31 May, 2014

How's it going?

Email from a friend: "How are you guys coping this week?"
My reply: "We're okay. A bit swamped by work, but in good spirits. The boys are all being pretty good too, which helps."

A birthday

As I mentioned yesterday, we had a birthday this week. That resulted in:

A great conversation with my parents:
  • Grandson turning 15 big changes in him. Skype is great!
  • Photo book arrived, looks great.
  • Moving details (they store our stuff while we're away).
The boys "gaming".
Presents
  • Particularly a new game (not technically a board game, but something of a hybrid between a board game and a card game): 7Wonders. The boys have been playing every spare moment, including all day today (with two extra boys, friends of our eldest from mid afternoon).
Self Maintenance

I took myself to the dentist for a checkup and the hairdresser for a trim this week. Felt great to get these routine-type things out of the way.

A good antidote for me about feeling overwhelmed by work is taking time out to socialise with friends. I had a couple of opportunities to have coffee with friends this week. It helped me keep my perspective and positive attitude.

Some projects coming to conclusion

I've received the proofs of the "31 Days of Prayer for Japan" booklet that I spent a lot of time on late last year and earlier this year. Looks like it will be out in time for our home assignment. Just need to get it proofread and marketed now!

The Japan Calendar 2015 that I've worked on the last couple of months is also coming to a conclusion. This year we're adding Portuguese and German to the English version. Wonderful progress!

The end is in sight for the Spring issue of Japan Harvest. I'm also getting to the end of the editing phase of the Summer issue. I might be able to do that before I hand it over in a couple of weeks.

Today got our last prayer/newsletter out (though there is still a couple of knots to sort out, with some addresses not being sent to). That is the last prayer/newsletter for this term of service. Great!

As I wrote above, the photo book I've worked on this year about this term of service has arrived at my parent's house (cheaper than getting it posted to Japan). My parents think it looks wonderful, great quality. This is a relief and I'm looking forward to using this flexible deputation tool.

David's finished the video we made with a couple of Aussies at CAJ giving their short testimony about how CAJ really contributes to their ministry. This is also going to be a great tool for deputation, in conjunction with another fabulous video that some American friends made for us.

David finished the rough draft of the last assignment for his Masters degree on Thursday. I'm proofreading it. It's going to be a great relief to get this finished.

It is wonderful to see these things coming to an end. That means that we're making progress in our preparation for moving, but also that we're getting ready to move into different roles for the year.

Cleaning

I cleaned the inside and outside of the windows in our bedroom today, including the screens. Seems like a small achievement, but it took a while. And again, it is a marker showing visible progress.


More furniture decided on

We've been getting various pieces of information about furniture that could be used by us in Australia. Needed furniture. It's required lots of emails and guessing/decision making. Challenging at times to get our minds around it all. But also a reminder that not only do we have good friends working on our behalf, which is a great encouragement, but also that God is supplying our needs.

Sports Day/Field Day (as the Americans call it)

5x200m relay. Our boys made up ⅖ of the orange team.


Yesterday it was the CAJ elementary sports/field day. I wasn't looking forward it, but it turned out to be okay. It was hot and despite using a hat, sunscreen, and an umbrella, and drinking 4L of fluid, my skin felt battered by the sun last night. On that note, Australians don't use umbrellas to keep the sun off them much, do they? That's going to be weird.

However I did get to touch base with a lot of people, as well as see my two younger sons perform very well in a number of events.
Here I am with a couple of friends.
I think our team should have gotten point for parents
wearing team colours. Orange is not a colour that is
in my wardrobe. I actually planned ahead and
bought this shirt at Thrift Shop for a very small
amount of money. See the orange umbrella that
my eldest son allowed me to use (it's his), it was
his idea, actually!


So, just in case you were asking: that's some of "How it's going" here!


30 May, 2014

Enjoying the teens

We have celebrated another teenage birthday this week. Actually we're still celebrating it. The parties and presents will be spread out for several weeks (a couple are waiting in Australia for us).

The other day I stumbled on a great blog post about parenting a teen, that especially majors on the joys. It resonates with what I've experienced so far in this journey.

Here are some quotes from the post that I love:
Parenting teens is pretty much the best Mom gig yet. They are funny and smart and you see glimpses of their adult selves. They are beginning to funnel into their gifts and passions, and you feel the most absurd pride about who they are becoming right in front of your eyes.
And THE HUMOR. . . You haven’t laughed until you laugh with your teen over shared humor. 
Get super, super interested in what your children are interested in. Invest in their talents.
This last quote obviously validates my obsession with interest in wrestling. I totally agree with the first quote, I'm enjoying this stage more than any previous ones!

29 May, 2014

The goodbyes begin

Yesterday I said goodbye to these ladies. One is a friend I've known for more than eight
years, since our children were in Japanese kindergarten together. She's helped me in many, many ways over the years.

We've enjoyed a number of "coffee" times together over the last year. It was sad to say goodbye. I had the perfect phrase, though:

Itsumo osewa ni narimashita.

Literally it means "Thank you very much for the care/help/aid you always give me." 

I don't know if I said it perfectly. I think I threw in an arigatogozaimasu (thank you), that could have been a bit superfluous. But it was understood and it was a much better thing than anything I could have said to them in English. We made it through our see-you-later without tears, but I felt teary on the train home.

It is hard to make Japanese friends. Our first years here were very lonely. So I don't take my Japanese friends for granted!

You get used to lots of goodbyes in this lifestyle, but, as an adult former-misisonary kid said to me on Tuesday, "Just cause you get used to it, doesn't mean you like it!"

Eye opening book

Here's a book I've read recently. It is the story of a refugee from Burundi who, by the generosity of friends, made his way to the US where he knew no one. 

He must be a very winsome bloke, because he made the most amazing collection of friends there, after spending his early months homeless. Through the support of friends and by a lot of hard work he managed to get his medical degree. 

He'd been a medical student before he left his home country in the midst of a terrible genocide that was linked to the genocide in Rwanda. The story finishes up with him, by now a US citizen, working hard to build a hospital in his parents' village. 

I've read few biographical books about Africans or even refugees. I'd heard of the genocide in that region, but not much. I've even met a political refugee from there who's settled in Japan. Her children were at our son's Japanese kindergarten. But I didn't know her very well. So I learnt quite a bit from this book. A good read if you ever come across it (it's in the CAJ library, if you have access to that). 

28 May, 2014

Yearbook not a magazine

Yesterday Matsu arrived. Matsu is the name of CAJ's yearbook. The first time I saw one of these I was shocked at its amazing quality. It is like a coffee-table book!


A hard cover, glossy, full-colour professional production (I won't mention all the mistakes I found as I scanned through it last night). Quite a different affair to the School Magazines that I grew up with!
This was the first page our eldest son turned to.


This year they included baby photos
of some of the teachers. Can you guess
which is David?
The reason why they can produce such an amazing product is that it is a class that high schoolers can take! Yep, they work on it five days a week for a whole school year. What a great class to take!


I found this interesting. A survey of almost
200 student (probably high schoolers,
but the article doesn't say) about what
languages they speak. CAJ's quite a
multi-lingual environment, even though
the classrooms are "English only"!
We'll be bringing the last four year's Matsu home to help people get a feel for the school. So you might get a chance to take a peek yourself.
Here's another page. A double spread on the school's top high school volleyball team.


27 May, 2014

Straightening out some kinks

This morning I went to my local dentist. We had a short warm-up conversation about language (he complimented me on my pronunciation). I politely said that Japanese is very hard. 


Then he mentioned a current affairs item (another time I'm glad I've browsed Facebook and knew about this), a prestigious private university in Japan has announced they're going to change their name. Why? Because they are called Kinki University (pronounced 'kinky') merely because that is where they are located, in the Kinki area.

Of course this name produced giggles. Can you imagine a graduate going overseas with that as her alma mater? Or trying to recruit international students? Hence, they're changing it to "Kindai". This is a combination of "Kinki" and "Daigaku" (university). Makes sense!

The news has made headlines internationally, but here is one article you might like to read.

Indeed, words that make sense in one culture may be worse than not making sense in another. There are English words and other names that don't translate very well into Japanese either, like Backer (turns into an insult in Japanese) and Ben (body waste).

Ah, the fun you can have trying to make yourself understood across cultures.

26 May, 2014

Foreigners in our city

There are 1,600 foreigners in our city. That is about 1.3% of the population, slightly less than the national statistic of 1.5% (from here). Which is interesting because the general perception in the missionary community is that there is a large abundance of foreigners clustered around the school (CAJ). Obviously there are not so many as they imagine. 

A street shot from our city a couple of months ago.
To compare that statistic, 26.8% of people residing in Australia in 2010 were born outside of the country (from here)!


Standing in our church.

Here's the breakdown of nationalities in our city:* 515 Chinese
284 Koreans
239 Filipinos
206 Americans
33 Canadians
25 British
20 Australians
10 Germans
260 from other countries

Yep, as a family we make up ¼ of the Australian  population in our city of 116,006 people (according to Wikipedia). 
In our church, as far as the pastor knows, there are people from at least eight difference countries. 

A random fact I learned  while researching this is that in 1993 Japan had 50% of the population live on 2% of the land (cited here). I doubt that's changed significantly. Crazy!

Not wanting to open a can of worms, or anything, but you might be interested in a growing debate about immigration in Japan. Here's an article about both sides of the discussion. The population is greying and declining and some say immigration is the answer (trying to persuade women to have more babies simply isn't working).

*This list comes from a recent sermon at our church here. 

25 May, 2014

Today's doings

This morning we showed up for our Skype interview with a supporting church in Brisbane, from our lounge room (while the boys ate breakfast in the next room). The interviewer was kind to us. It was great to see a good friend of the family (the pastor of the church) in the
TAA was the airline I first remember flying on, when
I was about 10. Today marks five weeks until we hop
on a plane back to Australia.
front row. He's known me since birth. Makes me a tiny bit homesick. 


Then we went off to our church here. One of the questions we'd been asked by our Australian supporters was the differences between a typical protestant Australian church and the Japanese church. I remembered something as I rode my bike to church this morning: our church doesn't have a car park. Most people come on foot, by bike, or train.

I realised towards the end of the church service that I was feeling more tired than usual. Must be something to do with it being only 10.5 days left of the school year, a while since we had a holiday, and the extra work we're doing for our upcoming move. 

Though really I think that for me the bigger burden is the emotional stress. No, I'm not crying readily. But, as you know if you've been dropping in here for a while, I'm doing overtime on thinking about the transition! It's this pre-moving time that I find the most stressful.

Thankfully this afternoon I've been able to rest. There's lots going on in the next 2 ½ weeks, I need my stamina. Still five weeks till our Cairns holiday.


24 May, 2014

Finally packing has begun.

So finally, for all those who want to know: yes, we've started packing! 

Almost empty bookshelf in our bedroom.
Some things that are there now, are for
packing in our suitcases for Australia.
We needed somewhere to put them, so
emptying the bookcase has given us that
space. We do have a largish house
by Japanese standards, but we don't have
lots of spare space for stacking stuff.
Today we've also been cleaning. Some of the downstairs windows are done. Plus screens and other miscellaneous things like upper cupboards in kitchen, cover of the extractor fan (pretty disgusting), blades of ceiling fan, under the chest freezer, top of fridge. Just writing it out makes me feel I've accomplished something today! I continue to be very grateful that we are not moving out permanently. We're having a much easier time out of this the transition than if we were moving. 
But what's been more fun has been discussions around the table the last couple of days. Boys love to discuss food! We've been dreaming of what we'd like to plant in the veggie gardens at our house in Australia. Yes, it comes with empty garden beds! We're dreaming of homegrown corn, beans, sweet potato, pumpkin, zucchini, tomatoes, carrots, and strawberries. Maybe more. Yum! If this takes off it could be a great family project.
The veggie gardens.


Having this advance notice of a house to move into, with photos and details is enjoyable, there's no doubt about that. 
Veggie gardens, just waiting for us.
We're still waiting on a van to borrow and some  furniture, electrical appliances, but it's been exciting to see our friends rallying around to help pull things together. We're looking forward to seeing God's provision, yet again!


23 May, 2014

Thinking about missionaries' transitions

I've collected a couple of links to articles with some excellent insights into transition and reentry. 

This article makes some great points. I've personalised some of them here:

This life of living cross-culturally – loving and becoming like those not like you – is a life marked by grief. Oh yes, I've talked
Here are some of my missionary friends. All three of
these ladies have taken home assignments in the last
18 months. Goodbyes and hellos! Yet because we
share this crazy lifestyle we have a strong bond.
about that here before (for example here and here). Imminent goodbyes are weighing heavily on me just now.

Returning starts as soon as you think about leaving.  Yep. So we've been leaving for a while now. We began talking about the right timing for this home assignment since at least the end of 2012!  And we won't really settle fully in Australia, because we'll be thinking about leaving again next June!

The word “home” will be one of the most perplexing words to ever define again. Yep, agreed. Be careful of suggesting that it's good to "be home" when we're in Australia. "Home" is complicated, and even more so for our boys.

Transition comes with ‘odd’ symptoms that are a NORMAL part of loss and change. Yes, for example, I've definitely been making more mistakes recently. The other day I made a basic maths error in an email (3,000 - 500 = 3,500, doesn't it?). Yesterday's blogpost is a good example. I spelt "practise" incorrectly four times and had another autocorrect problem that slipped through. Today I attached the wrong document to an email. Not that these don't ever happen, they're just happening more frequently at present. 

Re-entry is like a dense fog that takes awhile to liftBe warned, if you encounter us early in our time back in Australia, we could be weird and "foggy".  

Returning happens best in the presence of others who are genuinely interested in hearing your story. Oh yes, how we love those who can sit and listen and ask good questions!

And another one which is more about what it's like for missionaries when they leave the field permanently. It is worth a read, if only to get a great understanding of what a tremendous challenge that is. 

How does it relate to the Marshalls? Even though we aren't leaving the field yet, we still feel some of the challenges and misunderstandings that are mentioned. The last section of the article give suggestions of how people on the "home side" can help: Pray, tangible help, and listen. These three are good for helping anyone going through a big transition.

Lastly I read an article recently in New Directions, a newspaper put out by the Presbyterian Church in Australia. It is by an author who is quite well known in missions there, Naomi Reed. I identify with her on several levels, because we have a similar background (Allied Health professionals) and similar family dynamics (three boys) and she's a writer too (though I haven't written a book yet, but she's written several). But we have very different ministry stories. She and her family were in Nepal for a time. They've now returned to Australia. Her article is also about the challenges of re-entry. I particularly like this quote from one of her boys about the tension he felt about being back in Australia:
It's the way that we always had something big to look forward to in Nepal. Everything about our lives was special there sand everything had a purpose. It joined together. We had friends who shared all of that and that made them more real. We don't have that here."
She continues, "It was all about purposefulness. Our years in Nepal were marked by deliberateness of life and ministry. Darren and I knew that God and called us there with a specific purpose in mind. We shared that purpose with the wider mission community and that gave us a unique fellowship."*

That about sums it up. Our life is very purposeful and if that were to be taken away from us, we'd definitely find it difficult. It is challenging enough to go back to Australia and try to fit in with friends who don't have the same sense of overarching purposefulness. We miss that when we're away from Japan.

So there's today's collection of thoughts about missionary transitions. Feel overwhelmed yet? Somehow writing about it like this helps me to feel less overwhelmed.


* New Directions, June/July 2012, page 5.


22 May, 2014

Proud of my son

I'm proud of my eldest son today. Last night he went to his Japanese club's wrestling practice. He normally goes to the Monday practice from 7.30pm-9.30pm, but it was cancelled three weeks running, so he got desperate and went to the Wednesday one this week. He doesn't normally go to this practice, because it is later: 8.00pm-10.00pm. It takes 40-50 minutes to get there on the train.*

It was all going fine, he hopped on a train in good time at our local station headed to the right station and pulled out a book. Next time he looked up he realised he was in a subway tunnel. There are no subway tunnels between here and the station he was headed to on the usual line, so he thought he was on the wrong train. I'm proud of him because he kept his head and hopped off at the next station to investigate.

Tokyo's train system. Not hard to get lost here!
He spent some time trying to figure out where he was in relation to where he wanted to go and figured out that the line he was on would indeed go where he wanted, so he hopped back on the next train. I'm proud of him because he took the time to figure this out, and succeeded. A year ago he wouldn't have been able to do this.

Trouble was, when the train got to his destination it was a completely different platform to the one he was used to arriving at (this is Ikebukuro, one of the largest and busiest stations in the world). He had to work hard to figure out where the next platform was that he needed. Ikebukuro Station has many lines running through it and the platforms aren't lined up parallel to one another. Under it is quite a network of tunnels and hundreds of signs, not to mention thousands of people. He took some wrong turns, but eventually found his way to the Yamanote line (one of the busiest and most important lines in Tokyo). I'm proud of him because again he didn't panic, he took his time and found his way.

He arrived five minutes late to his practice. Thankfully they are a lot more casual than the school wrestling team is (where they'd be penalised by multiple "burpees" for every minute they were late).

Our boy's growing up! Next week he turns 15. He is growing in many ways (he's over 170cm now), but not just physically. The ability to handle himself when things don't go as planned is a fantastic skill. I'm proud!


*See here for my post from last year about when he joined his Japanese wrestling club.

21 May, 2014

Today's pet shock

Today's shock is that our turtle is moving out this afternoon! We knew he was moving out sometime, we organised for some friends to take him for the year, but we didn't know when they were going to pick him up. 

Tiny the Turtle, foiled a couple of weeks ago in an escape.
He's called Tiny because he was, when we got him
3 ½ yrs ago!

Life in Tokyo can be different because of the transport issue. Not many people drive to CAJ often, most travel to and from the school by train or bike or on foot. So in this case our turtle's new
family realised at lunch time that they would have their car at the school this afternoon, which is just down the road from our house, so it was a convenient time to pick up the turtle. 
Tiny's abode. The modified lid is a new addition after the
aforementioned escape bid.

He lives in a large plastic drawer that is too awkward to carry by train or bike. This is a common problem we work with as we move around this big metropolis. The other day I took some pavlova to my language exchange meeting. We meet at a Mos Burger fast food restaurant and I get there on the train (only two stops), so I needed to figure out how to transport it in a safe fashion. It was a fun challenge. I had to include plates and serving implements. I took the cream and chopped up fruit separately and assembled it at the table.

Bring and share events can have a slightly different hue because of how we get to them.

But back to today's shock. I hope the boys will be okay with this sudden change. I haven't had a chance to tell them, obviously. I don't think they're too attached to the turtle, he's not like a dog or cat that you cuddle. But still, it will be a blank spot just outside their bedrooms and a physical reminder that life is about to hold some even larger changes and challenges.


20 May, 2014

Shock

One of our supporting churches is lining us up for a live Skype interview this Sunday morning. Today they sent us the questions they'd like to ask. 
This is what we looked like when we first started doing this
"deputation" gig in 1999. You'd think we'd be veterans by
now. But the start of every home assignment is fraught with
stage fright for me.

It was like a glass of water poured over me. Reality check: you're going back to Australia where you'll be asked, on the spot, to summarise your call to Japan, your life ministry etc. in just a few minutes. Thankfully this church has given us a few days notice, but still I'd forgotten how challenging this is. Home Assignment will be no stroll in the park.

I remember when we finally left to come to Japan for the first time in 2000. I was thoroughly sick of giving the "who is Wendy" speech in just a couple of minutes. In fact I was getting pretty angry at having to summarise who I was in such a short time. 

Here's the second question they have for us on Sunday:
    "What led you in the first place to believe that you were called to serve in Japan?"
It's the kind of question I can give a 15 or 20 minute answer to. We won't have that long.

I'm glad they're interested. I hope that we'll be able to bridge the gap between where we are and where they are. But once again, we're facing a situation, a whole year of situations, where we don't have sufficient resources to do the job. 

Leaning into God again. 
 

19 May, 2014

Volunteer Culture Clash

We've been the recipients of many "please volunteer" emails for parents in recent weeks, and repeat ones, saying "We've not got enough volunteers." It's been mentally difficult to deal with because I want to be involved and I want to help, that's the sort of personality I have, but I've had to limit my involvement in order to do my other jobs.

Thrift Shop is another place that has struggled with volunteers
in recent years. It relies on hundreds of volunteer hours to
get the job done.
I had a conversation with a couple of CAJ staff after church yesterday. It was interesting to get a staff-member's perspective on this, particularly those who've been around a lot longer than I. The percentage of missionary families at the school has decreased over the years and that is where they get most of their volunteers from. The other families are largely Japanese or Korean and have a different culture when it comes to volunteering at your child's school.

My limited experience of Japanese kindergarten and school volunteering showed me that it is more like a compulsory volunteering that happens at the beginning of the school year. At kindergarten we'd have a parents-of-students meeting and they'd lay out all the volunteer needs for the school year. Everyone was expected to volunteer for at least one duty. I can't remember ever being asked to volunteer for something else. Maybe I was?

CAJ is an American-style international school. They ask for volunteers in the Western way: throughout the year, when an event is coming up and needs volunteers. Apparently, when Asian mums who don't know the system volunteer, they often group to one side and chat. They don't take initiative or take on the responsibility of supervising the students. Which, you can imagine, causes lots of difficulties when the teachers are relying on parent volunteers on an excursion.

An interesting aside in this is that Western parents seem happy to direct children who aren't their own, but this doesn't seem to happen with Japanese parents, in a group they stick to looking after their own kids, and perhaps the children of a close friend. Another cultural difference? I wonder how many times I've stepped on another mum's toes by telling their kids what to do?

The added difficulty at CAJ is that parents are asked to volunteer for events that many Asian parents have no experience of themselves, like running a party with games or, I presume, an overnight camp situation like I was in last week.

The elementary classes at CAJ have a high percentage of Asian kids, higher than the older grades. Ironically these are the years that they ask the most often for parent volunteers! So, the burden can fall quite heavily on those, like me, who have a flexible schedule and live quite close.

All that being said, I need to get back to the work I neglected while volunteering out in the wilds last week.

18 May, 2014

Food matters

Yesterday we felt like the queen and king of homemade food!

For breakfast we ate homemade fruit muffins, made that morning by David. 

For afternoon tea we ate homemade slice and banana muffins made that day by me. 

For dinner we ate homemade pizza topped by homemade leftovers plus other things. (Base by Wendy, toppings by David). Dessert was homemade
Spaghetti Casserole Pizza on a homemade
 wholemeal base. Pizza bases aren't easily
available here and take away pizza not great
value for money, so we usually make
our own.
chocolate ice-cream made by Wendy on Monday.

Dinner was a huge success. The new recipe we're using for a pizza base is easy and light. Dessert was greeted by incredulous cries of, "Wow, you made this? It tastes like Hagen Daaz!"

So satisfying! I love feeding my family (most of the time). And they're now at an age where they really show appreciation for food they're enjoying. Boys are great like that! 

With only six weeks till we leave I've moved into "clear the pantry and freezers out" mode. Not easy. Particularly when I've worked under a mode of having extra food in case of emergency since the March 2011 disasters. It feels a bit scary to be scaling down our stores. 

Thankfully this time we're not packing up the whole house—that is even trickier. Non-perishable leftover supplies can be left for our house sitters. But at the same time I don't want to leave a stack of food that they might not want. So I'm aiming to use up as much as we can: a fine balancing act when we're still providing food for us all every day. 

Strangely enough, as things have gotten more hectic with my jobs (planning for handover plus the regular day-to-day work is a bit crazy), I've gotten more urges to cook. Not procrastination, perhaps a suppressed desire to run away from all this transition? But at the same time, I've had more spills and mistakes than usual, I'm usually a pretty tidy cook, so this is unusual. I think the pretence that I'm holding it all together can't stay intact for too much longer.

17 May, 2014

I survived the 5th grade camp!

I survived 5th grade camp, as a parent! I wasn't worried about the students, but I was worried a bit by the assurance that we'd be doing a lot of mountain hiking. Turns out it wasn't too hard . . . except the the bit at the end of the first day, and the end of the second morning.

We spent Thursday morning travelling by bus and van to the west of Tokyo and the mountains. We then caught a "cable car" up to what some of us thought was the top of Mt Mitake

We had lunch at this beautiful spot. It was misty, rainy enough for everyone to put on their rain gear, but that cleared as the afternoon went on. Leaving cloud to shield us from the heat.


Love the wisteria where we ate lunch.

Then we hiked. But not really on mountain trails. To our surprise there is a community up there. A bunch of houses, even a school. And several shrines. We walked about a kilometre, almost all uphill, to the summit.
This was the top of Mt Mitake. A mountain of about 900m high. A shrine is at
the summit. We stopped periodically on our journey for the students to write in
their journals.
The view to the left of the one above. Another
part of the shrine.
An impressive statue at the shrine.
Another another view from the same spot.
The trees are gorgeous at this time of
year, the greens are vibrant, almost
fluorescent.
My little phone camera didn't cope too well with the gloomy
conditions, but this was one of the views we enjoyed.
Then we headed down the mountain. No cable car! This was the most painful of the journey. Down hill for a long way!

We stopped once for the kids to journal (and, presumably, to rest).

This was the angle of the cable car. We didn't walk
down at that angle, but did walk to the bottom,
where we'd parked the vehicles.
It was lovely to enjoy a hot meal that someone else had cooked when we got back to camp. Though I would have enjoyed a hot bath at that point, the program continued onwards. The students gave presentations about what they'd learned about ecology and then we enjoyed a campfire.
We introduced many of the students to
s'mores for the first time. Many of these
students had never had them before.
The class has very few blond heads in it.
Most of the children have at least one Asian parent.
After campfire was the drama of baths. Japanese-style baths. Meaning: no privacy (girls and boys were separated, of course). This turned out to be a drama for the girls. These are 11 and 12 year olds and some of the girls are more physically mature than others. But I believe that most people got washed. I know not everyone did, because my son dodged the bullet, but not because he's bashful. He's just the most reluctant to look after himself in any way. I doubt that he cleaned his teeth while we were away either.

I got to sleep sometime between 10.30 and 11 and had a good night's sleep. The classroom teacher didn't sleep so well because some kids woke up at 4 when it began to get light.

The next day we went down to the river and explored. By down, I mean down. From the campsite, it is down quite a long way! Especially for legs that descended a mountain the previous day.

It was a beautiful, sparkly day. Such a contrast to the day before, but perfect.
Certain members of my group weren't so perfect, but I think we can leave that out of this post.

After lunch we headed home again in the bus and vans. There were many nodding heads, but just as many crazy loud energiser-bunny kids in the bus. I'm grateful I could stand in the gap and prevent some tempers overflowing!

I'm glad I got to join the 5th graders on this trip. It wasn't terribly relaxing, but it was another opportunity to enjoy some more of Japan's beautiful nature. Can you believe that all of the above is within Tokyo's prefectural limits? When people refer to Tokyo as a city, they really don't get it right!

The question remains: will I do it again in two years time when our youngest is in 5th grade?



16 May, 2014

Scary English

Since I'm out in the "wilds" today "camping" with my middle son and the 5th grade class, here's a post I prepared earlier.

On our shopping trip to the hardware store on Saturday I found this "Compression Underwear". That's not so unusual, except the English is a little suspect. 


Here's a close-up. "The "Gladiatorarmor" is a functional fiber that improves your bodily functions more efficiently."

Hmmm. I didn't buy them!


15 May, 2014

School Camp!

Today I'm going out to west corner of Tokyo for a two-day overnight camping trip with my middle son's 5th grade class. They used to tent it, but the weather can be very unpredictable at this time of year, so this is the second year the class is staying at a
campsite in real buildings overnight. However, much of the time will be spent in the great outdoors, hiking around in the mountains. 

One part of me isn't looking forward to the physical exertion and the time away from my desk (meaning a pile-up on Monday). The other part of me is longing to get away from the constant emails and the pressures that are building as we prepare for going to Australia.


We've camped as a family several times out in this area and know that it is beautiful. So I know that my spirit will be refreshed by the beauty.

This is a class I've found very loud over the last four years I've interacted with them, so I could come back significantly frazzled. We'll see. We're also sleeping in the same room as the kids, so I'm not sure how much sleep I'll get. It's been a very long time since I've been on a school camp!

 Stay tuned for how it all goes.