Spring is here at last! The 30 and 40 degree days have finally given way to pleasant 50s and 60s and the rain, while still coming in hordes, is no longer biting but almost (almost) pleasant. I was a little disappointed visiting home two weeks ago to realize I would be missing one of my favorite flower spectaculars, the azalea bushes in Tulsa`s Woodward Park. But when I came back to Japan, in turns out my town Nabari is famous for them too, and they`re right at peak season! There are huge blankets of bushes all along the roads. Here`s a picture of my favorite bush on the way to school:
Flowers bloom at weird times in Japan. The irises finished nearly two months ago, the roses won`t start for a few months, and the azaleas just finished! Some flowers bloom all through the winter and others, like the cherry and plum and peach, only one week at the very most. And a difference of just thirty miles can mean a month difference in blooming times (with the exception of tree flowers).
Boy, I`m tired! Last week was jam packed with editing and quite a bit of stress at work. First of all, they made me work two Saturdays in a row with barely any notice, one right after my trip back from America which was exhausting to say the least. I`ve also been lectured by my supervisor several times that I shouldn`t take off so much time, but I only take off the time that is allotted to me and I always ask permission first. She only tells me after the fact that the other teachers are annoyed at me for taking off so much time. This is the Japanese way. They don`t tell you that what you`re doing upsets them until after you`ve done it, then they get really mad at you. And they never bother to tell you the rules; they just assume you know them, until after you inadvertently break one. If you ask what the rules are, they give very vague answers. Like my supervisor keeps telling me “when in Japan, do as the Japanese do.” They`re even reducing my pay over a mistake they made in the accounting books, time that should have been counted as summer vacation counting as regular time off. They said they can`t fix it, but if it happens again, I`m fired. Sometimes I get so frustrated with certain Japanese people I work with I just want to scream at them! But that, of course, is totally unacceptable. So I just nod and bow with my eyes to the floor, whispering, “sumimasen” over and over until they are satisfied that I am being humble and sorry enough. Any arguing only makes them start the lecture all over again with “American culture may have different values, American culture may allow for laziness, but when in Japan…”
The weekend too was crazy, but fun! Friday evening I stopped by the kintetsu department store to buy some whole wheat bread (called “genmai pan” or literally “whole grain rice bread” even though it`s actually wheat and sold in only one store in my entire town of 90,000 ). I had just got my paycheck and had an unusual hankering to do some clothes shopping, (I haven`t bought clothes in over nine months) and low and behold what should I find but a giant kimono sale on the first floor! Here`s a picture of what a kimono shop looks like:
I was never planning on getting a kimono in Japan because from what I heard from other teachers, a good kimono can cost as much as three months of paychecks, but these were a lot cheaper than that! There was a lady there who helped me put them on and even showed me how! It`s quite complicated, but I think I understand. I got a very beautiful purple kimono (my favorite color!) with four-foot long sleeves, a pink silk under robe and ubi (six-foot bow) and all the ties for a very affordable price! I`m a little embarrassed to say the exact cost; it`s more than I`ve ever spent on a single outfit before, but that`s not saying much since I almost always shop at Salvation Army stores or Walmart. Anyway, you can judge for yourself what it`s worth might be, but in this picture you can`t see the back of the ubi and I`m not wearing the beautiful pink silk under robe, just my white T-Shirt:
I`ll be wearing it to all the winter festivals and school ceremonies. It`s a bit hot for the summer, but that`s what yukata (cotton regular-sleeved kimono) are for! I should be able to get one of those for $50 or less once they go on sale.
Saturday morning I got up early to go to an English seminar in Ise, about an hour and a half train ride. It was basically an English conversation camp for first year high-school students. We held it in the retired folks` community center. (Yes, there are so many elderly in Japan compared to the rest of the population that they have their very own community centers.) Here`s a picture of the set-up just before we started. The two English teachers standing up front are “Dan the man” and Annette from Singapore. They organized the event.
We started out with a “you are my destiny” game, pulling on tangled strings to determine what English teacher was paired with what team. Mine was the “kitson” team, named after the British designer company. Some other interesting names were “We love meat,” “one piece” (after the Japanese pirate comic) and “white command” because everyone in the team liked the color white for some reason that eludes me. Here`s a picture of that game, followed by one of my team.
Notice there is only one boy. Each team of five people was like that, pretty typical for any English-speaking event. Speaking English just isn`t cool.
After that we played “fruits basket,” the game where you have to describe a characteristic and everyone with that characteristic has to get up and run to another seat. For example: People who are wearing blue jeans. That was a really great game and I think I`ll use it as a warm up for one of my classes and for English club. Broken telephone was fun too, but you really need at least five people to play that as a competition, seeing who can transfer the most messages from the front to the back of the line with the most accuracy. Sometimes you get a lot of funny mix-ups. “I love pizza” becomes “Aia loves Freeza!” and stilly stuff like that. My team was pretty good at it though and only made a few mistakes. Of course, we only had five people. It gets really crazy when you have to pass it down a line of ten or more.
The second part of the day we wrote, rehearsed, memorized, and performed three-minute skits. At least, they were supposed to be memorized, but my group was the only one that actually attempted to perform it fully memorized. What a disaster that was! Consequently, we got last place. But it was fun! In our scenario, which was chosen for us, we were on a tour and got lost in a jungle in India. How appropriate, since I just got back from India last month, but never got to visit a jungle. So I got my jungle fix! Here`s a picture of our guy declaring that he has a compass:
And here`s our group “walking in circles.” The girl in the yellow jacket is supposed to be a tiger:
And here`s a crazy picture of everyone who participated in the seminar! The blond girl pointing is Charlotte from England. She`s really fun:
Saturday night I got home about 6:30 and was planning to order pizza for the first time and watch a movie with my Pilipino friend Karen. But I was so tired I lay down to take a “short nap” and didn`t wake up until 11:00 that night! By that time it was too late to call her, and I just went back to sleep and slept until 7:00 the next morning! And I was still tired. I don`t know what`s up with that, maybe all the rain.
Sunday morning after some chores, I went to church. We had a glorious Pentacost service. Pastor Toshi brought a DVD from a revival church in Australia so we “wouldn`t be lonely” and we sang with the people on the DVD. Then he gave a sermon about the power of the Holy Spirit to inspire revival and we prayed for revival in Japan.
Prayer requests for this week: For revival in Japan! The population is less than 0.5% Christian and that hasn`t changed in years and years, but there are rumors of stirrings. A recent Gallop poll showed that over 30% of teens are open to learning about Christianity and see it as a positive influence on society. The Japanese suicide rate is the highest of any developed country in the world, twice that of the U.S. and many are so hopeless. They lose themselves in their work and forget all else. Please pray that in God`s way and His time, wonderful change will happen in Japan.
Also, my friend Sam from Bible study asked us to pray for her aunt who is in hospice. She`s not sure if she`s Christian or not, but of course she and her family will need comfort and peace during this time, regardless. Let`s pray that they feel God`s love surrounding them.