09 December, 2016

Emotional day

I'm struggling with emotions and generally a bit scatty today (difficulty concentrating on the one thing, disorganised, absent-minded). Here's why:
  • The first wrestling tournaments of the season tomorrow in addition to having the family split in two to cover two of our boys wrestling in two different locations. David's the coach for the middle school team and going to another school with them and I'm coordinating the hospitality room for the coaches and officials at CAJ tomorrow (25 people).
  • More seriously, a CAJ colleague and friend is having her second brain surgery today in ten days, to remove a malignant, deeply impeded tumour. This is not looking curable.
  • I went to the weekly parents' prayer meeting this morning at school and the whole room was raiding the tissue box as we prayed over Lois and her husband. I could barely pray out loud. My emotions crept up on me. I guess there's a lot of grief, big and small, been going on for me this year and it comes back multiplied with a trigger like this. I feel drained.
  • Then I've just had a 40 minute conversation via Skype with a missionary mum who's having difficulty with their young primary-aged child. It all sounded horribly familiar to some of the difficulties we have had over the years, but especially when our eldest was in the Japanese system in Grades 1 and 2. I retold some of our story. It was emotional!
In the light of all that, I want to end on something a little lighter. After picking up some formerly broken wrestling head gear from the shoe repairer this morning, I found these stickers at a nearby shop: "Flake Stickers"! I didn't take a very close look, but now I'm wondering what they are. Because "stickers" are usually called "seals" in Japan and "flake" just doesn't make sense unless they are snow flakes!

08 December, 2016

Slipper conundrum

It's pretty well known that Japanese don't wear their outdoor shoes inside their houses. It's one of the big cultural things to get used to when you first come here. I've always liked the idea, but sometimes it is a challenge if you don't have shoes that are easily removed. 

I remember hosting a visiting OMF doctor for a brief visit (just an hour or so) one time. She'd never lived in Japan and was on her way to the airport at the end of a trip to Japan to do medicals for missionaries. She blustered into our apartment and said, "You don't mind if I don't take my shoes off, do you? I'm tired of doing that."

It is something we even do in our own house in Australia when we're there.

But I've got one exception to the rule. When I answer the door I usually go out in whatever I'm wearing: slippers or bare feet. You can't answer our door without stepping into the "outdoor" zone that you can see in the photo. The dark-coloured place where outdoor shoes go. The accepted practise is that you don't step on the "outdoor" floor area without outdoor shoes on. Which means, sometimes, tricky manoeuvring if the area is full of shoes. I took this photo when all four of my guys were at school. Once they're home it is harder to get a "parking spot" close to the "indoor" part.

Usually there is no problem and people don't pay much attention to what I've done when I answer the door. But in the last 10 days I've had Japanese people freeze in this area, not knowing what to do with their shoes. That's really unusual. Taking shoes off in an area like this is as natural as breathing to Japanese.

The reason they've faltered, I'm guessing, is not so much because we're foreigners, but because my big, furry indoor slippers (Ugg boot lookalikes) look like outdoor shoes to them. And because I've worn them into the "taboo" area for slippers as I answered the door then worn them back into the house.

So, what should I do? Take the extra moments I need to change my shoes to answer the door? That seems especially inconvenient when it is usually a salesman or postman at my door.

07 December, 2016

Photos of our city #5

As I wrote in my first post of this series:
Wikipedia says: "Higashikurume is a city located in the western portion of Tokyo Metropolis, in the central Kantō region of Japan. As of 1 February 2016, the city had an estimated population of 116,896 and a population density of 9,070 persons per km."
That would mean most people live in apartments and high rise, right? After all that population density is higher than the densities for places like Singapore (7,987 people per square kilometre) and Hong Kong (6,442) that definitely have lots of high density accommodation.

Well actually, no. That's one thing that surprised us and continues to surprise people we talk to in Australia when we're there. We live in a house and so do many other Tokyo-ites.

Here are some photos of accommodation in our city:

A new house built just this year down the road from us with an
old house next to it.
This is across the road from the previous photo. Agricultural land that has rarely been cultivated in the last five years that we've lived here, with houses closely behind it.
Rotating to the left from the previous photo and you can see the high rise buildings
surrounding our train station.
These are older than the previous buildings and not so close to the train station.
This is also just down the road from our house. Lower standard accommodation than those close to the station. They come with car parks, which is a bonus!
The best view of the sun setting that I could get the other day from our upstairs balcony.

So yes, we do live in a high density city, however it doesn't feel that bad, especially with the two rivers running through it and agricultural land sprinkled through too. It doesn't feel "inner city" as you might imagine a CBD to feel. It's very quiet at nights, definitely a bit out of the big city life. Inner-city Tokyo (the 23 wards) has 9,375,104 people living in it with a population density of 15,146 people per square kilometre. Those places "feel" inner city! Especially for David and I who grew up in Australian country towns.

06 December, 2016

Food for all-day wrestling meets

Wrestling starts on Saturday, and I'm starting to think about food for our family again. This time we will be split across two venues. I need to get back into the groove and was relieved to find this post from last year that showed some of the things I was taking last season.
This obviously won't work, but I thought it was a cute food
photo! We own a number of these "food eyes", bought
here in Japan.

Now I just need to do a bit of work to ensure that I can provide stuff like this. The boys particularly complain if I don't put enough savoury stuff in. At meets it's easy to just snack on unhealthy stuff all day long (there often is no defined lunch break). People eat when they're hungry and wrestlers eat when they can (usually very soon after a bout). The wrestlers particularly need protein-heavy food.

This week is a bit of an easy start for three of us because the high school meet is just down the road at school, we don't have 2–5 hours of driving to factor in, and we know that reliable lunch can be bought at the venue. Hey, I even know where I can buy coffee when I need it!

Now I'd better get my mind back onto today's jobs and the 15+ item To Do list that's waiting.

05 December, 2016

Thinking about stuff...

What am I thinking about?

Turns out, that, as usual, there's lots going on in my head.

I read this article yesterday about iNtuitives on the Myers-Briggs inventory. A lot of it describes me. In this case, the "overanalysing everything" fits. I had space this weekend to think and it was great! 
I'm thinking that a ride might be good thing to factor into my
schedule this week!

Editing and networking
I went to a meeting last Friday at our Japan headquarters about revamping the OMF Japan website with the aim of using it better for mobilisation of people into mission involvement.  One of the jobs is to get a bunch more current stories up there and keep them coming. My expertise is in the writing/editing side of things, so that's what I'm working on. I mentioned last week that I've recently started editing blog posts for one of our Japan regions, and that's going to be expanded to cover all our three regions. So I'll need help as my plate is already pretty full.

So I've been searching out new editors as well as thinking about guidelines for writers. As of today, we've got three potential editors on the sidelines, two of whom need a bit of mentoring. But I'm excited, I love getting people's stories out there. I love involving other people in my work, building a team. I also love seeing people develop their abilities and moving into areas where they're skilled. I also love new projects (another aspect of my iNtuitive personality). 

Illness among missionaries
Our mission's field director in Japan has been battling two rare blood cancers this year. A couple of months ago they received the unexpected news that the cancer hadn't responded well to the chemo he'd already received. He's now undergoing even stronger chemotherapy and has a stem cell transplant is coming up too. As I work closely with his wife (our personnel director) this is never far from our mind.

Then a couple of weeks ago we heard that the elementary art teacher from school had been diagnosed with a large brain tumour. She had emergency surgery to save her life last week and they found an extra tumour that wasn't there a few days earlier during her scan. There's another they weren't able to get and are planning to operate again this week. The cancer is aggressive and malignant. Her husband is the school's long-term and much beloved business manager. They grew up themselves in Japan and are both CAJ alumni, so have a real heart for missionary kids. They're also members of our church here. You can understand that it's been a big shock for us and many around the world who know this family.

Then yesterday I was reminded by FB that I posted about stress and missionaries two years ago on this day. I referenced a study that "revealed that 200 points of stressful life events caused 50 percent of people to become seriously ill (cancer, heart attack) within the subsequent two years." Noting that the missionaries they studied had an average of 600 points of stress! Though it distresses us when missionaries get ill, it really shouldn't surprise us. Especially when we take into consideration spiritual warfare as well.

I was really tired last week (probably pushed over the edge by our snow-camp). It was hard to get out of bed every day (barring Wednesday when I woke early with news related to the above illnesses running relentlessly through my head). I also craved coffee every day, which is a sure sign that I'm over-tired, and a warning sign that I need to rest. 

Thankfully yesterday afternoon I was able to take a nap, I put my eye mask on at 2.45 and was awoken by the community "go home" bells at 4.20. My husband also reminded me of the borderline anaemia that showed up on a blood test in April, so I'm trialling a low dose of iron supplements. I'm hopeful this will help and very much looking forward to our week away in 12 days!

To finish on a less serious topic, wrestling season is upon us. Yay! This Saturday are the first tournaments and the high school one is in our "backyard". CAJ is hosting and I'm in charge of providing breakfast and lunch for 25 coaches and refs. Um...yeah, I'll let you know how that turns out.

It will also be our family's first time to split up during the wrestling season. Our youngest is an official member of the middle school team and they're competing at a different school at the same time. David's driving the middle school team and I'm staying here with the high schoolers. Thankfully it isn't too hard to video a wrestling match, and we'll be able to share!

So there, are you a bit scared at everything going on in my head? I didn't even mentioned Christmas shopping or the ongoing magazine editing or regularly feed-and-clothe-and-provide-a -home-for-the-boys, nor the all-day prayer meeting David and I went to today on the other side of Tokyo! If you pray, please do keep us in your prayers. Sometimes when I take a step back and look at our lives it scares me!

03 December, 2016

A sizeable Christmas tree

The Christmas tree we bought at Thrift Shop in October has turned out larger than we expected. It came in three boxes (see the photo here). We've had to shift furniture around to fit it into the small Japanese room we call our lounge room. It's diameter is about half-a-room and it nearly hits the ceiling. 

It doesn't look so intimidating in this photo, possibly because you might expect that the room goes a lot further back than the camera, but I was perched on the lounge and plastered against the back wall when I took the photo. Our 11 year old can easily crawl into the corner under the tree and barely be seen.

We're adjusting to it (we put it up last Sunday, the first Sunday of Advent) and watching the TV in that position isn't too bad. The only trouble we're having is figuring out what to put under the tree . . . teenage boys aren't so easy to buy for, especially when it's not our habit to spend much on presents.

But then I read this post from a "kid" who doesn't have parents anymore and remember how little presents mean in the long run. We're hoping for some great memories to be made this Christmas.

02 December, 2016

The people you meet

Sometimes I get stuck behind my computer doing lots of writing/editing work, but this week, between computer and family management, I've had an interesting time meeting people.

On Monday I had a video call with my forever-friend Mel. We do this regularly. It's mutual debriefing. When our family were in Australia last Mel and I regularly did this over coffee, and found it so beneficial that we've continued. Not quite the same at a distance but still something we both look forward to.

CAJ campus is gorgeous with autumn leaves just now!
Late on Monday afternoon (is 5.30 still afternoon if the sun's been down an hour already?) I attended a short information session about basic wrestling rules at school. I didn't really need to go, but went primarily to support a new wrestling-mum who I invited. Still, it was fun to be there with her and I learnt more than one new thing!

On Tuesday I met a lady who I also know a lot about. Over the last nine years I've critiqued much of her writing and she's critiqued mine--we're in a small writing group. She's in town because her son and daughter-in-law work here, in fact her daughter-in-law taught my youngest son last year. We met up and FaceTimed the third person in our group. 11am here, 9pm there, in Virginia, US. We chatted for over two hours! Our writing is non-fiction and often very personal, so we know a lot about one another and it wasn't hard to talk for ages. These are the ladies (along with a couple of others who are no longer part of the group) who taught me how to write well and how to edit. I owe a lot to them!

On Wednesday I met my language exchange partners. With so much going on I found it a challenge to talk and listen in Japanese, especially when their English is much better than my Japanese, but they're so encouraging helping me to persevere even in little steps to improve my Japanese.

That night we had former OMF Japan colleagues visit for dinner. A Japanese-Singaporean family. They also have three boys, our middle sons were classmates at CAJ for a time and good friends. Alas they are now based in Singapore. But the mum's hometown is our city so when they visit family on their holidays they land in our "backyard". Most short term visitors to Tokyo don't come this far west so we relished this opportunity. Six boys, though: they ate a lot!
My Friday meeting. 

On Thursday I got to stay mostly at home behind my computer ticking stuff off my To Do list. Editing, desktop publishing, magazine managing etc. I did have a short meeting at school about one boy's behaviour, but we won't talk about that!

Thursday night I took the night off cooking because CAJ was hosting two basketball games and the accompanying "concessions stand" with Japanese curry rice or chili dogs or hot dogs for sale. It was a great place to cross paths with friends I rarely see.

Today I've been at another OMF Japan website revamp focus group on the other side of town: left home at 8.15, got back at 3.45. But another good time connecting with likeminded people.

Almost every morning this week I've had trouble waking up. I'm feeling residual tiredness that was exacerbated by our extreme camping experience last week. I'm looking forward to a sleep-in tomorrow and quiet weekend. But there is a lot of baking needed. Thankfully that's something I enjoy.

Hopefully I'll enter into next week with more energy! Especially because next weekend is a big one: the first wrestling tournament of the season and our school is hosting it, which means more work for us (we provide breakfast and lunch for the coaches and officials).