OK, now for the rest of the week! My rice cooker broke on Thursday, but my friend Charlie sent me his spare all the way from Nagasaki! Wasn`t that nice of him? Thursday I went to an electronics store with my friend Li and helped him buy a decent electronic piano and gave him his first piano lesson. He really likes it, is a fast learner and practices every day. (If only my English students were so diligent!) When I get back to the U.S., maybe I`ll get back into piano and teach with my Mom, taking the beginners while she has the intermediate and advanced. It would be something to put on my resume when applying for a church choir director position!
But the following week I had three hefty disappointments. The first was that I got an email from the Oklahoma Writers Federation Inc. writing contest saying they never received my entry fee. I spent hours frantically trying to rectify the situation, but nope. Rules are rules. I`m really mad about that, but at the same time can understand. They can`t make an exception for me, or they`d have to make an exception for everyone. They can`t be responsible for stuff getting lost in the mail. Even though I spent weeks, months preparing those entries…it`s not a total loss. I guess I can enter the same ones next year.
The second is that I woke up Thursday morning the 11th with Norwork virus. I threw up twice; I couldn`t hold anything down, not even water. But God is always kind to me through other people. My friend Li took me to the doctor. He didn`t have a car, so he kept trying to get me to ride on his back, but I refused, holding onto him for support as I stumbled down the street. He translated between the doctor and me and explained everything about how to take my medicine. The way back he insisted on calling a taxi. Then he cooked dinner for me, enough food to last the next couple of days. I was so weak from vomiting and dizziness that he actually carried me to my bed, despite my feeble protests that I could “do it myself.” He came back to check on me a few times to “make sure I was still alive” and brought me bread for breakfast. I think there`s this very cruel stereotype that Asian men don`t know how to be gentlemen. Perhaps that`s true sometimes, but they really outdo all others on loyalty to a friend.
Fortunately, it really was just a 48 hour bug. By Friday morning, actually, I was already able to eat again, slowly, carefully, and I almost went to school in the afternoon, but Li convinced me not to, and I`m glad. I was still pretty dizzy. My friends are always telling me, “Laura, if you can`t do it for yourself, then do it for me. There are too many people that care about you for you to be so reckless or not take care of yourself.” So I am making an extra effort. When I promise someone I`ll be careful, I try to take the promise more seriously. The stomach problem is actually somewhat of an ongoing one, as it`s been hurting off an on for weeks. Li thinks it might be the water since our city gets it from the not-so-clean river, (and now that I think about it, none of the teachers or students ever drink from the tap) so he made me promise not to drink unboiled or unfiltered water anymore. At first I thought that was silly, but now I realize he might be right.
Anyway, the third disappointment was that I realized I lost my camera. I searched everywhere, even went to the train stations and asked if it was in any sort of lost and found. Nowhere. So I ended up buying a new one on Saturday the 13th before I left for the St. Patrick`s Day parade in Ise. The good news is it was very similar to my old one and on sale, so it cost about half the price (Japan has a lot cheaper electronics anyway). But I forgot to buy a memory card for it! So I couldn`t take any videos; I had to rely on pictures from my I-phone. Bummer, that`s why the pictures I post this week might not be so clear. But Saturday afternoon I went back and bought one, or several, actually, since I`ll be in India for ten days without any way to transfer the pictures to my computer, and buying four 2GB was a lot cheaper than buying one 8GB, believe it or not.
Then I was off to Ise for the St. Patrick`s Day parade! It`s sponsored by the owners of a local Irish pub, and all the foreigners, Irish or no, come to march in the parade. I`m not Irish, but I can imitate the accent, or at least well enough for the Japanese, and I can dance few jigs, so nobody knew any different. Ise`s about an hour northeast of my town, Nabari. Here`s the musicians warming up. They were very good and I sang along to the tunes I knew.
Then we started marching! I was near the front. Here`s one festive Japanese spectator on his keitai cellphone, dressed like a good old Dubliner:
Talk about an anachronism!
At first I thought there were more people in the parade than spectators, then I realized they spectators were joining the parade! That`s the Japanese way, I guess. Here`s about halfway through the parade:
And by the time we crossed over the highway bridge, we had grown from about twenty people to several hundred!
We had just about everything Irish you can think of, including people slugging down Guinness. Here`s a Japanese leprechaun:
Here`s a dancing green frog lady:
And our very own St. Patrick! Here`s me with the authentic Irishman:
We marched for about five kilometers or so, maybe three miles, until we came an underground shopping area with a stage. There we ate free Ise oysters and watched some shows! The first one was the “Ise shima power rangers.” It`s some crazy tourism tactic they made up years ago. Ise shima is the ocean front/islands of Mie prefecture. (Shima means island.) So the mission of the power rangers is to “protect Ise Shima tourism from the evil fun-killing tactics of Da-Lark.” Here`s a picture of the wanted poster:
And here`s the evil “Da-Lark” himself:
And here are the power rangers performing:
From what I could understand, it was just a stupid skit about us all getting along and promoting good, safe tourism between foreigners and Japanese. Kind of funny though, in a cheesy sort of way.
Then there was a Japanese bagpiper, either from Osaka or Nagoya, I don`t remember. At first I was surprised that there would be an Irish bagpiper in Japan of all places. But then she came on stage. I didn`t bother to tell her that she was dressed like a Scotsman, that she was playing the Scottish, not the Irish bagpipes and traditional Scottish, not Irish music and that she was a half step flat on her high notes and breathing in the middle of all her phrases. None of the Japanese knew the difference.
Then there was Irish dancing. Mathew, an Assistant Language Teacher from Colorado, went first, and he was good! He could jump so high and stomp so hard he almost broke the stage and had to jump down onto the floor. Turns out, he used to compete. Ashley from Canada, a professional Irish dance teacher (also an ALT), said he`s world-class. Here`s a picture:
Then Ashley danced. She`s good too. Then she taught us all several dances. It was a lot of fun! Then a Japanese Irish music band from Osaka played, and they were really good, and we all kept dancing! Her students joined us and we danced for over an hour! There`s nothing funnier than watching Japanese people dance an Irish jig!
Afterward, everyone else either went home or went drinking, but I wasn`t satisfied with either option. So I rounded up two other girls, Niki (who`s going to India with me) and Marissa, and we visited the outer shrine of Ise, one of the oldest shrines in Japan. Here`s a really old, gigantic tree:
And here`s the exit of the shrine:
It really wasn’t that impressive. The Grand Shrine is much bigger and prettier, but it takes a long time to get there, so we couldn`t go. Sometime, hopefully during sacura (cherry blossom) season. They just remodeled the famous bridge leading up to it!
That was Saturday! Sunday, as I already wrote, I went to church and flower viewing with my church family. So it was a really fun, awesome week, despite the disappointments.
Prayer Requests for this week: India trip! I leave Friday morning! We`re still needing funds for building supplies for the houses. If you want to donate towards the building materials or just want to know more about the trip, you can visit our team`s website at: http://www.golongitude.org/www/JET_March_2010.html. Also, last week at my English and Evangelism class, two ladies prayed to Jesus to enter their lives! I`m a little bit worried about their motivations, though. Many Japanese suffer from an ailment called “kanashibari,” or sleep paralysis. They wake up and can`t move, sometimes can`t even breathe. No one knows for sure what causes it, except it is an actual physical problem, not just imagination, with the sleep center of the brain. The mind and face is awake, but the body is still asleep. The Japanese associate it with evil, binding spirits. There is an interesting correlation between the prevalence of this ailment in proximity to Buddist/Shinto shrines, especially ones dedicated to appeasing evil spirits, even when such shrines are buried under the ground, hidden, and the sufferer has no idea of their existence. Anyway, after class we were talking about kanashibari, and Pastor Toshi started telling stories about several Japanese who converted to Christianity and stopped experiencing kanashibari. The two ladies, Saikasan and Takatasan, both have severe cases of it and were really eager to be rid of it, so they prayed a prayer after Pastor Toshi asking Jesus to “enter their lives and take away their kanashibari.” Please pray that their conversion will be genuine, not just an attempt at a “quick fix” and that they will grow in their faith. Also that the class grows and others might receive Jesus.
Last thing. It`s hard for me to write about this because it concerns other people, one in particular, and I would like to preserve his honor. For that reason, forgive me if this seems vague. I`m having “men trouble.” My main problem lies with being the token gaijin (foreigner). I`m exotic. Second of all, I`m what a lot of people have described as a “mars” so throughout my life, most of my friends have been male. But some Asian men have a very hard time with the whole “just friends” idea. It`s not built into their culture. It`s very easy for misunderstandings to crop up, not just due to the language barrier, but cultural expectations and pressures. While I have always had ongoing problems in Japan with men because of these reasons, this time the misunderstanding has come to a very painful and excruciatingly confusing head, with one of my closest male friends in Japan, and I have no idea what to do about it. Part of the problem is that I don`t know my own feelings. But this is totally taboo for me because he`s not a Christian, and I have doubts as to whether he has any desire to become a Christian, since he said, “I don`t think I need Christ. I will do the best to become a better person, and I think that is enough.” So I guess just pray for wisdom and strength to do the right thing, and that he will become a Christian, but not for me.
This is most likely my last post before April 4th after I return from India. So until next time, keep reading and keep praying,