Thursday, February 4, 2010

I`m headed for Seoul tomorrow. Yea! Since I won`t have access to internet or even a computer, I`ll post my blog now. That`ll get me all caught up!

The week of January 17th-23rd I taught a lesson on travel. I talked briefly about my trip to China and showed pictures, and then had the student practice a dialogue booking a trip to a country and city of their choice. That went pretty well. I even taught a geography class (emphasizing China more and doing a quiz game of China facts instead of the dialogue) and the principle, a former history teacher, sat in and really enjoyed it!

The 23rd there was an international event in Tsu, the capital of my prefecture, Mie. I`m going on a trip to India in March to build houses for the “untouchables,” so our group had a face painting booth to raise money for the building materials. Only I and the leader showed up. Well, Ashley, the Irish dancer from Canada, came a few hours later, and it`s a good thing too, because she brought an apron to cover my nice purple shirt! It was a pretty good event and lots of fun. The Brazilians had the most delicious soda and fried cheese pockets, and there was organic chocolate and mango for free!

I forgot my camera, but here`s a link to a news video of the event. Sorry it`s in Portuguese. If you don`t want to watch the whole thing, I`m about two minutes into it. They interviewed me! So now I`ve been on American, Japanese, Chinese, and Brazilian TV! How crazy is that? But if I`d known I was going to be on TV, I would have done something with my hair. It looks so sloppy.

I`m not a very good face painter, but I can do hearts! And four leaf clovers, and Mickey Mouse, and flags, and the Brazilian flag crossed with the Japanese. I`m nothing compared to Vishal. He painted dragons and the Dragon Ball Z cartoon character Goku. (Every little boy wanted a dragon or Goku, and every girl a heart or a clover or a flag, so he did the boys and I did the girls.)

Towards the end (after the videographers left), Ashley did her Irish dancing, followed by Mathew, an American. I was in charge of taking all the photos of them with their professional camera (which I still haven`t received copies of) so I only got one, blurry shot on my I-phone just before the performance. At least you can see her costume:

Next to us was the Bolivian stand, and it was fun chatting in Spanish with them while I painted. All in all, it was a really great event, even if we didn`t raise much money. (By the way, if you want to know more about what I`ll be doing in India or donate some money for the building materials we have to raise ourselves, you can visit our website at。)

Our leader did get a little on to me, because he knows I`m a Christian and he wanted to make it very clear this is not to be an evangelistic trip. I`m not even supposed to mention the name Jesus or church or Christianity. I assured him he didn`t have anything to worry about, I never try to “convert” anybody. I just tell them what I believe, listen to their problems, and love them. He didn`t seem quite satisfied with this answer, but I suppose it will have to do. I can`t stop being who I am. It surprises me the number of people who “fear” Christianity like it`s the plague or something. Religion can`t do anything; it`s people that use or abuse it, and he knows me enough to know I won`t abuse it. Though I can definitely see why he distrusts Christianity, being originally from India himself and Christians have a rather nasty reputation in that country. I`m definitely not excusing the atrocities done in the past. Christianity doesn`t promise to make us perfect, rather, that`s the whole reason we need Christ. But I would argue true believers would never do those things; the British simply used their religion as a way of asserting their power and authority as some sort of chosen people. (Of course, we all know what happens to actual chosen people. Far from making life easier, it`s supposed to get harder.)

He said it`s a shame people should need religion as a motivation to help others. I should have said, “Maybe you`re looking at it from the wrong angle. If Christianity is motivating people to help others, what`s so special about it? What makes Christians want to help while a lot of other people just sit around and feel sorry for the people in Haiti? If the result is good, how can you call it evil?” I also find it extremely hypocritical for someone to judge another`s motivation as evil when they themselves have absolutely no motivation at all to help the situation.

Speaking of Haiti, last week I mentioned that I`m doing a clothing drive at our school and church. In a few weeks, we`ll send them over via Pastor Toshi`s contacts. The drive started out slow, a new concept to the kids, but now it`s spread, and when I announced it in my last class, a few of the boys took the jackets off their backs and handed them to me. I had to explain that Haiti is a tropical climate so shorts and T-shirts are best, but I was touched by their enthusiasm to help. So, thanks for praying, that prayer was answered! To clarify what I said before, I`m not at all saying that non-Christians aren`t helping Haiti. They are, in many ways. The Japanese people especially have big hearts.

The following week, I got a little sick, and had to stay home Wednesday from school (I had no classes, so it was OK.) I went to the doctor and he said it was “kazai (cold) to (and) general fatigue.” Guess what the Japanese term for “general fatigue” is? General fatigue. He and the teachers said I need to rest more. I`d been planning to go to J-house and the Osaka aquarium that weekend to see the penguin parade and the light up festival, but I stayed home. Well, mostly. About 3:00 I went to a writer`s meeting in Osaka where they ripped apart my story “Emperor of the Dead.” It deserved to be ripped apart. Then, while I was in Osaka, I got some cold medicine at a foreign food store that I really like. Gosh, that Echinacea and Cold Plus tea works wonders. And then on Sunday my Pilipino friend Karen called me and really wanted me to come to her birthday, so I rode to Jusco to get her a gift, cooked rice pudding and went to her party. It was nice and relaxing, though, with tons of delicious Pilipino food. We sang old American rock songs. Not that I knew any. The guitarist was a “lapsed Baptist” and he wants to go to our church next Sunday. OK, so maybe I am an evangelist wherever I go, whether I mean to be or not! Pray for opportunities and God will present them.

Did I mention that the Haiti clothing drive is a going along great with this weeks`s lesson theme of natural disasters? The kids have really enjoyed that. I taught them the vocabulary of different natural disaster in English, and they had to match it with appropriate reactions, then we played a quiz game. Now that I`m getting into the swing of teaching and learning what works and what doesn`t, it`s getting a lot easier. I even have time to write at work. I`m 9,000 words into my latest novel An Honest Assassin. It`s absolute trash right now, but it always takes me a couple of drafts before it starts to come into its own. It`ll get there. Eventually.

Monday night after getting my India visa application all filled out and properly mailed, me and a few of my friends had Bible study over skype as usual. That`s going great, though I`m a little sad because two of the girls are leaving, including Sam, the leader. I might take over for her next year, since I`m also a member of the JET Christian Fellowship (JCF) leadership team. Li is starting to talk during Bible study and ask questions, which is great. Lu too seems to be coming along in his faith. And that reminds me, as the JCF librarian, I`ve started a new outreach with a prison in Tokyo, providing Christian books for the inmates in English and Japanese. Oh, yeah, I should ask Pastor Toshi if we have any extra copies of books at the church we could donate. So many projects…ug, I feel a little dizzy.

Tuesday I invited my friends Kae, Asahi, and Karen (Philipino Karen) over for a Tai dinner I made. Kae couldn`t make it, but the rest of us had fun. We had Tai curry over brown rice with rice pudding for desert. Totemo oishi des yo! (Very delicious, for sure!) I totally cheated and used a curry spice packet for the seasoning. I have no idea what curry spice is even made of. Gosh, I wish we had curry sauce in the U.S. Maybe we do. Here`s a picture of my friends:

Tuesday night it started to snow and I was hoping school would be canceled the next day, but no such luck. It doesn`t matter, because even if school is canceled for the students the teachers always have to go in, no matter what. I ended up staying late to plan for the Valentine’s Day baking party with the English Speaking Society club, even though I`ll be in Korea when they have it. Valentine`s Day is sort of backwards in Japan; I think girls give sweets to boys, and for the boy they really like, they give him something they baked themselves. Ha, ha, and they also call dark chocolate “men`s chocolate” when in the U.S. women are notorious for preferring dark over milk! Funny little cultural inconsistencies like that make me smile.

That evening my adult “You and I” English club class was canceled because of snow, which was a bit of a relief. After writing a lot and fixing the mistake with my visa application, I took some pictures of the snow. Here are my favorites:

Thursday night we had an amazing English lesson at the church. Five students came. The lesson was about travel, and afterward I taught about what Christianity means in a practical sense. We are supposed to “reconcile the world to God,” meaning do our best to help those who are suffering in our broken world and tell them about the joy they can experience by being adopted as God`s children through Jesus Christ. That all segwayed very nicely into my bit about helping Haiti. Several of the ladies seemed very curious and open, and one even said she used to go to a Catholic church and might want to start attending church again. Praise God for that!

Prayer Requests for this week: Please continue to pray for Pastor Toshi`s father who is still not doing well, and for my friend Kelly`s dad who`s dying of cancer. He`s not a Christian, but he seems to be opening up to the idea. Also, I have some very strange swellings on my right hand, especially around my joints, that are very painful. They`re getting worse everyday to the point that my pinky finger is actually crooked now and causing me the most pain. I`ve had this problem before in the US, but no doctor was able to figure it out, and it always went away on its own. Not this time, and I`ve never had it in winter. I`m going to see a Japanese doctor today but I`m afraid he won`t be able to understand me or the problem. It`s making it hard to write and type. And of course, please pray for safe travel and inside Korea tomorrow!

Until next time, keep reading and keep praying,

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