30 September, 2009

Note from Manila

Yes, I'm in Manila. I made it through all the hurdles of international travel: luggage, connections, passports, immigration, customs, transfer at the other end, currency exchange etc. I tell you, the bed at the hotel at the end of Monday was a most welcome thing. Travel is tougher with kids, but it is no walk in the park without them. Sitting in a juddering metal tube, surrounded on all sides by obstacles to stretching and changing position and limited as to when you can do practically anything - tiring and one that takes a lot of the romanticism out of travel. However I am glad to be here. It is a small conference, about a dozen people from almost as many countries. Magazine Training International is the organisation that has put this conference on; to equip and train editors and staff of Christian magazines in countries other than the US, and especially in non-Western settings. We have people here from a magazine devoted to Korean uni students and their quiet times, a lady who edits a magazine for Mums in the Philippines, a campus worker from India and myself and Gary Bauman from Japan Harvest, focused on missionaries in Japan. This is just some of the diversity. A fun week! I am thankful for my experiences in Asia and within OMF International as they've somewhat prepared me for the cross-cultural nature of this event. Yesterday, before it all started, my travel companion (and roommate) and I went shopping. We hoofed it to a big shopping centre. The journey there was a cultural experience. It is a fairly rich area of Manila (near the US Embassy), yet there were beggars and people sleeping on the street. Hawkers and public transport-type people trying to vie for our attention. The security at the shopping centre was interesting - they used a sensor device on bags and persons as people entered. Also there were so many attendants in shops. Us Aussies just want to be left alone, but these attendants followed us around in the shops! A bit uncomfortable. Getting used to a new money system was interesting too. At least everyone we met spoke some English. Apparently everyone studies English in school, more so than Japanese. Pollution was an issue, smoking, cars everywhere. My lungs were tight by the time we returned to the hotel. The floods that were reported in international media did truly happen, but I haven't seen it personally. Apparently even the airport lost power for a good part of Saturday and the hotel we're in had water through the lower floor. One of the local ladies who was going to be at the conference has had water through her entire house, and is unsure whether they'll be able to salvage it at all. Needless to say, she's not attending the conference this week. My lunch break is almost over, but I'm glad I was able to give you a small window into the latest weird thing that Wendy is up to!

29 September, 2009

Shut In - Japan below the surface.

This video describes a scary social phenomenon in Japan. My husband helped in the filming of this video, but if you are at all interested in Japan that is not why you should watch it. It will give you additional insight into a complex culture.

28 September, 2009

Rice fields of Japan - amazing!

If this scheduling thing works (and I'm not confident it will) I'm flying to Manila today (Monday 28th) for a magazine editing conference. Here is a post prepared earlier from an email someone sent me sometime ago. Pretty amazing work of art! Stunning crop art has sprung up across rice fields in Japan. But this is no alien creation - the designs have been cleverly planted. Farmers creating the huge displays use no ink or dye. Instead, different colors of rice plants have been precisely and strategically arranged and grown in the paddy fields. As summer progresses and the plants shoot up, the detailed artwork begins to emerge. The largest and finest work is grown in the Aomori village of Inakadate, 600 miles north of Toyko, where the tradition began in 1993. The village has now earned a reputation for its agricultural artistry and this year the enormous pictures of Napoleon and a Sengoku-period warrior, both on horseback, are visible in a pair of fields adjacent to the town hall. More than 150,000 vistors come to Inakadate, where just 8,700 people live, every summer to see the extraordinary murals. Each year hundreds of volunteers and villagers plant four different varieties of rice in late May across huge swathes of paddy fields. The farmers create the murals by planting little purple and yellow-leafed kodaimai rice along with their local green-leafed tsugaru roman variety to create the coloured patterns between planting and harvesting in September. The murals in Inakadate cover 15,000 square metres of paddy fields. From ground level, the designs are invisible, and viewers have to climb the mock castle tower of the village office to get a glimpse of the work. Rice-paddy art was started there in 1993 as a local revitalization project, an idea that grew out of meetings of the village committee. Closer to the image, the careful placement of thousands of rice plants in the paddy fields can be seen The different varieties of rice plant grow alongside each other to create the masterpieces In the first nine years, the village office workers and local farmers grew a simple design of Mount Iwaki every year. But their ideas grew more complicated and attracted more attention. In 2005 agreements between landowners allowed the creation of enormous rice paddy art. A year later, organisers used computers to precisely plot planting of the four differently coloured rice varieties that bring the images to life.

26 September, 2009

Grin from South Africa

I thought you'd all enjoy this. Some time ago a friend of mine in South Africa sent me this email that her son received. (Genuine!) Dear Mr Corder We wish to inform you that the staff of the South African Post Office are currently on strike. This unfortunately translates into a delay in you receiving your September issue of XXX. Please accept our apologies for any incontinence this may cause. Regards, Cheryl XXX Magazine Subscriptions Thought you could all do with a cheer up! And to think someone's paid to turn out official documents like this!

Our travelling habits

  • Fold our dirty clothes for efficient use of space.
  • Find something that will hold all our toothbrushes at the sink (like a cup).
  • Take our iPods with us everywhere.
  • Make the boys each pack a backpack (rucksack) with activities they can do in the car or church.
  • Bring water bottles for everyone.
  • Read maps. Even when we're not navigating, we love to figure out the local geography.
  • We take our kids' devotional books with us.
  • I always take a book for going-to-sleep therapy.
  • Take snacks.
  • I usually take my cross-stitch, but recently our weekends have been too busy, so I've been leaving it home.

24 September, 2009

Relaxing in Brissie and packing again

I had a great picnic morning tea in the park today. With another missionary family, a mission-minded family and an ex-missionary. What a great time, no agenda except to enjoy one another's company. Totally relaxed. Great questions!! We took off our 'public' masks and could enjoy one another. Boys had a good time too and were reluctant to go home. Brisbane has such fabulous parks and the weather was great again today, after yesterday's mega dust storm. Tomorrow we get to pack our bags again and go up the mountain, Tamborine Mountain, that is. I think the boys might be disappointed at how small the mountain is! We've been preparing a two hour programme for Saturday evening. Surprisingly it is hard to decide what to not include; we have so much material. It is amazing that most churches only get 10 minutes worth of stories and not all the fun stuff we have in our repertoire. I've been practising my origami sumo wrestler, we've pulled out our Japanese slippers for a relay and they might even get to do our super-duper fun game-quiz! Heaps more fun than listening to (or speaking) a 10 minute missionary spot on a Sunday morning.

23 September, 2009

Mission, the great turn-off for conversation

Do you feel uncomfortable meeting people you haven't seen for a long time? Me too. Especially when it is unexpected. 

 Meeting long-ago-friends happens to missionaries all the time on home assignment. We come back 'home' and meet people we haven't seen for several years. Sometimes it feels like we might have the plague - though I'm sure no one intends us to feel that way. People just don't know what to say to us, besides, "Hi, how are you?" Which, as I discussed last week, is hard to answer. "Good" is the standard response here in Australia. Doesn't give much information for a continuing conversation, though. If you or they have them, kids are a great conversation continuer - you can always say, "So how old are your kids?" 

The friend who took us to Bribie Island yesterday was pondering why people have difficulty chatting with missionaries. I wondered if they're worried that we're going to do some hard-core "mission" evangelism on them? 

I do remember that people changed the way they related to me when I first expressed an interest in mission. Certainly a good turn-off for dating :-) Now we've been at it so long (nearly a decade) that people are beginning to wonder what our use-by-date is. "How much longer?" is another question we're asked. 

 It IS a weird lifestyle. Definitely "on the edge of ordinary", actually probably bordering on the bizarre. How I managed to grow up thinking that "ordinary" Christians did mission, I don't know. How come so many people think that mission is an optional extra for the extra different people in this world? Maybe it is the mystical idea of a "call to mission" that persists. Or perhaps we Westerners just like our comfort...

Our mini holiday

Yesterday we did something very unusual for us. We went with a friend to Bribie Island, just north of Brisbane. Our friend took us four wheel driving along the beach and we basically hung out on the beach most of the day. The wind was pretty ferocious and it was challenging to get sunscreen on. All of us have some red skin somewhere on us today, unfortunately. The guys tried fishing for a while, but the wind from the sea prevented a good cast and the only fish nibbling in the inland lagoon were tiny ones, not much bigger than the bait. So, no fish, but heaps of swimming. Four wheel driving was a new experience. It was great to be away from the city - no buildings in sight, only the sea, scrub and beach. Lovely...but very sandy. It was a mini holiday - quite Japanese, in fact. Good to get away from the work lurking at home! Even if that meant we faced some nasties climbing out of our bin this morning, because not enough housework had been done. I like the idea of camping, but I think it would get pretty tired once sand was through my sleeping bag and in the food. I also am so fair, that I'd be pretty fried before too long, despite sunscreen. So now I'm busy thinking about what to do for a holiday in December/January. Anyone got any ideas?

21 September, 2009

The bliss of things familiar

September holidays have arrived. Something so familiar. We grew up, knowing that every few months there would be school holidays. It is amazing how life revolves around those predictable events. Each society has different events that shape their year. Moving overseas, losing these events is just one of the losses that one has to cope with. Both the Japanese and American school years are very different from the Australian one. We longed for the familiarity of the Australian system within which we grew up and later worked (my husband, at least). I felt positively bouncy this morning, not because I was well rested (still recovering from a busy weekend) but because another familiar event had arrived. It was a lovely feeling. Many times we long for these familiar landmarks when we live in Japan. The American school year drags along and we get to the end exhausted, because we've longed for the familiar, regular breaks of our home culture. The weirder thing that it does is mess up your internal calendar. If you add the change in hemispheres and therefore a swapping of seasons it becomes crazy. Often I'm left wondering if it is Easter or Christmas coming up next. Sometimes if I'm pressed quickly to say which month it is, I get it wrong when I'm in Japan. All the signals are mixed up. My husband will start humming Christmas carols in May - when the weather is warming up. When we're longing for a spring break of two weeks, all we get is a long weekend. Easter happens when the weather is warming up, instead of cooling down! All mixed up. So, it is nice to be home. All the seasons are in the correct place, the holidays and other time-markers occur at precisely the right times. So comforting. We're looking forward to turning the cricket on when it gets really hot and preparing for Christmas in shorts and t-shirts. No one who grew up in the northern hemisphere understands that!

20 September, 2009

Home...but only for five sleeps

We've been away for the weekend at our mission's (OMF International) state prayer conference. We had plenty to do to keep us busy, thankfully we had grandparents as well as someone to look after the kids during sessions. We've not seen a lot of the boys during the last two days, and are now paying the price. They always resist coming back under our authority. This is an annual weekend and always has a feeling of "coming home". They are the people who first knew about our application to become missionaries and who have been the most faithful pray-ers since the very beginning. Most notably - in light of last week's blitz on bad questions - they ask good, informed questions! Only once did I have a dodgy conversation, someone who said, "I've got a simple question: How did you end up in mission?" Simple, my foot! I didn't really feel like unpacking this afternoon, because in only five sleeps we'll have to pack up again for another weekend away. Then after we come home next Sunday I'll have only one night before I head to Manila for six nights. Thankfully October will be much calmer. We'll have four whole weeks before we need to pack our bags again! So, "How am I feeling?" - which seems to be another frequent question. The most truthful answer is stretched and a little unsettled at present. I'm hoping I'll feel a lot better after I get back from Manila. That in itself will be a stretching experience. While I enjoy new experiences, they also cause anxiety as I anticipate them. Now we have two weeks of school holidays. This week we have several family events planned, so hopefully we can relax a little bit with the boys, as well as plan for next weekend's church visit and I can find time to plan what to pack for Manila.

19 September, 2009

Computer haiku

Aha, David has pointed us to some cool Haiku here.

18 September, 2009

Birthday stress

It is a birthday day in our house. Our middle son is now our 7 y.o. Unfortunately the excitement overflowed in unpleasant ways this morning (and last night when our eldest struggled to get to sleep). Following our family tradition, presents were opened before breakfast. That of course leads to breakfast-eating-problems. One boy was so distracted he almost forgot to eat and another so excited he probably gave himself indigestion. Add to that a dispute about school uniform. Being the last day of school before two weeks holiday, our eldest had a dress-up component to his day. They'd been studying the Antarctic and the kids were invited to dress-up accordingly. Unfortunately it was not as clear as we needed it to be. Our son tried to insist that he could wear free dress, but we were unsure. We wanted to protect him from a mistake. Very persistently, though, he insisted and argued, complained and whinged. Ever sure that we got out of bed this morning, intent on ruining his day in any way we could! Eventually we got him put his shorts and t-shirt underneath, but not before the negative emotional award winner of the morning. Our eldest accidentally flicked his slow-to-eat brother with a sheet as he passed on the way to the laundry and a cup full of yoghurt-drink went flying. Thankfully it was a plastic cup, but the mess was fairly disastrous. 10 y.o., already upset over the uniform issue, then refused to clean it up to the point of practically throwing up. We then gave up. 15 minutes before they had to leave the house to go to school, it just wasn't worth it. Oh, didn't mention the youngest whose breakfast came to a premature end when his drink crashed all over him and everywhere else. His particular problem was envy of his brother's presents. 7 y.o. of course, in the midst of getting ready for school, was trying to hide his presents and lay down the law for his little brother who'd be home all day. We, in 15 short minutes, managed to get all ready and emotions repaired and two boys off to school, decently dressed and in fairly good frames of mind. I retired to the gym shortly afterwards and regained some sanity there. The birthday is not over yet. We have grandparents arriving any time soon. Boys coming home from school, party food, hot dogs and cake to come (only a family party this time). THEN we pack ourselves into the car for a short trip to another intense weekend at a missions conference! Even when we try not to, we still find tension and stress. I have a love-hate relationship with kids' birthdays. You want them to be fun and enjoyable, but know that excitement stretches the children's emotions beyond a safe limit - every time. It is like standing in the path of an oncoming truck, unable to prevent the collision.

17 September, 2009

Another dreaded question

My husband and I agree on this one. A frequent and awful question we've received recently is, "So your sons must speak good Japanese?" Now this is not technically a question, though it demands a response and the answer is not easy. My introvert husband might respond, "Actually it is a little more complicated." If the person was keen to stick around, I might say this: "Our middle son spent three years in Japanese kindergarten up until March this year. So his Japanese is quite good, or so his teachers told us. I probably should say was good. Children lose languages quickly without the opportunity to practise and he hasn't been in a Japanese immersion environment for nearly six months. He never speaks Japanese to us, he contextualises it and only speaks it to Japanese. He does not read or write Japanese. Our eldest son had good Japanese when he was five, then we came home for a year and he lost his Japanese language. When we returned we put him back into Japanese kindergarten and then into Japanese school in the hope that he would regain his language skills and some degree of comfort with the culture around him. Unfortunately it didn't work out as we planned. He didn't get good language back and reacted badly to the Japanese environment. His behaviour actually deteriorated so much that after two years we switched him over to an English-speaking Christian international school - Christian Academy in Japan (CAJ), where his dad worked. Our youngest son is the easiest to explain. He's been at home with me for the entire time he's lived in Japan and therefore had limited Japanese exposure (we spoke English at home), so although he showed signs of picking it up just before we left, he has very little Japanese. Unlike some cultures, it is not very easy to pick up Japanese by just living in the country. Japanese are reluctant to talk to foreigners and they often don't invite even good friends into their small homes. It is possible to go shopping without even speaking in Japanese, because most shops are like ours in the west - with set prices and check outs." Obviously, even if I talked fast, I couldn't say all this quick enough for most people! I get annoyed when people assume that "all kids pick up new languages quickly". It is absolutely not true and we've proven that even immersion schooling does not work for some kids. You cannot generalise about children, just like you cannot with adults.

16 September, 2009

An expert on Australia and Japan, both

Still talking about questions, there is a strange phenomenon we've experienced. In Japan we're expected to be Australian experts. In Australia we're expected to be Japanese experts. In Japan we have been asked questions like: Why do Australians eat raw vegetables like capsicum? Australia is hot, isn't it? Why do Westerners keep their tables clean, but not their floors? If you were to advise someone to go to one tourist destination in Australia, where would that be? In Australia we've been asked questions like: My niece's mother-in-law's cousin is travelling to Kyoto (city of many million). Can you tell me a good church she can go to? I've heard X (read - obscure fact), can you comment on this? What side of the road to Japanese drive on? Why? Actually the last question was asked of us today. The first part is easy - left. The second part not so easy. When I got home I typed the question into Google and came up with this article. You can look it up, but just in case you're only a little bit interested here is my summary. The samurai carried their large swords on the left and so, to avoid entanglement, took left-side passage. Later, in the 1800s, Britain helped Japan develop railways, so Japan took on their left-side system. Railways expanded to include trams on the roads, and so the traffic followed suit. When the US occupied Okinawa after the war, the traffic switched and remained so until 1978 when they switched back to match the rest of the country.

15 September, 2009

Missionaries can be lonely?

Someone was surprised by this statement in my last blog post. Let's take a quick tour through a typical missionary's life:
Very early in our time in Japan. We're
smiling, but deep down we were pretty
lonely.
First he/she has to say goodbye to all their friends and family and move to a country that is
foreign and where probably they don't speak the language. Intense loneliness. This is pretty obvious.

It can take years to feel comfortable in the newly 'adopted' country. Possibly never. Even if good friends are made with the locals, there can be a sense of not ever being able to truly share your heart. Much like a pastor can not be good friends with most of his parishioners.

Through the years, though, things generally settle and the missionary feels more and more comfortable. Small and large changes in the way the missionary thinks and behaves make this possible.

Then, it is time to return home for a period, short or long. They face saying goodbyes again, this time to colleagues with whom they've shared much and local friends too, many of whom will not understand why the missionary must come and go.

When they get "home" the missionary then realises how much they themselves have changed. Additionally, the people back home haven't remained static. They've married, divorced, had kids, changed jobs, houses, moved, and certainly the spot that the missionary once held in their lives is no longer vacant. The missionary finds it difficult to find a place to belong in their lives. People find it difficult to relate to this person they once knew, but now don't know as well because of lack of shared experiences and the changes which have taken place within the missionary. Loneliness!

Additionally while missionaries are 'home', they tour around different churches and groups. Their lifestyle is quite unsettled and their time is often spread across many different situations and relationships. Loneliness!

Missionaries can look like they know lots of people, but again many relationships are not deep ones where their true worries and concerns can be shared. Usually they feel the pressure to tell success stories and to keep the personal stories and the failure stories to themselves. Not many stop long enough to hear beyond the surface details. Loneliness! 

Enough. I think you get the picture! Of course there are special friends who remain faithful throughout life. And for them we are truly grateful.

14 September, 2009

Advice for making small talk with missionaries

After yesterday's post, you're probably thinking (if you haven't met me), I hope I never meet Wendy!

Easy conversation happens when common ground is easily found. The kind of people who are very like you are the easiest to talk with. That is why young people often don't chat with elderly or business men are not usually found in deep conversation with young children.

Finding common ground with a missionary can be challenging, especially if they are just visiting your area. Additionally, missionaries can be difficult to converse with, they (we!) are often very focussed, driven and even stubborn.

First I want to make it clear that I don't oppose most of the questions that I posted yesterday. What I do dislike is when people ask them wanting a short, pithy answer. Very much like when someone says, "How are you?" they are not wanting a detailed description of your health!

So, I got to thinking, what are good 'warm-up' questions to ask missionaries? Certainly you shouldn't start with the "So how were you called to go to Japan?" type. But it is more challenging than I thought. If you don't know much at all about the missionary, perhaps only their country of service you could start with something like;

  • "So, what's the weather like this time of year in ...?" 
  • "When did you get back?" or 
  • "When are you going back? 
  • "Do you have a family?" (If they have young children, you can take the time to get to know their names, ages and interests.) 
  • "Do you have any hobbies?" 
  • "Where did you grow up?" (Though, this one can be difficult for those who grew up in several places.) 
  • "What would be your perfect spot for an ideal holiday?"  


Basically you are searching for common ground on which to have a conversation. However, "Yes, I've been to your country of service (i.e. stayed overnight in an airport hotel)" is not common ground!

Deeper questions can flow on like;

  • "What frustrations do you have in your job?" 
  • "What are your goals for the future?" 
  • "What are your ideas on..." 
  • "How are you coping with re-entry?"  

Do treat us as people, but people who are a little bit different from you - not in the sense that we're better or worse than you, but that our answers will possibly not be the usual ones. Take the time to listen and ask intelligently. Be curious and seek below the surface. Missionaries are people who are often lonely, they will appreciate genuine interest.

13 September, 2009

One more question!

Oh, I forgot the doozy of all questions: "What do you do?" !!!!!! How do I answer this to someone I've just met?

Small talk challenges

Small talk is harder right now.

How do I easily answer the following questions about myself with someone I hardly know? 

  • Where are you from? 
  • What have you been doing lately? 
  • Why are you feeling tired? 
  • How are you boys settling into school? 
  • Why don't you get them into a youth group? 
  • Do you like where you are living? 
  • Where do you go to church? 
 All of these questions are difficult, especially when I don't know how much the person I'm talking to knows about me.

 And how do I respond to statements like -

  • "It's been so cold (i.e. under 23 degrees celcius)."
  • "I can't believe it is raining." (when it has rained only once in the last 3 months)
  • "Our house is so small."
  • "I've never been in an aeroplane. It must be so exciting!"
  • "The Japanese have such a violent past."
 Often it is much easier to ask other people questions and find out about them. Finding common ground, though, can be difficult. Babies and pets are good. Sport isn't too bad, though I've not much knowledge of the local teams. I find movies, TV shows and fashion difficult. Anyone got suggestions?

12 September, 2009

Busy and tired

We're all tired. I said it would take some time to recover from last weekend and I wasn't kidding. The boys are full of strong love-hate emotions today that stink of over stimulation. I myself slept in (partly due to a book I read too late on the last two nights) and could have done with an afternoon nap too. This week has been less than normal. In Sydney on Monday at emotional meetings and travel back on Tuesday. Time spent with friends on Tuesday afternoon we haven't seen in a couple of years and not getting back in time for a usual tea-time. On Wednesday morning I left early with two boys for a doctor's appointment and on Thursday David and I went to an all-day seminar after significant strife with the public transport system that made our babysitter very late. On Friday I went to a ladies group and 'gossiped' about Japan for the whole morning (at their request). Last night we went to a lower primary concert for our middle son's school and were late home. Any wonder we're feeling a little bit drained? Especially after the craziness of last weekend! All good and important things, but tiring. Believe it or not we're off to a friend's birthday party tonight. Looking forward to it, but also a little worried about another late evening for the boys (late, being after 7.30!). Probably it is just what I need, though, after a sad phone call just now.

11 September, 2009

5 things I love and 5 things I hate

about being a missionary. I love...
  • the wider world-view we have as a result.
  • communicating with people about the "weird" lifestyle we live.
  • the chance to be a part of reaching Japan for Christ.
  • the freedom we have to be counter cultural, both in Japan and in Australia.
  • having friends from all over the world.
I hate...
  • living in a place where I don't speak the language well.
  • the uncertainty which comes with the job at times.
  • being apart from friends and family, especially at times of hardship.
  • saying goodbyes.
  • (and you should know this one) packing and travelling.

09 September, 2009

The rest of our Sydney adventure

We're 'home' again in Brisbane. Here are some reflections on the last couple of days. Sunday afternoon we relocated to someone's house and the rest of the afternoon-evening were spent resting from an intense weekend. On Monday a number of other OMF home assignees (missionaries like us who are on home assignment - once known as furlough) joined us in a meeting to share and encourage one another. Again intense, but enjoyable. I got to spend a significant amount of time with one lady around my age who works in the Philippines. The relationships that missionaries have with other missionaries are interesting. At 'home' we very often pass like ships in the night, barely able to interact with one another because of our crazy, irregular, public schedules. Usually people build friendships around a common interest that often take them to a certain common place. Like school, uni, work, church, a club or youth group. Imagine what it is like for people who have common experiences, yet are rarely in the same place at the same time. Challenging! And yet we need each other. There is a certain sense of having a 'public face' as we go around to various groups, however, with others who have similar experiences, we can more easily admit our challenges, failures and struggles. In spending time with this new friend on Monday, we went deeper, faster than you would usually with someone your talking one-on-one with for the first time. Each of us had seen the other give talks from the podium at various OMF events, but we'd not talked before, just the two of us. It was great, encouraging even. Afterward the day, though, exhaustion hit me. My personality is a challenge to manage sometimes. I am an extrovert with a strong introvert 'shadow'. Which means that talking with people does energise me, but afterwards I need to withdraw to re-energise. For I long time I thought that I was an introvert for this very reason, but no one who knew me thought so :) I guess they didn't see me when I withdrew. So, at conferences and social events my extrovert side drives me to interact. It is often a challenge to draw away from it all. I'm raving on here! Monday night two of my husband's former house-mates came to visit, one with his "new" wife whom we hadn't met before. One of the fun sides of home assignment is catching up with people you haven't seen for a long time. Tuesday morning exhaustion still clung to me and I slept in until 8.45! Amazing. I didn't hear the rest of the family who were up hours before me. We left the house at 10.15 and travelled back to the airport via trains. In sunny, warm Brisbane we stopped and had smoko (Aussie for afternoon tea or a snack) with the friends who'd minded our car for the five days. Their three kids are about the same age as ours, and one of the few friends our boys remember from Australia because we stayed there two years ago when we were here on holidays. So, much fun was had! We had to drag ourselves away to go home. Getting up to go to school this morning understandably wasn't on our boys list of 'fun things to do'. Unfortunately we had to go early to make a doctors appointment too. Our four y.o. copped three injections to get him up to speed for his immunisations. Another thing to cross off the list. Sorry for the long post. Well done if you've made it this far! Now I'd better go and fold those massive piles of washing that my husband did this morning.

07 September, 2009

Poetry?

I am not a fan of poetry, but found myself writing a spot of haiku the other day! One of the things I do is write a quarterly news/prayer letter for kids, helping them learn about Japan and encouraging them to pray for Japan and us (let me know if you'd like to get a copy). This year my theme is "Things which came from Japan". I've already done sports and technology. This month I've covering "things written" and including haiku, manga and sudoku. In finishing it off, I realised that to include someone else's poem without their permission was probably infringing copyright. I'm not sure as you can quote from a prose without the author's permission...but poems are so short. Anyway, just to be safe I ended up writing one of my own (actually jointly with my husband)! What do you think? Desert majesty glowing red in the sunset ancient Uluru The other one I wrote was Sleep comes slowly by hot sheets tangle with my thoughts morning long way off Anyone got haiku to contribute?

06 September, 2009

Real-live missionaries

Going to our mission's national conference as a missionary is a different experience. We're the "real live missionaries" and after two terms or eight years, we're not newbies anymore! It is somewhat strange to look at the new crop of young families coming through, heading overseas with young babies and children. Makes me feel a tiny bit old. Although I was encouraged to have one mature couple greet me with a hug and say I hadn't changed a bit and certainly didn't look like I had three young boys! This morning we had a chance to 'report back' for about 10 minutes. A bit similar to what we do at churches, but this was to serious OMF supporters, and people interested with serving with OMF. A different atmosphere. It was exciting to share with them how God's been answering their prayers. I was glad, as always, to share honestly and encourage some of the soon to be new missionaries, especially the young families, that it is possible to survive going with young children. You might be surprised at how many people are surprised at you when you say you're going overseas to work with young children. As if God only calls single and childless couples to work overseas for Him. Our speaker encouraged us this morning to find our passion and serve God with it. Exactly the thoughts that I've had over the last year or so. I'm beginning to look forward to returning to Japan. That is a lot better than last home assignment, when it took more than 9 months to get to that position. God is working in me and changing me!

05 September, 2009

Earthquakes

I wrote about earthquakes and typhoons in our recent prayer/newsletter. I've just found a colleagues' blog here who also mentioned earthquakes recently. It gives interesting insight into the Japanese mindset when it comes to these particular natural disasters.

We survived!

Hi all, Just before I dash off to breakfast at this OMF National conference that we're at, I just wanted to let you know we survived our day yesterday AND had a good sleep. I was whacked. It's going to take a few days to recover from this weekend! Today I'm helping (very small bit) present a 45 min seminar to do with Japan as a mission field, presenting a 4 min book review (of 6 books) and tomorrow we get 9 minutes to talk to the whole crowd (200+) about what we've been doing. Fun stuff! As well as keep our boys on track, fed and somewhat clean.

04 September, 2009

Crazy Friday

Today the only thing I'll be doing with my computer is carrying it around in a backpack...so here is a blogpost I prepared earlier! Today we're leaving home at about 6am and driving to a friends' house to park our car (their house is closer to the airport that ours) and catching a taxi to the airport. From there we'll fly 1 1/2 hours to Sydney. After that we'll catch a train into the city, stow our luggage somewhere and find the Opera House. It remains one clear memory of our boys from our last sojourn to Sydney, so we're going back - even if only to look at the outside :-) After we've satisfied ourselves that the Opera House is still there and as magnificent as usual, we'll find our way onto a ferry that will hopefully take us around the corner to Darling Harbour. From there a short walk will lead us (so the website tells me) to the National Maritime Museum, where we can check out all sorts of things, including a replica of Captain Cook's Endeavour, a warship and a submarine - presumably not all at the same time! After a whole lot of discovery, we'll stride back to the local railway station and (hopefully) catch a train to our conference (via the luggage storage spot) before dinner. Does dragging three young boys around in this manner sound tiring yet? Well, our day will not be over. The conference has a full evening program, not even including settling our boys into a new environment, different food, strange beds and unfamiliar showers. Hopefully we'll have a good evening sleep! What are our chances? At least our boys are pretty good at sleeping through the night now.

03 September, 2009

Packing again and again

It is packing time again! This time we're flying to Sydney for five days. It's work with a tiny bit of "play". Our mission's national conference is on this weekend followed by a day for home assignees. Tomorrow we're leaving early (6am) so that we can spend the day in Sydney on the harbour doing some sight seeing (that's the "play"). If only it weren't for all the public transport and towing three boys around on it, I'd be looking forward to the weekend. Actually I'll probably be fine once I'm on the road, but again it is that P word! The boys are excited about flying again and even packing. They love suitcases. I wish I did! When we get back we'll have 10 days until we pack again and then 5 sleeps after we return from that weekend away we'll do it again. The last time this month will be the scariest and the most exciting. Only one sleep after we come back I'll be going to Manila - by myself. THAT means I have no one to help me pack :-)

02 September, 2009

10 y.o.'s woes of today

This afternoon I went to the gym and my husband collected the boys from school (I'm enjoying my husband's more flexible timetable this year!). By the time I arrived home, they were into homework. It was not until my husband was about to leave with our nearly 7 y.o. to collect bikes from the fix-it man (and to go to a catch-up swimming lesson) that I realised our 10 y.o. was not having a good day. My husband didn't really elaborate very well, so I was left to drag it out of an already on-the-way-to-becoming distraught son. In the end I sent him to his room until he could bring himself to articulate the problem/s. Here is an approximate list of his complaints:
  • Someone called him a name (approximating the part of your anatomy that you sit on).
  • His whole class has been given a 15 min detention for the misbehaviour of part of the class during music. He assures me it wasn't him, and I believe him because he cannot believe that he has to suffer the consequence of another's actions.
  • He tried to get access to the computers to do more research for a project, but was not allowed to go (I don't understand this).
  • He thought he had lots of information for the above project already, but his teacher said not.
  • He has another project due and some time in the near future (I couldn't get any dates out of him at all), but he had had it all confused with the previous project.
  • He still doesn't have many friends and really misses his previous school.
  • He was unable to have more than one conversation yesterday on the bus to a book week excursion. (This relates to the friends issue.)
It was all terribly emotional and difficult to sort out. I'm wondering - such is the life of mums with boys? Untangling it all and getting some progress on the above mentioned projects took quite some time. He assures me he will talk to his teacher about the first project above (rather than writing an email to his teacher, as I suggested). Settling into a new school takes a long time, for kids and parents. Little bits of information that others appear to possess, just seem unobtainable. If you are a praying person, please pray that he'll feel more settled soon. You can pray these projects will sort themselves out soon too.

Australian traffic vs Japan traffic

A few comparisons are in order: Japanese traffic travels slower than Australian traffic. I've mentioned this before. Because roads are narrow and only main roads have footpaths, the local roads double as bike paths and footpaths. Therefore our kids are used to walking on the road. This causes trouble for us in Australia. Our kids are pretty road savvy in Japan, but unaware of how fast Australian cars travel, even on seemingly wide and quiet roads. I often have to stop them walking along on the road or wandering across the road slowly and because they are wider, it takes longer to get across. Australians are much less likely to stop or even slow down for pedestrians. Of course they start at a higher speed, so it is harder to slow down.

01 September, 2009

Fashion observations

I am not a fashion expert by any means. If anything, I am one of those people fashion experts despair over. I shop for clothes rarely and sparingly. My wardrobe consists primarily of comfortable clothes. However, there is no denying a couple of observations. 1. When we came back five years ago, we saw a lot of midriffs and very low riding waistlines. 2. Now these have almost disappeared, but shirts seems to have shifted south. Now we see a lot of shoulder, cleavage and the tops of boobs. People don't seem to mind if their bra straps are seen, in fact they seem to flaunt them, if they are wearing them at all. All this is even more evident because Japanese are nowhere near so nonchalant about showing their skin. They don't even wear shorts, for the most part, except with tights in winter! I went clothes shopping today. A pretty rare event, really. While I found it pretty easy to find pants, shorts and skirts, it was a lot more difficult to locate tops that I would feel comfortable wearing. It was a pleasure to try on size S and 10 instead of looking at the 'large size' section as I do in Japan. Not that I've suddenly lost weight between there and here, by the way! Clothes shopping became a necessity because I culled my wardrobe pretty harshy before we left Japan. Paying a lot of money to ship home clothes that are very old and some no longer fitting well didn't seem like a smart move to me. So, an excuse to buy myself some new clothes, especially thinking about the workshop in Manila which probably won't be a shorts and t-shirts event. I found myself in the middle of some good sales (not because I'd planned it that way) and I didn't pay full price on anything I bought today (except the Freddo that I bought to help me through till lunch).