30 June, 2014

Arriving in Cairns

Today's a crazy day that's gone on and on. We really didn't sleep much on the plane, just dozing a bit here and there. As a result yesterday has melted into today and we're not really certain what day it is or what time it is.

I think we all took a nap after lunch (not sure about one son who napped earlier in the day). But thankfully the sun is starting to get lower in the sky (it is 4.30 pm) and we can look forward to going through familiar evening routines and get a proper night sleep.
This is where we're staying. Taken from the Tree
Tops Lodge Cairns website:

This morning we were warmly and thoughtfully greeted at the airport by a friend who's lending us the family's second car for the week. She came with their other car as well to help with getting all our luggage to our lodging for the week. 

But she also unexpectedly brought us some basic groceries, which meant we didn't have to face looking for some breakfast at a commercial establishment. So thoughtful. Then when she read on Facebook that we were having a bit of trouble getting everyone synced (one child wanted to stay "in" and sleep, the others had too much energy to settle), she offered to go walking with us, her boys (who are similar ages but don't know our boys) and dogs down along the Cairns esplanade. That was great. Allowed the boys to connect with some boys in Australia (something they crave in the early days of a cross-cultural move), me some stimulating conversation with a friend, and David some time to do some errands. A little bit of dog-therapy too. We're so thankful.

Oh, a bit of outdoor Australia was great too. It really is a bit surreal still. Part of that is the lack of sleep, I'm sure.

So, how are the boys coping? Pretty well, considering. This is not an unexpected move, it's something they've known about for a long time. Mostly what we have now is emotional roller coasters and, at times, hypersensitivity and irritability.

We're looking forward to a basic Aussie BBQ tonight. That's one of the big things the boys were looking forward to in Australia.

For something of interest, check my post this time five years ago, when we did pretty much the same thing: flying into Cairns for a holiday before moving to Brisbane.

29 June, 2014

The ultimate symbol

The empty keyring is the ultimate sign of the between country "Zone". 
See you soon Australia!

28 June, 2014

The final throes of moving to Australia

Today we moved out of our house, drove across "town" and are ensconced in our mission's guest home for a night before flying tomorrow evening. We're definitely in the "Zone" now, although I've just spent the last hour looking online at Contents Insurance for our house in Australia, that's not good Zone behaviour. Before that, however, I played (and lost badly) a game of 7Wonders.

Soon we'll go for a walk and find some Japanese food to enjoy before crashing. I'm actually pretty tired. I woke up at 4.30, thinking (typical Zone behaviour), eventually dropped back to sleep after reading my Bible for nearly an hour. Then everyone was up and raring to go at 7am, but it took us six hours to finalise our cleaning and most especially wash and dry all the sheets, towels, and rags. It's a rainy day, so our Japanese dryer got a great workout this morning.

My especial delight this morning was seeing the boys entertain themselves for a good part of the morning, and two of them be especially helpful on a couple of occasions (beyond what was asked of them). This is so different to moving with little ones. 

Last time we moved, they were four years younger, making our youngest five. There is a huge difference between having 5, 7 & 11 year olds and having 9, 11, and 15 year olds! I'm enjoying it. Tomorrow we'll be using them to the max as we transport ourselves to the airport via public transport (i.e. train, of course) and then pick up the rest of our luggage. 

This is the first time we've travelled with such a large amount of luggage. We're travelling on a budget airline (because it is an overnight flight). The bonus is that for a small fee we could increase our luggage allowance to 40kg per person. I don't think we've hit the maximum, but it has streamlined the process of getting the majority of our wardrobe to Australia. Moving countries for a year is a bit different to going on holidays! But it does mean we have a lot of bags. Thankfully a bunch of strong boys to help with trolleys etc. 

The reason we're meeting some of it at the airport is due to an amazingly convenient Japanese service called takubin. It is like a postal service, but covers a much wider type of product, including getting suitcases to the airport. It is also waaaay cheaper. Yesterday David rang them up, got some labels from a local convenience store, filled them out, and a truck came around 5 pm to collect our luggage from our house. We'll pick it all up at the airport just prior to checking in. Amazing! Especially when compared to the thought of travelling on trains with three or four pieces of luggage each (including a backpack).

Well, the family has just finished playing Ticket to Ride and it's food time again. 

26 June, 2014

Entering the zone

We've spent a good part of the week sorting, cleaning, moving things around, and packing. By last night it felt as though we were close to being ready to go. 
All our personal stuff, excess winter clothing, books, toys,
bedding, half a bunk bed, medical stuff etc. piled neatly in this
bedroom. The large plastic drawers on the left
formed the base of our bed until yesterday.

Of course we've got a number of admin details to take care of (insurance cancelation, internet and phone cancellation, etc.) as well as those final details of moving that can't be taken care of earlier (washing the sheets and towels we're using, final vacuum etc.).

However, the furniture is in its final placement (we shifted the bedrooms around so that two single ladies can comfortably live here, as opposed to a couple with three boys). We're all living out of suitcases and David and I have completely moved out of our bedroom, we're sleeping in the lounge room.

Most of our goodbyes are over. The cupboard and fridge are almost empty of perishables. The dirtiest areas of the house are cleaned.
This was our bedroom until yesterday morning. Now transformed into a
single-person's room.

Yes, we're almost into the "between countries" zone. You may never have experienced this zone, it is an interesting vacuum of a place where life is relatively simple. I guess it equates to a situation where you are in-between jobs and houses in places that are vastly separated. 

The zone is a place where you have few responsibilities and your sphere of operation is fairly small. It is a place where our family spends a lot of time doing things together, as opposed to doing different things in different places. It is a place where time seems to almost stop for a bit.

It is a place of mixed emotions, of sadness at leaving, but anticipation at what is to come.

But also a place where you have dreams of missing the plane, have trouble going to sleep, and wake up early.

But it is also a place of simplicity. Our wardrobe is reduced to a suitcase. What's the next meal? Most of our things are packed and we don't have many responsibilities and nothing particularly on the schedule, so what should we do with our time?

Not quite there, because we still have a few things to do, but we're getting close. By the time we leave this house in a couple of days we'll be definitely in the zone.

It's easy to feel uncomfortable at the vacuum of this stage, but actually I've been looking forward to it. The irresponsible part of me just wanted to run away from my responsibilities at times in the last couple of months to get to this place.

While we're in the zone we're going to take some holidays. Although we'll have to put on our responsible hats for a little bit in order to acquire some phones (everyone, every agency, every one wants to know your phone number), in general we'll be zoning out next week! After that we'll have to face becoming responsible citizens again. 

But that can wait. For the moment, I'm enjoying being in the zone.

25 June, 2014

Excited about this project

The cover of the 32-page booklet.
I've been working on a publishing project for OMF Japan for nearly 12 months now. 31 Days of Prayer for Japan is in the final stages of production, we'll be going to print within the week. So exciting!

It contains short articles from various missionaries on the field about topics pertinent to OMF's ministry in Japan. We hope it will be an excellent tool for mobilising prayer, as well as mobilising people to come to Japan as missionaries.

It will be on sale through OMF offices around the world, probably in August. I'll let you know when it is available.

I can't believe how good the timing is for us personally, however. To be able to hold this booklet up when we're visiting churches and other groups who support us and be able to say, "This is one thing I did in my ministry in Japan," is going to be pretty useful!

24 June, 2014


Saying goodbyes stinks. Just saying.

At the moment there is a family who was very involved at CAJ and also attended our Japanese church who is packing up to leave Japan permanently. It's given a few of our friends the jitters. Why? 
A person’s steps are directed by the Lord.
    How then can anyone understand their own way?
Proverbs 20:24 (NIV)

 We plan the way we want to live,
    but only God makes us able to live it.
Proverbs 16:9 (The Message)

‘Who has known the mind of the Lord?
    Or who has been his counsellor?’
Romans 11:34 (NIV)

Because this time last year they packed up their house to go to the US for a year, just like we're doing now. During their time away God, via their organisation (Cru), has directed them to a different ministry state-side. So now they're back for a couple of weeks disposing of their household goods and saying more permanent goodbyes.

So now as we say goodbye for a year, people have said,
"You are coming back, aren't you?"
"Well, goodbye for now, but if the Lord directs you elsewhere God bless on whatever He calls you to do."
"Oh my, we do hope you delightful Marshalls are coming back after just the one year, indeed."
My reply can only be that we do indeed intend to come back. In fact we see ourselves here (as in, in this area of Tokyo) for a long time yet. Our boys are planning on graduating from CAJ (which is nine years away).

However it is also true that God does direct people to other things. He even allows serious illness and accidents to interrupt our plans. But, as far as we know, this is where we are meant to be for now. 

None of us knows how God will lead us in the future, we just assume that things will remain the same. It's just that a home assignment time is unsettling in its very nature and it is a time when changes can happen.

But I'm sure we're going to come across people in Australia who'll be asking,
"So, when are you coming back to live here permanently?"
"How long are you going to keep doing this?" 
We'll be giving them the same answer we give our friends here. We don't know what the future holds, but as far as we know, this is what we're supposed to continue doing, and we're happy about that.

23 June, 2014

Kids Musings June 2014

I've just sent out our quarterly Kids newsletter. I've taken out personal information and post it below for your interest/enjoyment. Please pass this on to anyone you think may enjoy it or be able to use it. If you'd like a larger version, please contact me as per my email address to the right of this post.

22 June, 2014

World OT Congress #4

Another photo of the programme, it is nearly
an inch thick!
Yesterday was the last day of the OT Congress and I was able to get home by dinner time (by skipping the last session and the closing ceremony).

From 11.30-12.30 we had a Keynote Lecture from a Literature Nobel Prize winner, Mr Oe. His talk, in his own words, was "haphazard" but interesting. He made us laugh! Whenever a speaker is not afraid to make fun of themselves, that is always attractive!

After lunch was a Public Symposium with three former OT clients and an OT. All Japanese people. Two of the clients had spinal injuries and the third a stroke at the age of 40. All three are now working in the health-care sector. They each told their stories and encouraged us in how OTs had made a significant difference in their lives, particularly in giving them a spark to move onwards rather than consider life as over. They were lively and entertaining. It was refreshing after much serious talk over the previous four days. 

I appreciated the simultaneous translation very much for this Symposium because talking in their native language made them more relaxed. I appreciate the effort that those presenters who don't have English as their native language made to present throughout the week in English, however, it didn't always make for easy listening.

To give you an idea visually of how huge this Congress was, this is the programme of oral sessions for Friday. Across the top are the times, starting at 8.30, so you can see that for each time slot you and up to 16 choices you could make, each box representing a session that included between 3 and 7 presentations. 

On top of that was about 400-500 posters per day in an exhibition hall (where researchers stand with a poster detailing their work and are available for discussion with whoever passes by).

What really stands out is how broad a profession OT is. The broad specialities include: paediatrics, physical disabilities, elderly, mental health, community and participation, education, disaster, theory and research.

It underlines again to me how difficult it is to define easily what an Occupational Therapist is. I've always found it easiest to define it by giving examples of the types of work and people we deal with.
Other presentations (the more interesting ones) I heard in the morning included:

  • Robotics for the mobilisation of infants
    • this study looked at providing a way for infants younger than 12 months to gain self directed mobility using wheels, noting that most developmentally challenged children don't get "wheels" until 4 or older, which means they miss that window of exploration of their environment
    • they put normally developing babies who weren't yet crawling (5-9.5 months) in a plastic seat, some with a long joy stick, others seated on a Wii balance board and watched to see how they managed in getting to things they wanted.
    • the Wii balance board (called WeeBot) won over the joy stick. 
    • one funny thing about this one was that the researchers had a remote control that they could use if the baby went someone they didn't want the baby to go. How many parents have wished for a remote control for their crawler?
    • This session just proved the point that topics that don't look all that interesting can be really good, if they are presented well, and the opposite was also true: that topics that looked great could turn out to be disasters because of bad presentation (often too much statistical data and bad visuals, plus bad English).
  • Sexual education for disabled young people
  • I walked a lot this week, more than 5km
    a day. It was a delight to see hydrangeas that are
    still flowering, though it is getting to the end
    of that season.
    • another session that I wouldn't have attended if it hadn't been grouped with some others I wanted to see. 
    • Turned out to be fairly interesting, their findings were too much to give a lot of details, but basically they found that disabled children need sex ed, both the usual classroom-variety, plus disability-specific information.
    • They found that health care providers are a good choice for the people who provide this disability-specific information.
    • Timing: the funnel principle works—start early and give information gradually at appropriate times.
  • Are children with DCD and ADHD at risk for obesity and poor fitness?—a cross-cultural study involving the US, Australia and Israel. Answer: yes
  • A study looking at using the iPad to improve handwriting skills with ASD children.
    • Using "Ready to Print" software, they found a clinically significant improvement in VMI and handwriting scores in only a few weeks (?12).
  • Using coaching to help parents of ASD children with their parenting skills.
    • quite effective as a strategy. Interesting, that even when the parents didn't meet their goals, they felt more effective in their parenting. 
Well, that is quite a lot, but that is the end of my reporting back on this congress. From tomorrow I'm back on the wagon of preparing to leave the country for a year. This time next week we'll be in the air on our way back. We've got few things to do before then...

21 June, 2014

We have a car!

This is what I alluded to at the end of my post yesterday:

God's provided us with, not just a house and a house full of furniture, but a car too!

I don't yet know the story behind how this came to be for our use for 12 months, but when I do, I'll share it with you. This is truly an answer to prayer. Cars of this size don't just fall out of the sky.

Jehovah Jireh! The God who provides!

20 June, 2014

World OT Congress #3

The disaster preparedness workshop that I began my day with.
Fascinating stuff, read about it below.
This event has been an interesting experience. I'm reminded again of what I felt when I left uni. That Occupational Therapy isn't so much what you do and know, it is how you think. They spent four years training us to think like OTs. 

A couple of core OT skills are problem solving within the current context and drawing on resources you have already available to you. Another is looking at the world in terms of occupation. Occupation being anything that people do, and particularly OTs are concerned with every day occupation. When people encounter limitations like injury or disease they are often driven back to the basics of living, and even taking care of themselves, doing "Activities of Daily Living" (or ADL) become hard.

Even though I no longer have a strong work identity as an OT, I still think like one. I'm a problem solver. Someone who's concerned about people's independence. Someone who sees environmental limitations and ergonomic problems earlier than other people.

Gotta love Japanese convenience stores. Here was my lunch. Cost less than
500 yen (under AU$5). Not only tuna/crab salad, but rice "ball", OJ, and
convenient hand wipes that I didn't even ask for.
This conference has huge proportions. During most time slots from 8.30 to 6pm there are at least 16 choices of things that you could do or listen to. The interesting feeling for me is that this is a bit like being back at uni, except that you aren't obligated to be at anything. No one is keeping track, there will be no exams. So at any time you'll find people not in sessions, if there's nothing that attracts their interest.

There are so many people. Over 5,000. The closest I've come to meeting someone I know is someone who happened to mention a colleague in her speech the other day. That colleague I lived with for three years, but haven't seen since I graduated nearly 20 years ago. Amazing!
The very enormous programme that you
almost need a degree to negotiate your way
through and definitely need an OT degree
to comprehend.

There is at least one of my old lecturers here, but I haven't seen her, I only know she's supposed to be here because her name appears several times in the programme, the inch-thick programme. Such are the proportions that there is no way to guarantee meeting someone unless you have their email address or phone number and arrange to meet.

But for my OT friends who want to know. Here is what I saw of the conference today.

I attended an hour and a half workshop about disaster preparedness. It was fascinating. We had OTs in the room from many recent major disasters: Sri Lanka's tsunami, Philippines' typhoon, Christchurch's earthquakes, Japan's tsunami, US hurricane Katrina etc. We spent time in groups talking about what we'd do in a hypothetical disaster: what we'd pack immediately, what we'd do 3 weeks later in a temporary housing situation etc.  It was interesting to note what OTs thought of packing that others might not, including diversional-type activities, like cards, puppets, assistive devices etc. But also looking out for the most vulnerable and noticing that some will have trouble accessing the bathrooms, getting up off mattresses on the floor etc.

It was quite enlightening to realise how much insight I have into this now, having experienced the events of 2011. Others in the group were fascinated to hear from people who'd lived here at that time and what it was like to experience earthquakes. Even though We weren't close to the epicentre.

Later in the day I went to a couple of sessions about children. The topics included 
  • comparing the HST and DASH (handwriting assessments) checking their reliability (and yes they are reliable), and also looking at hand pain.
  • goal directed intervention with children with disabilities: quite effective.
  • evidence based approaches for children with DCD.
    • this was interesting. It was a national project by the Dutch and they've definitely come up with the recommendation that CO-OP and not Sensory Integration is the way to go according to the data available.
  • ASD – have more difficulty following the gaze of others
  • ASD and sensory stimulus (I had trouble concentrating on this. It was by a Japanese OT, but in English, so I'm not really sure what her conclusions were.)
In actual fact I find that this conference attending is a bit of a lottery, even at such a prestigious event. The quality of  presentations varies considerably. All you have to decide on whether or not you'll go is a single line of text and the name of the presenter. Some have surprised me, others disappointed.

Tomorrow we have a Keynote speaker: a Nobel Laurette! A Japanese author who won the nobel prize for literature in 1994. I wonder what he has to say to a large gathering of OTs?

I'm off to bed. We've received some exciting news tonight, but I'll leave you in suspense for now about that!

19 June, 2014

World OT Congress #2

Yesterday afternoon I went to an 1hr 20min session about Children, particularly focused on physical and ADL (OT jargon for activities of daily living, or stuff people have to do for themselves regularly, like eating, dressing, learning, riding, etc.). In this session I was surprised to hear the name of someone I haven't seen since I left uni a couple of decades ago. Apparently she's now working in the UK. One interesting presentation was about teaching children with cognitive delay (mostly Downs Syndrome) how to ride a bike.

Then we had a lecture from the just-former president of the World Federation of Occupational Therapists (WFOT). It rambled a little and was at times difficult to follow her transitions. She also had some rotten slides (actually a pretty common problem here, despite the prestigious nature of the event, most people are putting too much information on their slide presentations). But part of it was that I was a little bit late and so missed her introduction. She also mentioned at the end that her laptop had been stolen on her way to the conference two weeks earlier, with her entire presentation (lesson: backups are important!).
This is the panel of three OTs who worked in the three different prefectures
affected by the tsunami-earthquake-nuclear disaster.

After that I did heard another couple of talks on kids. One was Australian and talked about an intervention in helping children with ADHD learn to make friends. It particularly empowered the parents, which is a novel approach, instead of being therapist-child centric.

Then I skipped into another session and heard something about a new OT program that's been set up in rural Victoria, particularly with the aim of encouraging more OTs to go into rural and remote settings to work. As a former rural OT myself, that was interesting indeed.

This morning started with a 90 minute symposium by Japanese OTs about response to the Great East Japan Earthquake of 2011. Interesting because I've heard reports on this almost exclusively from missionaries and churches. The response was similar in many ways, but the focus was definitely more on independent living and equipment. Understandably people lost walking aids and so those kinds of things were provided. They also provided education on living in extreme winter conditions as some were relocated from the more moderate coastal areas to mountainous areas with lots of snow. But the similarities were in doing everyday living kinds of things, like cooking, crafts, taking walks, and getting people to talk. What was particularly impressive was how fast they managed to get working. They were already local, so that helped. But like local pastors, they also found themselves in coordinating roles with many volunteers who had no clue about the local area streaming in to help.

The Police Band
I skipped the WFOT Plenary Session and went shopping instead. Caught a lovely free concert by a Police Concert Band in a nearby shopping centre. Found a branch of a favourite shop of mine (Tokyu Hands) and spent a little bit of money. Read a little.

The next session I was interested in turned out to be badly scheduled. Too many people in too small a room. I sat on the floor for over an hour. But was rewarded in the end with an introduction to an interesting free app called Stretch Break for Kids. It runs in the background and interrupts what you are doing every 20 or 30 minutes (you set that) to remind you to do some stretches the give your body a break. The stretches are animated and you are invited to copy. I think there are eye exercises to, to help you avoid eye strain. I've just installed in and am looking forward to seeing how it works.

After that was a Keynote lecture from a long-term Japanese OT. She's been around since the beginning of the profession in Japan in the early '60s. She gave an overview of the profession and challenges for the future. It was very interesting. My intuitive feeling about the profession being largely into rehabilitation and hospital-type services here is correct.

The last session I planned to go to was also crowded out, and as I was only mildly interested in the topic, I decided to skip it and go home early. But as it's not after 10, I'm not really capitalising on my early finish.

Sorry for the lengthy write-up. I'm too tired to edit it down, so it will have to stand as is.

18 June, 2014

World OT Congress #1

Blogging today from Yokohama at the World Occupational Therapy Congress.

Yesterday I attended the opening ceremony, which was very formal, as you'd expect. The surprise was the attendance of the Emperor and Empress of Japan. They didn't say anything, but were present on stage throughout the formal speeches. There were also three politicians who addressed us plus a message sent by the Prime Minister.

I happened to sit next to some Kiwis, and then some Aussies sat with us too. It made the time between arriving and starting pass quickly. We arrived early because the special guests meant we needed to got through metal detectors as we arrived. 

The delight was a performance by a Japanese drum troop called AUN. I'm blogging from my phone or I'd insert a YouTube clip here. Google them, they are very impressive! Funny too!

Then I went to a reception, a so called Cocktail party (casual) with a few thousand others! Very weird. I met no one I knew. At a bit. Chatted to a couple of people. Enjoyed a Chinese dragon dance. And left. Got a bit lost on my way to the home of my OMF colleagues and was terribly tired by the time I got there. I struggled with a headache all day, probably commiserate with my tension at all this unknown activity. 

Today we've gotten into the program. Starting with a delightfully non-academic workshop on the use of origami to promote learning of many skills in children.

Then I attended a very multicultural session with five researchers presenting their different studies. Japanese OT in Vietnam, Malaysian educated in Australia, a Turkish OT, Japanese OT in Nicuagua and a Canadian OT looking at the low percentage of male OTs. Very interesting.

And now I'm eating a homemade packed lunch from my Japanese hostess. We'll see what this afternoon holds. 

17 June, 2014

It was worth changing rooms

There's hope!
This wouldn't have happened six months ago.
Not to say that there's no conflict between
our kids, but it has significantly decreased
since we changed rooms around.

Earlier in the year I shared a little bit of the sibling conflict we'd had going on here.

We switched boys and furniture around so that different boys were sharing a room. It was a big job, so at the time I wondered if it would make a difference. I'm here to report that it did.

We've seen a significant decrease in conflict, an increase in joy, and greater flexibility in the one boy who'd been getting very rigid about which brother he'd play with or be near.

As I watched them play together on Sunday evening (see photo), I treasured this in my heart. As for how they ended up wearing almost identical clothing, that was merely a chance occurrence.

16 June, 2014

Feeling unsettled

Magazine handover
I've just handed over the magazine to someone else for the year (though the handover is complicated, because it really is to two people). It is a little nerve wracking to realise that that's done. I thought I'd be relieved, but I keep wondering if I've told her everything that needs to be told...thankfully I'm not falling off the face of the earth and can respond to questions via email with no problem.

World Occupational Therapy Conference
Tomorrow (as I wrote here) I'm going to the 16th World Congress of Occupational Therapists. 
"Oh my, I've got nothing to wear...."
Only kidding! But I do need to pack and figure out what bag I'm going to use for commuting (that can contain my computer for working on between sessions). 

I'm a bit nervous about the whole thing, never having gone to anything like this before. And feeling a little out of touch with the whole OT world. I've not worked full-time since before my eldest son was born. In the last four years I've seen seven clients for assessments. There's got to be a word for "less than part-time, but not non-working". That would be me!

Oh, and there's a bundle of trains to negotiate in a region where I've never been on my own before. That could so easily go wrong!

Plus all the other stuff
Everyone else is on a different schedule to usual this week too. Two boys wrestling 9-11 each day (summer day camp at school). One boy going to a five-day summer camp. Husband buzzing around doing whatever needs doing, at home and at school. 

Walls and bookshelves are gradually being stripped down and looking less like they belong to us. Boxes and suitcases are piling up. 

It's good and planned, but unsettling.

There's all those details still, like phones, changes of addresses, people emailing about more furniture they want to give us (we could set up a warehouse!).

Not to mention the OMF publishing project that is just not quite finished yet. Like after you've walked through a spider web, I'm still picking threads off my shirt. Just a few more and I'll be done and completely separated from the web . . . maybe before we leave in 13 days, maybe not.

So I tell myself: Breathe in, breathe out, and do the next thing that comes to hand!

14 June, 2014

Hemisphere switch = season switch

Some people here have twigged to the fact that we're switching hemispheres and therefore seasons. People have asked what sort of temperatures we're returning to. Here's a clue:

Not bad really? Cairns, where we'll stop for a few days rest before returning to Brisbane, will be warm enough to swim. No great shock coming from summer here. 

Brisbane won't get much cooler than this, except on the occasional day. It really is the perfect season. The season I long for at the end of every summer and winter here in Tokyo: a stable moderate season. But Tokyo always rushes through these moderate temperatures like a temperamental train. 

Best news of all: these next 12 months we get to skip both of Tokyo's extreme seasons, summer and winter. Yippee!

13 June, 2014

Connecting up

As I type I'm listening to my husband talk to a Telstra employee via Skype. It is a little surreal, but also slightly disturbing.

Questions like: 

"Do you have a current account?"

"What's your current address?"
        "Do you mean our Australian address?"
"Ah, no, an Australian address?"
        "How about our address from four years ago, the last time we lived in Australia?"

"What's your driver's licence number?" 
        "Ah, hang on a minute while we find all our Australian cards."

"What's your mobile number?"
        "Don't have one."

"Could you give us someone else's mobile?"
        "Um, I have a number for my father-in-law, but I don't know if it is current. Can I give you his landline?"
"No, has to be a mobile. . . "
"Perhaps we'll just leave that one for now."

"Ah, no. Don't have that."
        "Religious worker, church worker?"
"Nope, closest I have is social worker?"
        "How about teacher?"

And so on. 

A slightly challenging conversation, but it achieved its goal and hopefully that will mean that we can have internet connectivity from the day we arrive in Brisbane.

Things you might not know about the Christian scene in Japan

We have potentially spotty Internet access over the next week or two, so you're going to hear from me less for a while. 

Here's an article you might find interesting, however: http://toddfong.wordpress.com/2013/10/14/6-things-christians-must-know-about-japan/

12 June, 2014

Counting down

We have 16 full days left until we fly. I've just counted that we have only five more evening meals at home with five of us present. 

Tonight we have the final official staff social event. It is when we'll farewell some people we may never see again. 
Just had to add in a photo of our
hydrangea that's flowering just now.
Glowing beautifully in the abundant
rain we're receiving.

Tomorrow night we are going out to our traditional end-of-school year meal at a local Yakiniku restaurant (cook your own meat at the table, plus all you can eat salad, dessert, drinks and slushies).

Then next Tuesday things get more complicated. Our youngest son goes to a summer camp for four nights. I go to the 16th World Congress of Occupational Therapists in Yokohama (with 5,000+ other people) for the same period of time.

The day our youngest son and I return, our middle son goes to a summer camp for five nights.

Two days after he comes back from camp we leave this house to stay one night at OMF Japan headquarters (which is a little closer to the airport).

Five nights in Cairns chilling.

Then back to Brisbane.

Five weeks today our boys will start school again in Australia. Incidentally I just told them this and they groaned:
"We miss out on our long summer holiday," they moaned. 
"No you don't. You get another two weeks in September/October . . ." 
"Why a holiday then, Thanksgiving?" (Oh my, our boys will have some culture shock! You can see how we parents end up being the cultural interpreters.)
 "That's just when Australian schools have holidays. Their system is different. And then eight weeks summer holidays over Christmas. Add it up . . . you get more than CAJers." (And I didn't tell them about the two weeks at Easter.)
Lots of numbers, that you count and re-count. But in the end they're days slipping through our hands. They're disappearing fast. But not too fast. In some ways I want them to go faster, so that this unsettled stage will be over and we can settle down again.

11 June, 2014

Sleepovers and goodbyes

School finished (for the boys) yesterday at lunch time. Right there all routine life ended for a time.

At that point I said goodbye to my youngest son, who went to stay at his friend's house overnight.

I came home to what I thought would be an empty house, but turned out there my middle son beat me. In the entry I had to work my way around a pile of discarded bags and backpacks. It seems that my eldest son and his friends had beaten me too, left their bags and gone again, leaving the door unlocked.

In a belated birthday celebration, we'd invited about a dozen of our eldest son's friends to a sleep-over party last night. They went to "the eki" for lunch. "The eki" is the train station and short for "the commercial area around that area". I think they probably went to McDonalds, I haven't asked.

Around 1.30 a bunch of teenagers blew into my house. From that point until now, 23 hours later, I've had boys (and one girl) traipsing in and out. Very unusual for our family. Our older two boys have introvert personalities and don't generally invite friends over except on special occasions. Neither David or I grew up with such events either, so it is always a bit novel when it happens. I loved it! 

It was super hard to take photos of 10 people in our little lounge room
(about 9 square metres). This was a game of 7Wonders.
Before I left school yesterday I said goodbye to a few of my friends. One mum of girls (not yet teens) wanted to know what the just-finished-ninth-graders would do.
They played board games, and generally "hung out" in our lounge room listening to music, playing a guitar, telling bad jokes, talking to Siri on their iPhones. Oh, they watched some DVDs too (like Top Gear and Garfield). And got to sleep at around 4am (I crashed at 11.30).

No, we didn't need to entertain them, though we did join in some of the fun.

Yes, there was a girl there, she left at 5, leaving me as the only female in the
house. Last night only four guys stayed over. They all slept in this little room.
We fed them. Washed up. Fed them again. Washed up again. You get the picture.
What was most fun was getting to know more of our son's friends.

What brought most joy was seeing flesh and blood answers to our many prayers when we came back to CAJ four years ago: for friends for our lonely son. Most of the friends he'd made at CAJ before we left for home assignment last time weren't at CAJ anymore when we got back. 

What brought most encouragement was seeing what lovely young men (and one woman) these teenagers are turning into. We're so glad for this group!

What brings most sadness is saying, "Goodbye, see you in 14 months!"

This week will bring more kids into our house. Our middle son will have two friends over on two different days and may go to a sleepover at another friends house tomorrow (he hasn't decided yet). This is a deliberate strategy on our part, allowing our boys, who aren't good at goodbyes, to spend a bit of extra time with friends who are special to them.

09 June, 2014

41 tips worth your time

Here are some wonderful blogposts by an former missionary in China. These posts are well written and definitely worth your time. I highly recommend you check out at least one of the below.

Staying Well: 10 tips for Expats left behind Great quote: "It hurts because it is good."

Leaving Well: 10 tips

Landing Well: 10 tips

Receiving Well: 11 tips

One of the things this blogger emphasises is giving ourselves and others grace. I'd like to reflect on that more, but I'm giving myself grace this evening. I've had a bit of an emotional and full day and my innards are mucking around and feeling uncomfortable. So, while I might try to fool myself (and others) into thinking that I'm doing okay, my body is telling me otherwise. Therefore . . . grace.

08 June, 2014

Tasty goodbyes

Last night we walked through the steady rain to a local Japanese restaurant. We've received more than 15 inches since Thursday afternoon. The rain had been relentless. My brown gum boots and green-with-white polkadots umbrella are getting quite a workout.

The "green" dish is a Capsicum and Beef
Stirfry. To the right is the signature dish
of the restaurant: Gyoza (a Chinese-dumpling
we first discovered in those hazy early days
of church life in Japan, only weeks after we
first arrived in Japan in 2000).
It occurred to me a little while ago, as I tried to plan meals for the coming weeks, that Japanese food was one thing we missed while in Australia. Oh yes, we're looking forward to BBQs, Aussie sausages, Weetbix, Mars Bars, lamb, pies and all sorts of food that isn't easy to get here. But eventually we'll feel "homesick" for food that's easily available in Japan. 

So I asked the boys what food experiences they'd like to have before we left (keeping in mind that we don't eat a lot of Japanese food at home, I generally leave that to the experts). A number of ideas came up, some of them viable. Therefore I modified my evening meal plan yet again. It's got so much white-out on it now that I'm beginning to wonder how much more the paper will take. Feeding a family, while simultaneously emptying the larder takes skill and though I've done it before and somewhat enjoy the challenge, I'm not finding it easy.

Last night we enjoyed a pretty cheap, but tasty meal. It was good. The boys were pretty jumpy because they were going to a board game evening afterwards. But still it was good. We're saying our farewells, and I have to say this was a tasty one. 

07 June, 2014

Encouraging writing news

Lots of news on the writing front for me in the last week.

  1. I found out that a story of mine about our early days in Tokyo in the midst of a typhoon will be included in a compilation book about God's faithfulness being published by our mission next year to celebrate our 150th anniversary. This will be the first book I've ever been published in! Yay.
  2. They also asked me for another story. Bad timing, but I'm seeing what I can do.
  3. Another article of mine is being published by OMF Australia in a training manual for home side support teams. You might have seen an earlier version of it here on my blog, it is about missionaries and loneliness.
  4. Another publication (Thrive) is also interested in publishing a version of that article about loneliness. I'm waiting to hear back from them.
  5. I've received a "we're considering publishing your meditation" email from The Upper Room (this is a paying market that is published in 100 countries in 35 languages). That's definitely hopeful!
  6. I've also signed up to go to a Christian Writer's Conference in Australia in October. My first ever face-to-face Writer's Conference. 
So while I haven't been doing much writing of my own recently, it seems as though some things I've written a while ago are still moving forward towards publication. Wonderful!

Plus we're moving closer to getting the 31 Days of Prayer for Japan publication out. A few more details to sort, but it should be out in August. Keep an eye here and I'll tell you how you can get a copy.

Exciting! To have all this information come to my attention within a few days is just plain encouraging. God knows!

06 June, 2014

More goodbyes and tears

Interesting day so far today.

CAJ community
I started with a prayer meeting I have been attending regularly over the last four years and semi regularly over the last few months: the CAJ Friday morning community prayer meeting. It was a pleasure to gather with other parents (some of whom have become good friends) and pray for our students, teacher, and the school in general. 

I cried. It started when I shared briefly how many things we have to thank and praise God for over these last four years and how he's piling it on just now as we step out in faith to go to Australia for a year. I didn't have time to list any, but it was enough. 

Then I cried as people prayed for those going through transition and specifically for our family. I had trouble getting my words out as I prayed for all those saying goodbyes (pretty much everyone who knows anyone in the missionary community). And especially for the best friend of my youngest son whose mum sent me a message yesterday afternoon saying her son had been in tears because his friend was leaving. Ouch! She tempered the pain by reminding us both that the relationships we cry over saying farewells are not to be missed. They are the best friendships!
My coffee buddy, Sharon, and I enjoying a giggle at the OMF
conference in March.

Coffee shop rendezvous
After the prayer meeting I caught a couple of trains to a cafe I've heard about, but never visited. It is a ministry run by some Aussie friends of ours in TEAM (not SEND as I originally wrote). SonRise Cafe. I met another Aussie, a newish OMF missionary there for coffee. Great times getting to know one another, telling our stories, and enjoying the pleasant, quiet atmosphere (we were the only customers at the time).

Lunch "date" with my 15 y.o.
I finally got home after 1pm and walked through a heavy downpour to our house. So glad I wore my gum boots today. Yes it was cool enough. About 20 degrees Celsius today, after 35 last weekend!

My son was home, he's on exam schedule (actually "Culminating Assessment" schedule), which means he's only allowed to be at school when he has a class activity scheduled. He was home for lunch and we had an enjoyable time, just the two of us, chatting over lunch. I love his humour these days! One-on-ones are fun.

Tonight's "Commencement Exercises"
Yes, tonight we get to trespass on the sacred ground of American graduation ceremonies. They pull out some fabulous vocabulary. "Commencement Exercises" = "Graduation Ceremony". (See here for some other vocab. and first impressions of the event.)

The boys love to go for the food. There is quite a banquet put on (reception) after the event for everyone who attends. I'm not feeding us a lot for tea tonight.

Meanwhile, the clock is ticking, and I've got work to do before the boys come home in just over an house. Bye!