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May 2007 Archives

May 10, 2007

Finally an Update--from the Big Apple

It seems like forever since we left Japan, but I guess there are some things to report from "home" before we went "home"--kinda confusing! Sorry for the long entry!

My English lessons went fairly well, despite some frustrations with the organization of the language school. My first class was 5 year olds and we worked on colors, shapes, and fruit. It was pretty much up to me to decide what we were going to learn and I was to lead the class. The Japanese teacher just helped with behavior management and with the instructions I gave. The children did very well--especially for a 50 minute class, but I am glad there weren't more than 5 of them! My next class was 5 boys--about 10 years old. I was on my own, but thankfully was able to keep them on task by teaching them "give me 5" when they said the right word. The last class, though, was a total disaster--3 boys and 3 girls. Honestly I felt sorry for them. I am sure they had been at school all day and now they were enduring 80 minutes more of learning. I pretty much lost control of the class and had a difficult time bringing it back into control. Oh well! The next day went pretty good. I drove to another site to teach. I felt so bad for these poor children who just couldn't say "Thursday" for anything! I knew how they felt, though, because I am the same way with some of the Japanese words! The language school would really like me to teach on a regular basis, but I don't think it would work with our erratic schedule. I think I will remain a substitute for now, especially given the changes in Akihiro's job (see later in this lengthy blog).

Another occurence before we left home was elections. Our quiet neighborhood was transformed into a noise polution zone as each politician's workers drove slowly around the neighborhood in cars and blasted out "Arigato gozaimas, Onegaishimas....." (Thank you, please, etc. etc.) and the name of their candidate. Jana was right when she told me that they get louder and more desperate sounding the closer it gets to election time! It was almost as if they were screaming! One day that week, a group of 3 men came to our tiny little street. It was raining, but that didn't discourage them. I peered out the window at them. They stood there under their umbrellas--one man reading his speech, another holding a megaphone device, and I am not sure what the other man was doing. Anyway, they got done with their speech, bowed to the neighborhood (I am guessing I was the only one who was watching--or listening!) and went on their way. Whatever!!!

On the way to the airport, I saw the fields being planted with rice. They drive these little vehicles that look like 4 wheelers through the swampy flooded fields. The vehicles have flats of stuff that looks like sod, but I assume it is rice seedlings. These are then planted in the wet field. I would like to learn more about the planting of the "white monster" as my aunt calls it, but my city-slicker husband doesn't know too much about it, so I will have to interrogate somebody else!

Finally...on to Illinois! It was so good to see all my family and friends! And yes, we did enjoy mom's cooking, and all of the American meals we had. I had time to go through the house and sort through things--garage sale, pitch, ship to Japan, store.... With Doug and Tricia Rocke living in our house, most of our stuff is packed away in boxes, so I just did some organization. I also enjoyed going to hospice for a morning--interesting that I still knew some of the patient names! One of my favorite days, though, was spent being "Aunt Carrie" at both of my brothers' homes with my 12 nieces and nephews! It was also great to be in church and hear the hundreds of voices blending together--instead of just the 10-15 voices in Shioda! And no, I didn't bow at the minister! What a blessing it was to sing and know what I was singing, to pray and read with the minister instead of on my own, and to understand all of the sermon! Yes, many of the brothers in Japan will translate some for me which I greatly appreciate, but here it was just so easy--and it filled my cup to overflowing! We were both encouraged and inspired to feel the love and support of so many of our brethren. As always, it is a culture shock to come home to America--to not be treated like a queen when you go into a store or restaurant, to be able to read everything, to throw everything in the same trashbag without sorting....I could go on and on.

While we were in the U.S., some things happened with Akihiro's boss at the nursing home and Akihiro told him he would quit in June. It is a long story, but the end result is that though there was definitely a purpose for his time at the nursing home we feel that God is leading him in a new direction. His workshop in Springfield was about simulated patients--one of his big dreams for Japanese medical education. He hopes to open a training center in Japan and focus more on education of medical professionals. Please pray for him/us as we explore this option! I am sad, nervous, and excited about the whole thing!

So, now we are in New York City visiting Akihiro's brother and sister-in-law. Our hotel is very near to their apartment in Midtown Manhattan. We are on the 22nd floor of a 42-floor building! I've concluded (again!) that big cities aren't my favorite, and NYC is just another big city (I'll take Tremont anyday)! Today, we braved the subway, which--by the way--is very dirty and old compared to Japan, to go to the Statue of Liberty and to Ellis Island. The statue is impressive and inspiring--reminds me of the song, The Cross is My Statue of Liberty. Ellis Island has a wonderful museum about the 12 million immigrants who came through Ellis Island. We felt like immigrants because there were lots of lines to ride the ferries and we were pretty well packed on the ferry! At least they didn't mark me with a chalk X like they did the immigrants if they saw one looking dazed and confused! It was especially interesting to me because my Grandpa Fritz went through Ellis Island. To be in the same hall where he most likely waited to be approved to enter America was an interesting feeling!

Akihiro's parents joined us today and will stay a week or so here in NYC, but we leave on Saturday. I am ready to go home. I guess I am thankful for that feeling--that Japan is home for me. I know that God has led me there and has work for me to do there. I just pray that I can use the liberty (in Christ) I have been given to His glory!

May 14, 2007

Home Safe to Japan

We are thankful to be home in Japan. It was an especially long flight yesterday--2 hours to Detroit and then almost 13 hours to Tokyo. Ughh! Anyway, thanks to Benadryl, we got a good night sleep and are ready to go--Akihiro off to work and myself, well, I am enjoying the moments before our four 50 pound suitcases arrive from the delivery service (lugging those suitcases on 3 different trains he 2+ hours from the airport is not pleasant--especially when you can hardly keep your eyes open!).

A few days in NYC sure made me thankful to live in Japan! I think I would rather live in Japan than NYC--no offence, New Yorkers! We did enjoy some of the sights there, though. There is a really sobering memorial center for Ground Zero. It has charred pieces of airplane windows, and other remains from the tragedy. We also went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I'm not too much on art, but I am sure if you like art, you would love this place--we got lost just looking for the cafeteria! Tsuyoshi and Yuko's graduation had some very interesting speeches and we are proud of them for graduating from the second best law school in the U.S.! We celebrated by going to a New York style Japanese restaurant. It was very delicious, but interesting to see the blending of two styles! One afternoon, we visited Mt. Sinai Medical School of Medicine's simulated patient laboratory. It was very interesting, but made Akihiro realize the great differences between Japanese medical education and U.S. medical education. Opening a center in Japan looks rather daunting, but we'll see! Akihiro's dad has an option for him and actually he has many other options that came up just before we came to Japan. We'll just have to wait and see where the Lord leads us! Again, we appreciate your prayers.

May 21, 2007

A Garden of Eden--even if I can't pronounce the names of the vegetables

Just as Lois wrote to her parents over 50 years ago, I would report the same thing this time of year..."I have come to the Garden of Eden!" Everything is as green as green can be. Last week I got the pleasure of picking strawberries, asparagus, and broccoli out of the Ehnle's garden as Willis is in Mexico and Lois is staying at the hospital while he is gone. These strawberries are so sweet we don't need to add any sugar to them! Our drive out to Yamanashi is just gorgeous with the green mountains and blue blue sky with snow-covered Mt. Fuji playing hide-and-seek with us. When things seem uncertain in our future, it helps me to see the beauty of God's creation and think that since He can control this beautiful Earth, surely He can manage the details of our lives. It seems He has been quite busy orchestrating each detail--it is amazing to think how busy He is!

Akihiro's last day will be June 1st and most likely (not for sure yet) he will be working for his dad--possibly with the hospital/nursing home in Hokkaido. Commuting to another island for work seems a little overwhelming, and we are continuing to pray that doors will open and close as God leads us.

Today we will go to Sister Utsuki's visitation in Tokyo. It will be my first official funeral in Japan and Jana warned me that it is quite an experience. Just preparing for the funeral has been an experience! I'll have to write more after the funeral!

I think I am finally getting adjusted back to this time zone and culture. I went to the grocery store last week and was going to try a new Japanese recipe calling for a vegetable called "udo". I looked around the produce section three times and didn't see anything that looked like the picture in my cookbook. So, I thought I would try out my Japanese on the cute little apron and kerchief-clad store lady. "Udo arimas ka?" Hmmm, she looks at me quizically. I repeat my question. Then I try to describe the vegetable in my broken Japanese--it is white, long, and a vegetable. She guesses celery. No. I show her my shopping list and she thinks a bit and then says, "Ahhhh, u-DOH!" I had not used the correct emphasis. Anyway, they didn't have any! Such a deal! I found it easily at another store. I cooked it according to the instructions, but it was nothing special! Akihiro says it is a "old person's vegetable" and that young people usually don't eat it. Oh well, just another adventure! I took some pictures of the different vegetables here, but will have to post them later.

May 22, 2007

Funerals in Japan

Seems like I should be able to come up with a catchy title, but I guess it doesn't really fit. Our church sister Utsuki-san--over 100 years old--passed away last week and we attended the funeral. This was my first experience for a complete funeral, and what an experience it was. I learned a lot and pray I can relate the details in a respectful way.

The first issue was clothing. Japanese wear a black dress with black hose and black tights to a funeral. Traditionally they wear this same outfit to weddings, so there are whole sections of department stores devoted to outfitting ladies in the proper way. The men wear a black suit with a black tie. Well, Akihiro thought I needed something better than the outfit I threw together--a black shirt, skirt, and jacket (and he's probably right--he usually is!), so we headed to the local department store. It is better to be prepared, because often a funeral will be within 2-3 days of the death. The gracious lady at the department store looked at my tall body and cocked her head--hmm. Then she pulled out the longest dress she could find and I tried it on. Well, it was the shortest dress I have ever worn, but it did look like it could be lengthened some. Could they do that for me? She went to check, explaining that they usually always have to shorten the length and the sleeves. Well, they could give me 1.5 cm in the dress and 3 cm in the jacket (it is all-season). So after a few trials, I found one suitable. Then Akihiro looked at my big black bag (not very sophisticated) and asked the lady about any manners I need to know about a purse. She explained how for a family member's funeral (if you are going to be official about it), you should have a black silk purse. So, we picked out the least expensive one. She also told me how to hold it--not on my shoulder--and put through my arm in just a certain way. Oh dear! I hoped I could manage all of this! So, we left with the stuff--will be back to lengthen everything next week.

So, Monday evening was the "visitation." I forget what they call it. Anyway, I (purse on my arm) cautiously approached the memorial hall where about 6 visitations were going on. We met the family--two of which are sisters in Tokyo church--Hiroko and Yoshiko. Then we entered the small room to view their mother's body. Almost the entire front of the room was a huge flower arrangement and the casket was almost buried in the beautiful flowers. There was a spot to go around the flowers and view her face which was the only thing of her that was showing. The rest was covered with white cloth. Then the service began. Andrew and Akito read scripture and prayed and we sang a few hymns. Willis finished with a moving prayer (or so I was told--can't understand much of it). Throughout the service, though, we could hear the chanting of the Buddhist priest and the ringing of bells and knocking of wooden sticks. The smell of incense made my nose tingle. I liked it when we would sing, because it would drown it out. Apparently, nobody except the priest can understand what he is saying. It seems unfortunate when we could experience and understand such a meaningful and comforting service--Christian style. After the service, the family and then the others went up to the front of the room where we were each given a pink carnation to place on a tray, said a short prayer, bowed to the family, and returned to our seat. Akihiro told me that this is instead of the Buddhist custom where they take incense up to the front. We sang while this process occurred. It was a very nice service.

Today, then, was the funeral. Again, black dress donned, we journeyed to the memorial home. As we walked to the room where our service was to be held, we walked by another service. The Buddhist priest wears a special robe with a pointy hat when he is doing the service--to tell you the truth, it seemed kinda scary. I was glad to go in to see our kind brothers and the flowers instead of an idol box. We sang and read the Bible and then we did the routine again with the carnations. Then they wheeled the casket out of the flowers and everyone could put lots of flowers inside the casket. A little great-grandaughter put a favorite CD and a letter inside. Then the men carried the casket to the vehicle--like a black station wagon--similar to the States. The Buddhist style funerals have a thing that looks like a temple on the back of a station wagon--it is something! Then this vehicle drives it a short ways to the crematorium part of the building. This is the part I had been warned about--and wisely so. There were many different groups there--more Buddhist priest chanting, etc. We sang a song and had a short prayer. There were several doors in the walls where the cremation was to take place. The uniformed men took off their hats and bowed to the casket and to the family and then opened the door and placed the casket inside, closed the door, and pushed a button to start it. We all stood very soberly watching. Then we went upstairs for some lunch. About an hour later, we returned to the crematorium and watched as the men removed the tray with only ashes and a few pieces of bones. Then we were all given long chopsticks and went in pairs to jointly pick up a piece of bone and put it in an urn. The men had saved out the largest pieces--the skull and jaw, and explained these parts to us, handling them with their bare hands! Then the urn was carefully wrapped and given to the family. We said goodbye to the family and headed home.

The whole thing was a very sobering event--to remember that our bodies return to ashes, but that if we are believers, our souls can live forever in heaven. Akihiro mentioned, too, that it is a blessing how we can openly demonstrate our faith--even alongside a different faith--and not be persecuted. I'm tired tonight, so maybe I will add more later--plus a few pictures.

May 24, 2007

Finally, some pictures

First, a few of my favorite shots from our visit to the U.S...

John and Misty's children enjoying their presents from Grandma Ito--cherry blossoms from the 100 yen store, a powdered citrus drink, rice mat place mats, etc.

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And Jim and Rachel's children (minus Lane) with their fainting goats.

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Most children in train at Wildlife Prairie State Park. Akihiro was taking them around the world!

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Little Indigo, what a doll!

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Supper with my friends at mom's....lots of laughter and memories

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On to New York..

Ellis Island and the great hall where all the immigrants were processed.

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Tsuyoshi and Yuko's graduation from NYU Law

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And our celebration dinner at a Japanese restaurant...

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Back home to Japan...

Some of the vegetables I can buy here: mushrooms of many sizes and shapes--all delicious, long green onions, long thin cucumbers that are just delicious--year round (I think), udo (yes, that is u-DO!) and a spring treat--broadbeans (a huge bean with three beans inside that must have the hull removed.

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Some of the fujinkai ladies...sorry I didn't get a picture of everyone! One of the ladies had brought the ingredients to make gyoza. Gyoza are like a dumpling filled with meat and veggies and all kinds of good seasonings. They taught me how to wrap them and then they fried them. You can see them on the round plate--a beautiful golden brown circle that was absolutely fabulous!

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One Sunday we had a great view of Mt. Fuji on our way to church...

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Funeral pictures...

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The Buddhist style funeral vehicles--amazing!

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The casket and flowers
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About May 2007

This page contains all entries posted to Welcome to ITO NEWS in May 2007. They are listed from oldest to newest.

April 2007 is the previous archive.

June 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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