Tuesday, November 29, 2005

A few things of interest....

I have recently rediscovered the joy of computer games... no, I'm not talking about something silly like Age of Empires 19 or something like that. I'm talking about the good old tried-trusted-and-true games... one specifically, "Lemmings". I spent many hours in my childhood on the family Commadore Amiga 2000 trying to rescue the poor creatures from their underground death-traps, though when worst came to worst it was also good entertainment pressing that mushroom button.... 5...4...3...2...1... 'oh no!!' ...."For your sake, I hope you nuked that level!" Ah, good times. They're so cute, the little things. I'd recommend trying it out if you've got a bit of spare time.


Right now I'm listening to the fabulous sounds of Michael W Smith's first Christmas album, simply entitled Christmas. (Don't even bother with the second one, unless you want to be assaulted by such sounds not even fit for an elevator... It's bad. Really bad. I've never been so embarassed of my purchase within 10 seconds of placing it in the CD player before.) We had a tape of this recording that lived in our kitchen stereo from November until January first... It was around everytime dishes were done, meals were cooked or Christmas goodies were baked. I love it.

Kenny suggested toninght that maybe I should consider working with mentally challenged students at some point in the future because my special needs class is my favourite class of the whole week... she might have a point. It requires more thought.

It's almost December!! Due to the fact that the weather resembles that of mid-to-late October Ontario weather at the moment, I have trouble sometimes believing the aforementioned fact. I'm almost willing to bet that there are more Christmas decorations plastering the stores and public spaces of this country than there are in Ontario, but still... It's amazing how much the weather grips your senses. Occassionally the sky becomes a dense grey and that crisp smokey smell filles my nostrils as I breathe in, and I think "Hey! It's almost winter!" But, unfortunately, I don't have an oven or anything like it to make good stuff in. I long for the days of high school when I used to get home from school and start making Christmas-y things just to make the house smell good.... I don't have that option here. And I don't have anyone to feed, even if I did. I'd probably give myself diabetes, eating so much chocolate and sugar all by myself. Probably best that I don't have an oven.

I miss Christmas shopping with my sister. No fair. Evan gets to have all the fun this year. I miss living in the same city as her. It was fun, way back in first year when we only lived 20 minutes apart... Friday night movie/pizza/icecream/girls nights.... But now she's a mommy living in her own house in Orono and we probably won't be living in the same city again... at least not for a long time. And that makes me sad. I like bumming around with her and watching movies and baking and stuff. Boo.

This will be my first Christmas ever not being home in Belleville for the actual Day.... and that's kinda strange. I'll miss it. And it will be my first Christmas in 9 years without my puppy. I'll miss her greatly. BUT. It shall be my first time spending Christmas with Evan, not to mention the fact that it'll be my first time having a double Christmas with Brian!

I hope there's snow at Christmas so I can go make a snowman. Did you know that Japanese children draw snowmen with only two balls as opposed to our Ontarian 3? Betcha didn't. At least about 98% of my 145 first year Japanese children drew two balls.... I've always wanted to make snowmen as creative as Calvin.
Someday, maybe.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

What's up

So, as I wrote earlier in the week, I had a meeting with my supervisor at the Board of Education. The purpose of this meeting was to announce my intent of resignation as of the end of December. However, unlike companies in North America, Japanese comapnies must "accept" your resignation, which was why I was so nervous about the said meeting. All went well, and my supervisor's supervisor approved my resignation and as of December 17th, I shall be calling Ontario home once more. Some of you are aware of the reasons for my resignation, some of you don't know and I suspect will create rumours, and others still I shall tell personally in the next few weeks.
Anyhow, that said, in three weeks today I shall be on a plane back home! I'm very much looking forward to this, though I shall miss my dear kenny and the boys and the Snoeks, I shall miss going on trips and looking at bamboo, and I shall miss my students, though I would be changing students anyhow in January.
This past week was my vacation week. On tuesday afternoon after my meeting with my supervisor, I took the train up to Fukuchiyama to spend some much needed time with my Kenny. We chatted, ate pizza, went shopping, walked in the beautiful weather, and enjoyed understanding eachother. On Thursday morning I got on the train and went down south to visit the Snoeks in Himeji-- and I've fallen in love with their apartment. I suppose that some of you have seen the pictures of their apartment on their blog, but trust me here-- the apartment is much MUCH smaller than it looks... But I love it. If I had an apartment to myself, I'd love one like theirs, though perhaps with a slightly bigger kitchen and bathroom.... I think I just like the idea of the loft that they have. It's cool. I want one.
We went to Mt Shosha on Friday, took the rope car up and walked around for quite a bit of time, saw many different Buddhist temples and shrines all over the mountain. We saw part of the mountain where "The Last Samurai" was filmed, which I think that I shall be watching tonight to see if I can spot where it was that it was filmed... I'd love to show you pictures but I didn't bring my camera with me, so I'll have to wait for some pics from Rod and Bec.
I returned home this morning to find a box from my boy waiting for me by my bed... Shortly after opening, I was dining on the fine dish of Kraft Dinner, wearing Brian's hoodie and listening to a recording by the BNL of the music in the Stratford Production of "As You Like It."
This afternoon I went to a Christmas concert with one of the other members of the PTA Chorus from my school, our director sang in this concert. Unfortunately I left my programme in the pew so I can't include all the details, though it started with a Christmas mass by a well known composer, progressed to six different versions of Ave Maria, switched to a fun performance of carols performed on handbells, and then went on to serenade us with six different "Christmas Carols for Choirs" by the one and only John Rutter (My thoughts were with dear Anton during those songs... I had the pleasure of sitting next to Jacqueline in choir for a year, during which I was lectured every practice on Anton's....dislike for Rutter...) The concert concluded with a carol sing-along, which I thought was fabulous... I can't for the life of me sing any christmas carols in Japanese, so I sang away in English while all of my neighbours were looking at me kinda funny.... It struck me, though, how strange it was that in a nation where less than 1% claims Christianity as their religion so many people know and sing carols like "O Holy Night," "O Come all Ye Faithful," "Angels We Have Heard on High" and so on. I mean, it's not like the West where Christianity was at one point the majority of the population. It has never been a big thing here... which makes me sad, because that means that the Christmas songs are truly nothing more than Western Commercialism, meant to bring those warm fuzzies of shopping to mind... sigh
On the more amusing side though, I found two rather delightful spelling errors in the concert programme--
1) the Hand bell choir played a delightful rendition of "Angels We Have Heard on Higt" and
2) One of the last songs that the choir sang told of "Gabriel's Massage". It must have been a really good one if they're still singing about it after all these years.... I could use a massage like that.
Oh yeah. I also returned home to find that when returning from Bec and Rod's this morning, I left Brian's birthday present on the subway. Boo. That made me unhappy. Now I have to go out and buy it again.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Prayer please

Hey, so I've got an appointment for a meeting with my supervisor at the Education Centre tomorrow afternoon (Tuesday afternoon) at 5pm, I'm pretty nervous about it so I'd appreciate the prayers. Thanks a bunch.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

A bit of an update

So I suppose that it's time for a bit of an update on what's actually going on in my life here. The quick answer is "not much." Literally. But I'll expand on that a bit.
Yesterday and today, I had some classes which were very affirming. Sounds good, yes? Well, it really depends on what they're affirming... And these classes were definitely affirming the fact that I shouldn't be a teacher, because I really have no patience for (and to be quite honest) I really don't like students who sit at their desks throwing things around the classroom, distract all of the other students in the class, talk out of turn, stare at me defiantly as they proceed to knock everything off of their desk and spend the next ten minutes noisily cleaning it up, or insist on speaking only in Japanese so that I can't understand what they're saying about me (unfortunately you can't disguise my name in Japanese) or what they're saying about the student they're making fun of. It's one thing if there's only one or two students in each class doing this.... yesterday I had an entire classroom behaving in such manners, and today I had four classes in which there were at least six of these students each. I've decided that of the two genders, I can handle defiant boys much better than the girls-- the girls have sass that I have yet to see anywhere else in life. Anywho, suffice it to say that when I got back to my desk at the end of the day I quickly got out my work calendar and calculated that I have 16 days of teaching left until I go back home for Christmas vacation-- and it made me happy, oh so very happy... I have my first and second year classes three more times each, and my third year classes twice more.
Tomorrow I have my classroom observation and then an interview afterwards, and I'm actually more nervous about the interview than the class. I got to choose the class that gets observed, so these kids are ones that I really like and that will readily volunteer for any question. The interview on the other hand is something that I can't prepare for because I have no idea what it will consist of.
Every day (except for Fridays) I eat lunch with the Special Needs class, which consists of three people: Tanaka Sensei, ki-chan and chi-chan (nick names, I don't know what their full names are). Every day, Chi-chan comes up to me with a big smile and says, "Jenny-faa, tomorrow lunch, OK?" Yesterday, I thought maybe I would try something new. During lunch, I asked her to bring me a piece of paper and pencil. I wrote on it, "Let's eat lunch together tomorrow!" And had her repeat it several times. (She's a grade 9 student working at the educational level of perhaps a grade four student) To my surprise, when we sat down for lunch today, she said, "Jenny-faa!!"
"Yes, Chi-chan?"
"Let's eat lunch togeza tomorrow!"
I was so proud of her, she didn't even read the sheet! I don't know that she'll still remember the sentance after a week off of school next week, but I was proud none-the-less.
Every day at lunch, Tanaka sensei feeds me miso soup, a Japanese soup that tends to be eaten for breakfast, lunch and supper here. It's rather nice, even if I don't always enjoy it (it seems to be a salty base and then a stew of whatever veggies might be lying around), it always warms me up. Today, Tanaka Sensei asked if I eat tofu, and I replied that I do. Next thing I know, a half of a package of tofu is sitting in a bowl in front of me, with two centimetres of fish flakes on top. Mm-mm! She didn't fry the tofu, she didn't spice it... just plain tofu. A big bowl of it. So I ate it. It's so mushy and flavourless (though that just let the taste of the fish flakes seep through even more)... Not a fan.
It's getting very cold here. I'm not nearly as cold as Kenny, she's farther north and more in the mountains than I am, but I'm still cold. The high today was 12 degrees. Once you're finished thinking, wow, that sounds downright warm compared to this Ontario weather!, please let me explain why 12 degrees is so chilly. What's the first thing that happens in Ontario in the fall when the weather hits 15 degrees and the autumn clouds come rolling around and the wind picks up a bit of a nip? The furnace goes on. Windows are closed. The warmth is kept inside and you only have to face the chilliness when you go out to your car or make the trek from the dorm to the shcool. Not so here in Japan. No buildings of any shape, size or function come equipped with furnace systems. Or heating systems of any sort, for that matter. And for some strange reason, windows and doors are kept wide open. Thus today when it was 12 degrees, cloudy and windy outside, we were experiencing pretty much the same weather inside my school. I wore a tank top, a long sleeved shirt and a hoodie and still I was cold. I drank three mugs of tea throughout the day to thaw out my hands and warm up my insides.
At home I've finally turned on my Kotatsu, my heated table. I sit on my floor cushions and the lower half of my body is in a little heated tent. The top of the table lifts off so as to make it possible to place a blanket over the table without negating the use of the table top while enjoying the warmth. It does keep my toes warm, but my nose has been rather chilly for some time. I contemplated buying a space heater but decided against it. I think that my kotatsu will suffice for now. Last night the temperature hit 8 degrees, which made my apartment a little chilly this morning, but by the 17th of December, the average low at night is 3 degrees. Brr. One thing I'm not looking forward to about that date.
On a happier note, next week is exams for my students so I'm taking some vacation and going to visit kenny on Tuesday night and Wednesday, and then on thursday, friday and Saturday morning, I'll head off to the Snoek Residence. On the 26th at 2pm, I get to attend a Christmas concert in which my PTA choir director will be singing! By the time I return to school on November 28th, I shall be finishing the last few days of November and welcoming the month of December along. Yay for December!

Monday, November 14, 2005

Somehow I thought that by going through I might reach Canada...



...but turns out it was a portal to the land of 1,001 golden (coloured) statues of Kannon, the Buddhist version of Vishnu... Though if you think of it it's kind of a creepy place... in one single room (it's the longest wooden building in Japan) there are 40,040 arms of Kannon (she has hundreds of arms, unlike Vishnu who has maybe eight?)... Each statue only had 40 arms though, cause it would have been a bit tedious to carve out hundreds of arms on 1001 statues. Anyhow, suffice it to say, I definitely stepped through the wrong portal. I'll keep my eye out for the right one.

Friday, November 11, 2005

I give

I've tried to stay away from this for as long as possible, this list of things I love... Why? Because I was a reluctant blogger in the first place, and I distinctly remember not wishing to do anything that would specifically categorize me as one of those bloggers. My blog served a purpose as a travel log, not to chronicle my every thought. Well, now it does both. I still don't like the idea of doing it just because everyone else is doing or has done it. And I suppose at this point, I'm not. I had this assignment in first year philosophy, writing down all of the things that I loved... I don't think that I put much effort into it. (Sometimes I wish I could do my first year of Redeemer over) This is my list... It's long, I just wrote until I ran out of steam (it's 1am)....
Here's to the man who started it and those who recently inspired me to sit down and think about it.

That being said, I'm not a fan of numbering lists such as these because I'm prone to want to put them in order of importance.... and that's so hard to do because how do you rank things that you love? So I shall use the alphabet. That is much less stressful for me. Not as much pressure... yep, I'm a goof.

a. The God who's been with me ever since I was a wee little lass hiding under my covers from the thunderstorms inside and outside the house...
b. Brian vanOosten
c. Memories
d. My fabulously strong mother
e. My family
f. Christmas
g. Christmas music
h. Christmas trees
i. Crowded malls at Christmas
j. ....all things Christmas
k. Sitting in a dark room at night, watching the ground get covered with freshly
fallen snow.
m. My dearly departed dog
n. Friends from High school
o. Friends near and far
p. Friends that I wish that I knew better and that I had more time to spend with...
q. Chocolate
r. Cookie Dough Ice Cream
s. Oxford
t. The whole of the British Isles
u. Naan bread
v. Hamburgers
w. Candle light services
x. Sacred songs sung accapella
y. Pictures of people I love and good memories
z. A scrapbooking page well done
aa. The Day family
bb. The Lasher Family
cc. Learning to snowboard
dd. Singing
ee. Realizing that I've just learned something by figuring it out all on my own
ff. Toboganning
gg. Making and eating home-made pizza, crust and all
hh. Making people happy with baked goods
ii. Trips to Stratford
jj. Having dibs on one of the heated seats in The Nerdmobile
kk. videos of my niece and nephew
ll. pictures of my growing little favourite youngest nephew
mm. A good game of Settlers
nn. Having a glass of wine with friends
oo. Going off-roading while hiking around Webster's Falls
pp. Camping at Presque'ille
qq. Huddling around a campfire with friends as the night cools down
rr. Sitting on the beach at night, watching the stars and hearing the waves crash
ss. Pachabel's Canon in D (Sorry, it's cliche but there are powerful memories attached)
tt. Dressing up and going somewhere fancy
uu. The Soundtrack to The Red Violin
vv. The Double Bass, the Cello and the violin
ww. Les Miserables, both the novel and musical
xx. Going to the theatre
yy. Being part of the theatre
zz. The world of Musicals
aaa. Kraft Dinner
bbb. Massages
ccc. Being remembered
ddd. Solo Piano pieces
eee. getting snail mail
fff. Doing kart-wheels on bushy green grass
ggg. Getting sucked into a good book
hhh. Finally turning my lights off at 5am because I couldn't sleep if I didn't know how my book ended...
iii. Falling into bed when I'm physically exhausted
jjj. Peppermint tea
kkk. Feeling smart every now and again
lll. Brian's Pink sweater
mmm. A really and truly honest friendship
nnn. Being spoiled for a day
ooo. Spoiling someone else for a day
ppp. Chatham and all the dear people that I know in the proximity
qqq. Dr Bowen, Dr Loney and Professor Cook
rrr. A clever poem
sss. Old movies
ttt. The smell of Bounce fabric softener
uuu. Hugs
vvv. My duvet
www. Reminiscing
xxx. Gotta leave this one blank... :P
yyy. A room full of candles
zzz. people who make me giggle
aaaa. French Fries and Mayonaise
bbbb. Going for Drives with Brian
cccc. Staying up late when us siblings are all together
dddd. Rainy Days
eeee. Playing Monopoly on rainy days
ffff. Stomping in slush
gggg. The thin ice that forms on puddles in the spring
hhhh. Surprising people
iiii. Confirmation
jjjj. Fiction books that actually make me want to change the world (or at least myself)
kkkk. Algonquin Park
llll. Ontario
mmmm. Big old houses in the old sections of downtowns
nnnn. Cheap apartments in big old houses in the old section of Hamilton (know of any?)
oooo. Finally getting something that hasn't made sense to me for five years
pppp. The sense of accomplishment after working so very hard at something that I thought I couldn't do
qqqq. Getting lost in a city where English is the primary language
rrrr. Music music music
ssss. Making fun plans with friends
tttt. Having funner spur of the moment activities
uuuu. Declaring words into existence because I'm an English Major
vvvv. Making people smile when they're not expecting it
wwww. Hot showers and freshly laundered warm pjs
xxxx. First CRC
yyyy. Children
zzzz. Knowing that a child will remember me
aaaaa. Finding a new song that I love

Thursday, November 10, 2005

A confession

Sometimes I'm really tired and all I want to do is sleep but I procrastinate so much that it ends up being hours until I actually end up in bed. And I don't even have anything to do.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Bah! That's all I have to say today. Bah.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas!



Who's that I see peeking out from behind the bushes?



Ahah! I knew it! Sneeky fellow....





Kenny gets into the Christmas spirit....



OOH! Look at all the pretty lights!

As you can tell, although Japan does not "do Christmas," they certainly get into the spirit of things. November 6th, and already my city is decorated beyond what I ever imagined seeing in Japan... Sigh... I love Christmas.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Reformation Day

This past sunday, October 30th, was celebrated as Reformation day here in Japan. Kenny joined me at my church, and as it is a Reformed church, we sang "A Mighty Fortress is our God" by Mr Luther, though we sang it in Japanese. There was a baptism of a thirty-year-old woman, which was really exciting, and during the offering, a couple sang an arrangement of "A mighty fortress" in German, it was spectacular.
The sermon dealt with Romans 1:16-17.

16I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. 17For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: "The righteous will live by faith."

Ken Sensei talked about the difficulties that particularly the Japanese have with expanding the church: the desire to blend and the pressure to conform. He said that in the past one hundred years, the church in Japan has not managed to expand because most Japanese Christians find it hard to be unashamed of their differences, and those who aren't Christians are rarely willing to embrace something that will label them as an "outsider" or independant thinker. The Christian population of Japan is less than 1%, as it has been for many years.

This made me think about the attitude that we have towards our Christian Herritage in the Western society and culture. We live in a time and a place that encourages individuality and independant thinking. Those who act differently, who dress differently and who live their lives differently are not always embraced but are generally described as "brave," "confident" or "daring," all of which are commonly looked upon as positive traits. We are given the go-ahead by our culture to be different and we plead shyness and pretend that what we have is something to be ashamed about. We in the West know nothing of what the "pressure to conform" really means. We have freedoms that we don't even realize: we decide what we will bring to work for lunch, we decide what colour our hair will be, we decide what we will do with our Sundays, we decide where we will go for vacation... All of these freedoms are ones that I never thought to consider before I joined this Japanese society. My co-workers (and to some extent, I) have these decisions made for them by whomever is higher up on the chain of command at work. There are proper dress codes, there are proper lunch menus, there are proper places to go and there are proper ways to think-- Christianity is not one of those ways to think. I think that sometimes we in the West wish that we had this excuse to hide our Faith- do we fear that others will see us as "typical" or "normal" in our abnormal society? We have the freedom to move, so why do we stand there with our feet nailed to the ground?

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Misinterpreted

Unashamed and naked, in a garden that has never seen the rain.
Rulers of a kingdom, full of joy, never marred by any pain.
The morning all around them, seems to celebrate the life they'd just begun.
And in the majesty of innocence, the king and queen come walking in the sun.

But the master of deception, now begins with his dissection of the word.
And with all his craft and subtlety, the serpent twists the simple truth they'd heard.
While hanging in the balance is a world that has been placed at their command.
And all their unborn children die as both of them bow down to Satan's hand.

And just before the evening, in the cool of the day.
They hear the voice of God as He is walking.
And they can't abide his presence, so they try to hide away;
But still they hear the sound as He is calling...

"Adam........Adam..........Where are you?"
"Adam........Adam..........Where are you?"

In the stifling heat of summer now, the gardener and his wife are in the field.
And it seems that thorns and thistle's, are the only crop his struggles ever yield.
He eats his meals in sorrow, 'till he sinks into the dust from whence he came.
But all down through the ages, he can hear his maker calling out his name...

"Adam........Adam..........Where are you?"
"Adam........Adam..........Where are you?"

Though the curse has long been broken, Adam's sons are still the prisoners of their fears.
Rushing helter-skelter to destruction, with their fingers in their ears.
While the Fathers voice is calling with an urgency I've never heard before.
To come in from the darkness now, before it's time to finally close the doors..........

"Adam........Adam..........Where are you?"
"Adam........Adam..........Where are you?"
"Adam........Adam..........I LOVE YOU!


Those of you who are either vanBredas or Kennys will know that these are the lyrics to a Don Francisco song written quite some time ago... I have, as of yet, run across few others who are familiar with the croonings and guitar rifts of this man.
When I was little, I listened to this man's songs all the time... I had several entire albums memorised. This song in particular had my caught my attention and sympathies, though. I remember sitting by the stereo system on the floor with my head tilted in towards the speakers, feeling so bad for this man who lost his dog, and shivering with sympathy for this poor dog named Adam. Yeah, I knew the Bible story. For some reason though, even though I was scared to death of dogs, that was how this particular song touched me. Read it again with a dog in mind....