Thursday, October 18, 2012

Teaching, Touring, and Things

It doesn’t come as a surprise to me that I haven’t written a blog in ages. I’m still disappointed in myself, though! Why does this always happen?! No matter how strongly I want to write a blog post, something always interferes!

I suppose that’s a good place to begin this post: ever since I arrived here in Japan, I hit the ground running full-speed! Thankfully, I didn’t have any jetlag, just like my previous time here. I am so thankful for the fact that I didn’t have jetlag, because there was so much that needed to be done and not enough time to do it!

The week before school started, I spent a lot of my time at the school moving furniture. Because there were so many missionaries arriving and leaving, we kept a lot of furniture in the attic at school, then we would play musical chairs *ahaaaaa pun…* by moving furniture from one person’s house to the school, then from the school to another person’s house, and on and on. It was one thing that we were lifting ridiculously heavy pieces of furniture, but add to that the unbearable heat and humidity, (especially on the third floor at school, which was basically a furnace,) and it was just such an exhausting task! Thankfully we were able to empty out the classrooms of the unneeded furniture, though!

The week before school started, the teachers and I went out to lunch. It was a lot of fun being able to spend time and catch up with these people I hadn’t seen in so long!

A few days after I arrived here, I began battling a very bad cough and a fever. Carol took me to a drugstore, and explained my symptoms to the nice man behind the counter. He found us a box of medicine, and assured us that it was, in fact, the “most popular cough medicine right now.” So don’t worry everyone – I’m only taking the popular drugs!

The first week of school, Carol and I were the only teachers in the English track at school. (It was a lot of work, but thankfully God provided another intern who arrived the following week!) It was nice getting back into the familiar routine of things at school. I am teaching English to the Japanese students in 1st-5th grade, tutoring one 6th grade Japanese girl in English, and I am teaching elementary art, but I am mostly focused on teaching the 7th graders in the E-track.

Teaching English to the Japanese kids this time around is so much easier! Last time I taught them, I didn’t know Japanese at all, so it was quite a challenge. This time, I know a lot more Japanese, and it is so useful in that class! (The looks on the students’ faces when they realized I understood what they were saying were absolutely hilarious!) This class is definitely not completely easy, though. It’s taken a lot of work to figure out where each of the students is linguistically, and now I’m at the point where I’m trying to assign the right kinds of material to match their abilities. It’s a challenge, but so far God has given me the strength and provision I need to make class happen every week, and I have full confidence that He will continue to provide!

I love tutoring this one girl, Annemie, in English! We became very good friends last time I was here, so I’m happy that I get to teach her again!

Annemie and me
Elementary art has been a struggle for me. It’s a bilingual class, so all of the elementary kids are in this class. It’s hard communicating with them sometimes, and it requires a lot of (a LOT of) patience. Someone has graciously decided to take over that class for me, so I am incredibly thankful!!

I absolutely love teaching the 7th grade class! This is definitely my favorite class! I have five students in this class: two Japanese boys, two Korean girls, and one Filipino girl. It is so much fun teaching these kids! I laugh so much everyday thanks to them! Every time I have to read something aloud out of a book, they ask me to read it in an accent. (So far their favorites are the Chinese accent and the Valley Girl.) We have a plant. I told them to name him, and two of the students shouted names at the same time: "Bob!" "Scott!" So, its name is Bob Scott. They love that plant so much, it's great! We're all so protective of it. This past Friday we had a pretty big earthquake during class, and as we were all getting under our desks, one of the students screamed, “BOB-SCOTT! GET UNDER THE DESK!!!” So, I rolled out from under my desk, leaped across the room, grabbed Bob-Scott, and dove back under my desk. Then there's Perry, the rubber Dingo Dog one of the younger students at school gave me. Perry didn't make it very long. He lasted about two weeks, then Perry "died." (AKA, one of the students took a red sharpie and drew all over Perry as "blood.") So, we buried Perry in Bob Scott's soil. Every day we mourn over the loss of Perry. The other day I gave the kids a homework assignment: I told them they had to find things to pin to this empty cork board we have at the back of the classroom. I was getting sick of looking at it because it looked so boring. So I told them to get things to pin to it. So far, we have a picture of a ghost, a drawn wanted poster with my face on it, a poster of a red panda, a drawing of two guys in a rocket ship, a picture of dinosaurs terrorizing a city, a drawing of a unicorn, and one of the kids ran home and came back with a Legos Pirates of the Caribbean poster.

A few weeks ago, I was able to attend my first Japanese wedding. It was so beautiful! It was a western-style wedding, but it was all in Japanese. I really enjoyed it.

Some of my students and I at the wedding

Recently, God has really provided for the needs of CCSI. As of right now, we have a total of four interns, including myself, working at the school! (They are all living in the same house as me, as well.) It’s been so interesting adjusting from it just being me in this house with my host family, to having three new “siblings.” It’s definitely an adventure!

We’ve started a weekly girl interns’ Bible study, which I am so thankful to be doing again. It is led by Carol Iverson, and we are currently reading through the “Prodigal God.” Last time I was here, we read this, and apparently the interns that came the year after me did it too, but didn’t finish. One of those interns, Mary Beth, is back again for this school year, so we decided to just pick up where she and Carol had left off. So, every week we all meet at Starbucks, read our book, and enjoy fellowshipping and growing together.

Through some strange series of events, Mary Beth and I are now taking a seminary class together. We were asked if we wanted to start taking this course, but it was very expensive, so I didn’t think I would be able to. But God provided the funds for us to be able to take it, so here we are! It is being streamed to the school we work at from Christ Bible Institute in Nagoya, Japan, and is being led by a man named “Michael Oh.” We have had two classes so far, and both have been challenging in a good way. I am very excited that I have the opportunity to be a part of this class! The course is on “Personal Holiness.”

Last Monday, all of us interns went to a university festival with some friends of ours. It was at Tokyo Christian University, so all of the events there were God-themed, which was very cool. (I mean, it’s not every day that you get to see Power Rangers jumping around with a guitar and giving thanks to God!) One of my very good friends is attending this university this semester, so it was fun getting to see her.

This past Monday, I played the role of “tour guide” and took the new interns to Tokyo for the day. We went to a place called “Asakusa,” where a very popular Buddhist temple is (the oldest in Tokyo.) The street leading up to the temple is lined with little shops and vendors. Thankfully, we went on a Monday, so it wasn’t as crowded as it would be on the weekend, which I was very grateful for! (There was still quite a large amount of people there, though.) 

While looking around one of the shops, my friend and I were both buying t-shirts. The man running the shop came up to us and tried to help us find the right size shirts. When we both decided on the shirts we wanted to buy, he said, “Wait one moment! I go wrap it beautifully for you!” in the cutest broken English. It was so funny!

As we got closer to the temple, I started to get very sad. As we approached the steps to the temple, I looked around and saw people gathered around what looked like a fire pit where incense was being burned. The people were trying to fan the incense smoke onto their bodies. They believe that the smoke has healing powers. Near the incense was a fountain with ladles resting against it. It is believe that you must purify yourself before entering the temple, so people poured water from the ladles to clean their hands. They also poured water into their cupped hands and put the water in their mouths, rinsed, and spit to “rid them of impurities.”

We entered the temple, and people were gathered around what I thought at first was a giant fan. They would bow, toss a coin in, clap their hands, and then say a prayer. As I was watching all of this, the monks inside were performing some ceremony, and then began to play ominous sounding drums. It was so eerie. (I was reminded of an Indiana Jones movie.) I went outside and started praying so fervently for the people inside. In America, I never really saw much of other religious practices outside of the Christian faith. Sure, there are so many different kinds of churches in America, but I had never visited a place like a temple and seen people worshiping false gods like this. Every ounce of my being wanted to run through the temple screaming, “STOP! Jesus loves you!” It was painful to watch. While everyone was throwing money into the fan thing and praying, I started thinking about the God I believe in. Instead of me paying Him for my salvation, He sent His Son to pay the price it cost for my sins to be wiped clean - all because He loves me! Instead of me saying, "Okay, I've given you my money, now answer my prayer!" He says, "I paid for you to be clean - ask and it shall be given to you! If you have the faith of a mustard seed, you can move mountains! I don't need your money!"

After visiting the temple, we all decided to walk to Tokyo Sky Tree, which was just recently finished being constructed. (Last time I was here, they were just starting to build it, so it was cool getting to see the finished project!) It is the tallest tower in the world, and the second tallest structure. As we were walking there, we stopped and took a bunch of goofy pictures. There was one place where we stopped and this Japanese man came up to us and kept trying to help us get the angle right to make it look like Emily (one of the interns) was holding Sky Tree. Eventually the man just took the camera out of my hands and took the picture himself. It was so funny!! Every time he didn’t take it quite right, he would say, “Ah! Mistake!” and would try again.

Emily holding Sky Tree
After Monday, I ended up being extremely exhausted. I haven’t really had a day off in about two weeks, so I’m very tired. I was going to take the day off on Monday, but my host dad really wanted someone to lead the interns around Tokyo that day, so I volunteered when he couldn’t find anyone. I’m paying for it now. I have a cold and a slight cough. Normally, I wouldn’t be too put off by these two sicknesses, but I have also lost my voice, which is incredibly frustrating when you’re a teacher.

Yesterday was my birthday, and I am very grateful that I wasn’t too sick then. The teachers and some of my friends “surprised” me that evening by coming over for dinner. I say “surprised” because one of the teachers was talking about it in Japanese at school during lunch the day before my birthday, and she forgot that I speak Japanese now. They all tried to cover it up, but it was really funny! So they all came over and we had a wonderful time! I felt so incredibly blessed. I was asked what my favorite thing about the past year was, and I said that it was definitely coming back to Japan. As my mom said to me, “I'm pretty certain the best birthday present ever happened when your plane landed in Japan a couple of months ago.” This is the truth. I am still so shocked and amazed that God led me to return here. 

I will stop here, and hopefully I will be able to find the time to write blogs more frequently so they are not so long! I apologize! Thank you all so much for your prayers and support. Please pray for my health, as I seem to be getting sick a lot recently. Please pray that I would have wisdom and patience with the students and for my relationships with the other interns – that we would grow in our relationships with Christ and each other.

In and through Him,

Here are a couple of videos I’ve made since I arrived here. The first is a few random clips I took my first couple of weeks here, and the second is all about some very interesting food I’ve had the pleasure of eating! Enjoy!

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