Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Have A Holly Jolly New Year!!!

                HAPPY NEW YEAR TO EVERY CORNER OF THE WORLD!!! There is so much to update you all on and only a limited amount of time in which to do it, but hopefully this satisfies my “frequent readers.”
                December was such a busy month! I experienced many new things, and had a wonderful time in the process! I went to Disneyland Tokyo earlier in the month with Jenna and Hannah, the two other interns here. We also went with two kids, Yukiho and Satoshi, from the church I had been going to in Tokyo. I was excited out of my mind that I was at Disneyland! I’d never been to a Disney amusement park in the States or anywhere else. When you take into consideration the fact that I am a die-hard Disney fanatic, it’s quite surprising that I had never been to any form of Disney establishment. But the fact that my first experience was in Tokyo, Japan made it totally fine by me! The entire park was alive with Christmas music and decorations! It was also packed full with people. (I suppose that’s our mistake for going to the park on a Saturday.) The longest line we waited in was a 2 and a half hour wait. After that ridiculous line, we all were starving and our feet were aching, so we sought refuge in a restaurant styled after Alice in Wonderland. (Hannah found companionship with one of the guards as we waited in yet another line for our food.) 

After resting our feet and satisfying our hunger, someone had the brilliant idea of riding the tea cups! I feel inclined to say that we all heard that voice of reason in the back of our heads (sounding strangely like each of our mothers) telling us, “You’ve heard me tell you you’re supposed to wait half an hour before swimming after eating. What do you expect me to tell you about riding colorful tornadoes of amusement after eating a hefty lunch?!” And yet, in a rebellious manner, we carried on to our doom. The line ended up taking half an hour though, so we felt as though that were justifiable. I’m happy to say that our lunch stayed down! The tea cups were SO MUCH FUN!!! It was my second favorite ride at the park! My favorite ride at the park ended up being the Winnie the Pooh ride! While waiting in line, they played nothing but Winnie the Pooh music and, being the girl that I am, I had no problem singing the lyrics loudly in English to the embarrassment of my friends and the odd looks tossed to me by our fellow line-standers. (There was actually one little girl in front of us who kept falling asleep where she stood in line. It was so funny/cute!) As you get closer to the ride, you actually get to walk through a huge version of the Winnie the Pooh book. Inside there were pages with the story written on it in English. When we got to the honeypot-shaped ride, we sat down and went through the story of the “Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh,” but it was all in Japanese! And the ride smelled like real honey! SO COOL! 

We stopped in at the Winnie the Pooh store and I had a chance to show some Pooh Pride and got to hug a large Pooh Bear plush doll! 

For dinner, we went to a pizza shop that was far from normal. The idea behind the shop was that they delivered pizza throughout the universe at light-speed so it would arrive to your planet and doorstop steaming hot! Seeing how I worked at Domino’s Pizza for over a year, obviously I was intrigued as I watched the cartoon characters on the TV screens and the cool moving doohickeys that “made your pizza.” Here is a video to explain what I’m talking about:

Right after dinner, our rebellious side got the best of us yet again, and we decided to ride the tea cups for a second time. I know, I know, have we no shame? No. No we don’t. :-)

As the day came to a close, we started to head to the exit, stopping at the Disney Castle to take pictures. Everything was so pretty, decorated with Christmas lights. Here are pictures taken at the end of our adventure at Disneyland Tokyo. :-)

                The following day we went to Grace City Church Tokyo. Afterwards Hannah, Jenna, and I went to Starbucks in the city. It was our second to last weekend with Hannah before she had to leave to go home to the States so we wanted to spend as much time as possible with her.
                The last week of school before Christmas break came to the excitement of both students and teachers. My English students were especially sweet that week! I asked one of my students in my 1st-3rd grade class to pray at the beginning of class, and this is how she prayed, “Dear Lord… thank you for… this day… and… this day… and thank you for…” and another of my students piped in with, “thank you for TEACHER!” The next day, I was asking those students if they knew what the word “pretty” meant. They said yes, so I asked them to point at the correct flashcard I was holding with a picture of someone “pretty” on it. The same student who said he was “thankful for teacher” ignored the flashcards and pointed at me and said, “TEACHER is pretty!” Aaaaw! Yeah, they’re the best! Then in my next English class with my 4th-5th graders, I was passing out Christmas gifts to them and one of my students said, “Thank you for present! I don’t have present for you… but I have LOVE!” and she gave me a big hug! I really love the kids at the school. It’s sad thinking that I’ll have to say goodbye to them in a few months. I try not to think about it, though.
                I went to a College Ministry Christmas party one night and we did a White Elephant exchange. I ended up getting a shnazzy scarf out of it. We also played games, one involving opening a present if you rolled two dice and the number equaled six. But you had to open the present wearing winter gloves. It was so hard! And the team member - Brent - who wrapped the present ended up wrapping so many boxes and putting them inside box after box after box. (The game ended once you held the actual present in your hand.) Guess who ended up unwrapping the final box and getting herself a new USB mouse for her computer? Yes indeed! That would be me! When the party was over, I helped clean up a bit and those of us who were still there started goofing off a bit. We made Brent wear a Christmas tree base skirt around his neck. He didn’t look like the happiest of characters. We put it on someone else and they didn’t seem to be very amused either. I found it very frustrating that they couldn’t wear a Christmas tree base skirt without exuding some form of Christmas spirit, so I had to show them how it was done, of course!

                The last day of school came and many of my students gave me presents. It was so sweet! Then a few people went out to karaoke after school. It was a nice way to end the day.
                That weekend, Jenna and I met up with Hannah at the train station in the morning. We went to Chiba to eat lunch at one of the best ramen shops in the country, and it just happens to be owned by the father of one of the teachers at our school! It was amazing! Then us gals took the train to a place where there was a recycle shop. Hannah and Jenna both found inexpensive kimonos, and I found a Christmas present for someone. After that, we went to a mall in Tokyo. Then we went to the apartment Hannah was staying in where there was a “surprise” going-away party for her. (She already knew about it.) That was a lot of fun! We had tacos, played Uno, and talked for a long while.
                On Sunday we went to Grace City Church for Hannah’s last Sunday here. We went to the apartment after that, and later that night we girls got our traditional Dr. Pepper from our favorite vending machine and walked along the river. We found a place decorated with Christmas lights (you can actually see it from the apartment window) and spent a good amount of time there together, taking pictures and being ridiculous.

                When we got back to the apartment, we helped Hannah pack (I played the role of “sit on the suitcase to make it zip all the way”) and then we watched Kiki’s Delivery Service and went to bed.
                In the morning, Jenna and I escorted Hannah to the airport by train, helping carry her luggage on the way. We checked her bags in and we all ate a nice lunch of ramen together at the airport. When we were finished eating, we walked with Hannah to the security gate, then huddled together and prayed. Hannah left as Jenna and I stood there watching until we couldn’t see her anymore. (I don’t know if she knew that or not. ;-)) Jenna and I took the train home after that.
                The next two days I spent painting the house of a missionary family here in Japan. They lived pretty far away – two hours by train. I also helped move a refrigerator while there. It leaked all sorts of unknown fluids onto my leg. :-/ But all in all it was a good experience!
                I went to a Christmas candle light service at Honda Chapel on the 23rd and got to see a lot of the kids from school that I hadn’t seen in about a week! They all crowded around and hugged me at the same time. It was so sweet! It’s been very strange being on break and not seeing the kids 4 days of the week!
                On Christmas Eve, Jenna and I walked to Starbucks, which is very close to the house we’re staying at. We thought it was the perfect thing to do on Christmas Eve! One of the employees at Starbucks wrote very nice Christmas greetings on our cups in English and spoke to us in English as well! It was really cool! After our coffee, we went to a late Christmas Eve candle light service at Oyumino Chapel. It was very nice and I got to see a lot of people! When we went home, I ended up staying awake until 3 in the morning just finishing up some last-minute Christmas things.
                Christmas day was so much fun! We all woke up to the smell of cinnamon rolls and sausage, which also happens to be what my family eats on Christmas morning back home! 

We all opened presents, and then I got to Skype with my family for 3 hours! (They were celebrating Christmas on Christmas Eve their time - Christmas day my time – due to my Dad’s work schedule.)  When I was done talking to my family, I started helping to clean the house and set up tables because we were having a lot of guests over for Christmas dinner. Dinner was amazing and the night was a lot of fun! Once everyone left, I walked to Starbucks with Jenna and Micah for a nice Christmas coffee.
                The following Monday, I left with the Iverson’s for their annual family ski trip in Nojiri. I was so excited because we hadn’t had (and still don’t have) any snow in Oyumino yet, and I was dying to see some! We got to their cabin, which had no running water, a very interesting bathroom, and some lovely rodent inhabitants. I actually really enjoyed the rustic-ness of it all! Plus I got to see snow. :-) I attempted to snowboard our first day at the ski slopes, thanks to the patience of 6 different people trying to teach me. (I’d never snowboarded a day in my life.) I eventually gave up and decided not to try the next day to spare my poor aching muscles from the beating.


After both ski days, we all went to a sentou (bath house.) It was my first experience, and everyone kept telling me that the ones we went to weren’t that good. They were like shallow hot tubs, and they were burning hot! (Hotter than was natural, they said.) On Thursday, we all left Nojiri and went home.
                On New Year’s Eve, I got to meet Jenna’s mom and sister who were here visiting for about a week. We went to karaoke with them and had dinner at a yakiniku place. Yakiniku is fried meat. Each table has its own burner grill thing and you get to grill your own food. It’s delicious! This was the second time I’d had it.

When we got home, we played card games and then we watched TV just before midnight to watch the Japanese countdown. Instead of watching a ball drop in Times Square, we all watched Japanese boy-bands perform, then countdown, then they sang some more. It was rather odd, but HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!

                I’ve gone to Oyumino Chapel the past two weeks, and I think that’s where I’ll be going from now on. I really love it there because I’m surrounded by people I interact with more frequently than the people at Grace City Church. There’s nothing wrong with Grace City, but I like being closer to home and the people here.
                This past Sunday, Carol and I had a much needed girls’ night! We had popcorn and watched chick-flicks. It was a lot of fun, and we had a nice break together.
                On Monday I helped a family on our team move into and clean their new house. Then I went home and we had yakisoba (fried noodles) for dinner. I love yakisoba! It’s amazing! After dinner, Carol drove me to the train station so I could meet up with Jenna and her family in Tokyo. I rode the train all by myself! That’s a first. It was actually a lot of fun! I observed how everyone avoided me, the strange foreigner! It was really funny. No one would sit next to me and they stood far away while waiting for the train. ;-)
                Yesterday, Jenna, her family, and I went to the Studio Ghibli museum in Mitaka. Studio Ghibli makes all of my favorite movies by Hayao Miyazaki! (Howl’s Moving Castle, Spirited Away, Princess Mononoke, My Neighbor Totoro, etc.) It was so cool being in Japan and being able to go to the museum! 

When we were done there, we all got lunch at a curry shop. I love Japanese curry! It’s so different than Indian curry and is so delicious! I took the train home by myself again because Jenna and her family wanted to go shopping. When I got home, Carol and I made pizza for dinner. It was so nice making a pizza after not having done so in such a long time! It was amazing! When Jenna and her family got home, all of us ladies went to the onsen near us. It was so incredible! Much better than the sentous we went to in Nojiri!
                Jenna’s family is leaving today, so we took them to the ramen shop Jenna, Hannah, and I went to a couple of weeks ago for lunch. And now I’m sitting here writing this blog!
                As usual, I want to thank you all for the prayers, and I have more prayer requests!
1) School is starting tomorrow, so please be praying for the transition for both students and teachers back into academic mode.
2) It looks like I will be going to Taiwan for a few days in 3½ weeks because of the visa I have. Before I go, I will be working on paperwork to get a COE which will make it possible for me to get a work visa. It takes a while for the COE to process, so please be praying that everything would process quickly and that I would get the COE before I leave for Taiwan. If I receive my COE before I leave for Taiwan, I can apply for a work visa in Taiwan, which means I would have to stay there for a week waiting for it. Please be praying that all would go well! If I get the work visa, I’ll be able to finish up the school year here, which is what I’d really like to do.
3) We will hopefully have a new intern coming here this month to work at the school. Please pray that all would be going well on her end so she can come and help us as soon as possible!

                I’m missing you all so much, and I hope you had a wonderful holiday season!
-Melanie =)
P.S. Hannah, I know you’re reading this, so HI!!!! We miss you here! Tell your family I say hello, unless you’re reading this aloud to them, in which case… HI HANNAH’S FAMILY!!! Thanks for sending her here! She’s awesome!  \(^_^)/
“But the plans of the Lord stand firm forever, the purposes of His heart through all generations.” – Psalm 33:11

1 comment:

  1. Hi Melanie, thanks. I miss you all! I loved reading the post, and seeing all the pictures. Nojiri looks beautiful! I laughed while looking at the pictures, and loved the Disney video!

    Hope to see you this fall!