t speak Japanese and since the test was administered in Japanese it is no wonder I didn’t fully understand what was expected of me. In addition to that I had not driven a car for 3 months and was still trying to get use to the Japanese driving system. Because of this previous experience it was no wonder that I was very nervous for my second attempt. I passed!! It was a great feeling!!

As I am typing this, I am at school. It is Friday morning but there are no students here. Is it because it a snow day? A national holiday? Nope, it is because there is a typhoon pounding the city. However, teachers are required to go to school. I rode my scooter to school in a typhoon that has recorded winds of over 75 mph. I don’t think that it was quite that windy when I left this morning but it was still scary. The rain was pounding my face shield on my helmet and the wind was blowing me all over the place. I was happy to arrive safely.

Sunday will be my first time to participate in EBC. I am in a one on one Bible study and I am anxious to meet my student. Please pray that I will be an effective instrument.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Raise the Alarm


I went to one of my kindergartens today and during a break went to the restroom. I was trying to figure out how to flush, when I noticed a button. Now before I tell you what happened let me give you some history on my poor judgment when it comes to following compulsions and curiosity. When I was in 4th grade we went on a field trip, on a school bus of course. Everyone knows the red handle on the window that you pull in the event of an emergency. I sat quietly eyeing the temptation for a good hour. I finally caved and gave it a good yank. Bells started ringing and I froze instantly. “Just what have I gotten myself into.”, I thought. The bus driver slowed the bus and my teacher took immediate action. I could see the fury boiling in her eyes. She knew that there was not an emergency yet someone had “cried wolf”. I slumped in my seat. It never occurred to me that there were only a few red levers on the bus so I didn’t flee the scene of the crime. Slowly and methodically she worked her way to the back of the bus. Rabbits aren’t smart creatures. However I chose to imitate one by utilizing their ‘if I can’t see you, you can’t see me strategy’. Avoiding eye contact is a great evasive measure if you can evacuate, if not please try something else (take it from me). Soon I heard angry breathing and felt the searing gaze of born disciplinarian. Her stare bore huge holes in my chest causing my breaths to come in ragged gasps. I fought hard to stave off her stare down. If I could just ignore her for a few more hours maybe we would make it home and I could slip past her and waltz out the door home free. About a second later she crushed me. I cracked and started spilling my guts. I told her I didn’t know what she was talking about. I never even saw that red lever. “No way!! I didn’t pull it. No, I don’t know how it happened. Well maybe I hit it accidentally and the alarm went off. That was probably it. Yeah, I’m sorry I bumped it.” She wasn’t buying. Switch tactics quick. Take someone down with you. “Ok, I pulled it, I didn’t know what it would do, but did you know that someone was throwing paper a few minutes ago. I know who it was.” It ended there. I was sternly reprimanded and I promised to mind my business from then on and control my curiosity. I have a confession to make. I broke that promise today. There are many buttons in Japan. Many of them have fascinating Kanji (Chinese characters) on them. I imagine that they reveal secret passages or release trap doors that shower money on the button pusher. As I was trying to figure out how to flush the toilet I caught a glean of green light and heard the soft whispering of my name. I stopped and listened, yep it was definitely saying, “Ueido, Ueido” (it’s a Japanese button so it uses Japanese pronunciation, of course). I hesitantly called out, “Who is it? What do you want?” It spoke in Japanese and I didn’t understand the words but I definitely understood the meaning. “I am the flushing button, push me NOW!.” I was racked with indecision. “I’m not sure…” I stuttered. “Push me, push me.”, it hissed back. Slowly, I extended my finger and leaned closer. The green light started to dance out of the Kanji on the button. I knew that I was being deceived but my weakness for flashing green Kanji buttons consumed me and I crumbled under the stress. I gave it a quick, sharp jab (in case it tried to bite me). All of a sudden I was back in fourth grade yanking the lever and freezing to the tune of shrill alarm bells. The alarm that sounded shattered the powerful spell of the Kanji button and I sprang into action. I lunged for the door and pulled on the handle. Rejected. I had locked the door. I fumbled with the lock. I tried to remember the code. Did it need to analyze my fingerprint on that touch screen on the wall? Did it use voice recognition software or a retina scan? It had to be one or the other. It was a state of the art lock and the pulsing of the alarm was minimizing the sliver of logical thinking that I am capable of. Finally I cracked it. It was an amazing system, requiring both skill and finesse. I turned the lock and the door opened. I gulped the air of freedom and relished in the warm friendly light of 60 watt light bulbs. I tried to relax and devise a plan. I could flee the building. They would never find me. Plan A: I would cross the border to Mexico before they even realized I was gone…wait that won’t work, I don’t have my passport or a car. Plan B: Hide in the broom closet…nope I would never fit. Plans flew into my brain and were quickly rejected by sound reasoning. (Why can’t planning and sound reasoning ever work together). …Plan K: …nope that will never work there aren’t that many real dragons left in Japan…Plan M: blend in with your adversaries. Ok, now here was a solid plan. Let’s analyze the situation:

Sound Reasoning: Where are you?

Planning: (panting and hopping around like an excited dog) A Kindergarten!!!

SR: Where?

P: Japan!!!

SR: How do you propose we blend in?

P: (no longer so excited) I dunno….

Suddenly it dawned on me that they had me. I am three and a half feet taller than the average occupant of this building and I have pale white skin and curly hair. I slowly curled up on the floor and waited for the prison guards to get me. I heard footsteps. It was one of the teachers. I told her it was me, I had set off the alarm. She laughed. It wasn’t even a cruel laugh. Maybe this would turn out better than I thought. She didn’t know how to turn off the alarm so she went and got someone who did. She turned it off and laughed along with the rest of us. Crisis averted, no punishment, no tears, no death, just a story to embellish into a short novel.

MORAL OF THE STORY: Kanji buttons should not be pushed if you are in a handicap bathroom, even if you do think that it is the flush button. Editors note: It was an automatic flush, had the author stepped to the left or the right it would have triggered the sensor and he never would have been forced to press the button. He really is a genius (heavy on the sarcasm).

Wednesday, August 29, 2007


I conquered Fuji-san (Mr. Fuji). It was a battle and a long one at that but in the end I bested an object that isn’t alive and can’t think. Take that, what a victory!! The day started with a 9 to 5 day that seemed like it would never end. I cut out from work about 4:55 and we drove to the train station to catch a 5:27 train to Tokyo. We arrived in Tokyo about 6:45 and rushed through the station to catch another train and then another to a station called Shinjuku. We then rode a bus for 2 and half hours and arrived a Fuji around 10:20 pm. The trek began at 10:45. There were tons of people on the mountain (including many people who were paying for a guided trek). They were slow and the trail was narrow. Austin and I hiked together and soon we found ourselves in a very long line of people that stretched to the top of the mountain. It looked hopeless. The trail we were climbing on was one of the more difficult trails and at times we were scrambling over rocks an around dazed climbers. We finally arrived at the top around 2:45 and sat down to rest and wait for the sunrise. I was surprised at how cold it was. I was prepared but my feet were still pretty cold by the time the sun peeked over the clouds. It was one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen. From our vantage point Fuji dominated the other mountains in the area. The clouds settled low in valleys around and I was struck as the sun bounced off their fluffy tops and finally crested the puffy sea of white. The cheers from the people on top (there were several hundred) echoed out into the frosty air surrounding the monstrous volcano. Shortly thereafter we rushed to on the huts and tried to warm up with a bowl of udon (noodles). The other members of our crew arrived shortly after and we enjoyed the warmth for several hours. After spending some time snapping photos, we started down. We took another trail down and saw a whole different side of the mountain. It was barren (just like the other sides). Being a volcano it was covered in lava rock that made slipping a certainty instead of a possibility. We finally arrived at the bus station and sat dazed and exhausted.

Yesterday I ate lunch with my principal and the curriculum director. When he invited me a million different scenarios flashed through my mind (most of them bad). I thought for sure it was one of those plans to isolate the bad seed and then fire them where there were not witnesses. Instead we had a nice quiet lunch (it was a little too quiet for my tastes and that says a lot). I had a good time and the food was good.

On Friday, Austin and I are riding the overnight bus to Osaka. We will hang out Saturday and Sunday morning and then Sunday night we will watch the final day of the World Track and Field Championships. Then we will ride the bus back and arrive around 8 am, Monday morning. I will then drive like a madman to try to make it to school on time. I am pretty sure I will not make it. Tuesday I will attempt to pass the Japanese driving test for a second time. The first time I bombed. This time I am prepared. Is it because I have practiced? No. Is it because I have studied? No. It is because I am not going to touch the gas pedal (other than the mandatory acceleration to 40 km at the very beginning). If I get the same instructor as last time I will bore them to death with my driving.

On Sunday after we climbed Fuji we went to a small church and met some very special people. They were so nice and hospitable. I was impressed by there service. There were 15 people. 5 of whom were with my group. The Lord is alive in Japan even if it is in small numbers. I was a huge encouragement to see the perseverance of the leadership in the face of adversity. I think that many people could learn a great deal from some of the people I have met here in Japan. God bless.

Please check out my photo album for some pictures of Mt. Fuji, Mt. Tsukuba, Bali, Indonesia and Taipei, Taiwan.

Thursday, August 16, 2007


It has been over a month since I lasted posted and much has happened since then. First my computer crashed roughly a month ago. I think it was actually the day after the last post. It is interesting to me that my computer crashed right after I posted about how much time I was wasting using it. God knows what’s going on. It was a nice break from technology. My friend fixed my computer a couple of days ago and now I am plugged back into the world but with a little more willpower.

I am school today. Summer break started July, 20th for the students. Teachers in Japan do not have an official summer break. They must use sick days or special paid vacation days.

What I did on my Summer Vacation.

By:  ウエイド ミラ

I took off two weeks ago and went to Taipei, Taiwan and Bali, Indonesia with some of my friends. We had a great time. My second time on an airplane was just as fun as the first. Here is a rundown of our activities in Bali in action verb form: we went rafting, swimming, beaching (I made that word up), elephant riding, monkey watching (like bird watching except with marsupials and danger), sight seeing (volcanoes, beaches, temples, a zoo) and every night we ate at the same little joint on the beach. I learned many things on this trip. I will share two of the most important things that I learned. The cocoa bean (where chocolate comes from) looks very, very disgusting and tastes strange. How they ever get such a delicious treat from a bean that looks like monkey brains is a mystery to me. The second thing (and probably the most pivotal lesson that I learned) is that the sun in Bali is angry. It laughs at pale, freckled weaklings (such as myself) and showers scorn and hate in the form of hot hotness and shiny arrows (maybe the arrows were my imagination). Why was the sun so angry? It might have been because I spat in the proverbial face of the sun and shunned the use of sun armor (some people call it sunscreen). I am a proud owner of very intelligent skin. It used an ancient technique to elude detection from my enemy (the sun). My skin (pay attention, this is the really impressive part), began to camouflage itself with the red lettering on the towel I was laying on. I thought, “WOW, I am a regular gecko!!” The sun searched and howled in fury but I had completely escaped detection. To the sun I looked like a red blob on a white towel. I was giddy with a false sense of victory. I spent a few minutes congratulating myself and my clever skin on a well deserved victory. Right about now you are wondering just how you can train your skin to execute such a handy maneuver. Please let me finish before you run off in haste looking for skin training books in your local library (they don’t have them, at least not here in Mito, Japan, I looked). Apparently my skin isn’t quite as clever as I first assumed. It was so tired from the battle that it couldn’t return to its original state. In fact my camo-technique that was so useful in escaping from the sun only served to announce my presence much more quickly than I would have liked. The only place where I could blend in was the produce section between the zucchini and the leeks. That’s right I was readily accepted by some rather friendly tomatoes. I carried a few around on my shoulders the rest of the week so I wouldn’t feel out of place. Let me tell you that I learned a valuable lesson from the whole sun battle debacle. My skin is cowardly. What looked like a brilliant victory soon turned into a painful defeat and then complete and utter DESERTION. As we speak it is jumping ship and wallowing in it’s shame. As any intelligent person would, I reflected on the entire situation and I figured out what I did wrong. If I would have used a plain white towel (no red lettering) then my skin would not have had to change at all. It would have already blended in with the towel and the sun would have never detected me at all. So, even though I lost the battle, I was able not to overestimate or underestimate my enemy but in fact to estimate my enemy. I must congratulate myself on gathering the counter intelligence to defeat my opponent next time we meet.

Editor’s note: The author clearly proves his IQ is much more than a lima bean (no brain cells) but clearly less than a goldfish (1 brain cell). He did in fact use sunscreen after 30 minutes, but clearly, it was too late and he received a sunburn which later blistered and is peeling. He later remarked that the sunburn reminded him of his childhood and a visit to the Clovis, NM zoo. (It’s funny to me that I am the author AND the editor, so I can talk bad about myself behind my back).

One last story. I was walking down the street in Bali and a guy started talking to me. He wanted to sell me something just like the 208 people who had talked to me before him. He put on his best Australian accent and asked me if I was from Australia. I told him in Japanese that I came from Japan. He was confused. He continued on in English and I continued on in Japanese. We had a great conversation only I understood everything he said and he understood nothing I said.

On the way back to Japan we stopped in Taipei for two nights. We spent one day exploring the city. We went to the tallest tower in the world and looked around at the city. I really enjoyed Taipei, mostly because they had 2 subways (the kind you ride on and the kind you eat at). I enjoyed both. I didn’t realize how much I missed sandwiches.

Bali reminded me of how privileged I am. Many people spend their lives just trying to survive. I don’t know why God has blessed me beyond my needs. It makes me realize my responsibility to use the blessings that I have to help others. It is always interesting to me to see how other people around the world live. I have seen so many things that were beyond my imagination before I left America. I only hope that I can use those things to understand the people around the world and to understand myself as well. I will be starting EBC (English Bible Class) soon. I don’t know all the details but we will be using the Bible to study English with people. I am both excited and nervous about this opportunity and I am praying that God will use the program to his benefit.

Thursday, July 5, 2007


Well I cut my hair. It went from being about 5 or six inches long to about ½ an inch. The next day when I went to school I got a second look from everyone. They would see me I would say hi. They would say hi. They would walk off. They would stop and look at me again and I would smile and walk off. At lunch one of the students called me a skinhead. I am quite sure he didn’t really know what skinhead means. I didn’t beat him up for calling me mean names. Not until recess anyway and then I only blacked one of his eyes. I left his nose alone. While we are on the subject of noses let me tell you a story. I was asked to play cops and robbers with the sixth graders. I agreed and they explained the rules. We began playing and I was a cop so I spent the next ten minutes chasing really fast children. My “team” had narrowed the playing field and I was chasing on of the few remaining robbers. He zigged and zagged and I pursued him relentlessly. He decide to run behind a huge tree at the exact moment another student was coming from the other direction. They ran smack into one another and I arrived on the scene to see one of the students lying on the ground holding his nose and writhing in pain. I felt so bad. The boy that I was chasing was standing off to the side and he began to cry because he felt bad also. They both visited the school nurse and I hoped that they were both ok and I didn’t catch any blame for the collision. Later in the hall I saw the boy that I was chasing and he was still crying. I asked him if he was ok and he wouldn’t talk to me. I went into the teacher’s room and came back out and the assistant to the vice principal was talking to him. “Whelp, I guess I should pack my things and get ready to go back to America.”, I thought. “He is going to tell the assistant to the vice principal that I shoved him and it was all my fault.” I walked past them and tried not to make eye contact and at the same time tried not to look guilty (something I have never been skilled at). Later in the day I saw the assistant to the vice principal talking to one of the sixth grade teachers and of course my imagination began writing subtitles for their conversation, “…yep, he really is a horrible person. I am not sure if we should deport him or put him in prison here. I heard that he shoved a student and then after he collided with another boy, Wade sensei kicked them both and spit on their broken bodies.” I must admit that I got a little queasy when I imagined that I overheard this in a conversation that couldn’t understand and dubbed myself. After a week and a half I guess my job is still safe though I am sure a demerit went into my file and on my permanent record with the government of Japan and I am now red flagged and have been assigned around the clock surveillance to make sure it doesn’t happen again. I will have to be extra careful, at least for a few more days.

I have a bone to pick with the phrase “water resistant”. Just how long is it water resistant? After several experiences with “water resistant” rain gear I am filing suit for libel and slander and medical malpractice and false advertisement and manslaughter (I am just throwing that one in there to beef up my lawsuit). I left my apartment at 7:47 am (the sun had been up for 4 hours in case you were wondering). It was raining. I put on my “water resistant rainsuit” and took off on my scooter. I was wet by 7:48. I guess when the manufacturer insisted on “water resistant rain suit” as a description they really meant “resists the urge to go and find water, however if water finds them then there is nothing that they can do but be friends and invite the water inside for a nice chat”. Once the water has been “invited” into the rainsuit for a “chat” it proceeds to soak pants and shirt. Next time it is raining and you put on your water resistant rainsuit to go to work on your scooter and you think to yourself, “Good thing that I bought this water resistant rainsuit, otherwise I would be wet.” Just wait a minute...

If you have ever ridden a scooter in the rain, you know that really only the tops of your legs get wet (and possible your rear if your rain pants invite water in for a chat). When I arrived at school, my thighs were wet and my rear was wet. I’m sure you can imagine the things I was accused of… The fingers pointed at me and the jaws dropped. I motioned frantically that it was the rain, it was the rain. Oh, please understand it was the RAIN. The teachers put 2 and 2 together and I was found to be innocent. The students also put 2 and 2 together but they used a different equation:

(wet thighs/wet rear) + guilty look+ (goofy x strange x foreigner) = just couldn't wait

I was found guilty on all charges. I appealed of course and maybe I would have overturned the verdict but the judge (a fourth grader) was tough and deemed that the trial would be held only in Japanese. I haven’t learned, “I didn’t pee in my pants.” I face the gallows tomorrow. Don’t worry Mom and Dad, the gallows weren’t built for 6’1 and I think I can touch my tiptoes. If I don’t make it I think that South Field (maker of the “resists the urge to go and find water, however if water finds them then there is nothing that they can do but be friends and invite the water inside for a nice chat” rain pants) should foot the funeral bill.

I learned today that a watermelon is considered a vegetable here. I learned the hard way after I told a second grader that one of the fruits I liked was watermelon. He said it was a vegetable, I said “Is not”. He said, “Is, too” (in Japanese). I said, “Is not”. He took it to the teacher and she crushed me. I sulked the rest of lunchtime and wouldn’t eat my food or talk to anyone.

Switching gears, I have to admit that I have been lazy lately. I have spent too much time on my computer and not enough time growing my faith. I contemplated selling my computer to rid myself of the temptation and I would except that it is the only way I can communicate abroad (after reading this it makes me sad to think that I am so weak that I can’t make myself turn my computer off). I recognize that Satan uses the little things much more than the big things to distract me from growth. I have noticed that when I first arrived in Japan I was much softer and open to the “little nudges” but now I am growing calloused again. I think that it is good to recognize these things in your life. It is important to have a check up every now and again to see how you have grown or if you are stagnate.

Friday, June 22, 2007


I finally have time to sit down and write about the last few weeks. I am trying to make plans for the upcoming summer break and I don’t know yet what I will do. I would like to see more of the countryside since I have been in the city for the entire time I have been here. I may hop a train and ride until I find some place I like and stop there for awhile.

Today I went on a tour around the school grounds at recess with some professional safari guides. They were in first grade and we talked about trees and ants and acorns and a very fuzzy caterpillar that they killed very, very slowly. I asked all kinds of questions about the wildlife and foliage and got varied returns (from the usual head cocked to the side quizzical stare, to the excited chatter that I couldn’t understand). I like to pretend that they are agreeing with me. It helps my ego.

Most of my conversations at school go like this, “Hello, how are you?” the immediate return “How are you?” “No, no you can’t answer a question with a question.” (I usually resort to pretending like my fingers are talking to one another in different voices (right index finger) “Hello, how are you?’ (left index finger) “I’m fine.”) It works but makes me look a little crazy. On that note I am wondering if my hair is getting too long. I have a good moptop going on and it is usually pretty wild after being stuffed in a helmet for the ride to school. I bought some clippers the other day and for convenience sake I will probably just cut my own hair. Sounds dangerous and it is. I might lose a limb or two. How would I explain that at school?

It is the rainy season right now but it is not raining much. It feels like the hot and humid season (it reminds me of East Texas).

I had a welcome party last Friday. I didn’t know about it until the Tuesday after. A new teacher came a couple of weeks ago and he and I were to be guests of honor at the welcome party. I think maybe they announced it during a faculty meeting but it was in Japanese so all I heard was ------ wade sensei ----- . I remember looking up from my desk half asleep. Here is a play by play of my thought process. I heard my name I know I did. I hope they didn’t find out about that red light I ran this morning or yesterday morning or last Tuesday or last weekend. Or maybe I got a bad report from the parents during the parent observations. Or maybe my clothes were too casual … or maybe too formal. I just don’t know. I wonder what we are having for lunch tomorrow…

Turns out it was none of the above, they were just inviting me to a welcome party.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Sorry I haven't updated in a while. I have been taking about 6 hours of Japanese class for the last 2 weeks. I have been trying to use my free time wisely. The preacher here spoke about fulfilling your purpose on Sunday and I thought about how having too many things to focus on can hold one back from fulfilling ones purpose. If the path to heaven is narrow then I think it is safe to say that the path to ones heart has to be narrow as well.

I am starting to feel more comfortable around school and in general. I must say that I am starting to miss some American foods (mexican food mainly). Feel free to send me a few grilled steak burritos and some refried beans. Sorry this is so short but things are starting to get routine.

Monday, June 4, 2007


I have been very busy at school lately and in turn very lazy away from it. Last week was the teacher observation day by the local and state board of education for Ibaraki. My teachers were stressed and asked me to help out on some materials for the 2 classes that I would be involved in. After the observations (the bigwigs stayed for 5 minutes both times) we had a meeting which apparently I needed to be at. One of the ladies came and got me and we went to the science room. I was sitting in this meeting, my eyelids drooping and my head starting to nod. I was almost gone when I heard someone speaking English. Hey what’s going on they should be speaking Japanese. I got a shot of adrenaline when I caught the end of a sentence “… please introduce yourself.” Everyone was looking at me. My heart starting beating very quickly. I stood up and slowly said my name. I told them I was the AET at Sakado (a fact that ALL of them already knew). I then sat down very quickly. I almost started laughing when I realized that if I spoke fast enough I could probably tell them anything and they wouldn’t understand. Next time I will probably quote a few lines from Dr. Suess. After the meeting the teachers kind of stood around socializing. I was stuck in the mush pot and didn’t know what to do. I am not comfortable nor skilled at socializing in English much less Japanese, so I resigned myself to play the part of a young boy a junior high dance who just stands there looking awkward not knowing what to do. It was uncomfortable then but as I type this it is really pretty funny.

Last night I met a man who studied in Lubbock at SIBI. He was Irish and he invited me to go to his church at Shirasato. It is a much smaller church than the one I am attending and I am really interested in seeing what it is all about. I also was able to talk to a girl who is thinking about attending SIBI. What a small world. Even in Japan people are trying to find a way to get to Lubbock. They should change their name to “Hub City of the World”.

I just finished a teaching a 2nd grade class in front of 22 of their parents and the principal and vice principal. I must admit that I was intimidated. When I get nervous I get sweaty. In Japan most schools do not have air conditioners. 1+1=. Thankfully on of my teachers opened a window and I turned the fans on. It helped a little. Here I was pretending like I was a rocket getting ready to blast off (the topic was counting) and I was thinking about how ridiculous I looked. Again as I look back it is pretty funny. After class I called the principal over. I told him quite frankly that I am much more effective without people looking over my back. Not really.

I was eating lunch with the first graders and I noticed that we had seaweed sheets (dry paper thin seaweed used for making sushi). I try to make lunch as enjoyable as possible. I try to be a good sport but at the same time my Mom is not here to tell me “Wade, eat your seaweed and you can go play”. I can just “go play” if I want. So I decided that today I would revel in that freedom. I would not eat my seaweed. Now to the hard part, how to get rid of the package of seaweed on my tray without the 5 1st graders (who were watching my every move) noticing. Here’s how it went down. I slyly dropped the package on the floor and then “scratched” my ankle and slid the package into my shoe. VICTORY!!! I beam with pride at deceiving 6 year olds. About 5 minutes later the kids notice that I am not eating my rice with the seaweed. They will think one of two things: A. “He never got any seaweed. Poor guy, I bet he loves seaweed, I will go get him some more. (to have such a great triumph undermined by such coincidence would crush my spirits and I would probably leave Japan in defeat and go back to working for Hardees in Fayetteville) B. “Where did his seaweed go? I thought I saw it on his tray. Why is he scratching his ankle so much? My mind was racing and cycling through my options. Create a subtle diversion and throw off the gears that were grinding in their little heads? Fake choking and risk the Heimlich maneuver from 35 1st graders? Resort to physical violence and pick a fight over Pokemon? Thankfully the crisis ended without blood shed or faking injury. I grabbed a wrapper off the nearest kids tray and we played your favorite game and mine, the “What Hand is It In?” game. We soon attracted attention and we had students crossing lunch group borders to play. In a few hours you will probably see a news feed from CNN about the new craze sweeping across the island of Japan. It might even make it to Korea and distract them from there nuclear agenda. Just look at me!! I saved the world from nuclear disaster. (I am pretty sure they had played before but that would kill my story if I told you that). Now I had to make my escape from the classroom and get rid of the seaweed before it smelled up my shoes. I crept into the empty (thankfully) teachers room and removed the seaweed carefully. A sigh of relief that had been building rushed out as soon as I put the package in the pocket of my jacket and zipped it securely. If you compare it to a situation in America, it would be like a foreigner stuffing French Fries in his shoes. I am already planning an escape from any scenario that involves an octopus tentacle.

God has really brought many things to my attention about my faith and the things that I believe. He is breaking down my pride and self reliance. He is showing me things that are uncomfortable to find out about myself. I am growing through these things and I am very thankful for that. Patience is not my strong point and I am working on that. I am learning about how many limitations I put on God and his ability to work. I have put God in a box and that should not be. I am thankful for the people that God is using to show me how wrong I have been.

Saturday, May 26, 2007
I finally created a photo album. Enjoy.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Humble Pie (Yes, please I would like 3rds) and Fermented Soybeans


Yesterday I got lost and I had natto for lunch on the same day. Despite that it was a pretty good day. I went to my nursery school the night before my first visit. I wanted to make sure that I knew where it was. I found it quickly and was excited that it was so accessible. The next morning I left 30 minutes early. I arrived and noticed there were no students. I peeked in the door and a teacher came. I asked her if I was supposed to be here. It was very clear that I was not. I showed her my map and she told me the place I wanted was just down the street. No harm done I was still 20 minutes early. I walked in the door and children started shouting “Gaijin, gaijin”. Basically it means “Foreigner, foreigner.” I hoped I was in the right place. The strange looks I received did nothing to bolster my confidence. I went to the “office” and quietly announced that I was here (and early to boot). Stares. I looked at each face and no one even registered a hint of recognition. Yipes. I wound up in the wrong place again. Luckily a lady spoke English and told me that they did not need an AET. “How could that be?” I wondered to myself. “This is the place that my vice principal showed me on my map.” She reassured me that this was the place circled on the map but that again they did not need an AET (my title-Assistant English Teacher). She pointed to a different place and said it was a kindergarten. That was probably the place I needed to go. Ok, I would be a little late. They will understand (hopefully I can explain). I find the place quickly and again receive the blank look “cold shoulder” combo. Third time was not the charm. They pointed out a place on the map that was another nursery school. I was on my way. Ten minutes later I still had not found it. I noticed that my elementary school had called my cell phone (which meant that my nursery school had called them, I was in deep trouble.). I had a nervous feeling in my stomache (like the time I unintentionally hit Jana with a baseball bat when I was 7). I drove around a few more minutes. I was debating what to do. I could call my school and try to explain. Instead I decided to try a few more minutes. I saw a security guard and asked her where I should go. She asked a construction worker and he told her, left, then right, then it should be on the left side of the road (in Japanese). For a second I was excited I could understand (it was like finding a dollar on a sinking ship) then I remembered I was 45 minutes late (bad in America, even worse in Japan (ten minutes early=on time). I finally pulled up to the nursery school. It was the right one. They were happy to see me I'm sure (but they hid it very well). I think they were worried that they got a lemon. After apologizing profusely, they took me to the teachers room. I was the only one there. A lady that looked like she was in charge came in. We sat quietly. I tried to make small talk. I failed and she didn’t even make an attempt. Another teacher came in after about 15 minutes and said something that I didn’t understand, she left. Apparently I was supposed to follow her because she came back about 3 minutes later looking a bit peeved. I was feeling as if strike 3 had come and gone and I was quickly approaching 10. I walked into the room and 18 smiling 5 year olds came into view. We started the lesson and immediately I was comfortable again. I didn’t need to worry. I could't change anything that had happened and worrying wouldn't make me feel any better. The lesson went well. And when it was time to leave I felt much more relaxed around the lady who I perceived as being in charge. I left shortly after and went to my elementary school. When I arrived all of the important people (principal, vice principal, disciplinarian, curriculum director) were in the teachers room. They asked if everything was ok. I smiled and took them my map. I spent the next ten minutes explaining my journey (imagine lots of pointing and looking confused). The curriculum director left and quickly came back, took my map and said “no”. He pointed to off the map. He turned it over and drew an extension of the road. He jabbed his pen into the back of the map and chuckled. This was where my nursery school was. I apologized and left with the feeling that I was a disappointment but I didn’t care too much at that point. I headed upstairs to eat lunch with my fifth graders. Natto was on the menu (with mustard and soy sauce). Natto (fermented soybeans) is not something that I would choose to eat. However, I was on the spot with 30 some 5th graders watching each bite. I smiled as if it was the best thing I had ever eaten. I ate every bit just like mama taught me. I showed them the bottom of my container.

God really humbled me today. I was feeling self reliant and he showed me just how much I know and how big I am. A slice of humble pie and some rotten soybeans for dessert. Who says God doesn’t have a sense of humor? I am glad that He gave me one too.

I was sitting alone in the English room between classes the other day trying to think of ways to represent Christ to a people that I can’t communicate with effectively. I was brainstorming and I was drawing blanks. I was thinking about Jesus’ ministry and I had the thought, Jesus could speak to the people he was serving. He spoke Hebrew. He was able to speak to them, encourage them, counsel them, and teach them. The immediate follow up thought was, Ah, and you speak Hebrew very well. That is definitely how you found out about Jesus. I know Jesus because his actions have traversed across generations. I took that thought and applied it to my life. Each day should be approached with the attitude of a man who can’t even speak, yet is able to represent Christ despite of his limitations. I can definitely handle the not being able to speak part but I need some help with the other part. Please send me an email or leave a comment if you have any advice on practical ways that I could use to be Christ without speaking.

PS Please forgive any misspelled words or grammatical errors. Since I left America my English has deteriorated. I typed "nevered", "badded" and "spoked", and those are just the ones I caught.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Yesterday I went to a sumo tournament in Tokyo. It was great!! I must admit that I was really confused about when the match was supposed to start so most of the the time the sheer excitement of the match actually starting was enough to entertain me. There was a Bulgarian guy who wrestled and he inspired me to put on a few pounds and give sumo a try myself. I thought about it and it would take a lot of rice and sushi to get that big. I guess I will have to try the green tea ice cream diet. Afterwards we went to TGIFridays. It was pretty good. I ate my fill so the sumo dream is still alive. Today I went back to Tokyo with my friend Shinobu and his aunt and her friend. We went to the tallest tower in Japan and got a great view of the countryside. Then we went to Chinatown. There were people everywhere!! I have never seen so many people in one spot. Tokyo is huge! I told Shinobu that I was glad that he couldn't lose me in the crowd.

I have an internet connection in my apartment so my posts should be more frequent and include a few pictures!

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Croquet Is Not My Cup of Tea


It has been a long time since I had the opportunity to spend some time on the internet. I should have my own connection in my apartment soon. I have been able to spend my time in my apartment doing things that were much more worthwhile. On that note I have been able to read my Bible a great deal while I am school. There are breaks during the day where no one will miss me in the teacher’s room and I am able to stay in the English room, read and recharge. I have found it to be a way to really renew my mind and purpose. I encourage everyone to try “Bible breaks” during the day. I was able to have my first real religious discussion with 2 friends. They come from opposite ends of the spectrum and both gave me their perspectives on Christianity in a foreign culture. I was excited to learn so much and humbled at the same time. I keep forgetting how little I know about the Japanese culture and how to relate to it.

At the moment I am trying to build as many relationships as I can with the people I meet. I have really been trying to learn the language so I can actually communicate, but it is going to be along time until I can carry on a full conversation. I can really relate to my students at school: we are both on the same foreign language level, we both pick our noses, we aren’t really sure if we like what we are eating for lunch and we really want people who are speaking in other languages to speak much more slowly. I was eating lunch with the second graders the other day and they had a few strawberries. I was sitting beside a boy who was obviously a clown. I told him what a strawberry was in English, he told me what a strawberry was in Japanese. Only he didn’t know that one of the first Japanese words I learned was the word for “poop”. He told me the Japanese word for strawberry was “unko” which is really the Japanese word for poop. I looked at him and smiled. He thought he got the best of me. But I knew better. I really have to stay on my toes.

Last Saturday was a fun filled adventure. I went to a friends house and we made takoyaki. Italians eat meat balls, Japanese eat octopus balls. We all sat around a griddle covered with indentions for the batter. We poured the batter (flour, egg, cabbage, ginger, onions) into the indentions and then they brought out the octopus. It was a tentacle. They sliced it in front of me then we placed a chunk in each ball. The batter then cooked for awhile until we where left with small hush puppy like balls with a surprise in the middle. I have to say that I really enjoyed takoyaki!! It was delicious. After that we played “gato ball” with his grandmother and a few of her friends. “Gato ball” is croquet.

I have never played. I have watched Alice In Wonderland. I was clueless, so here was my strategy: I hit the ball way too hard and missed the gates many, many times. I asked afterward who won and they said that I did. I think they were trying to be nice to the goofy giant. I know less about croquet than before I played. After that we went to a sushi restaurant that has a bar with a conveyer belt. They put plates of sushi on the belt you take what you want, they count how many plates you ate and then you pay by the plate. I ate natto again (fermented soybeans) hoping that it would taste better a second time. No dice. It was worse this time because the fish that it was on was old and mushy. Then I went home and took some nyquil and went to bed. I have been sick for a few weeks and can’t shake it. I don’t know where to get good medicine other than the doctor and I don’t have my insurance card yet. I hope that I haven’t been offensive to the Japanese people by blowing my nose in public. Usually I try to sneak off the bathroom to blow my nose but then I wonder if they think that I have other problems. I have been told that wearing a mask helps sore throats (a popular way of treating sore throats in Japan) so I bought a few and tried sleeping in one. I had to take it off because I kept hearing Darth Vader.

There were 3 surprises during lunch today. 1# The bread had a package of honey with it (HOORAY)!! 2# The honey had lemon flavoring and zest in it (BOOO). 3# I think the soup at lunch today had raw bacon in it.