This is one of a series of emails I sent while preparing and living overseas in Japan, from April 2008 to April 2009. They are mostly for my own benefit, but also for anyone who may care to read them. Enjoy 🙂
So, I’ve been in Japan for my third full day. It’s pretty amazing…I still don’t feel like I am here…it’s starting to sink in slowly, but it hasn’t hit me that I’m here for a year! Maybe once I start teaching my classes I’ll realize the full brunt of it…or the first big event back home that I have to miss out on. I’m not sure, but right now I’m having a great time. We have been walking everywhere, and I’m not very acquainted with walking this much, but I’m getting there. I’ll get better used to it, but according to Samantha (the other teacher), we’ve been doing more than is usual…but I really am glad that I’m strengthening my muscles.
Let’s see…from my point of arrival, I was picked up at the airport by Brian, Taka and Samantha. Though I was pretty wiped out from the plane transit, I was able to stay awake and talk with them and get to know them kind of superficially. Since then, I’ve spent a ton of time with Samantha walking around and getting familiar with the areas and customs. On my second day, Sam made me pancakes (here known as hotcakes…and the maple syrup is called “cake syrup, the maple kind”). Then Brian came and took us to City Hall to have me registered as an alien. I’ll go back in a few days to get my actual registration card. Afterwards, Sam and I met up with Hanae and Takashi, a couple of students here, and had lunch with them. We ate udon (soup noodles) with tempura (vegetables). Some of the Japanese food is right up my alley, since I’m already familiar with real Chinese food…but then again, some of it is so weird to me. We had a great time, and even had some pictures taken called puri-kura, which you take yourself in a photobooth. Then, you decorate them afterwards and they are printed out as stickers for you. We had some really good shots. It was a lot of fun.
After that, I came back to Shimonoseki Christian Center for a meeting with Pastor Tony. He was an hour late…so I unpacked and got everything put into a place. It was nice to have everything in one location. I feel so much better about my room now that my suitcases aren’t strewn all over the floor. After that, I just kind of hung out at the Center, getting myself settled in, having some instant curry and rice, which is very popular here. There’s supposed to be an Indian restaurant nearby, which I loooove Indian food, so I’m going to have to find out where and get out to it!
Yesterday (Friday), I had a meeting with Taka first thing in the morning. Taka is the Ministry Director here at the Center and also the English Ministry “Principal”. Basically, along with Pastor Tony, he’s my boss…but he’s pretty cool. His wife, Aki, is three months pregnant, and really nice. I got to meet her at the start of our meeting too. We didn’t get very far through it, before I had to take the train to the Kawanaka site with Samantha. We met Pastor Tony and the two secretaries of Shimonoseki Christ Bible Church for lunch. We went to Joyfull, which seems kind of like a Ponderosa…it’s a popular Japanese Family Restaurant chain…not very traditional food, as I had Italian chicken, with potato and corn, and of course, a side of white rice. Samantha and I then met with a church member, Eri, who is 19, at the train station and took it to Kokura for some shopping and to see the cherry blossoms. Apparently, I have come just at the right time. The blossoms bloomed not too long before I got here, and then, it’s supposed to rain tomorrow night, and that will be the end of them – they will fall off mostly in the rain. We spent a lot of time in Kokura, even having dinner there. It was a lot of fun. Kokura was a Dutch settlement, so there are some remnants of that influence, but not too much. One great feature of Kokura is a great castle, with cherry blossoms and parks. It was beautiful. We also found a novelty store with a lot of random things…a more tame Spencers, I would say, that provided many moments of laughter.
Today, I had a video call with my mom, oldest sister Bronlyn, and my nephew J, and two nieces A and A. It was really nice to talk with them and see them on camera. It takes getting used to, but it is such a blessing to be able to communicate so easily with everyone back home…it helps cut down on homesickness (which I haven’t had yet…but I remember it from CN). After the phone call, Samantha and I walked around and she showed me the grocery stores and Sea Mall. I’m so glad to know where things are now and where I can find my things, since Samantha will eventually have to delve back into her studies (she’s taking distance learning classes through Liberty). When we got back to the Center, we had our lunch and then decided to go on a hike with Sakura, a woman from China who comes to International Cafe. It was so neat to hang out with her because I could speak my Mandarin with her and she understood (for the most part). For the past few days, everything on the tip of my brain has been Chinese…and I’ve had to stop myself in mid-speech because I’m speaking Chinese and not even English…and definitely not Japanese. It’s to the point where I’m even throwing Hindi out there…doesn’t make any sense at all!! OOoo, one thing is that there is a ton of French around the town and in the shopping centers. It’s really nice and helps me feel a little more comfortable. Reading through these last few sentences makes me realize how much of a nut I am. I’m sure you all have known it for some time now…thanks for waiting for me to realize it on my own. 🙂
So, Sam, Sakura, and I walked over to an area called Hikoshima, which is like a suburb of Shimonoseki. We then walked up a mountain to a park called Oinoyama. It’s free and is at the summit, overlooking the region, and full of cherry blossoms. It was so beautiful, and though exhausting to walk up the incline, it was amazing! I have a ton of pictures. We met a class of girls, all on their school’s tennis team. They insisted on taking a picture with us. Ha! It was fun. The Japanese aren’t as ostentatious as the Chinese, so it’s been weird to be approached by people…although they all still do stare at us, at me. I’m going to have a lot to get used to about the Japanese culture that is so different from the Chinese. We were walking up and saw a car called “Midget 2” and we were trying to explain the meaning of “midget.” Sakura proudly said, “Oh, short people…travel-sized!” That was one of the most amazing moments of the past few days for me. It’s so awful, but so hilarious. We then explained that that expression is used only for objects…not for people. She got it, but it’s going to be a joke with us for a very long time. Please pray for her as she is not saved. She was given a Chinese Bible, but I’m not sure if she reads it. She’s not very fond of her heritage…maybe I have been brought here to encourage her and bring her closer to God. I am so excited to know her. She has such a great personality. I already have her affection because I appreciate Chinese…I don’t look down on her because she’s Chinese. She faces a lot of discrimination here in Japan for it.
I think that’s all for today. This is a long update, I’m sorry I didn’t blog as things were happening, but it’s been a settling time for me. I’m so glad that I have you to share this with. Much love and prayers,
PS. By the way, Tksh and Hne are not believers either…Hne is close, but Tksh is pretty agnostic. Eri is a believer and a great sister to talk with. 🙂 Pray for them, and for Eri to be encouraged in her faith. Thanks!
I’ll still send updates by email, but if you want the most up-to-date info and happenings, check out my blog. I’m going to force myself to use it. Later!!