20 July, 2018

Our house in Australia

It's now been about a week and a half since we moved into a rental house in Brisbane (actually Ipswich, but if you're not an Aussie, you won't know that that is the city just to the west of Brisbane).

We've made a lot of progress and it's starting to feel like ours. We really appreciate all those who cleaned the place, collected and moved in furniture borrowed from others, and moved in our own stuff too (we'd stored mostly sentimental things as well as linen and kitchen stuff, but not furniture). There's nothing like living in a place, however, for helping you to figure out where to put things so that the household runs smoothly and works for your family.

One thing we've done in the four places that we've lived in Australia since moving to Japan in 2000, was put up our pictures on the wall, not many, but some quite significant.

This one of Uluru, an iconic Australian sight, was bought by my husband before we got married and long before we actually visited this remote spot in central Australia. The picture is large and heavy, but does a great job of brightening up a house that's mostly white.

I can't remember where this little guy came from, but I like him very much, and again he breaks up the white. I especially like this position at the end of the short hall to our bedrooms.

This one has a lot of sentimental value. It was my bouquet at our wedding. It looked more spectacular in real life (more red, less gold), but I'm really glad for this gorgeous keepsake that we've had up in every home we've lived together in in Australia.

Here it is, positioned to be seen as you walk into our bedroom.

And a few other sights of our home: the view out our bedroom window. Living here, you can take for granted the gorgeous blue skies we get so often. But when you've lived in a place where blue like this is very rare, it is an absolute treat! Not to mention the gum trees (practically) in our backyard.

We've set up this space with practical goals: notices to be pinned up, recharging stations, keys, library books, games etc. I'm not quite sure what will go on the white board yet. We've got another white board on the fridge that I'm keeping updated with "What's coming up" so as to help with anxiety about future events, not to mention communication within the family (fridges are great places to communicate with teens!). The kitchen is working well too. I'm loving so much bench space!

This was a great step forward this week too. Getting our fourth bedroom into shape as an office, not just a place to dump extra boxes. We've been working on getting our presentation material into shape. Sunday is our first public engagement. This is a cosy place to work, and there's a window right next to my desk where I can see our gum tree in the front yard. 

I'm so thankful for this quiet place to call home for the next six months. It's got several features that I've rarely enjoyed in my adult life: an ensuite, a walk-in-robe, a dishwasher, a kitchen with a lot of bench space, a double-car garage with a remote control door, and a separate-from-the-bathroom yet inside laundry. Oh, a backyard too, but not too big a backyard (last time we had a huge backyard that was hard to take care of).

We have phones, and internet too. So we're all set up, really quickly.

Just thankful. Especially thankful that we can be settled so quickly, that that wouldn't have been possible without some very key people here who worked hard on our behalf before we even left Japan.

12 July, 2018

Unexpected changes

It's been over a week since I posted here and a lot has happened. Instead of listing all that out for you, I'm going to give you a story that might answer some questions, or maybe will produce extra questions.

I'm typing this in a library that doesn't look like a library (we're still waiting on internet at home). It should be a familiar space—it was our local library for the last two times we were back in Australia. One of the hardest things about coming back to Australia is finding that things you thought would be the same as you remember them, have changed, and we're finding this one quite unsettling.

The area that we've moved into is similar to where we've lived before: in 2009/2010, and 2014/2015. It's an older area that is rapidly expanding on the edges. I vaguely knew, through social media, that there were library changes, with a new library opening up in one of the newly developed areas, but I didn't know what those changes looked like.

I now know this familiar library-in-a-park has turned into a place that looks more like a bookshop. The decor is black and grey, the space we can use has more than halved, and there is no sign of Dewy Decimals. Most disturbingly, there are very few books here. The ones that are here are on free-standing bookshelves with little backboards amongst the books announcing things like "Pop science", "Award winning", and "War".

It's great if you're just looking for something to catch your eye, but if you're searching for a specific book or topic, you'd be better off staying at home and looking up the online catalogue and reserving the book you want. I'm very much in favour of online catalogues, but I do feel a little short-changed here, like the comfortable social experience of wandering around in a library has been pulled out from underneath me.

We woke up this morning in our newly rented house, the fourth morning in a row that we've done so. It's getting to be a familiar place. We know where many daily things are, we've had a few showers, and the washing machine has done some loads. I've been able to comfortably cook a couple of evening meals there, and we have all we need to basically function, physically. 

But it takes longer to feel "at home". Outside of the house we feel a bit like we're in a foreign country, like strangers looking on. Of course we blend in better than we do in Japan, so it isn't easy for others to see that we're feeling a bit unsteady on our feet.

Starting work?
One question we're fielding is: "When are you starting work?" Well, I guess in a strange way, we've already started work. Work on home assignment is a multi-faceted thing that doesn't have clear boundaries. We've already caught up with more than half a dozen friends/supporters. How do you define that: work or pleasure? It's part of the purpose of home assignment, but we'd never like any of our friends to think that catching up with them was work-only. I've been answering email and dealing with work-related editing/magazine management stuff online, though much less often than usual as we don't have wifi at home, other than via our phones.

Other work-related things we're doing in these two and a half weeks between arriving in Australia and having our first official "appearance" at an event includes medicals and debriefing with OMF and psychologists.

Stepping into the library this afternoon was disturbing and we struggled to hold back our exclamations about the changes. One boy struggled to hold in his anger. But for me, at least, one short exchange helped. 

The librarian found us blundering around and asked if she could help. I explained that we'd been away and were struggling to take in the changes. She explained what was going on and then offered to change our membership details. As she changed our details, she vaguely remembered us, remembered this family of three boys who usually live in Japan who were here before.

That made it feel like I had come home, at least in a small way. That I could be something of a local here, even if temporarily.

04 July, 2018

My God is my rock

Hi from the other side of the ocean. We've been in Sydney, Australia since Monday morning. That makes it about 60 hours. 

See the last few paragraphs of the post for the reference to this.
Actually we arrived quite exhausted. Friday, Saturday, and Sunday were very hot and humid, as well as physically and emotionally exhausting. On Friday and Saturday we finished up packing and cleaning our house, on Saturday I picked up our youngest son from camp about 1½ hrs west of our house by car and we travelled—with some of our luggage—to our mission's guest home (about 1½ hrs on trains).  

On Sunday we dealt with some final details, some of which were confusing and difficult to figure out, including a miscalculation on our luggage amount. During all this time we were also dealing with ongoing discussion about where we were going to live in Brisbane/Ipswich from July 8, not to mention boys who weren't enjoying the upheaval. There wasn't much rest. I was fighting mentally to stay away from negative and repetitive thoughts about practical details and some relationships.

Late on Sunday afternoon we travelled another hour by train to the airport, eventually getting on the plane at about 9.30, but not taking off until midnight due to some fault they were working on before we could take off.

The good thing about getting to the plane completely spent was that I slept better than usual on an overnight flight. Nothing as good as a horizontal sleep, but not too bad. I saw a fun Australian movie—BBQ—and some episodes of an intriguing TV series—Speechless.

Monday we landed in Sydney, made our way through customs and immigration with few issues, and eventually were reunited with our eldest son. It was a little anti-climatic as a reunion because so many other things were going on at the same time, not to mention that we were exhausted and not everyone was coping so well (one boy didn't sleep at all on the plane). Thankfully we were able to get to our holiday accomodation quickly and crashed.

On the journey from the airport I received a phone call from our friend working on housing to say that one of our housing applications had been successful. Great relief ensued! Followed by confusion later about the proper procedure that had to be followed to make it a sure thing. We're still waiting on a lease to sign, but keep getting assurances from the agent that it's proceeding forward, with a goal of the key being picked up on Friday morning, so surely tomorrow we'll see the lease.

Tuesday (seems like a long time ago, but just yesterday) we caught trains—a challenge in itself in a strange city—to meet an old friend of David's for lunch and then spent the afternoon at a large shopping centre. David got a phone and we sat at a coffee shop for a few hours while he got it functioning and then we went to see a movie (knowing that this was one familiar thing that we could do as a family that everyone was happy about).

Wednesday (today!) we decided to keep it low-key. We slept in and the boys have pretty much stayed at home. David and I met another old friend of his (and support of ours) for coffee, and bought a few more essentials and something for dinner.

Tomorrow we get our "tourist" hats on and head to the Opera House and meet some more friends who are heading to the mission field soon.

These few words can't convey the emotions that have run strongly through this all. Landing in Australia after being away for years is never easy. I always feel a little raw. One of our boys walked around staring at the ground yesterday much of the day. He was feeling the uncomfortableness of being in a new environment. He was worried about being left behind when we walked too fast, but as a teenager, also didn't want us to hold his hand. Challenging. Parenting through these changes is hard.

On Saturday, when I went to pick up my son, I took half an hour to walk down to the nearby river. It is gorgeous, I've been there before, and I knew I needed a moment in the midst of the madness to appreciate God's creation. I loved seeing this big rock in the middle of the rapidly moving water. It reminded me of how King David referred to God as his rock several times in the Bible. Here's one:
Oh, I must find rest in God only, because my hope comes from him! Only God is my rock and my salvation— my stronghold!—I will not be shaken. My deliverance and glory depend on God. God is my strong rock. My refuge is in God. All you people: Trust in him at all times! Pour out your hearts before him! God is our refuge! Selah
Psalm 62:5-8
Such comfort in the midst of upheaval.

That's enough for now. Thank you for your prayers! 

29 June, 2018

Snapshot: an exception?

The other day I went to the doctor. The process at our doctor is like this:

1. Turn up and turn in your "membership" card and health insurance card at the desk.
Here they are: dad loaded them up on their bike: one
on the front, one on the back, and walked them
to the pharmacy, just a few shops down the road.
2. Wait
3. Get called for triage with a nurse.
4. Wait
5. Get called to wait down the corridor outside the doctor.
6. See the doctor.
7. Wait
8. Get called to pay your bill and get your script.
9. Walk down the road to the pharmacy to get your medicine.
10. Hand in your script at the pharmacy and medicine record book.
11. Wait
12. Receive medicine and instructions
13. Pay

It's very predictable. Especially when you're just picking up routine medication (as I was).

There's a lot of waiting time, but that does depend on how many other people turned up before you. On Tuesday it was busy, but not excessively, and there were two doctors working, so I got through steps 1 to 8 in about an hour. I then broke the pattern for a couple of reasons, and came back later for steps 10 to 13.

Just before I got there, a dad had arrived on his own with two little boys, about 1 and 3. I know it was just before me, because I followed him through all these steps, just behind them. I love people watching in situations like these and this trio was fun. 

Dads on their own with little kids is not a common sight in Japan, though it is increasing. I love it when I see it, because they're breaking stereotypes.

This dad was doing a fantastic job. He had everything down: entertainment (reading animatedly to them), conversation (talking with them, answering questions, pointing out the trains out the window—our doctor's waiting room has a window where you can see trains just across the street), and shoes (shoes in Japan don't go on seats, so parents have to take them off little ones who want to climb).

Towards the end the older one started jumping, despite his dad's firm direction not to. And the inevitable happened: he jumped on a low seat and fell off onto his head. Dad was right there, grabbed him and comforted him. They were at step 7, but then got called to pay. This guy stood up with the screaming three year old on one hip, picked up the younger boy, and collected his script, while holding them both.

I came away entertained and encouraged. Of course I don't know what this family's backstory is, but it was great to see him functioning as a great caregiver for two young boys. Hopefully these two will grow up knowing their dad (too many Japanese young people hardly ever see their dads as their dads work very long hours).

28 June, 2018

Home or not

Notes that two different friends gave us yesterday. Both from people
we didn't know when we came back three years ago.
Where is home? 

That's a good question and one that keeps coming back at people like us.

The best I can say is that we have two homes. We have, now, roots in two places. Different roots, but roots nonetheless.

Consider what I've done this week:

1. I went to the doctor and got asthma medication that will probably last me through the whole of our six months away. Yes, I could get this medication in Australia. But probably it is more expensive there, so I decided to get it here and avoid the hassle of going to the doctor there for that. Our doctor here is about a kilometer from our house and an easy five minute ride. The errand was done in just over an hour, including travel. Our doctor in Australia is more than 20 minutes drive (including an expressway) from where we'll be living.

2. I got a haircut. Again, something I could do in Australia, but I did it here because again it's convenient and what I know. Also cheap (under AU$20). 

Our free "shop".
3. Yesterday we had a see-you-later party. It doubled as a way to get rid of a bunch of food stuffs that we'd not managed to use up. No one who came, came primarily for the giveaways, though, they came to see us. We had 14 adults, 9 kids, and 2 babies come over the course of the afternoon. They all wanted to see us! But most took our food with them too. All of them are expats like us and have been where we are multiple times. There is community in that shared experience.

4. I put roughly 2/5 of my wardrobe into a suitcase this morning. Not all of it.

5. I rode home along our city's rivers this afternoon (after my haircut). Saying goodbye in my heart all the way.

Our corner of Tokyo is particularly beautiful. I ride along our rivers as often as I can
while going about my life. This afternoon I rode here, probably for the last time
for six months. Just gorgeous. Those trees lining the side of the river are Cherry Blossoms
with their summer clothes on.
Considering the above, does it sound like Australia is totally home for us? I don't think so. We definitely have a home here.

But Australia is also home. Consider the things on our to do list (no particular order):

1. Have as many BBQs as possible.
2. See as many good friends as we can reasonably do so.
3. Spend time with family.
4. Spend time at our home church.
5. See a live cricket match.
6. Go to a Sons of Korah concert.
7. Have a hot Christmas.

And even (for me):

  • Eat mangoes.
  • Buy new underwear (yep, haven't managed to integrate into Japan that much yet, sorry for the TMI).

I'm sure there are many others.

Yep, Australia is home to us too. Part of the ever present tension in our lives is that we can never be in both places at the same time. We always have to be absent from one (and all the people who go with that place). So our hearts aren't just full of anticipation at going to Australia, they have corners of sadness at leaving our home here too.
This is where the two rivers that slice through our city (Higashikurume), join together—just down the road from us.
David and I often ride over that bridge on our way home from church.
Two more sleeps and we will farewell this home-corner of Tokyo. One more sleep after that and we will farewell Japan, but just temporarily.

26 June, 2018

Respectable, right?*

I've read this book over the last month. It's a good one. Not quite as scary as the subtitle suggests, but definitely worth mulling over. I tried to take my time reading it, but it was actually quite an easy book in terms of reading and comprehending.

The author, Jerry Bridges, spends quite a bit of time at the start laying groundwork: how bad is sin and how we're all affected deeper than we usually imagine. He also is careful to emphasise the power of the Holy Spirit and how we should deal with sin. And each chapter points us to God, not just the depravity of ourselves.

Bridges admits that some sins are more serious than others, for example, "I would rather be guilty of a lustful look than of adultery". But, "the truth is, all sin is serious because all sin is a breaking of God's law." p20

Good news
The good news that he spends a whole chapter on, is that we are forgiven through the death of Jesus on the cross, if, when faced by our sin we want to "fall on [our] knees before God in repentance and contrition over the sins [we] have tolerated in [our lives]" p30

"To the extent that I grasp, in the depth of my being, this great truth of God's forgiveness of my sin through Christ, I will be freed up to honestly and humbly face the particular manifestations of sin in my life. That's why it is so helpful to affirm each day with John Newton that "I am a great sinner, but I have a great Savior."

That was good to keep in mind as he then moved onto writing about specific sin, how they look, how they are wrong, and what we can do about them. 

For example, anxiety. This is something most of us struggle with to one degree or another. It was particularly relevant to me as we headed into another big transition: going to Australia for six months. 

How is anxiety a sin? Actually we are told not to be anxious, and not to fear, many times in the Bible. Why is it a sin? Because it is distrust of God. If we give way to anxiety, we're believing that God won't take care of us. It's also not accepting that God orchestrates everything, "providence" is the word the author uses. God's in control and anxiety is not believing that. But it's also important to realise that, this side of heaven, we won't be free of sin. So being anxious about being anxious is not really helpful!

Here is a passage I found particularly clarifying. It related especially to the sins of discontentment  anxiety, and frustration:
The importance of a firm belief in the sovereignty, wisdom, and goodness of God in all the circumstances of our lives. Whether those circumstances are sohrt-term or long-term, our ability to respond to them in a God-honoring and God-pleasing manner depends on our ability and willingness to bring these truths to bear on them. And we must do this by faith; that is, we must believe that the Bible's teaching about these attributes really is true and that God has brought or allowed these difficult circumstances in our lives for his glory and our ultimate good. p76
So Bridges says we should "ask God to give [us] faith to believe that his providential will for [us] in these circumstances comes to [us] from his infinite wisdom and goodness and is ultimately intended for [our] good. And then ask God to give [us] a heart that is submissive to his providential will when it is contrary to [our] own plans." 'p 67

No magic cure
I find that helpful. This isn't a magic cure. None of the content of the book really was new content for me. But, like the Awe book I read last year, it is restating old truths I've known a long time. Truths that I'm often not living completely true to, though I know them. I need to continue to ask God to give me a humble heart, a heart honest enough to admit the subtle sins that lurk, largely unseen to others: judgmentalism, worldliness, frustration, selfishness, pride, impatience, jealousy, envy, etc.

So I say to myself again: "I am a great sinner, but I have a great Saviour!"

* This is the second of three assignments I've completed from the workshop I went to in April. I chose to read this book and write a reflection on it. If someone wants to put their hand up as the person I "shared it with" (this is a requirement of the assignment), and even mention it over coffee sometimes, or in an email/text discussion, that would be fantastic.
The first assignment I did in three posts in May: 1, 2, & 3.

25 June, 2018

Japanese sport for kids

Here's something I whipped up over the weekend. Enjoy, and don't forget to ask if you'd like a better copy, or to be put on our mailing list.

24 June, 2018

Finishing some biggies

Some things are finishing up, finally! Here are two:

My role with getting the Summer issue of Japan Harvest is pretty much finished. Yay! I shifted dates around with this goal in mind (so that I wasn't working on the magazine during our transition, this end of things is a internet-intensive affair and I couldn't see that working while we were in this period). So, it's very satisfying to actually achieve it.

Yesterday I finished our photo album for home assignment about our last three years living and serving in Japan. This is something I've enthusiastically done before each home assignment, but this time I struggled to get time and motivation. Finally, however, it's done. I think it looks okay, I hope the print copy looks just as good.

Today I ordered a copy. I would have done it yesterday, except that I know that the company I did it through has sales often, so I decided to wait a couple of days. Sure enough, a 40% sale code came through this morning!

And soon we might even hear that we've secured a house to rent for six months. 

Lots to praise God for, even as we say our goodbyes. This morning it was to our Japanese church. Not a big affair, as we're not staff at the church, but it was still good to mark the occasion.

22 June, 2018

Not packing?

As manager of the "larder" I'm feeling quite happy at the great spans of
empty spaces on our shelves. Because we'll be back in six-months, some
of these things will be fine here. For other perishables we've organised
a See-You-Later-Party on Wednesday, which will double as a "Would you
like some ..." give-away party.
People ask at this stage: "So, have you started packing yet?"

The short answer is, "No, not really."

We're not moving out of our house, so not much packing is necessary. Just enough personal goods to make it through the next six months, on top of any work-related stuff that we need.

But, we've had plenty of other things keeping us busy. Here's a few from the last few days:
These shelves are usually very full. Some of the
containers on the bottom shelf are empty.

More empty shelves in the fridge.
  • I coached the person who's taken over her job of posting the OMF blog posts as he worked on putting up the first post using Wordpress (I can hardly believe that I'm helping someone else with this...mind you, I just do the same thing every time, what I've been taught; nothing creative to see here).
  • I rendered "inactive" one of the email addresses I've "manned" for many years now, the one that answers questions people ask through the oMF Japan website, someone else is doing that for now.
  • David travelling to the Vehicle Registration office an hour away to officially change over the ownership (and number plate) of our new van.
  • I (tried to) finish off editing a few last-minute things: several blog posts, and proofreading the Summer issue of the magazine.
  • We've spent time fine-tuning our deputation material: both our basic up-front talk as well as our display stand.
  • I have almost finished the photo album I created for our last three years of life and ministry and will send it to the printer soon.
  • Answering questions and applying for houses to rent in Australia (this took more time than we expected).
  • We hosted two friends of our youngest son for two nights. One whose parents were away for a few days and the other who is returning to live in Finland with this family next week. This was fun and they helped us eat up more of our food.
  • David ordered a new phone and computer for me! Yes, new "toys". My current work computer will become our youngest's bring-your-own-device for Grade 8 when he starts at an Australian school in a month. My current Japanese phone is "locked", and so I'm unable to put an Australian SIM card in it, therefore a new phone was needed.
  • On Tuesday, I rode to the park, and a favourite coffee shop: saying my goodbyes to these places.
I've continued to work on scheduling and communicating those schedules with the people that matter most: our family. Which meant creating a Google calendar for our family, especially so our eldest, who won't be moving back in with us, but rather spending some weekends with us, can know what we're up to. 

I've also begun writing "upcoming events" on a blackboard on our fridge so that our boys are a bit more informed about big things that are coming up. Scheduling also meant following up on some appointments and confirming, getting details straight for our diary. At this point we have three medical/debrief appointments in our first ten days in Brisbane.

I also did a bit of scheduling for our short holiday in Sydney for the first few days we're back in Australia. Booked a tour of the Opera House and read some background to it, and the discovery of Australia from a SOSE book we have in the house to the rest of the family.

That's enough of a list for you for now. It's time to switch of this computer and take down-time before bed. I've been quite tired and thankfully have been sleeping quite well. So thankful for that because many of these big transitions in the past have resulted in difficulties sleeping before the transition.

20 June, 2018

God's ways aren't our ways

Yesterday I wrote this: My next blog post might be about "God's amazing economy" in us being so dependent on others. It was one of the themes in an unusual sermon on Sunday and has come up in other conversations recently too. So stay tuned.

Today's been another crazy day: final decisions in magazine article proofreading, applying for rental properties in Australia (much more details than I thought would be necessary), two extra teenage boys in the house (sleep-over for our youngest), editing, scheduling for the latter half of the year, etc.

So it would be good to step back a moment (though that is hard...my head is full of housing possibilities—please pray that just the right house would be available for us) and think about the topic I proposed yesterday.

God's economy
I remember a conversation many years ago with a couple who were thinking of full-time ministry but shied away from the idea of other people supporting them. Their plan was to save up enough to support themselves. Since then, other things have happened that foiled that plan, but the original conversation remains in my mind. For many independent middle-class people it does seem like a strange way to live: dependent on others.
The true God doesn't live in houses like this.
This makes me sad.

"God's economy" is a phrase that a friend used the other day when we were talking about how her helping us practically (she's helping find a house, car, and furniture for us for Australia) has actually helped her. She has a lot of uncertainty in her life right now, so being able to focus on the practical details for us has been helpful to mentally. 

This article uses "God's economy" to mean a lack of social barriers, and especially those who have more sharing with those who have less. Which is a slightly different meaning to how my friend used it.

Whatever the precise definition of the phrase is, there is a sense that God goes about organising things not in the way we'd do it, but usually way better. Our friend agreed to help us many years ago because she wanted to and a long time before she knew that she'd be helped at this time by being able to help us.

I wrote a post about dependency three years ago, just after we returned to Japan last time. It is something that is a constant theme in the life of a missionary, whether it is negotiating these international moves, or relying on others' generosity for our income, or just getting around in daily life in our host country. But, as I wrote above, it is something of a foreign concept for many of our peers in Australia: middle class professionals.

In any case, it apparently is a weird way for us to bless others: by giving them a chance to serve us in our inability to carry all our own load. We are blessed to live this lifestyle, never feel tempted to pity us!

My words and thoughts are getting confusing. I'm sorry if this is hard to follow, but it's about all I can manage right now.

Isaiah 55:8-9 about sums it up:
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
    neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth,

    so are my ways higher than your ways
    and my thoughts than your thoughts.

19 June, 2018

Today's adventures

I have a bunch of blog post ideas running around in my head but things are starting to crowd in on my time and alas my blog is one of the first things to get crowded out.

But I've got a few moments now, so I'll see what I can churn out.

Park ride
Today I went for my last park/coffee shop ride. It was a gorgeous day in the midst of a bunch of gloomy, cool days. I'm so glad I seized the opportunity.

Here are some photos. Such a sparkly day!

Then I rode to a favourite coffee shop and enjoyed a light lunch with a street-view.

I did some shopping (coffee to last till we leave, plus a couple of other needs).

Orthodontist adventure
Then I went back to the orthodontist that we visited last Friday to pay the balance of a bill. 

This was a classic culture-confusion problem. Kids in Japan get extra health coverage until they start high school, yes, even non-citizens. The "start high school" thing is, of course, linked into the Japanese system, not the international school system. So we didn't register that our middle son's coverage ran out on March 31 this year. Apparently, the dentist didn't either. I tried to present the now-expired card, and she pointed out that it had expired. She didn't realise why it had expired and neither did I. So I paid the mere 200 yen for the checkup (about $2.50) and promised to email a photo of the new card.

But when I got home David realised what had gone on and we had to 'fess up to having not paid the whole bill. He called them Friday afternoon and said I could come back this week. They said "call us before you do so we can have the bill ready." The orthodontist is quite close to this coffee shop, so it was natural to just do it when I rode down there, rather than taking an extra hour's round trip in the car. 

David rang them this morning. No worries. Except that after he left to do the car-parking paperwork chasing, they rang back on my phone and I missed the call. I stiffened my upper lip and called them back (I'm not fond of phone calls and even less in Japanese). I'm actually not really sure of what happened in that conversation, except that they ended with "matte imasu" (we're waiting for you). So I left.

I didn't get to the orthodontist until just after 1pm. Here, many medical/dental places have about two hours closed in the early afternoon and I walked into a waiting room that had the lights off and the door to the "surgery" closed. So I sat and waited a while to see what would happen (and save myself another hour's journey later in the week). After about 15 minutes someone came into the reception area and from there we quickly sorted things out. I paid the outstanding 2,170 yen (about $AU27).\

Back to my ride
I rode back to the park, via this intersection where I've been fascinated by this little shrine for many months. I've driven past it many times as we've gone back and forth from the orthodontist. 

I rode back through the park, took a few more photos.

And said "sayonara". This is the little path I use to enter the park (and exit today too). Can you see it? It's hard not to feel a little envious of the people living in these houses abutting the park!

On the way home I stopped at one set of lights. I was startled to see my image reflected back at me by a little roadside mirror placed to help someone get out of their driveway.

After I got home and had a shower, I coached the person taking over my blog-posting job to get an OMF Japan blog post up, at the same time as worked with David on speaking material for Australia. 

Phew! It's been quite a day.

And now I've run out of time. My next blog post might be about "God's amazing economy" in us being so dependent on others. It was one of the themes in an unusual sermon on Sunday and has come up in other conversations recently too. So stay tuned.

18 June, 2018

Gifts with meaning

This is my Nozomi jewellery. By the way, it is
much harder to photograph jewellery than I thought!
This morning a 5.9 earthquake hit Osaka. You will probably have heard about it on the news. That's 550km from here, so we didn't feel it, but a few memories have been dredged up as a result. Yes, we live in an earthquake-prone country and news like this no longer surprises us. 
There is quiet relief that it didn't happen here this time, but sadness for those who have/are suffering. However, Japan is built for earth quakes and a 5.9 isn't a major problem for most people or structures. The news I've seen says three have died and over 200 injured. Electricity is off in many places and trains are still not running, There haven been fires and some walls/roofs have fallen. But I'm only telling you what I've read, and you have probably heard it or read it yourself.

Unique projects
However, I've been wanting to write about two social enterprises that were birthed from the level 9 earthquake that happened north of here near Sendai in 2011. These enterprises are similar to things you may have seen from much poorer countries than Japan: a group that provides employment for women, especially, and sells their goods. It's unusual to see it in Japan because this is such a wealthy country and most people can find employment if they want to.

But that changed after the triple disaster when so many people died (more than 15,000) and many livelihoods were also taken away. You can read about how these enterprises came about here: Nozomi Project and here: Megumi Project.

Nozomi sell jewellery created from broken pottery, they started with pottery that was left-over from the huge tsunami. Megumi up-cycle vintage kimonos into various gorgeous products.

I own jewellery from both groups.
These are my earrings from Megumi.
Here are two excellent articles about them from the Ethical Unicorn website: Nozomi Project and Megumi Project.

Here is a TEDx talk about Megumi by one of the ladies instrumental in starting Megumi (and, incidentally, she's a friend of mine).

A couple of months ago I flirted with the idea of bringing back some of this jewellry and selling it to interested people. It didn't take me long to realise I would have to wade through regulations about importing goods and also GST (Goods and Sales Tax). Sorry, I don't have the headspace or time, nor the inclination or motivation to deal with all that!

However, if you'd like to order something in the next day or two, you could have it sent to us (email me for a postal address) and we could bring it back in our luggage (though do check with them that they can get it to us by June 29). However, the reality is that postage within Japan for the Nozomi products is US$3 and worldwide is US$5, so you wouldn't be saving much! I do encourage you to get something from one of these projects, they are beautiful, quality products and have a unique story. 

Nozomi's meaningful tag line is "Beauty in Brokenness". I sent a gift to a friend from them and included with her gift was this: 
Nozomi is a social enterprise empowering women through the creating of beautiful accessories from broken pottery. Locally, Nozomi is providing jobs and community to women adversely affected by the 2011 tsunami. Globally, Nozomi is sending hope-filled pieces across the world as visible reminders that there really is beauty in brokenness.
A gift with a meaning.