Great balls of fire!

Was the theme of one of the public service announcements in the folder that gets passed around the people in our apartment building every so often.

Apparently, during the month of December there were three separate incidents of Okazaki garbage trucks catching fire because people had put spray cans and gas canisters in with the unburnable garbage.

When I say "people" I am not actually referring to the generic other, either. It seems that we have been guilty of not sorting our trash correctly - although it is unclear as to whether the blame for any of the conflagrations can be laid at our door or not. At least it does explain why our taxes are so high if garbage trucks are going up in smoke with such alarming frequency.

This Is Broken

Well, at least this blog isn't broken, but this website is full of niggling frustrations and silly snaffus.

This Is Broken

Maybe they are trying to tell us something...

These poor little plants are tortured with lasers and forced to spend their early days cooped up in tiny "eggs" - all to provide fleeting moments of pleasure to consumers who thought they had seen everything. Bonkers.


BBC NEWS | World | Asia-Pacific | Japan bean plants sprout messages

The first calligraphies go off to the customers


I was so excited today! The first calligraphy orders for www.japanese-name-translation.com came back from the scroll-maker today. The picture does not really do this one justice, but you can get an idea of what it looked like here. The silk backing has a much better sheen in reality.

For bonus points, try to guess what the name is. (Hint: It's a Scandanavian name.)

Love, actually and again

I fell in love with Japan again today. Not exactly for the school lunch, though.

I participated in interview tests with the third-year students. One by one they had to come to the front of the class, ask me three questions, and answer a few of mine.

Most students asked me my favorite sport, or my favorite song, or my favorite SMAP band singer. One thoughtful boy, however, asked me about my best memory from 2004. My heart melted and I looked at him and decided to adopt him on the spot. I don't know how his parents will feel about that, though. I might have to fight them for him. American ijime.

The Japanese seem to be really into memorializing events. That's one thing I love about them. They think and talk about memories. It's so great! I can't imagine any American student I ever had asking me a question like that.

What a great memory of today.

A whale of a time

Guess what I had for my school lunch today? Yup. You guessed it.

Aichi prefecture (our area) is hosting the Expo this year. Chiryu, the town where I work and where we used to live, has a special relationship with Iceland for the Expo. Iceland sent Chiryu a whale of a present, and it swam into our school lunch today. It was cubed and blackened and kinda tough.

Two of my colleagues said they love whale sashimi. And supposedly Japan has whaling permission just for "scientific purposes." Uh-huh.


What a story

Ijime

I know this sounds like a wonderful island paradise in Japan somewhere, but it's actually the Japanese word for bullying. I've seen enough of it these last three years to last me for a while. I know I'm probably not supposed to compare Japanese schools to ones in my home country, but when it comes to this topic, it's hard for me to keep my mouth shut. When I see students pounding other students in the hall, and sometimes even threatening teachers with no repercussions, it really gets my goat. I'm normally a pretty passive person, but I start yelling when I see innocent victims being pummelled.

The sad thing is that I've actually gotten so used to it that I don't always yell anymore. Like today, for instance. I saw a boy punching another boy, holding him down on the ground, and I just kind of froze. Fortunately the teacher I was walking with to class today has a loud mouth. I've been with other teachers who do nothing out of fear for their own safety.

Apparently this boy has a history of bullying that just keeps getting longer. He apologizes and then gets right back to it. This teacher told me they all feel their hands are tied. By law he has to come to school until the end of next year (when he graduates from junior high). Unfortunately for his victims, the law doesn't protect them from his anger. What about their educational rights? Many of them are choosing to stay home to protect themselves from further abuse.

I can't help remembering when I worked at the high school in Orlando. Even though I worked with thug kids, I actually felt safer than I do here. We had a police officer on campus at all times and an administration who backed the teachers and the kid victims.

What happens next in Japanese schools? One teacher told me today the police won't be called until a kid is hurt (but what do they call punching and kicking?) or worse. I've been told by the administration in one school never to tell anyone what I've seen. They don't want the community knowing what's going on. Face could be lost.

What about the kids' faces who are punched every day? What about those faces? What about their spirits, shrivelling up in fear and resentment?

Sunday evening


We went out to a great fish restaurant with church people last night. I have to say that Makiko Ito (one of the pastor's daughters) can really pack away the food!

The Ark


All aboard the Ark... of Noah! ("Noah" also happens to be the name of this model of minivan in Japan.)

Chances of us getting a house in the UK....

... pretty low if first-time buyers cannot afford to buy a house in 92% of UK towns.

(Not that we are looking to do this right now anyway - and who would give us a mortgage since we live outside Britain?)


BBC News

Black Rider



EVIL - "Psychopath". Desires to find the One Ring and to obey its master - very loyal. 0.0001% of total population.
Free Jung Personality Test (similar to Myers-Briggs)


ISFJ

That's me.

ISFJ - "Conservator". Desires to be of service and to minister to individual needs - very loyal. 13.8% of total population.
Free Jung Personality Test (similar to Myers-Briggs)

Try it. You'll like it.

Personality

For those of you who were wondering whether I have a personality, I do. It's official.


ESTJ - "Administrator". Much in touch with the external environment. Very responsible. Pillar of strength. 8.7% of total population.
Free Jung Personality Test (similar to Myers-Briggs)

Unlucky for some

For our neighbor, Mr. Saruwatari, this is an unlucky year. Not for any particular reason. Just because Buddhism says so.

We received a beautifully-crafted wooden sake cup from him. It is square, which is an unfortunate shape for a cup, but not necessarily unlucky in itself. It's purpose is simple - to ward off the ill-luck.

Others are not so lucky: A couple of years back we went to a fireworks display in Kira, a town on the coast south of where we live. The Japanese have these huge displays every summer and seem to compete with the surrounding towns to out-do each other. Anyway, this town had had the novel idea of insisting that all the men who were in their unlucky years should be the ones to set off the fireworks.

Talk about a self-fulfilling prophecy:

Bob: "That's too bad you got blown up by that rocket."
Fred: "Well, mustn't grumble. It's my unlucky year after all."
Bob: "Aye. That it is, lad."

And it is not just a few people who are affected by this bad luck: According to a Japanese book I read, if you do the calculations correctly, there are only a handful of years that aren't unlucky until you are well over one hundred!

I am so glad I am not a Japanese Buddhist....

I always knew there was a good reason...

to not make the bed every day! Now I've found the scientific research to back up my theory.

Those dust mites look really scary up close. Don't want them around!

BBC NEWS | Health | Untidy beds may keep us healthy

Fushigi but true

Tuesday night while making dinner I suddenly had a strange sensation in my right hip. It didn't hurt but it certainly got my attention and I started praying and asking God what was happening. I felt that He was telling me that He was healing my hip. But there's nothing wrong with my hip, so I was very confused.

Stephen came home soon after that and one of the first things he told me was that he had talked with my parents that morning (Tuesday morning Japan time, Monday night Florida time). My mom had told him that her hip hurt so badly on Monday morning (her time) that she couldn't even stand up. She had crawled to the phone and called my dad at work to come home to help her. The ironic thing was that her chiropractor had injured himself in a biking accident so she couldn't make an appointment to see him.

I had almost forgotten about my hip incident until this morning when I talked to my mom. I asked her which hip had been hurt, and it was her right one. I asked her if she was better, and she said she'd tried to get up in the middle of the night (Tuesday early morning her time, Tuesday afternoon my time) and she wasn't even able to walk.

But when she got up Tuesday morning her time (Tuesday evening my time) her hip was so much better she could walk again and even went back to work on Wednesday, with no medical intervention.

God works in fushigi ways.




Shaken not stirred


Fushigi blob. Or is that blog.

No wonder Japanese children don't eat much candy. The package said to add one spoonful of water. Did that. The drain made popping sounds for quite a while after and I wondered how toxic it would've been in my stomach had I actually partaken of its blobbiness.


Ontake san (Mt. Ontake) must be over 50km away, but was lit up clearly in the morning light as you can see from this photo I took from our front door just after I saw Abigail off to work. A moment later a neighbor came along and saw me taking pictures. He also pointed out two long, parallel clouds in the sky and told me that the Japanese say that clouds like this are a sign that an earthquake is going to happen.... Or they could be caused by aircraft as I, oh so cynically, pointed out.

Welcome back

I figured it was high time I posted again on this blog of ours. I'm still in the jet lag hall of fame at the moment, but am trying to keep going and do "normal" things, if that's ever at all possible.

Florida was bittersweet this time. There was the sadness of the tsunami disaster, and as Stephen said in a previous post, during a New Year's Eve party we attended, our friends found out one of their friends had just passed away. Also, to my great sadness, I didn't get to meet my new-ish little niece (she'll be one on Jan. 16). We saw lots of pictures and videos of Elise, however, and I realized why my sister is so tired all the time! Elise is a bundle of energy! She's extremely adorable, and I love the way her teeth came in (the two canines before the two middle ones). I just wanted to give her big snuggles.

The sunshine was wonderful, walks around a lake and at the beach encouraged me, and visiting with family and friends was especially fun. Also, I made a new friend named Yuko on the plane. She lives in Nagoya but is engaged to an American in Indiana, so I don't know how long she'll be around these parts, but it'll be fun to hang out with her for a while anyway. So, I got off the plane in Nagoya, and was promptly hit by the 3 (C) degree weather. Whew. Stephen was waiting in the lobby with his smiling face and comforting hugs. Before we could even leave the airport, we heard a deep rumbling, grumbling sound (and it wasn't Stephen's stomach, even though he'd been without his personal chef for four days). And then we had an earthquake. Welcome back.

Dark horses

Talk about dark horses: One of my colleagues left several months ago to get married. She would talk about how she had gone to visit him in Saitama (nr. Tokyo) for the weekend or whatever.

So anyway, today when Tsunoda san told me he had seen her at a celebration in Nagoya for the people who hadn't made it to the wedding in Toyko (Disneyland - blech!), I asked hi what kind of man Fujiyoshi's husband was. "You know him," came the answer. "It's Mase san."

I couldn't believe it: Fujiyoshi and Mase had worked at desks next to each other until last summer when Mase had a bit of "conflict" with the boss and decided to leave. Apparently they were engaged the whole time and I had no idea. I'm telling you, Japanese people can be really secretive about their "private" lives.

The toughest material in the Universe....

... and the reason why Abigail's suitcase survived the journey around the world:

Pure Samsonite

A stranger had a blade to my throat...

... for the first time in three months today, from which you will surmise that it has been a while since I have had my haircut. Aunt Tina had a go at tidying it up in Florida, but it needed the full works, so today we dropped by at the local barber's on our way back from hiking in the park. (Today is a national holiday - Coming of Age Day.)

In Japan, a haircut includes a shave with a cut-throat razor. (Whoever thought of this noun had a sick sense of humor.) And not just of the usual lower-facial areas, but, if you don't stop them, they will make sure your forehead is smooth and shiny too.

I must admit that do enjoy it, especially the part where they put a hot towel over your face. But always in the back of my mind I am thinking, "I hope there isn't a sudden, violent earthquake right now." Afterall, I wouldn't want that razor to live up to its name....

N Korea wages war on long hair

Yes, the country whose leader has one of the worst hairstyles in history is cracking down on bad hair. As if the North Korean people don't have enough problems with starvation and victimization by the state.

BBC NEWS | World | Asia-Pacific | N Korea wages war on long hair

Culture shock +alpha

The Japanese use the phrase "plus alpha" to refer to an additional je ne sais quois. In this case, the "plus alpha" is what I have felt returning here again: Not only the shock of being immersed in a different culture again, but the wrench of being separated from family and friends.

It is always difficult after Christmas anyway: You get the big build up, but then it passes and before you know it you are into the cold gray of January with little ahead but work and the occasional public holiday (as we will be having on Monday.) But the strain of travel, jet-lag, culture shock and leaving behind family and friends is a big "plus alpha" to that and is getting old fast.

I am glad that God has brought us here, because it is His plan and what He plans is always the best. I can see why we are here when we are able to tell people about Jesus through the Alpha course. And it is undoubtedly a privilege to have an experience that very few others get the chance to have. But it doesn't make coming back any easier.

www.japanese-name-translation.com

Yes, that is the name of my new project. The website opened today and we have already had some people buying, which is good and a relief after all the work that has gone into it.

If you are interested in having your name translated into Japanese katakana characters and being able to hear their pronunciation, or if you would just like to find out more about the language and about Japanese calligraphy, then this will be an interesting site for you.

www.japanese-name-translation.com

Enjoy!

Happy New Year!

Well, a belated happy new year to you all.

The situation with the tsunami disaster and hearing that one of our friend's friends had died during labor deflated the celebrations here, but we are thankful to God for 2004 and looking forward to what will transpire in 2005.

I am packing today to get on a flight tomorrow back to Japan. Abigail will be following on January 8th, as her schedule has worked out well this year. I don't feel like I have really got used to being here yet (and it didn't help that I was in a cold-induced haze for several days either), but it is too late now. These trips are just too short, but that is unavoidabale and I am glad that I am in a job where I was able to negotiate more vacation time.

I wonder what is going on back in Japan? I hope it has not been snowing as I have to get back from the airport...


 

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