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December 2006 Archives

December 3, 2006

Hiking Takao with Flat Stanley

This past Saturday was a beautiful day and probably the last Saturday to enjoy the fall colors, so we got on the train and paid 120 yen (a little over a dollar) for our tickets(psst--we smuggled Stanley! No ticket for him!) to ride to the next station--Takaosanguchi. Here we hiked about 2 hours to the top of Mt. Takao, enjoying the deep red maple trees and the good smell of nature in autumn. We could see Mt. Fuji, but a cloud covered the top (on the picture, snow-covered Mt. Fuji is right above Stanley's head). I was hoping to see some wild monkeys, but none appeared, so we paid a few yen to see some at a Monkey park. In the mountains Akihiro said they can come and grab your bag and run away--I guess they are a real pest! It was fun to see them! We had rice balls for lunch and mochi balls (compressed rice) toasted and dipped in sweet miso (fermented soybean paste). It sounds gross, but actually it was quite yummy!
On our return trip we got a good view of the Hachioji area (Hachioji is like a county and Takao is the town we live in). If you note the picture, you can see the row of yellow ginko trees along Route 20 that is very near our house and the bridge spanning the river behind our house. Our house is above the bridge and to the left of the ginko trees.
That night we went to visit Akihiro's grandfather's sake bar in Kawasaki--about 1.5 hours by train. He is 80 years old, but manages fairly well! He enjoyed filling us up with cooked eal, clams, tuna sashimi, shrimp, tempura, and all kinds of good food! The place may close soon, so we were glad we went! Akihiro's grandma and his cousin met us there too.

December 4, 2006

More hotel pics, Shioda church business meeting

Well, it is Monday morning and we stayed at the hotel last night. It was nice to see the friendly smiles of the staff again! Before our room got messed up I took a picture last night--also one of our breakfast. I am not sure what Flat Stanley thinks about Japanese food--he just keeps smiling! The server of our breakfast sure thought he was cute! I think he might like it so well here in Japan, that he won't want to go back to Logan's class! We'll see!




We had our annual business meeting at church yesterday. How interesting to see--we all just sat around the table and decided things like collections, sunday school teachers, trustees, etc. The only 3 brothers were elected (again!) for one year terms as trustees, Akihiro will help Bro. Toru with Sunday school. This makes him song leader, trustee, and song leader! The biggest discussions, though, centered around how our church handles funerals for the members/faithful friends and the possibility of remodelling/rebuidling of our church. Interestingly enough, sometimes the family and neighbors of these believers are so strong that there is a Buddhist funeral for them. We are prayerfully and carefully trying to figure out how to approach this situation. We would appreciate your prayers in both of these matters!

December 5, 2006

Flat Stanley visits the Onsen

I know I already wrote a blog on the onsen, but since I have Flat Stanley with me to truly experience Japan, I thought he should go to the onsen (Sorry, Logan, he got a little wet!). Any of you who missed out on the details can refer to October 2nd blog "You mean we don't wear any clothes?!" Since he's a boy, I had to smuggle him into the lady's onsen! Thankfully, though, there wasn't anyone there, so I pulled him out and started clicking away with my camera. First he's sitting here in the room where you can store your clothes, dry your hair, or just relax! Next he is washing prior to taking his bath--he must be kinda shy because I couldn't get him to take his clothes off! He enjoyed the beautiful glass picture while he soaked away, but he also wanted to take a look at the outdoor onsen. After the bath he went out and decided to join Akihiro for a massage. He smiled the whole time! He really looked happy when I insisted that he get into a yukata and relax after his hot bath. I thought he looked so handsome in his yukata!






First English Class

Monday I had my first Japanese class. My heart sank when the first thing that my teacher said was, "I'm sorry, I don't know English very well." I will meet her at the language school in Kofu--about 20 minutes from our hotel in Isawa--every Monday for one and a half hour. She seems very nice, but it is difficult sometimes to understand eachother. We'll have to see how it goes! My brain was very tired by the end of the lesson and I felt very overwhelmed! (What were those people at the tower of Babel thinking anyway!) I have to remember that one Malaysian lady at church didn't have the luxury of a formal lesson, but just learned from TV, magazines, and a dictionary! I should appreciate my lessons! I am excited to learn, but am terribly impatient with myself and find it quite humbling to feel so inept at something. I guess God knows that my too-often-proud heart needs some humbling! Bro. Willis is always saying that Japan is a great leveler! Afterward I found myself somewhat arguing with Akihiro over the Japanese alphabet. It went something like this: Carrie: Why do "shi" and "tsu" have to look so much alike? That is so dumb! I'd like to call the prime minister and give him a piece of my mind! I've been told three different ways to tell them apart and I still struggle! Akihiro: Now honey, think about English. Is it so bad that the lowercase L and the uppercase I are the same? What is the difference? You just learn it and apply it to the context. Relax, take your time--you'll get it! Carrie (humbled for getting wound up): Yeah, you are right.

He has been very supportive with my impatience and unrealistic expectations! (It is a good thing I love him so much! I wouldn't learn Japanese for just any old person!) Anyway, once I calmed down and got things in perspective I was ok. I was very comforted to look up in the evening sky that night and see the big bright full moon--so often a reminder to me that God is in control and He can give me courage, strength, and grace to go on when I feel so weak.

Mom is praying for the "gift of tongue" (skillful language learning skills) for me, but any prayers you would care to add on that account would be much appreciated! (Sorry--seems like I am always asking for prayers. I guess that's another class in this "humbling school" of life)

December 18, 2006

Forget about the year" party, etc.

"Last week we went to the bonenkai party (I am told it means "forget about the year") for Akihiro's nursing home. All of the employees were invited, but yet I was the only spouse invited--I guess Akihiro pulled some strings for me! Most companies in Japan have these gatherings--perhaps instead of a Christmas party. (Christmas, by the way, seems to be an excuse to have sales and decorations, but no mention or celebration of the real meaning of Christmas--quite sad!) It was held at a nice restaurant and started with several speeches (most Japanese gatherings have lots of speeches--at least as far as I have experienced so far!). Akihiro had been warned about the custom of the employees showing honor to the boss or higher level positions (including the nursing home doc of course!) by pouring a drink for them! We were prepared to refused alcohol, but I was not prepared for the magnitude of this custom--I think I was poured oolong tea, water, or orange juice at least 40 times! It was interesting to see the people's reaction as they came prepared to pour some wine or beer for us and we handed them the Evian water bottle! As we watched the nursing home president handle his "honor", we learned that it is wise to keep your glass fairly full, so they can only pour a few milliliters in your glass! During the meal, they played bingo--guess which prize was chosen first?! A large bag of rice, of course--even over the bicycle! These people are crazy about rice! I was grateful that I didn't win! If two people got bingo at the same time, they did a funny jousting-like (no swords!) behavior that reminded me of "rock, paper scissors" except with numbers--interesting! At the end of the meal, a man stood up and said something which caused everyone to stand up. "What's going on?" I asked Akihiro. "Just watch and see--you'll get it," he said with a smirk. Soon everyone started clapping--about 6 claps and then they said a deep "yo!" and repeated this 3 or 4 times and sat down. "What was that?!" I whispered to Akihiro. "That's how they 'finish up'!" he replied. I think we will stick with our silent prayer as a way to 'finish up'! Anyway, when the president asked me how I liked the bonenkai, I could honestly tell him, "I have a lot to write about on my blog!"

We enjoyed having Vicki Ramseyer and Eiko (a Japanese sister) at our home overnight on Saturday. We tried a new dish--a big hot pot on a burner in the middle of the table with some miso-based soup. We added shrimp, salmon, white fish, mushrooms, noodles, tofu, and many veggies. It was quite yummy if I do say so myself! Sunday after church we went to the local hospital/nursing home to Christmas carol for the patients there. We took along a electronic keyboard, so I played and Akihiro directed (his directing was quite professional despite the unprofessional group we had!). We all enjoyed singing and the patients seemed to listen closely and appreciate the small gifts we had wrapped for them--soap, Kleenx, and wet wipes. Seems funny to hear the familiar carols in Japanese--I have to really pay attention--nothing like the 7 carolings I sometimes grumbled about attending in Young Group days! We were especially encouraged because a Chinese man and Japanese woman came to our church on Sunday and even joined us for the caroling! The woman had been in Willis' junior high class, so when her friend mentioned that he wanted to find a church, she remembered Willis and our church! They seemed to enjoy themselves. I was so excited, but Akihiro said not to get too excited--many people only come one time or a few times. Anyway, it is encouraging to see some possible "fruit" from Willis' efforts as a teacher in Yamanashi! We hope and pray they will continue to attend with us! We look forward to a special service next Sunday for Christmas--we have a potluck Christmas dinner. December 25th is not a recognized holiday in Japan and most people have to work, so we won't be having a service, but Akihiro and I are really looking forward to having Skype (web camera) Christmas with our family on Christmas morning and going out to eat with some of the believers on Christmas evening!

Last Thursday, Akihiro and I attended the lady's meeting at Tokyo. The theme of our discussion was about salvation being the reason that Christians celebrate Christmas. The ladies listened very intently and asked some very good questions. One very sweet lady mentioned to me that she is so refreshed when she comes to church (she only comes to our ladies meetings one time a month), but then when she goes home, she goes back to her ordinary life--it is hard for her to fully embrace Christianity. Please pray for these ladies! Jana said that many of them have been coming for years and years. I am reminded over and over how blessed I am to have been raised in a somewhat "Christian" nation in a Christian family!

Tonight I am on the train on the way to home from Isawa--I plan to spend the day with one of the friends from the Tokyo church--helping her pack to move. Thankfully, though, she and her family will be able to continue to attend Tokyo church! I am fairly certain that I am on the right train--I am assuming the announcement said something about it being late--it didn't leave on time--very rare for Japanese trains to be a minute off schedule! I wish I could understand everything they say over the loud speakers!!!!!!!!!! While on the topic of Japanese language--last week my Japanese class went much better--thanks for your prayers! I am realizing that I need to spend a lot of time to study--every day! Not only do I have to learn the words, I have to learn how to say them--they don't really have accent marks here, but changes in intonation can make a difference in the meaning of a word--for example hashi is both chopstick and bridge! Also--they don't put spaces between words! Last week I made a senence that was supposed to mean that one of my nephews was 11 years old (I need to double check their ages!). Instead, my sentence meant that he was stinky! Oh, dear! This week my word of the week is "muzukashi"--DIFFICULT! My teacher kept saying it when I would ask her "why do you do it that way?" I don't think I would like to answer the same questions regarding English either, though!

Sorry for the long blog--it's been a while since I wrote!!!

December 19, 2006

Oops--forgot another noteable event! Our first vegan dinner and first singing in our new home!

A few Saturdays ago we had Willis, Lois, Kan, and Lee for supper. I had fun trying vegan recipes--never had tofu steak before, but it turned out fairly good! Anyway, afterwards, we invited the Klaus family over for the first singing in our home! They had to bring their own books and some had to sit on the floor, but we had a very nice time! We enjoyed soft persimmons mixed with yogurt for our refreshment. I had never had persimmons until I came here--they are very yummy!

December 26, 2006

Christmas in Japan

As I wrote in the previous blog, there is much commercialization about Christmas here in Japan, so it seemed very odd that when the day actually came, it seemed like just another day! People went to work, children went to school--business as usual! As I write this, I thought of the day when Jesus was born--I am assuming it was "business as usual" that day too! On earth, only the shepherds, wise men, and Mary and Joseph knew of this wondrous event! I am so thankful that though Christmas is a special day to celebrate the birth, every day we can and should remember our Savior!

Our Christmas though, was very special! For us, it started on Sunday with a special Christmas service and dinner! I enjoyed all the special food, except the funny seaweed rice balls--this seaweed looked like cobwebs! The two Sunday school children sang some songs and read a few lines about the Christmas story. Three-year old Koshin read much better than I can! They were so cute! On Christmas morning, we spent 3 hours on the web camera at the Ehnle's home watching the Sauder family eat homemade pizza and open their presents. It was very special to sing Silent Night with them in both Japanese and English--only a split second time delay! Also, Bro. Willis had the prayer after their meal! How wonderful to be connected with our family through this technology! They all enjoyed opening their snacks I had purchased for them from the 100 Yen Store. Not too sure about the dried squid, though! It was interesting to realize how different American toys are than Japanese--Lois said she didn't think you could buy any farm implement toys here in Japan! Interesting how the culture affects so many different things--I am always learning! After a light lunch, I went to Japanese class. No holiday from that! So frustrating to find that numbers change depending on what they are referring to! When I returned to the Ehnle's, Vicki Ramseyer told me that the way to get through Japanese lessons is, "pray, cry, and listen!" Sounds about right! I don't know which is worse--I either feel like crying or get angry at this language thing! Anyway, I helped Lois prepare a festive dinner for 8 of us from the Shioda area. It was very yummy! I missed my family gatherings, Tremont church service, Christmas caroling, American feasts with homemade Christmas cookies and candy, and just the whole Christmas atmosphere that happens when a whole society celebrates a holiday, but I felt very thankful to have a blessed Christmas--different than "home," yes, but a blessing just the same!

I may be kinda quiet on the blog for the next week! There are lots of activities here for the New Year's holiday and we are looking forward to a visit from Tom and Dale! Everyone have a blessed New Year!

About December 2006

This page contains all entries posted to Welcome to ITO NEWS in December 2006. They are listed from oldest to newest.

November 2006 is the previous archive.

January 2007 is the next archive.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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