31 May, 2009

Chaos over the last three days

I haven't been here because it's been ridiculously busy. Ironic, though, that when you are the busiest and have the most to blog about - you don't have time! Here are some snapshots from the past few days. Just as the excitement leading up to our eldest son's birthday reached fever pitch, the clouds rolled in and rain set in for days and days. It has rained almost continually since Thursday! You will easily underestimate the phrase, "excitement reached fever pitch". Our soon-to-be-ten-year-old couldn't concentrate on even a book (we usually have trouble getting him to put books down). It filtered down to his siblings and they were over strung. The smallest thing set off fights, angst and melt downs. Our middle son is very spirited and feels things strongly. He had a meltdown at 3pm on Thursday over something very minor. It took him more than an hour to recover and in the meantime he kicked a dent in one wall. A similar event happened the next morning and another hole. When I say "fever pitch" I am not kidding. To be honest, when the party finally began at 3pm on Friday, it was almost a let down, in emotional terms. We are still recovering some sense of normal emotions, even now. Because Saturday was also hectic. The boys and I had a 3 hour farewell party with kindergarten friends (think 10 Japanese women, 15 or so kids and 30 balloons in a small room)! Closely followed by an indoor picnic (still raining) with the CAJ year 8 families. Today has mercifully been quiet. Church/Sunday School this morning and rest this afternoon. We might have gone out to run them ragged at lunch time (not raining) but we opted for rest time instead and by the time we roused ourselves, it was raining again :-) Tempers are still not great though. Our 10 y.o. is arguing and arguing with us. It is miserable, but a sign of the times. We are going through change, he is out of routine and doesn't know how to handle that emotionally. Tomorrow my husband has to go back to work and I have to do a visa run. Meaning I have to drive an hour, with my 3 volatile boys, to our area's immigration office to put in a visa extension application form. I'll let you know how that goes! Suffice to say that I've spent some time this evening downloading free children stories from here to put on our iPod, in the hopes that I won't have to scream at my kids for two hours. There you go: if you had a wonderful vision of missionary children, it has gone down the toilet! Thanks for reading. Maybe later I'll tell you about the broken telescope, the dirty...but now clean slime, and the flowers in the soup tin!

28 May, 2009

Numbers and FInishing

I have all sorts of numbers flying around in my head: 4 weeks = 28 days until we fly 1 day until my son's birthday and I celebrate 10 years of being a mum! 2 weeks and 4 days until we move out of this house 7 weeks until our children start school again 2 weeks until my husband finishes work 3 1/2 months until I've been married 12 years (not, actually this one hasn't been foremost, but I thought I'd throw it in for dramatic effect) I also realised last night that we are moving rapidly into the 'disengaged' phase of transition. Not just emotionally, but actually. We've been finishing stuff for the last few months: Kindy Teaching Sunday School Writing various newsletters and prayer letters for various people (except our own) Playing for Sunday School School (9 y.o.) Writing critique group (ALOA :) ) Then last night I finished at the gym and gave back my membership card. They were very touching, giving me a special farewell card. It was a nice touch that I'd lost 0.5 kg in the last 6 weeks too, must be all that stress. It occurs to me that soon we'll be sitting around looking at each other, but with nothing to distract us from the ugly truth that we are moving and leaving and have no responsibilities but ourselves. We'll even be giving away all our keys, our car, pack up almost all that is familiar to us and actually leave. Sounds obvious, doesn't it. But it still is a little shocking. However, now I am still homeschooling, so I'd better get to it and stop pondering my navel (which, by the way, is a few mm closer to my backbone than it was at the beginning of April, according to Curves!).

27 May, 2009


We bought a cheap toy yesterday and found this wonderful English on the back: CAUTION!
  • Beware of missing parts. (Yep, always a concern around here, but why is it a caution?)
  • Do not drop, use smoothly.
  • Do not use in case it has any defect or breakage. (Does this mean I shouldn't use it in case it breaks?)
  • Child fewer than 4 years old directly disable. (Huh?)
  • Do not use on the road, stairs, any dangerous places. It causes of hurt. (The toy or the child gets hurt?)
  • Keep on eyes on the children not to swallow. Make safe from the suffocation.(This one is a challenge, how am I supposed to make something with small parts safe from suffocating my child? Actually the parts were so small that it is unlikely to cause suffocation, choking might be a bigger concern.)
Finally the last one makes perfect sense:
  • Keep out of reach of children. (It's a toy for Pete's sake.)
Guess what it is? A Police Toy Set! Small plastic police car with removable policeman and very large gun! I have to say I have not the least concern about my 4 y.o. playing with it. Thanks for the CAUTIONS anyway.

Lean larder

We don't have a pantry in the Western large-kitchen sense. We have small cupboards and corners in various places where we store food. Here are two. They are usually fairly full of food: The third is our small chest freezer, which is also almost empty, as you can see. Actually I took this photo a couple of days ago and the cheese has already disappeared into the fridge for immediate use. From today, though, I have three boys at home all the time for another two weeks before my husband finishes work. So, now I have to take them all out for some PE in the park :-)

26 May, 2009

Fluctuating emotions

I usually am fairly steady emotionally, but recently, there's been a lot more fluctuation. The main cause is, of course, the upheaval that lies before us. Yesterday I felt like I just wanted to hop on that aeroplane and take off. I'd had enough. I felt disengaged with Japan and just wanted to head 'home'. Good thing or not, life carried on and carried me with it and this morning I'm busy preparing for the last day of school. I think, like many people, I am better when I am busy. Sitting around thinking or waiting is an exhausting and potentially depressing activity. I remember this feeling at exam time, particularly in the hours just before an exam you'd just want the exam to be over. I am not particularly sitting around twiddling my thumbs, although yesterday I wasn't frantically busy, but there is a sense of pacing ourselves which makes me feel impatient to get this whole ordeal over with. Meanwhile the boys are very excited. Not only do they have end-of-school activities today, but we have a birthday and party to look forward to at the end of the week. Our six year old is getting messed up with, "It's the day after, the day after tomorrow." You'd think it was his own birthday! Anyhow, enough reflecting, back to the laundry and washing-up and clown costumes...

25 May, 2009

Discovering Australia from a US perspective

The library at CAJ is stacked full of US books. Probably understandable, but the other day I finally picked up one of the handful of books about Australia ("Australia" by Sharon Gordon) and learnt some interesting things... First of all, "Australia is a country like no other. Its unusual weather, people, and animals make Australia unique." I knew most of this already except that Australian people are unusual. Wad'ya reckon? It was nice to be reminded of the meaning of words like postie, arvo, billy, mate, brekkie, cuppa and lollies. "Chook" is a good one too! I have to disagree with the statement about Australians living in the outback: "A trip to the nearest town for shopping might only happen once a week." That would be for the ones living close to town, don't you think? "Many people eat a lot of lamb" Is this still true? Maybe compared to the US it is true. Apparently we do things like watch TV and do homework in the 'lounge'. I'm glad to be boning up on all these things prior to re-entry in 30 days! I was surprised to find that corner stores are now called "milk bars", although maybe that is just a southern thing? I was disappointed that the intrepid "Lollypop lady" was not mentioned, however. Do they still call them "Ladies"? Probably not! Lying in the sun is called 'sunbaking'. Apparently Americans call it 'sunbathing'. Didn't know that! The book gives an interesting description of cricket, implying that the main aim of the game is for the batsman to stop the ball from hitting the wicket. At least Ms Gordan made an effort to understand, I guess. Aussie Rules or "footy" gets a mention too. Of course Santa makes an appearance - on a sailboat. Northern Hemisphere folk are fascinated by our summer Christmases. Good thing I read the book. I'm sure there are still things I've missed, however...

24 May, 2009

Planning a party

Well, my husband's boss has been lenient and he gets off half-an-hour early on Friday so that he can transport children here and help with the party. So now I need to plan...we've decided on a Lego party with a simple cake. Nothing like this. Some games ideas that I found while surfing this afternoon:
  1. 2 minutes to build the tallest tower that doesn't fall over (using a set number of blocks)
  2. Lego drop - dropping Lego into a bottle or bowl from a height (top of our stairs???)
  3. Naughts and Crosses tournament, using Lego
  4. How many Lego in a Jar - guessing game
  5. Put the hat on the Lego man (or man into the Lego scene)
Anyone got any other ideas, preferably that are free and can be conducted in a small house (it is potentially raining on Friday). Because our son now only has 1 1/2 days left at school, I'm going to get him to do some organising for his own party - keep him busy and keep Mr Boredom away. Now we just have to hope that he remembers to give out all three invitations tomorrow.

23 May, 2009

Coming to grips

We are gradually figuring out what our new schedule looks like now that our eldest is finishing school on Tuesday. Here are some of the changes:
  • Events that were going to be spread out over two weeks are now squished into one. This means David has to work two nights this week at school and I have several things to be at or do on Tuesday.
  • Our eldest was upset at missing going to school on his birthday (can you believe?). We believe the main problem was that the students get an ice cream voucher on their birthday...anyway he'll now get it on Monday.
  • To compensate for the disappointment, we also offered to have a small party at home, which he jumped at. Now I have to organise it! The biggest challenge is, believe it or not, the fact that I have a small car. Here in Tokyo you don't just say, "Drop your kids off to this address." Addresses are not precise for the average observer - maps are required. Usually people use trains instead, so the usual thing would be to say, "Meet at X train station, at Y o'clock." Unfortunately we live more than 25 minutes (4 y.o. child-paced) walk from the station. We do have a 5 seater car, which is what we usually use when someone is coming to visit. But if I'm home on my own with our three boys, I already have four seats taken with my family (not particularly trusting my boys to stay home on their own...); it is not really possible to pick up three more boys. Walking is not appealing either. Walking on roads that don't have footpaths with six boys on my own. Would you do it? We have several ideas, the first of which is for my husband to get time off school and come and help! I like this idea!! Praying his boss with have mercy on us.
  • Instead of having two boys at home for homeschooling in the next two weeks, I have three. We'll see how that goes. Our eldest cannot be relied on to be enthusiastic about my ideas, so we'll see how they all cope with having him around during work time. Could be good, could be bad.
  • We still don't know if the teachers will get any time off. At this point only the students have been released, not the teachers. It'd be great if they did - more packing time! More time to get the same amount done.
  • I get to do a Visa run with three children in tow on the 1st of June. Looking forward to that one! Again it could be great, it could be a disaster. Planning to take lots of food and activities for the travel (an hour in the car) and waiting time.
That's about all we know right now. It's been unsettling, to be honest. Probably would have been less so if we hadn't been planning our exit from Japan during June for months and quite precisely.

21 May, 2009

Swine flu touches our lives

H1N1 (as Swine flu is being called here) is making its presence felt here in Western Tokyo. With two cases diagnosed yesterday, there is serious concern that an outbreak will cause schools in our area to be forced shut by the government in the next week or two. Not because the flu is severe, but because it seems to be easily caught and therefore easily can turn into an epidemic. It has touched home for us, because the school, where my husband teaches and our eldest son attends, is shutting early. They've decided to take things into their own hands as they are at the important end of the school year. With only two weeks left at school (for the students), many important events are planned, including having good closure and final celebrations. So they're doing a 'controlled' finish. Selecting the most important and leaving the lesser. Hopefully allowing everyone to finish well and not dangling. Suddenly the students have only three days left at school. A bit of a shock. I'll have all three children home for more days...We're unsure yet, but surely this will lessen the load for my husband in these last days before we go back to Australia. Potentially a good thing as we're about to be very busy and go through a stressful transition. Our son was initially sad because he'll miss having his birthday at school next Friday. Perhaps we'll be able to lessen that loss by inviting some friends over. He did eventually come to the conclusion that having a holiday for his birthday might not be a bad thing after all. It hasn't escaped our attention that a very good way for the flu to spread will be via crowded trains. I say, shut down the trains, not the schools!!

Elephant meeting

For those who were wondering, the meeting regarding the elephant went well. It is amazing to be a part of a school community for whom prayer is a natural part of life. To begin and end such a meeting with prayer is very special. Our bigger concern is the fact that this elephant is still in the room and will remain so for quite a while. It's coming with us to Australia. How will the new school react? We'd like to learn better elephant-management techniques, but wonder about long waiting lists. Learning how to manage elephants is a popular thing right now in Australia. Pray for us that the right resources will be available at the right times. Pray that the school and in particular classroom teacher will be good elephant managers. Confused? God Knows and Cares. We're depending on that.

Beautiful, white legs

Last night at the gym, the ladies spent some time admiring my "beautiful white legs" (exposed in their shorts after a hot day). Now that is something that would NEVER happen in Australia. It is not that I have particularly wonderful legs (short and stocky, more like it), but that they were admiring my skin colour. It seems that even though they've seen my white face and arms many times, it surprised them that my legs were the same colour-less shade. I'm mentioned before that Japanese (indeed all Asians, I think) admire white skin and many women wear long sleeves and carry sun umbrellas to keep their skin pale. Probably they have more 'skin whitening' products than sunscreen products on the pharmacy shelf and certainly, no tanning products! They were particularly curious because they'd figured out that Australia has high UV levels and wondered how I could be so white...again I didn't have the technical language to say that it is just my skin. I did tell them though, that if I spend much time in the sun, I don't turn brown, I turn red! From skin colour they quickly progressed to checking out the hair on my arms - "Yes, I do have some." The trainer only just restrained herself from checking out my bare legs for hair too (thankfully I'd shaved the night before). All this is fairly forward from reserved Japanese. But it might be something to add to my "I'll miss about Japan" - people admiring my white skin!

20 May, 2009

An Elephant

There is an elephant in the room. We are meeting school staff today to talk about the elephant, get it out in the open. The staff have made a plan about how to manage the elephant and want to tell us about their plan. I am frustrated. I want to talk about the elephant to people (like on this blog), but for privacy sake (not my own), it is better not to own up to having an elephant in the room to the wider public. If you ask me about it in private, I'll tell you, though. Make any sense? Probably not, though you're going to be left to your own deductive devices now as I cannot write any more. Perhaps if I were more poetical I could wax lyrical without you having a clue about what I was saying, but I am not. I am too honest, too direct. Dangerous.

19 May, 2009

More things I'm looking forward to

I've been pondering and decided there were even more things I am looking forward to:
  • Australian medical system - I understand it and they understand me!
  • "Getting" more of what is going on.
  • Not hearing people say "Zeebra"
  • Aussie TV
  • 2 liter bottles of milk
  • Being near some friends who've been hurting and being able to be more of a friend to them.
  • Australian parks
  • Australian-flavoured libraries
  • Second hand clothing stores
Things I'll probably miss:
  • my breadmaker and rice cooker
  • my freezer
  • hand held shower
  • udon (one style of Japanese noodles)
  • friends I have here
  • a house of stuff that we chose and own
  • shoes-outside-only rule
  • everything/one being a little shorter
  • bikes (presuming we don't suddenly find 5 bikes in Australia)
  • weekends free of work
  • gas for cooking
  • rice sandwiches (Japanese call them onigiri)
and probably other things too, but I can't think of them right now.

Duplicate present dilemma

What do you do? You're given a present from someone close, but you already have a couple other items that are practically the same. Then they ask you about the present, hoping it will be useful to you...what do you say? Simone blogged about lies sometime recently with some interesting responses. Any ideas about what a person should say in such a situation?

18 May, 2009

Looking forward to home

Our second term in Japan has been categorised by a growing sense of contentment - that "we're finally where we are supposed to be". This has been matched by a gradual decrease in "I wish I were still in Australia" which is otherwise known as homesickness. After nearly eight years away, you'd expect that, I guess. At least it sounds healthy! Imagine living and working for years in a foreign culture by your own choice without at least feeling it was somewhat tolerable. It doesn't sound good, does it? On the contrary, we're anticipating our arrival in Australia with joy. A couple of months ago when we bought out plane tickets, we were excited, though restrainedly so. As our departure draws near, I note within myself again the stirring of excitement! What is so good about Australia, you might ask? Here's a list of the things we most miss or look forward to:
  • 'Australian' food eg. beetroot, sausages, sausage rolls, pies, Mars Bars, mangoes, sultana grapes, custard etc
  • Freedom of expression. I long to be able to talk to anyone and to be able to freely express my thoughts. I feel quite limited here, like not being able to easily walk into a bank and express my needs. That feeling is unsettling and even demeaning - I'm reduced to the capacity of a preschooler!
  • Being able to read anything (which goes with the above, really). With this goes libraries, bookshops, newsagencies etc.
  • English church services
  • Shopping centres. They really aren't the same here. No good ones near us, at any rate.
  • Friends and family who've known me longer than the time I've been in Japan.
  • Summer Christmas.
  • Cricket (of course!).
  • Long open roads.
  • Working together with my husband again. Him not having a 8-5 job will be lovely. We complement each other in the work we'll do in Australia and we're looking forward to being together more of the time.
  • This time we're looking forward to all our children being in school!!!
  • Being Australian. Here our identities get a little muddled, along with our vocab and accent. We're looking forward to being amongst our own kind again.
  • Space - here everything is tight. The roads, the shops, the houses...

17 May, 2009

I packed and other interesting news from the weekend.

Yes - the good news is that I packed a box yesterday and contributed to numerous others! Colleagues of my husband looked after the boys for six hours and allowed us to pack...and have lunch together in peace at home for the first time in we can't remember how long. Usually if we have a babysitter for a date, we go out! Still it was unusually peaceful and helps you to realise how much energy is emitted by young children and especially boys. We have a reason why we are constantly tired. Now, however, there are almost none of our beloved books on the shelves. No photos left. My (electronic) piano is gone. Two shelves have gone. The hook which in winter I use to hang my gown on was gone until I protested that I still hang my light jacket on it in this mid-season. I was wearing it yesterday and because it "stood empty" it got packed. Remind me not to stand still and look empty, won't you? I threw out more toys and my wardrobe is thinning. We have only 100kg of luggage space. After that we will post whatever else we deem indispensable. We're keeping to a minimum what we take to Australia. How few clothes can I live with for the time being? I'm planning to go shopping in the land where I can buy clothes that fit me which say M not LL! (No, I don't lose weight on the aeroplane, the sizing is smaller here.) So, I've purged my wardrobe fairly well. I'd forgotten how invasive packing up a house is. You have to pry into corners that you'd rather not. Make decisions you'd rather not. It challenges your committment to Stuff. Brings back some balance to the question 'What is really important?' Packing to leave your stuff for a year brings extra challenges. What will you still want in a year? What if you end up not coming back - what would you like sent to you in Australia if this unlikely scenario occurs? We also had a video conference over Skype on Friday night with a group called our HMT or Homeside Ministries Team. They are organising practical details for us like a house, furniture, car and medical appointments. They also give us advice and pray for us. What a wonderful team! By the way, if any of you live in Brisbane and have a Fridge-freezer, washing machine or printer which you could lend us for a year, please let us know. But for now I will go back to my rapidly-becoming-naked house.

15 May, 2009

Queasy tummy?

I don't like poetry. Almost never read it, never write it, but this week a blogging friend started a round-about rhyme which people could contribute. I did and my name is now at the bottom of this poem, even though I only contributed a very small amount. A warning, don't go and look if you have a queasy tum. It is called "In my digestive tract".

14 May, 2009


I found this on Facebook and thought I'd have a go (with a few of my own modifications): You've been tagged, you are supposed to write a note with the ABCs of YOU. At the end, choose 26 people to be tagged. You have to tag me so really you just need 25 more people. Actually I don't know 26 people who read this blog, so if you read it, consider yourself tagged! If you don't have a blog, either do your ABCs in comments or send me an email with them and I'll post them for you. A - Age: 3os B - Bed size: Double futon C - Chore you hate: Cleaning the shower D - Dangerous thing you've done: Rolled a car while avoiding a small kangaroo. E - Embarrassing moment: Shouting out "Stop" when my whole primary school (300+) was watching a film. I'd gotten caught up in the moment and was trying to stop the main character from doing something stupid, but ended up being stupid myself F - Favorite color: Green G - Gold or Silver: Gold H - Height: 156cm I - Instruments you play: Piano, flute, recorder J - Job title: Household manager, mum, writer, missionary, etc. K - Children: Three boys L - Living arrangements: In a house with my family M - Mum's name: Jenny N - Nicknames: ???one couple call me Wendles O - Overnight hospital stay other than birth: I've had three babies and once had an investigative operation. P - Pet Peeve: When men reply to an email from me, sent from our joint email account and reply to my husband. Q - Quote from a movie: I can't think of any. Nor could I think of an alternate category except maybe - "a time when you've Quit abruptly", but I couldn't think of anything to write under that either. R - Right or left handed: Left S - Siblings: Two sisters T - Time you wake up: 5.30am during the week. As late as possible on Saturdays. U - Umbrella: green and blue tartan pattern V - Vegetable you dislike: spinich W - What makes you run late: children X-rays you've had: all sorts, including lungs, bladder and baby scans Y - Yummy food you make: everything I make is yummy! Z - Zoo favourite: monkeys

13 May, 2009

Homeschooling happiness, packing problems and bee bother.

I have no complaints about a homeschooling boy who says, "I could start work early." And who then, when basically finished for the morning, says, "I want to write a story." Then later, he picked up a book (hitherto almost unknown) and started reading it, with the occasional, "Mummy, what does c-o-u-n-t spell." Ah, if only I'd known these pleasures of homeschooling earlier. This same child is refusing to go outside today. He is worried the bees are targeting him (bees=anything smaller than a butterfly which flies). I don't know what to do to counter this new phobia. I didn't do too well at the last one - toilet flushing phobia. Had a packing problem last night. I started taking some books off the shelf in the boys room to put into a "to be packed" pile. My husband started to worry that we would get our packing done too fast!!! Can you believe? His particular concern was that we'd have nothing left for a Busy Person who is coming across Tokyo (1 1/2 hr commute) to help us on the 11th of June. Apparently, kids books were on his internal list of things-which-could-be-delegated-out. You can see why I am trying to stay out of this as much as possible - I simply don't know what his game plan is and it is stressful to try to find out!

12 May, 2009


I've just been trawling through all my posts since starting this blog in March. I'm looking for some gems to include in a magazine article that I need to write by Saturday. But I found a couple of posts that need follow-up here. Last week I wrote here that I would let you know how I went after being all messed up with public holidays. After Monday and Tuesday were off, Wednesday felt like Monday and Thursday mostly felt like Tuesday. Friday was pretty standard and felt like a legitimate end of the week, so I guess I missed Wednesday and Thursday somewhere! Way back in March I wrote about us starting homeschooling full-time for the first time and promised that I'd let you know how it was going. Well it has worked well. I have enthusiastic student(s) most of the time. And our middle son, for whom this was all designed, is starting to really gain confidence in reading and not shun it like he used to (even a few weeks ago). That is exciting, because I can say we did it on MY shift - he's never been to an English speaking school and yet is learning to read!!! The other goal we had for this short homeschooling experience was to reduce rather than increase stress for our son and actually the whole family, really. That also appears to be in the process of being achieved. Yay! We're not particularly missing kindergarten. Our son's only real complaint is that he is a little lonely, though for the most part he and his little brother are getting along well and provide good companionship for each other. Thankfully this is a short stop-gap situation and he'll soon have heaps of fellow students when he starts school in Australia in July.

11 May, 2009

Packing genius

We have very specific specialities in our house. I guess most couples do. My speciality is writing and desk top publishing (very handy in a missionary household as I get to do the monthly prayer/newsletters). My husband's is also a handy missionary skill - packing. Very soon now we are going to enter the ZONE. My husband loves the challenge of fitting odd shaped articles into containers and he is very good at it. The challenge of fitting our entire household into boxes is one that he relishes. The zone is when he gets into packing and the momentum builds. He is not blonde, but can need, on occasion, reminders to breathe! On Saturday we had a removalist come to give us a quote. When we accepted the quote he gave us some fresh boxes (you can see them in the first picture). My husband was almost salivating. He said, "The challenge now is to resist the temptation to repack the boxes I've already packed, just so they're all in matching boxes." We laughed but he was partly serious. The problem with this is that the other person is not only not a specialist in these, but is really quite bad. I am bad at packing. This means that at times like this when packing is the main thing that needs doing, I feel a bit at a loss as to how to help. If I help him it is like a 2 yo helping hang the washing out. More of a liability than a real help. When I talk to people about this, they find it hard to believe. It is awkward. Because I am at home during the day and my husband is working, people expect that I'd be doing the packing...but I'm not. I'm sorting, throwing, organising, making piles for him to pack, but I'm not actually putting things into boxes. So there you go, that's today's confession. I'm not lazy, I'm just a bad packer, married to one who borders on genius at packing. Why should I intervene?

09 May, 2009

Another challenging conversation at the gym

Whoa, had a doozy at the gym the other day. Some time ago I was approached by a trainer on behalf of one of their clients interested in doing some English conversation practice because she was going to visit her daughter who was doing a year-long working holiday in Australia. I legitimately claimed I didn't have time, but managed to find someone else who did and passed on their details. I promptly forgot about the incident, but on Good Friday received a flustered phone call from the trainer asking me to come in the next day to receive a present. A bit weird, especially as I'd already been to the gym that day. Anyway, I promised to come in the next day and it turned out to be a chocolate bunny from Australia from that same lady. Well, we enjoyed the bunny and presumed that was the end of it. A week or so later when I was at the gym again, the same trainer whispered in my ear that the giver of the bunny was just across the room. So I rushed on over and did the best "Japanese thank you" complete with bowing. And again put it out of my head. Last Thursday I went to the gym and only a few minutes into the circuit, the lady next to me turned and addressed me by name (that should have clued me in) and asked me where I came from. My standard response slipped out, "Australia." (At which point she could definitely tell that I'd forgotten her face.) She replied, "Yes, but where in Australia?" "Brisbane." "My daughter is coming home next week from a year in Sydney." (That should have rung alarm bells, but it took several minutes longer to clue in.) We engaged in some more small talk about Australia as we progressed through the stations. The thing about Curves is that once start you are next to the same people for the whole 30 minutes. I usually don't end up in long conversations, though. Usually because people don't believe that I can speak Japanese at all, so they don't try. After about five minutes or so it clicked - this is the woman who gave us the bunny and I should say how tasty it was...So I swallowed my pride at the earlier mistake and thanked her again. Then came the tough end of the conversation, she immediately asked, "Why do they have chocolate bunnies? Isn't it usually chocolate eggs? Is any animal okay?" Ho, boy. I don't think I could have answered that question in English let alone Japanese. When I replayed the conversation with my husband, he told me it probably goes back to a pagan festival which fell at the same time as Easter...way back! Maybe it was a good thing I didn't know that. I could just claim ignorance! The other challenge with any conversation for me at Curves in Japanese is that every 30 seconds you have to 'change stations'. So I am alternatively jogging and exerting myself on a machine with loudish music in the background. It is hard to hear and being a little short of breath, hard to talk too. Maintaining a decent thread of conversation is pretty hard at the best of times. The conversation basically petered out. I felt, yet again, a failure as a missionary because of my language. Though I really don't think that it would've been easy to turn such a weird aspect of our culture to an opportunity to explain the real meaning of Easter. The other theme in here, that you might have picked up is my poor memory of the lady's face. Asians do not all look alike, in fact there is tremendous variety in their facial structure and skin, as well as personality and dress taste. However, to us they still look more alike than Westerners do. I think I rely a lot on a person's hair to tell them apart. That just doesn't work very well here in Japan. Unless they have some significant thing about them or I've had repeated contact with them, I often don't remember faces and even less frequently remember names. This can be very embarrassing. I've even had someone bawl me out on this fact! It is probably good practise for coming back to Australia next month. There are many people who know our faces and names better than we know their's. This is also embarrassing and confusing. For our kids too. Many have 'seen' them grow up through our prayer letters, yet our boys can hardly remember anyone from Australia. Our two youngest were 2 yo and 3 months last time we left Australia after our last home assignment after all.

08 May, 2009

Eye brow pain

On Tuesday I was handed a product which had this written on it: "The newly devised 'Eyebrow Template' is topmost recommended to whom unable brow as you wish. This is much proud to rely on the theory and analysis of eyebrow make-up leader, Tony Tanaka. Anyone can brow alone easily and speedy just as if professionals do so." Make sense to you? Can you guess what the product is? Yes, it is made in Japan. I haven't tried to read the Japanese, however I have heard that the Japanese written on some of these products can be as bad as the English.

07 May, 2009

Off balance

I realised yesterday that I am feeling off balance. A number of factors to this, so I'll make a list :)
  1. Let's start with the Women's retreat on Friday and Saturday - a significant change in routine that was great, but it takes a while to get back into routine afterwards.
  2. A new computer last week. My husband and I have spent most of the last week fiddling, transferring and exploring our new computer. We're nearly up to speed. Changing from a PC to a Mac is even worse than changing cars. It takes a while to discover how to do what came almost subconsiously on the old computer.
  3. Packing up. We've started some serious packing in the last week. Our walls are looking bare, and bookshelves naked. Again, things I used to know where to find have moved or been packed, not to be seen again for 15 months. I really relate to a missionary friend who wrote in her blog here about her bag and where it usually hangs.
  4. Public holidays. This week CAJ took Monday and Tuesday off, which was great, but again a change in routine can put you off balance. Japan in general also took Wednesday off, so the gym was closed yesterday too. (I'm looking forward to going back tonight.)
Is that enough? I'm hoping that not too many other things come flying our way in the next few weeks, I'll be enough off balance without any extra help.

05 May, 2009

Eating more soup and less fish

These days we're eating more soup and less tinned tuna. One question we're asked quite often by Australians is "What can't you get in Japan?" Like many questions, this one is more complex than it looks. They might mean, "What can't you get in your local supermarket?" and even then the word "supermarket" needs interpreting. For most Aussies, a large Woolworths or Coles is what they have in mind. Well, if that is the question, then I'd have to say LOTS of things are unavailable here, because our 'local' (and cheap) supermarket is quite small. Actually we shop at several different stores. Two, we frequent more than once a week and another couple we visit probably at least once a month. Two other stores we shop at are not your garden-variety local supermarket. One is an internet-based company and the other you might have heard of, is CostCo, a bulk warehouse-type supermarket from the US. And that is just for food. When you take all these places into consideration, there isn't really a lot we can't get here. Though a number of products we'd buy in Australia, we choose not to buy because they are too expensive here. Other things we use less frequently, like Condensed Milk, because, though we can buy it, it is expensive. Mangoes are another food product that is usually just too expensive. Other things like copha, custard, golden syrup, Promite, Weetbix are just not available. Cadbury chocolate and mint-flavoured products are just starting to appear. Musk flavoured products are never seen. Filo pastry is rare. Even zucchini are hard to find. I've never seen a passionfruit and beetroot, well, it is apparently around, but we've not seen it on a shop shelf. The reason we use several different shops is basically either a budget choice for example, milk and cheese are cheaper at shops other than our closest cheap supermarket. Or an availability choice, for example, tomato soup is not generally available at any supermarket, so we buy it from an import company through the internet. Which brings me back to why we're eating more soup and less tinned tuna. Both these products we buy in bulk through the internet. Right now we are eating through our 'pantry' to minimise what we have to give away when we leave. We've got heaps of soup and not much tuna, hence the menu choices!

04 May, 2009

Public holidays mess with my internal calendar

I am a bit confused this weekend. It is a 'long weekend' due to public holidays, however with the retreat tacked onto the start my head feels all messed up. First I went away Friday and Saturday, without husband or children and came home tired (like the end of a week). Then we got up and went to church on Sunday (which is always a good anchor). Then this morning I slept in (a little), just like on a Saturday and we've had a fairly typical 'Saturday' even though it is a Monday on my wall calendar. So - will I race out of bed and head for church tomorrow? Actually I am planning to take the boys to a large park for a few hours and a picnic to get us all out of the house while my "packing expert" husband does what he does best - pack! And then the next day, Wednesday on the wall calendar, everyone will go back to their usual routines but in my head we'll still be on Monday. Anyone else have problems like this? You will find a good explanation of why we have public holidays this weekend here. Actually for once the Japanese have more holidays that those of us at CAJ (Christian Academy in Japan). We're very thankful for what we've got, though. A small break in the weekly routine is actually useful for catching up and getting some headway into the packing. I'll let you know how I go!

03 May, 2009

7 things

Here's a challenge thrown out to me by a friend. It was surprisingly difficult to come up with "7 things" for some of these categories. 7 things I'd like to do before I die 1. See all my boys walking the paths of their Lord Jesus Christ. 2. Visit friends overseas (eg. UK, US, NZ, SA) 3. Write a book. 4. Live in the mountains 5. Read lots more books. 6. Learn how to quilt 7. Be a magazine editor 7 things I can't do well 1. Draw 2. Keep my mouth shut. 3. Swim 4. Clean house systematically and regularly 5. Tolerate superficiality 6. Pack up a house to move 7. Sit quietly with nothing to do 7 favourite movies 1. The Castle 2. Far and Away 3. Dead Poets Society 4. Shine 5. Mr Holland's Opus 6. The Dish 7. Pride and Prejudice 7 things I say often: 1. Hang on... 2. STOP (to kids) 3. How's it going/doing? (depending on the nationality of my listener) 4. Sure 5. Not now 6. It's time to go/get in the car 7. We're so busy 7 favourite books/authors 1. The Bible (Almighty God) 2. Colleen McCulllough - especially her Masters of Rome series 3. Philip Yancey - especially "Prayer" 4. The Billabong series by Mary Grant Bruce 5. Max Lucado 6. Isabel Kuhn, especially "Second Mile People" 7. Chuck Swindoll 7 things/places I want to see: 1. UK 2. Wild places in the US, especially mountains 3. Kakadu 4. New Zealand 5. Some places from ancient history, like Rome and Greece 6. Lots of national parks 7. Uluru I tag: Helen and Judith

02 May, 2009

Back from Ladies Retreat

True times of fellowship with other women where you can share deep concerns are relatively rare. I value them. I've just spent a day and a half with nine colleagues. We were headed into that place where it is okay to be a frail, hurting person. Plus we were reminded to keep our eyes on Jesus, that he is waiting for us to talk to him. Also that to indulge in worry is disobedience and unproductive and rather we should turn our worries into prayers. I was able to share a deep pain in my life and be prayed for. Beautiful. Refreshing. But not perfect. I have a headache now. I also think I regret saying to one lady, "It is a mistake to force a child to learn an instrument". I haven't changed my mind about the statement, but perhaps it was better left unsaid. Not wishing to end this post on a bad note, however, I am so thankful for my time away. My husband doesn't appear to have had a bad time with the boys, either. Yay!