31 March, 2018

Hokkaido conference is a wrap

We returned at 11pm on Thursday night from the conference in Hokkaido. It was a tiring journey after a tiring week. Thankfully the flight was quiet (benefit of travelling with older kids) and I felt refreshed and able to manage the two hour journey on the trains home (it took five of them, to travel 30km!).
The hotel we stayed in continues to be a curiosity (it's our third visit there). It features:
  • a waterpark in the basement (including a small wave pool, a current pool, several mild water slides, a pool full of watermelon-beach balls, etc.
  • two floors with hot springs.
  • a ginormous buffet that we ate at twice a day (it has enormous floor to ceiling windows)
  • an eclectic interior design and "artefacts"
  • lots of full-length mirrors
I've included some photos for your interest. (Here's more of the decor, photos I took last time.)

One of the many full-length mirrors. There were at least a dozen on every floor around
the elevator enclave. Then there were a bunch of enormous ones in the dining room too,
as well as random ones like this, in the hallways.

Enormous dining room with enormous windows to match. This place was crowded every
mealtime. Though it was huge, there were lines to negotiate to get to the buffets.

The teenagers, some of them anyway. There were about ten families with teenagers (many more
with younger children). Though a smallish group, several nationalities, and at least three
languages, they seemed to have a wonderful time together. Yes, it was still a bit chilly
outside (that's snow), but delightful inside!
On the way back to the airport on the bus, I was on the right side for taking a photo of this large lake.
It's a cauldron lake and has three volcanos around the edges.

After two sleep-ins in the last two days, I'm beginning to feel a little less weary. I think I'm going to have to keep a close eye on my energy in these next three months, I'm running a bit close to the edge. I drank a lot more coffee than I usually drink, just to make it through conference, even coffee for dinner on the last night, but still fell asleep at 11! Almost unheard of for me.

I do enjoy these gatherings, but now I'm home and realised I would have loved more time to talk more in depth to more people. Though it means more travel, I'm looking forward to going up to Hokkaido again next month for a week-long training event. It's at those events that you get the time to talk more in-depth to people.

I sat next to David on the way to the airport and we talked about maybe going camping in Hokkaido again . . . probably after all the boys have left home. It's a beautiful place, though with an extreme winter, it's not an easy place to live.

28 March, 2018

Up north conferencing

Hi from Hokkaido, the northernmost of Japan four big islands. Our "home state" in Japan. The island we lived on for our first 3 1/2 years in Japan.

But doing a conference in a hotel doesn't feel much like visiting Hokkaido, except I can see end-of-winter scenes out the window. Having just emerged from Tokyo's winter, I'm actually not too keen to go outside and experience and more "winter" cold.

It did feel, however, that we'd come a long way on Monday. It took us eight hours door-to-door to get here, including nearly two hours on crowded train with suitcases to get to the plane. Every time I get excited about travelling, but tend to forget that I actually find it really exhausting.

We've been in missionary circles a long time now: more that 17 years. It's starting to make me feel old because we're definitely above the average for length of stay. I've said before that I'm noticing more and more the absences. The seats that were once filled with people who are no longer here. It's a tiring life, the missionary life, where transition is the norm rather than the exception. And not ordinary transition like marriage or kids starting school, but major transition that involve regular country changes and as a result regular changes in friends, teams, and leadership. It's hard to feel stable in the middle of all that.

It is good to be here gathering with OMF Japan, but also unsettling because there aren't many of my "cohort" anymore (i.e. people who joined the field at a similar time to us). I am glad, though, that I've got an actual role within OMF now. Often David and I have felt a little on the outer as we're not working in a church.

Missionary conferences like this are intense, mostly because there are so many people to interact with. There are 270 here (125 long/termers plus ~60 kids plus childcare team plus short termers plus tentmakers plus others from OMF International). And my extrovert side drives me to interact while my introvert side gets exhausted.

It's also tiring because there are many meetings to sit through. And I'm afraid I'm not a good "sitter". I should have planned to bring something to keep my hands busy while I listen.

I need quiet time to process what's going on and there's not been much of that. We're sharing a Japanese-style room as a family.

25 March, 2018

A day out and some more

On Friday the weather was dry (unlike most of the week) and I was well, so I loaded up my bike and took off for the day.

I first rode to my favourite park, my first ride there in more than four months. I find the first thing to go out of my life when I'm busy is exercise and alas I've done little exercise since January. So it was great to be out, and in lovely temperatures too (mid teens).

I was disappointed to find that the majority of the cherry blossoms weren't out, a few early bloomers were, and they were wonderful, but only constituted about five trees.

I love the blue sky! Reminds me of Australia. Look at these buds just about to burst out of their winter confinement.
What caption is needed? This is a type of cherry blossom, though not the most famous version.
I think these are almost my favourites. Their colour is so vibrant compared
to the famous cherry blossom, and they bloom a bit earlier.

I've got no idea what this is, but there was just a single bush.
This looks a bit like a relative of the Australian wattle.
I didn't so so great at getting the right angle on these either, but they
were quietly blooming in the semi-shade.
After the park, I kept going, stopping for lunch in a little community park and then on to a coffee shop. There I pulled out my computer and worked on a couple of articles that were promising to be a couple of the harder ones on my current to-do list, and the sorts of jobs that are easy to procrastinate on. My strategy was to sit there till I'd decently tackled them. I left there feeling pretty satisfied with the work I'd been able to get done.

Then I reversed my journey, though it was getting late and some dark clouds had come over, so I didn't go back to the park. I still had grocery shopping at two different stores to do, so I stopped at one on the way home. Then rode home, unloaded the bike and went to the second store. I was happy to have pretty comfortably ridden nearly 20km.
I had the added challenge of extracting my bike from this jam in the free bike park (pay for parking and you get a better
It was great to get out. It enabled crossed off several things that give me joy:
  • a ride on a day with some blue sky
  • the park
  • photography
  • a coffee shop
  • crossing things off my to do list
Yesterday was spent at an athletics meet, another great day out (warmer weather than last week). 

Today was church, then I rode the long way home, searching for more blooms to capture (but not with my big camera). 

I love the apparent wild abandon of this early bloomer. Not a cherry blossom.

After lunch we spent a pleasurable hour chatting with our eldest. Then some rest, reading. 

And now it's preparation for four days away in Hokkaido at our mission's national conference. I'll see what time I get for mobile blogging while we're away. Maybe once or twice?

22 March, 2018


One thing I love is looking forward to things. I think it is a very special gift that God's given us: the ability to hope, to anticipate. It is said that hope was the key difference between people who made it through concentration camps and those who didn't. I can totally believe that. Without hope, it's hard to get through each day. But indeed God is called the "God of hope": "May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit" (Romans 15:13 NIV).

After Christmas in Japan I always look forward to spring. Before I lived in Japan I didn't realised how important the seasons could be to me. 

I find winter in Tokyo challenging, mostly because of the cold (single digits in Celsius, and inside our house is mostly unheated), but also because it is a bit dreary. I know I could be living in a far more dreary place: a place that has a grey, drizzly winter. But I (now) know that that would be a very difficult place for me to live. 

I love sunshine and the bright colours of nature in the warmer months. Winter is dreary in Tokyo, not because we have lots of grey days, but because many of the trees have lost their beautiful, green leaves, leaves which helped to cover up some of the grey dreariness of so much concrete. Also, there are very few spots of colour from flowers. My first two visits to Tokyo were in winter and they really didn't favour me towards the place. We didn't move here for the climate!

So, I look forward to spring, those warmer days full of hope for more warmth and more colour in our days. 

But there is a dark side to spring in Japan, it feels like two steps forward  and one step back, as the days swing between warmer and colder weather. In fact Japanese have a saying about it: san kan shi on, literally "three cold four warm". Yesterday we had an especially cold day, so cold that it snowed! Thankfully I haven't put away my warmest winter gear yet. But it was mentally a bit tough. I kind-of get used to the cold mid-winter, but when the temperature is leaping around I find it much harder.

One advantage of living in the same place for a long period is knowing what you can look forward to in your immediate surroundings. For example, these two trees that I see at least twice a week as I ride to get groceries.
 This first tree is a magnolia. I know the photo isn't much to look at, it was a dreary day when I took the photo, but it was a joy to see it blooming on Monday.

The second is a type of cherry blossom, a weeping-kind. I love to see this every spring!

I found these as I rode home from church on Sunday, just down the road from us. I'd forgotten these bulbs were there. Such a joy to see them, especially yesterday when the sky was unseasonably chucking down snow.

Now speaking of looking forward to things. In the midst of everything, we've been working on plans for entering Australia. We've made plans and booked accomodation for a week's holiday in-between here and settling in Queensland. Exciting plans that have finally come together this week! I'm looking forward to that time very much.

21 March, 2018

20 March, 2018

Suitcase on the train

I can't believe it's a month today since I flew back to Japan. It doesn't seem that long.

Someone asked me recently about that trip back, and I realised that I didn't tell you about the last leg of the journey, a very Japanese story.

The airport to our house is about 100km, give or take some. I took the trains. Three trains, to be precise. The last train I hopped on was an express and left at around 9pm. I was pulling a significantly sized suitcase, one of the two that helped move my son to Australia. It weighed 27kg (I brought back some stuff, mostly some new Australian-sized towels).

This station is the end of the line that runs past our place, so the trains usually stand open for five or ten minutes before they leave, while people pile on. I arrived three minutes before it left, so it was already very full, though not so full that people were squished together yet. However, to fit me and my suitcase on, they did have to squish a bit.The trouble was, that when you get on that late, you are in the doorway, and my suitcase is a bit wider than the usual person.
This is the station where I hopped on the express train. You can
see there is a culture of waiting patiently in line. The green "bay"
is for the next train. The orange "bay" is for the one after the
next train!

It was fine, until we hit the first stop and people tried to squeeze past my suitcase. Usually two or three people at a time can get off a Tokyo train, but it was definitely single-file in our doorway. I felt really embarrassed and apologised, while trying in vain to shrink my suitcase into a smaller space. 

Eventually enough room had been freed that I saw my chance to manoeuvre me and my luggage away from the door. It meant running over a few toes and I apologised a bit more. But the bottleneck was instantly released and a dozen or more people flowed out of the train.

Probably a more Tokyo-ite response would have been to get out of the train with my suitcase and let everyone out before re-boarding. People do this all the time. They especially do this if they want to remain near the door for an easy exit in a couple of stations time. It is considered the polite thing to do, rather than make people push past you to get through the door. 

However, I was very tired and trying to manoeuvre a suitcase half my weight in and out of the train just seemed like too much (although it was probably an afterthought rather than a real consideration at the time, me not being a true Tokyo-ite yet).

Did I mention that another thing that people get bothered by (and rightly so in a super crowded train) are backpacks? They are definitely frowned upon as taking up too much room. My regular luggage for plane travel is a significantly sized backpack. But in this regard I did a little better, I removed my backpack and balanced it on top of the suitcase in front of me, minimising my "footprint". However that would have made it more difficult to get out of the train with it all and then back on again...

That was my Tokyo welcome! I'm pleased to say I was welcomed by David at the other end of this journey with a hug and a kiss, and a short ride in our van back home.

Nothing like jumping straight back into Tokyo life. Australia was very quickly washed away as a vague dream. Even now, I'm wondering where most of my February went. I'm usually a bit confused at this time of year anyway, but this year it's worse than usual.

Suitcases and trains are especially on my mind because we have to catch the trains with (admittedly smaller) suitcases as a family on Monday morning in the middle of rush hour as we travel to Hokkaido for our mission conference. I'm advocating leaving earlier and taking the non-express trains as a way to avoid inconveniencing others and getting pinned to our suitcases.

19 March, 2018

Touching base

After  a very quiet week last week (i.e., I left the house once, in the car), we had a big day on Saturday at the first track meet for the season. Not to bore you with the details, suffice to say it was fun to watch our 15 y.o. run again. Sprinting is his thing and it's good to see him doing it. 

He ran well too, in his first high school meet, considering he's done little pre-season training, his times were good and we're looking forward to improvement as the weeks go on. So most Saturdays between now and mid May will be spent like this (although most will be warmer!)

I was wrecked at the end of the day. It was a cold day. Though it was sunny, there was a sneaky breeze and it didn't make it up to 10C, so it was hard work keeping warm, which is tiring. But the sun was strong enough to burn!

A tree near the track on Saturday, just getting its spring clothes on!
I had fun taking photos too, still working on what the best settings are for various situations and subjects. I suspect photography is a continuous learning process as you gradually refine your skills! And because I don't actually practise that much, it will be a slow process.

Sunday was a quiet day, in which I took a nap. Now today, I should be ready and raring to go, right? Well, it's been a busy day. Much more exercise than I've done for over a week (two grocery shopping trips on my bike = over six kilometres of riding).

I'm still coming to grips with the weather, it's jerking us around, and requires more thinking than mid-summer or mid-winter does. Last week we had some 18/21 degree days, and then 9C on Saturday! Today was supposed to be warm, but I was wearing a scarf at midday and thinking about gloves when on my bike, but an hour or so later the sun tried to peak out from the clouds and the temperature increased briefly (or so it seemed to me).

But thankfully the temperatures have been high enough to trigger spring blooming. The cherry blossoms are on their way out, along with various other blooming trees and flowers. I'm looking forward to all the joy that their colourful appearances brings to our weeks.

My cold seems to be better, but I'm still blowing my nose. I wonder if I'm developing some spring hayfever allergies? It's a common ailment in Tokyo. My asthma flared last week, but is gradually settling down with medication. I'm thankful none of us got the flu this season. Indeed our family has remained remarkably healthy, compared to many roundabout. I'm thankful!

We've got four days left of school until Spring Break. Next Monday we're flying to Hokkaido for our all-Japan OMF conference. I'm wondering what to pack—as it is still quite chilly up there and snow is still lying around, yet we'll be in a hotel the majority of the time, a very warmly heated hotel. Hmmm.

Not a very earth-shattering post! But just in case you wondered how things were in our house . . . 

16 March, 2018

Wonder soap with a story

I've got a story about this cleaning product.

Two of our boys went to a local kindergarten in our early days in Tokyo, over a period of nearly four years. They had two uniforms, one that they wore on formal occasions and also on the way to and from school (except on Wednesdays). When they got there they changed into their play uniform, which consisted of a white teeshirt and blue shorts. I never dressed my family in white, especially for play! But that's what we had to do for kindergarten.
The kicker was that the playground was basically dirt. Gravelly dirt! You can see both the uniforms and the playground in the photo below and on this blog post of mine from 2009. Believe it or not they also had a "mud pit", yup, not a sandpit, a dedicated mud pit! You mothers out there can imagine what sort of state our kids clothes came home in! Keeping eveyrthing white was a huge deal. 
But the PTA was on top of the situation. One of their fundraisers was selling a wonder soap: this "blue stick". We Marshalls we so concerned that we might run out of them that bought a lot. And ended up with a stockpile. A stockpile that's lasted nine years post kindergarten graduation.

You see, I don't buy my kids white clothes, so once they graduated, we had much less use for the wonder soap!

It is so wonderful that we had to buy some more just recently. No longer from the kindergarten's PTA, but just an ordinary "Drug" store. So if you live in Japan and have light-coloured clothes that need stains removed, this is the product for you!

15 March, 2018

Care package for Australia

I'm still struggling with my cold, complicated, as always, by asthma. However this afternoon if I sit quietly in my "relaxing chair", I feel pretty close to normal. In fact I've gotten through a fair bit of computer-based work in between resting over these last couple of days. I'm very thankful that this was going to be a quiet week anyway (it's incredibly rare that I have almost no meetings or appointments scheduled for an entire week, but that's what this week looked like). I'm trying to be patient with my body and thankful for the time to rest.

After yesterday's depressing post I wanted to write something a little more upbeat today. Not much has been going on that's worthy to write about this week. It's Thursday and I've left home just once since Sunday morning!

Here's my meagre offering:

We've gone the full circle. When we arrived in Japan over 17 years ago my mum sent us care packages (she still occasionally does, but usually around birthdays and Christmases). Now we're about to send our first care package to our son in Australia! I was surprised that it was pretty hard to find stuff to send. Perhaps we're not Japanese enough? 

But really, we don't eat a lot of packaged stuff, and that's all one can send to Australia. He'd love us to send onigiri or curry rice or yakisoba, (rice ball or Japanese curry or Japanese stir fried noodles) but these would never make it through customs. I wish I could send him some homemade biscuits!

One day soon I'll get back on my bike and get this to the post office!

14 March, 2018

A bit overwhelmed

Today is a gorgeous day. I can see it out the window. I can even feel the temperature rise inside. At 10 a.m. I have no heater on, something that hasn't happened for months.
Our son and his friend last year in November when we visited his
home town for the weekend.

But I'm sitting inside. My nose is drippy and my breathing ragged. Periodically an asthmatic cough forces its way out.

To make it worse, I've been crying.

Not because I'm sick, but because I keep remembering...

Remembering that friend who whispered, in the midst of a hilarious board game last month in Australia, "You can't go—you realise that!"

I'm remembering the friends who couldn't say goodbye at the shopping centre and I had to say to them (after I'd hugged them), "I love you and will miss you. But now I'm just going to turn and walk away . . . "

I'm remembering the friends in Japan who lovingly plied me with questions last week about our son's transition. One who said she's been reading my posts and crying as we made this transition.

On Sunday we spent an hour on a video call with our son. The first time we've done that since I returned to Japan. It was great, but left me sad, missing him more than before.

Then last night one of his good friends who is studying at a uni in Tokyo stayed overnight with us. That was both strange and wonderful. But when I realised that he and our son hadn't connected since our son had moved, I sought to get our son on another video chat. It was a wonderful time of reminiscing for them. I learnt new things about our son. But it also made me sad, because, time has moved on and the group that they had in high school has been scattered across the globe. Yes, I know that is the way of life. But it was a reminder that this is still a time of transition for them. Our guys are yet to connect with others in their new environments in a deeper way.

So I guess, in trying to sit quietly and not work too much this morning, I just got overwhelmed with the brokenness. All the goodbyes that we've had recently. Things that won't be fixed. Can't be fixed. Because of distance.

12 March, 2018

Retreat musings

This year's theme: "Leaving a Lasting Legacy".
Though it's left me pondering whether thinking about
leaving a legacy might be the wrong tack to take, but rather following
Jesus to the max might be better and the legacy will take care of itself?
Before too much more time passes, I want to write about the retreat I went to last Wednesday to Friday. It's the ninth time I've been to this women-in-ministry retreat and I love it every time. It's a time to go away, be with friends, worship in English, and rest from work (although I usually come back tired, but not from work).

One of the friends who greeted me with a hug when we arrived.
It's part of my missionary-life survival kit. I especially love being with friends who know what this missionary lifestyle is about. No explanations are necessary. Though this time I did spend a lot of time answering the question, "How's your son settling in Australia?" That's what I get for blogging and putting my life up on social media!

But friends who've known you for a while in this mobile environment are worth their weight in gold. This was the 25th time this retreat has been held and as part of that they had photos from many of the past retreats, as well as videos from several ladies who've been a part of the leadership team in the past, but are no longer in Japan. It was bittersweet to see these as they are friends who I can no longer share sweet fellowship with.

"Red" sister fellowship.
However, keeping it positive, I enjoyed the friends who were there. One lady asked me, in a slight panic, on Facebook a few weeks ago if I'd be at the retreat. She saw me preparing to go to Australia and wondered if I'd be back in time. I was surprised that someone who I didn't know super well would be so concerned, but encouraged nonetheless. Missionary women go deep fast. Very often we know little about one another and don't have a lot in common (aside from where we work), but we can have deep, honest fellowship regardless. I don't fully understand it, except perhaps that we're bound together by our shared experience of living and serving outside our home culture and thus are more needy and willing to lean on others?

I felt very tired this time going into the retreat. (Maybe I've been overdoing it recently?) It was hard to stay awake during the first night's worship and teaching session. Sometimes I find it's easy to concentrate on the words of songs, but other times, like Wednesday night, worship is singing without engaging the brain very much at all and I've learnt that that's okay. It was great to praise God in English and I was glad for a nice mixture of old and newer songs that I knew as well as ones I didn't.

The retreat has an overabundance of slippers and
rules about where you wear them. They have dining room
slippers and toilet slippers, but also hallway slippers and
chapel slippers! To get from the main building to the chapel
 you change into outdoor shoes and then into slippers again!
The post I wrote at the retreat (here) contained some of the things gleaned from the speaker. I didn't take notes this year, simply trying to soak it in. Probably being so tired made me a little more grumpy and picky with this year's speaker than usual (I was getting grumpy at cliques and a little frustrated that she didn't spend more time in the Bible).
Retreat is usually a time that includes tears for me. Often during worship time, or during times of sharing personally with others. This retreat was no different. Obviously saying goodbye to our son was still quite raw, but the speaker's husband died a few years earlier, so she talked about grief and the loss of Christians in the prime of ministry also brought up tears. She also emphasised that we have a choice in how we react to painful situations: certainly we need to grieve, but beyond that we can choose our response to pain.

Thursday night was enjoyable, it was a celebration of the 25 years of Women in Ministry retreats. We heard from ladies who had gone before us and a little of the history of the retreat. We sang and prayed. We were entertained by a group who'd learnt a new song that day and a spoken piece by two sisters. And we laughed at two ladies who did a skit/song routine that showed the full span of a missionary lifetime, with tongue-in-cheek. Then we finished up with cheesecake (my favourite dessert).

I'm afraid that is a bit of a piece-meal review of the days away, sorry if it comes across like that. But I've come back to Tokyo refreshed in spirit and my love-tank full. I feel ready to deal with the challenges of life again (though I wasn't ready for being hit by a cold first day back at the "office"). I'm thankful that we're planning to be back from home assignment in time to go to the retreat again next year too (Lord willing)!

11 March, 2018

Seven years on and recovery that has happened

Today, seven years ago Japan was hit with one of the largest earthquakes recorded, which triggered an enormous tsunami, and which also flooded a nuclear power plant and caused it to overheat. A triple disaster. A day that thousands died. And thousands more have died since March 2011 due to post-disaster stress.

It's not a day that we're likely to forget in a hurry. Here's a post I wrote the day after the earthquake. We received no damage here, but the psychological effect of being in the same country as such a disaster is not to be ignored. You see a little bit of that in this post 11 days after the earthquake and this one about unexpected emotions.

There's a part of me that doesn't like the way media dwells on past disasters, but I can see how this comes about. We don't want to forget those lost, indeed forgetting a disaster like this is dangerous because it leads to bad decisions about the future. However, recycling the horror of that day isn't necessarily helpful.

I'm glad, therefore, to be able to show you the following video, about hopeful things that have happened in the disaster zone. This is not a video about the hope that Christians have brought to people in the area, though there is also plenty of that too. 

Praise God that as people across the world prayed for this nation in 2011, God called some to serve here, both in the short- and long-term. It's now not unusual to hear the triple disaster included in the testimony of how someone has come to serve in Japan in the last few years.

Praise God that his name has been heard by many in the area who had never heard of him before. 

08 March, 2018


I decided early in January to ponder and write about the commands given to Joshua at the start of his ministry as the leader of Israel, as recorded in the first chapter of the book bearing his name. Verse nine, especially. But February has come and gone and I've not done it. Of course I've been distracted by some significant life events. But how easily distracted we are from pondering God and his Word! I need to do some refocusing.

Be strong and courageous.
Do not be terrified
Do not be discouraged

Why? Because "the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go."

Today I'm at a women's retreat, specifically a women-in-ministry retreat. It's always a much anticipated event on my calendar, this is the ninth time I've attended in the last 11 years. But I have to admit that last week, when I looked ahead to this week's calendar, l groaned. I was already feeling pressured with my To Do list, but a week where I was at home for only a day and a bit? (I spent Monday at our mission's monthly prayer and fellowship day.) so I think that if it hadn't been already booked and paid for and such a fixture in my year, I might have demurred.

Actually it's part of my "strategy" to remain long-term in Japan. Really, an element that helps me to remain afloat amidst the challenges that are part of this life and calling of being a missionary. So cheating on that really wasn't the best long-term option.

I was also tempted to bring my computer, as I would to a workshop or conference, but I decided that my retreat would just be hindered if I allowed work to intrude.

So here I am. Waiting to see what God will do. Seeking to be his servant by taking time out.

Back to Joshua. I have to say I am a bit terrified of what this year holds. That's not quite the right word...more like overwhelmed. And worried that I'll "drop a ball".

My husband will tell you I've been bouncing from topic to topic recently as I've tried to deal with "balls" as they come to mind. Scared to let them be for now lest I forget. Things like:
• booking plane flights for April, July, August, September (yes, I'm flying in all those months, also in October and November!)
• registering for a conference in October
• booking church meeting for August, September, etc.
• accommodation during our transition to Australia in July (holiday in the Sydney area)
• transport between Sydney and Canberra at the start of September

As you can tell, there's a lot to organise. And I'm not being very organised about organising it all!

So back to what God might be wanting me to hear during this retreat, during this break from my regular life. These things came up this morning:

* Jeremiah 17:7-8 "Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord. He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit" (ESV).

* People are watching you as you deal with the challenges in your life.

* Do you trust that God will equip you, enable you to do what he has for you to do?

*Build up your faith. Take care of yourself. Build a firm foundation

Yes, all good things to hear and ponder. And keep pondering.


Be strong and courageous.
Do not be terrified
Do not be discouraged

Why? Because "the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go."

06 March, 2018

A Japanese hair cut

One of the things I didn't think about before coming to Japan was how it would be getting my hair cut by Japanese hairdressers.

For a long time my hair was long or medium, but pretty much all the same length, so I went long periods without haircuts (I admit to cutting my fringe myself to facilitate that). My main beef with hairdressers back then was that they invariably blow-dried my hair completely straight. To the point where my family were shocked. My hair isn't curly, but has a little bit of a wave in it . . . and I like it like that.

But now that my hair is short, it necessitates much more frequent trips to the hairdresser. I'm thankful that we've got cheap hairdressers in our area now. One hair cut costs under AU$20.

Most of the time I'm happy with the result, or at least satisfied. But last time I was not. Usually I have to "fight" with the hairdresser to get them to cut off enough, but last time even after some "fight" she still barely did more than a tidy up. So I was back there today after only about five weeks!
And it was only today that I realised that they expect that you'll be back in a few of weeks for another centimetre off your hair.  Asking them to take more off is akin to asking them to halve their profit margin (which I imagine is pretty slim anyway).

Today the hairdresser I got was refreshingly straight to the point. After I said I wanted two to three centimetres off, he asked, "So, you won't be coming back for two to three months?" Thankfully he was fine with it and did a good job (though was a little rough with the ears). I'm about as happy as I get with my hair straight after a haircut (and before I wash and style myself). 

Being unwilling to spend over an hour and much more than AU$20 on a haircut, I'll have to continue to try my luck at getting a decent cut, but be willing to "fight" for more off and if I don't get it, just go back for another cut a bit sooner!

I do wonder how strange Japanese hairdressers find it to cut my hair. I haven't had many comments, though I know my hair is finer than they are used to handling. Certainly the blow-dry-it-till-it-is-as-straight-as-Japanese-hair betrayed how little they'd seen of non-Asian hair. I did have one ask if I coloured my hair and was surprised to find that this is my natural hair colour. I guess they don't ask that now, because there are plenty of grey hairs to prove that it isn't coloured.

03 March, 2018

Convenience stores: cultural differences

I did drive past at least one convenience store/service station, and have
a photo to prove it. Actually I think these sorts of combos are increasingly
common, at least in Brisbane I think I saw quite a few.
I need some help from you today. Convenience stores are very common in Japan. There are more than 50,000 of them, check out this article to bone up on the Japanese convenient store and their long list of services. They are so common that you can count on finding one within a short walk in urban areas. When travelling around the countryside we count on being able to fairly easily find one for lunch between campsites!
Yesterday I spent a couple of hours with my language exchange friends and they asked about convenience stores in Australia.

The difficulty is that not only are common in Japan, they provide many services beyond a quick place to grab a meal. It really is difficult to think of what they might compare to in Australia. Possibly service stations come the closest, though the range of food and services that your average Japanese convenience stores offer far exceeds the average Australian service station.

I had to admit to my friends that in the 15 days I spent in Australia I never once set foot in a convenience store, I can't actually remember the last time I went to an Australian convenience store. In fact I'm not even sure where the closest one was to where I was living. That was inconceivable to one of my Japanese friends who hasn't been to Australia for more than 20 years. 

One day in Brisbane I was on foot and looking for a place to have a mid-afternoon snack and had to think about where I might find something like that outside the large shopping centre in our neighbourhood. I ended up at a service station and bought a Magnum (on our list as a "missed food" from Australia, and one that can't be mailed!).

So here are my questions for you:
  • Do you know where your closest convenience store is?
  • Do you ever go to convenience stores?
  • What would you buy at a convenience store (in Australia, or wherever you are outside of Japan)?
  • If you're away from home and need to buy a small snack or "something to keep you going", where would you go to buy it?

02 March, 2018

Nine years of blogging!

I was surprised this morning to realise that it's nine years today since I started blogging! This is my 2,818th published post. Who knew that I'd be still doing this nine years later? That means that I've been blogging more than half the time we've been in Japan (which was 17 years last December).

Lots has changed in nine years! For you too, I suspect.

Nine years ago:
  • I was living in a different suburb of Tokyo.
  • I had one boy in elementary school at CAJ, one in Japanese kindergarten (about to graduate), and one eager to start any kind of out-of-house schooling.
  • I was home schooling the younger two in English.
  • I was about to embark on full-time homeschooling for the first (and only) time.
  • that filled the gap for our middle son between Japanese kindergarten and starting in the middle of grade one in Australia because...
  • We were about to go on our second home assignment.
  • Outside being a mum I had few roles:
    • conversation English teaching at the kindergarten
    • desktop publisher of a newsletter for missionaries working with Japanese outside of Japan
    • critique partner for three other writers (which is where I started learning editing skills)
I was looking forward to seeing my youngest start school, so that I could do some other things, especially I was planning on starting work with the editor of Japan Harvest after our home assignment.

Well, things have changed a lot since then! I've now got almost too much on my plate, though admittedly my boys are a whole lot more independent than they were and I've got a lot more time to do things other than be a mum. Or that being a mum can be done in tandem with more than I used to be able to do, for example, I did a lot of editing work this morning despite having two boys home on a student-free day. That wasn't possible nine years ago! Mothering also isn't as exhausting as it used to be.

Well, I've got no intention of ceasing blogging. As I wrote on the 7th anniversary of this blog: 
  • [Blogging] helps me process life as it's going on in my life.
  • It's fun to look back on things I've recorded (like a public diary, I guess).
  • Connecting with other bloggers (though that seems to be happening less and less, I've outlasted many who were blogging seven years ago).
  • It's a great vehicle for sharing things I'm learning.
I don't know if I'll get many replies, but I want to challenge you to write a comment on this post (or on FB, if that's where you came from). You can just say hi, tell us how you found out about this blog, tell us what you were doing nine years ago, or share a random fact. Got for it!