Put It On My Tab

Well, it’s been a couple days since I posted on here.  I’ve had a pretty good week, but busy…pretty busy.  After the wonderful Monday evening birthday party, and then the realization that we are under surveillance by the other people on this street, Thursday was my typical day to go have lunch at Quixote.  It was nice, I had a lunch special, and they included squid (ika)…and it was as disgusting as you’d think it would be.  I tried to get them not to tell me what it was until after I took one bite, but they were so excited about trying to find the English word, I couldn’t stop them.  So I took a bite and couldn’t swallow it.  So I took a drink of some of the soup broth…but still couldn’t swallow it. Finally I was able to chew it and swallow, but oh, it was awful.  I’m just so glad that it was with the Quixote people…they were completely understanding about my not even wanting to try it.  As soon as I finished my bite, they grabbed the bowl with the rest of the ika and took it behind the counter, leaving me with the rest of my food to enjoy.  They are so sweet.  Here is a link to some pictures of my friends from there, and some others from Kokura too:

http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=117020&l=d26dd&id=500635206

After my lunch, we gabbed for a little bit, discussing the Japanese word for nervous, and how, in the Kanji, the character for “God” is included…I still have to find out what that’s all about.  It’s actually one of two Kanji that make up the word for “nerve”…so I’m going to investigate that and try to find out the connection.  I had to go grocery shopping, so I took off for the store.  The crosswalk right next to Quixote takes forever to turn sometimes, and so I was standing there for a good 5 minutes before it changed over and I was able to cross and head over.  By the time I made it to the store, I realized that I walked out on my bill!  I could not believe! what I did!  I had to go get groceries though because I didn’t have the change to run back and pay my bill.  So, I went to to the store, bought my items, and hurried back, hoping to catch them before they closed for the afternoon….but I was too late.  There was nothing for me to do…I didn’t have any way to get in touch with them.  So, I went to Kawanaka to teach.  I would be able to catch the train back in time to run over to the restaurant before they closed for the night after dinner.  I booked it to the restaurant from the train station and Mitsui-san was just hanging out in the restaurant, watching a ball game on tv.  I gave him my money and apologized profusely.  He looked at me in disbelief, as if it didn’t even dawn on him that I didn’t pay for my food!  I was so embarrassed, but so grateful that it happened to someone who I have a good friendship with. 

  Oh, and just in case you have forgotten…this Saturday is my birthday.  Yeah…it’s going to be a great day!  More news soon!  πŸ™‚  Hasta!

It’s a Small World in Yamato-Machi

  As you know, I have been working to develop a relationship with the restaurant, Quixote, just down the street from the Center.  Also, Taka has been working to keep a relationship going with the smaller post office one block beyond the restaurant.  So, when I send out letters or postcards or whatever, I go to the small post office,just to keep things going.  It’s so neat because there are about 5 of us who frequent Quixote now, whether for dinner or lunch or whatever.  Just last week, Samantha had dinner there on Wednesday.  On Thursday, I left to have my lunch, my regular day for going to Quixote, and just as I left the Center Nakayama-san was coming back from having lunch there.  And Taka will go every once in a while too.  They have good coffee.  πŸ™‚ 

  Well, on Tuesday, I went to the little post office to send off a card and postcard, and I didn’t get any conversation in while there, but the girl who usually waits on me had a customer, so this man had to wait on me.  I was in and out and nothing big, headed back to the Center.  Just a little later, Taka had to go to pay a bill, and the girl waited on him.  As they were going through the paperwork, she said, “So how was the party last night?”  Taka was thrown off…he was like, “Me?”  oh, yeah, it’s only him because he’s the only one in the office.  She said, “You had a birthday party last night at Quixote.”  Taka was surprised…he asked her how she knew about it…and said that it was mine and another teacher’s birthday.  She said, “Well, you know, Yamato-Machi (the area of Shimo that this street is in) is a small place.  It’s a small world.”  Taka just laughed nervously, and asked her to tell him how she knew…but she just kept saying that it is a small world.  Hah.  Finally, he was able to get it out of her that she had lunch there on Monday herself, and Satsuki-san and Mitsui-san were talking about the party. 

  So, there are two things to point out by this happening.  One, we are being seen and kept track of by the locals.  This street used to be beautiful, with lots of little restaurants and shops and movie theaters.  Now, there’s nothing really here, just remnants of great places.  Taka said that he is excited to think that, if just one of the people we have contact with here became a believer, it could be a domino effect along the whole street!  Two, we are being seen and kept track of by the locals.  What a responsibility!  It’s kind of scary to think that our actions and everything are being scrutinized.  I pray that God will help us keep our reputation secure and that our lives would be salt, making the people around us thirsty for God. 

  Also, I had a really nice conversation with Nakayama-san after our class on Tuesday.  I was asking her what she thinks about the women in the class and where they are spiritually.  She said that Mika is searching and very curious.  Tomoko is hard to figure, but she’s a very sweet woman.  Reiko-san is pretty much how Nakayama-san was before she got saved.  Nakayama-san was a teacher for tea ceremony.  But she really liked American and British stories and movies.  Often, she would find the Bible or Christian events quoted in the stories, and she wanted to know what the stories were, since they were so popular in western culture.  So, she began going to a Bible study, by Pastor Tony.  After a while, she began to think that this was real, that God was real.  But she couldn’t get past Genesis 1&2, where it says that God made the whole world in only 6 days.  It was beyond her understanding, she had always believed in evolution.  So she prayed to God that if He was real, He would show her that it was true.  After a few weeks, she realized that it was true, He was Almighty God after all.  But then she was afraid because her husband and mother-in-law hated Christians.  She struggled with what her life would be like afterwards.  But one day in Bible Study, she felt Jesus behind her and put his hand on her back, nudging her to go talk to Tony about becoming a Christian.  So she did, and she believed.  Shortly after, her husband got cancer and was in the hospital for a long time.  I asked if her husband ever became a believer, and she said she doesn’t know.  But in the hospital, she would pray and read the Bible to him.  She didn’t know what she should say, except to read the Bible.  After several months, her husband died, and things changed for her.  She has a daughter who lives close to the church in Kawanaka and a son who lives in Tokyo.  Both of them have basically told her that it’s ok for her to be a Christian, but they don’t want her to talk to them about it.  Please keep her children in your prayers.  I have been so blessed to be in a family where most of the members are Christian.  I can’t imagine how hard it would be to be the only Christian in a family where most are agnostic, apathetic, or Buddhist.  Thanks!

It’s a Birthday Party :)

Today was a pretty good day.  I am, by nature, an introvert…so when Monday rolls around, I use the day to recharge my personal batteries from the eventful weekends, and prepare myself for the next week.  I know, I know…you’re thinking…um, Sarah, you go to strange restaurants and just start talking to people on the street and stuff…you’re living in another country half-way around the world…how can you call yourself an introvert??  I know, I know…but I can only do that after diligent training, and proper R&R.  But anyways, I had a great day inside today (especially since it was raining all day today), and I did some lesson planning, some email replying, and some sewing.  I’m doing a cross-stitching pattern right now…but I also have “homework” that my yukata teacher gave me…I need to have it finished by Saturday.

  Besides all of that mundane stuff, the real action happened this evening.  Samantha (my coworker living here at the Center with me) has her birthday tomorrow (6/3), and my birthday is the 14th!!  So, Nakayama-san, the older Japanese woman who lives here at the Center with us too, decided to buy us dinner to celebrate.  Not just us, but she also invited our boss and brother, Taka, and his wife Aki.  The restaurant of choice was, of course, the beloved Brasserie Quixote!  It was a course dinner, I believe probably 4 courses and then dessert.  I was so suprised by what I was able to eat…some shrimp, and one whole course was soaked in vinegar wine…I managed through it!  Also, the main course was steak…and I did just fine…my teeth did feel funny afterwards, but I made it through…I think I needed the whole day of rest to prep myself for the dinner.  But it was all very delicious.  It’s not that I don’t like the taste of the food…it’s mostly texture that bothers me.

  Mitsui-san and Satsuki-san bought Samantha and I two clay cups made in Hagi, which is famous for its pottery.  It’s treasured by the Japanese, so it’s really wonderful that they bought the cups for us!  They also bought a really cute cake with strawberries on it.  So yummy.  It didn’t come with the course dinner, but it was special just for us.  Oh, and I forgot, when we walked to the door, there was a sign saying that the restaurant was reserved for a special party…ours!  πŸ™‚  Some people even called to see if they could come eat, and Mitsui said no because of a special reservation.  hehe.  So, for my birthday this year, a whole restaurant was reserved!  πŸ™‚  I’m attaching a link to a picture of Samantha and I with Mitsui-san.  The other Japanese regulars have begun to jokingly say that he is watashi-no nihhon chi chi, which means, my Japanese dad.  πŸ™‚  I’ll get a pic up of Satsuki-san soon!

http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?pid=2993640&l=8db95&id=500635206

June is here!

Today was just a beautiful day.  I got up early to take a shower, and by the time I looked out my window, I realized today would be spectacular.  It rained throughout the night, but by sunrise, all the evidence was gone.  I stepped outside and began walking to the train station, the sun gently kissing my face with warmth, and then the wind sweetly brushing my hair out of my face.  Wow…it feels like a great summer day…not too hot, not too cold.  Plus, I put on a moisturizer this morning that has sunscreen in it, and the smell accentuated the whole sense of summer coming!  It’s almost June!!!!!!!

  Well, actually, as it is 1:00AM here…it is already June…my favorite month!  Where everything is perfect….hehe.  Well, give or take a few things.  Today’s weather was beautiful, and as I walked back and forth from Kawanaka and the train stations, and then walked to Hikoshima to pick up a movie rental…I was tempted with the thought of thinking Japan is the most perfect place…weather-wise.  πŸ™‚  Don’t worry…don’t worry…in just a month from now, we will be in the midst of perpetual terrential downpour, and such pleasant thoughts will be furthest from my mind.  πŸ™‚

  I have been so pleased this week with what God has been doing.  So many of our Japanese friends have shown very vividly that they are searching for Jesus and want to know more.  I am thinking of Mika and Sonoko particularly.  Please keep these ladies in your thoughts and prayers.  They are special.  Mika is my student and Sonoko is Samantha’s.  We watched Chronicles of Narnia 1 with these two, Hiroka, and Sonoko’s husband.  It was great, and Sonoko and her husband were very interested in how the movie related to the Bible and Christianity. They are both very close and very open, so please pray that they will realize that this is the one thing missing for them and they need it desperately.  Thanks for your prayers.  Oh, Mika and I will be going to see Prince Caspian today, so pray that there will be opened doors for sharing more about Jesus with her…the real Jesus…not just the one she learned about in high school, who is more of a impotent god than the all-powerful, loving God. 

Happy Birthday! :)

  Yesterday was Wednesday, and as always, it is my most difficult class.  I think the women in my 6:30 class at Kawanaka have hardened themselves so much to the Gospel that they just don’t participate in class.  But, in a few days, it will be Miwa’s birthday (31st), so we decided that we would celebrate in class yesterday.  Sonomi brought a box of specialty cookies from….yes, I’m serious…Santa Claus.  It’s a pastry shop, a really large pastry shop, here in Shimonoseki.  Very popular.  Actually, I first heard about it when Brian and Yoko were discussing directions and they said, “You take a right at Santa Claus and then keep going…”  I about lost it!  To think, that after all this time…Santa really lives in Japan!  πŸ™‚  It was funny, we all got a big laugh about it, and Santa makes the best pastries in the area.  πŸ™‚

  So, Sonomi brought the cookies, which were two cookies together with a dried fruit cream in the middle.  They were yummy.  Maki brought a bag of chocolate-covered corn snacks in the shape of stars.  They were good too…kind of like those candy bars, with the light, crunchy layers, and can be covered in chocolate that’s pink, or brown, or yellow, they have the fence-like pattern on the surface.  I hope you know what I’m talking about…I can’t think of the name of them.  Anyways, it was good.  Keiko took care of getting the tea and stuff together.  I brought a handful of snacks, but we didn’t eat any of them…I don’t think they didn’t like them, we just had a lot of other stuff…which means, more snacks for me to use in my classes here at the Center!  πŸ™‚

  I had walked from the Center to the train station and then on to Kawanaka from the other station…but it was raining, so I didn’t wear my flip-flops (only because it’s hard to walk in them when they are very slippery).  I wore my dress shoes…but for some reason, my dress shoes decided they didn’t like my feet, and the skin was rubbed off the back of my ankles.  I had to go to MaxValu to get the snacks, so I decided to grab some bandaids.  I also crushed the backs of my shoes, which I’ve seen several people here do.  When I went into MaxValu, one of the clerks came up to me and started talking to me.  He asked which country I was from (all in English, mind you), what state I lived in, and what I was doing here.  From what I gathered in our conversation, He had never been to Ohio, but about 10 years ago, he had traveled to Kansas(!!) and worked with Walmart’s pharmaceutical department.  When I asked him where the bandaids were, he ran and got some from the worker’s supply and offered me those…but I said that I could buy my own.  So, we got that settled, but I think I’ll have to go back again sometime and say hello to him.  I have no idea what friendships I should invest in and which ones aren’t going to lead anywhere, so I just go with the flow and try to make the most of my time.

  Oh, for Miwa’s birthday, I painted a little shelf kind of thing…it was blue with pink and orange flowers all over it and on the sides.  On the front, I put the Bible verse 1 Peter 5:7 – Cast your cares on Jesus, because He cares for you.  I felt this verse was very appropriate for her because her son had killed himself several months ago.  It’s hard to be able to talk with the women on that level, but I’m sure she’s still grieving…I can’t imagine the sorrow that would come from something like that, and to go through it without the hope and peace of Jesus….unfathomable.  Taka helped me and typed up the verse in Japanese and I put it on a card, so that she could read what the English meant.  They were all stunned by it…but I have this love for painting, and a love for birthdays, and I have to use both of those for Jesus.  Ok, this is very long.  Have a great day!!  πŸ™‚

Great Sunday and a Practical Joke Gone Perfect :)

So, on Sunday, we had a really good service.  Taka swapped churches and preached at Kawanaka, which is always good.  I like it when he preaches.  After the service, Mark invited Eri and I (Samantha already had lunch plans) down to Karato to meet some of his friends from the university.  His friends are exchange students, mostly from *China* and one woman from Pusan, S Korea.  After determining that taking a bus would be more efficient and quicker than hoping trains and then a bus, we ended up in Karato at a great Chinese restaurant.  It was a buffet – any buffet restaurant or set up is called “viking” I have no idea why, but I get a kick out of it every time.  Maybe it’s because you go to one place, take what you want, and then move on to the next tray, like the vikings did…hmm…maybe I’m on to something!

  Anywho, it was really nice to spend time with some Chinese students around my age and get to know them.  They were all really excited about International Cafe, so I’m going to keep them posted when the next one is.  Also, Mark said he’ll let us know whenever they have a shindig of sorts so that we can join them.  It was a really great time.  One girl in particular was very friendly and wanted to keep in touch, so please pray that, even in my stay in Japan, I might be used to reach some people in China!  That would be awesome!  πŸ™‚

  After that, Eri and I went back to the church where we began setting up for a practical joke for Tony, the pastor/missionary/boss.  We got the keys to his office and taped newspaper all over the bookshelves, desk, pictures, clock, etc.  We went all out.  Then we started blowing up balloons to fill the floor with…but we ran out of steam and had to call it a night.  The next day, Monday, Samantha and I met back up with Eri and we all finished blowing up the rest of the balloons (11 bags in all ~ 110 balloons!).  Then, we covered the entrance behind the door with newspaper, so that you couldn’t see what was inside until you broke through the paper.  It was great.  Samantha had the idea to put gridded tape as another boundary, so that he’d have to cut through in order to punch through in order to see the mess.  It was so much fun.  Every time we’d leave the room to take a break and came back, the hilarity of it all hit us again and we’d laugh for a good minute or so.  I have put a link at the bottom so that you can see the process and stages of the project.  Enjoy them, laugh, they are fun. 

Also, I did get a phone call early this morning from Tony thanking me for his “welcome home” gift.  πŸ™‚  He has a good sense of humor…but I’m wondering who tipped him off that it was me…we were sure he’d suspect the secretary, or Samantha, first!  Anywho, there you are!  My week so far!  πŸ™‚

http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=115008&l=d22b4&id=500635206

Yukata, Yokata!

Oh, today was a fun day!  It was rainy all day long, which made for an interersting trek to and from the train stations….but it was just one small part of a really fun day.  While I was at the Ayaragi-eki (station), two women in their 60’s started talking to me…I think the one was the same woman who had verbally accosted me a few weeks ago…but they were nice, and I have learned a bit more Japanese since then, so I was able to communicate a little more than before.  We established that I still don’t know Japanese, that it was cold-ish outside, and rainy…that the Japanese I do know is very good, but it’s difficult, that the one woman’s grandmother had been to Wisconsin at some point in history, and that they would like to swap noses with me.

I shopped for some goodies for movie night tonight, and some eggs so I could make my “Sarah Special” for lunch.  It’s a really yummy dish and I don’t see myself getting tired of it any time soon.  When I describe it to people some say that it sounds like an American/Japanese dish…so they’ve all just settled on calling it the “Sarah Special.”  I’m satisfied. 

At 2pm, Mika came by and picked me up for my yukata putting-on practice lesson today.  Her dog, Dinah, a boy dog, was in the car with her, and repeatedly tried to have his way with my arm…all to the wonderful tunes of Avril Lavigne.  It ended with me hanging on to his collar, forcing him to lie down on the seat between Mika and I…my arms were tired of holding him back by the end of it.

Mika’s mother works in a kimono shop and teaches women how to put them on.  She decided to give me a yukata, which is the summer version of the kimono (not as many layers and therefore, easier to put on).  She gave me all the accessories too!:  The special undergarments (not like the Mormons wear), the sandals, a handbag, the yukata itself and the obi that is wrapped around it.  My homework is to sew together the underwrap that is used to minimize the curves of a woman’s body.  In old Japan, the straighter the more attractive…which is kind of difficult for me, but it went over very well.  We practiced putting on the yukata first…doing it three times.  My arms were exhausted.  It’s a very elaborate procedure, but really interesting.  It’s like a dance in itself.  Mika was having trouble and her mother concluded that I am more Japanese than Mika because I was learning very quickly.  After that, we learned how to put on the obi, which is just as elaborate as putting the dress on itself!  We did that three times and finally I got the seal of approval.  I’m going back next week for a refresher course (ha!) and to see that I finished my “homework.”

It was such a fun time and I really got to interact with Mika’s mother, which was great.  It’s very seldom that you are invited to someone’s home…and, well, I actually didn’t go inside their home…it was a side building, set more in the garden, but still, it was within their gate (a very expensive gate…they are wealthy people.)  After that, Mika took me back to the Center and then decided to stay as we had a movie night.  We watched “Flight of the Phoenix”…the new one with Dennis Quaid…and either I was in a poor mindset for it, or it really was a badly made film, I would suggest not watching it.  Anywho, there you go, and here are links to some pictures for you to enjoy!

http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?pid=2915151&l=5d5cc&id=500635206

http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?pid=2915136&l=712df&id=500635206

http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?pid=2915140&l=9e561&id=500635206

http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?pid=2915137&l=bf3c6&id=500635206

http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?pid=2915145&l=e73e5&id=500635206

Have a great weekend everyone!   Sarah ><>