Sunday, 20 November 2011

Paul Newman, Smiles, and Music

I have now been in Japan for a little over two months. It has been nine wonderful and challenging weeks. Even though I have been here for that long I only officially learned how to introduce myself a week ago. Just so you don’t think that I have been completely hopeless in learning the language I would like to tell you that I know the names of several different animals, foods, how to say look, stop that, excuse me and many other very random bits of vocabulary. Most days I am surrounded by Japanese. This means that I spend a lot of time being quiet and watching others interact.
 One time I wanted to ask someone about Bonsai trees. I used the word bonzai which as it turns out is not a word. Banzai means raise your hands (or some version of that) while bonsai is the type of tree. It only took two days, a terrible attempt to draw a tree and three different people to finally understand what I was talking about. Sometimes I cause a lot of chaos over a simple word...I can't help it. Afterwards the famous quote from Cool Hand Luke came to my mind, "what we have here is a failure to communicate."
Being the talkative person that I am, I am always trying to figure out ways to communicate. Thankfully my excessive way of talking with my hands has finally become useful. When they say that eighty percent of communication is through body language, they are not lying (although that other twenty percent comes in handy). It's truly amazing how much a person can communicate with very few words. I love it! Just a knowing nod or smile from other foreigners passing by on the sidewalk makes my day. With that small gesture we recognize that we are both in the same boat. It doesn’t matter that we might not speak the same language or even be from the same country; we are foreign and therefor understand each other. That simple gesture says so much without a word being spoken. 
Today I went to a charity concert for the Let's Walk Together Project. This project helps those who have been affect by the tsunami and earthquake of last spring. The first hour they talked about the program and it's various activities. All of it was in Japanese.  I was disconnected from what was going on. But the moment that they started playing music I was involved. I was connected. Music is a way of communicating  that is for everyone. It has a way of speaking to you no matter the setting, the culture, or the language that it is in.    

Western Wear store

Osu Kannon Temple

Communication is such a  funny thing sometimes. Thanks for tuning in. Go out, enjoy some music, and another person's company.

God's Peace,

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Sandy Meals, Ninjas, & Boogers

It rains here in Nagoya about every three to four days. I get excited about the rain for two reasons. One is that I am from West Texas, so I am taught at an early age to be thankful for any rain you get.  The second is that the rain makes the sandpit in the playground WAY better to play in during Mitsuba.

A couple mornings a week I help out with Mitsuba. It is a kind of pre-k class or nursery. The kids are two to three years old. The first hour of the morning is pure play time. Inside the classroom the kids can play with trains or cars, do some sort of craft or read books. Most mornings I am outside where there is a sandpit, a slide and plenty of free space to let imaginations run wild. I love playing in the sand and creating shapes with the kids. Although it never fails that when we build a semi-sandcastle or make some sort of mold the kids are eager to destroy it. They love building things up just to knock it over. The girls (and some of the boys) are always cooking up some delicious meal that they will eat in the playhouse. I have had too many cups of sandy tea than I can count. There is one little girl that loves to just dance around the yard. When she dances you know that she has to be on a stage somewhere in her mind. It is so fascinating to watch the kids play in these imaginary worlds. When do we lose that sense of freedom?

Many of the boys are too restless to play in the sand pit for very long. When that happens, I somehow always become the bad guy in which ever superhero scenario they are playing. Every morning that I am there I get wrapped up in jump ropes and hula hoops. I am sure that it is quite a site to see.
Once playtime is over we clean up and go inside. Like any preschool we sing loads of songs about animals, rocket ships, and various foods. Even every month has its own song. Since this is a Christian preschool we also say a prayer before we start the morning activities and right before they leave. After the first round of songs and prayers, there is always some sort of craft or game for the kids.

One morning ninjas left letters for the kids that explained how one trains to become a ninja. They had to work on their balance as they walked across a bench. They were given paper throwing stars to throw into hula hoops on the ground. They crawled under a net from one side the room to the other.  They were so excited to train like a ninja! Another morning they decorated racing cars that were made out of paper cups and thread- spindles. When they finished decorating the cars they got to race them down a table that had been converted into a ramp. It was so much fun watching their eyes light up when their car went racing down the table.

During snack time the kids take turns wiping down the tables, passing out towels to clean their hands, and handing out the snacks. At the end of the snack they have to clean their tables and put their dirty dishes away. They are taught to share and be slightly more independent than they are at home. In those moments I forget how young these kids are; they seem to be given a lot of responsibility. But being two and three years old it is never long before someone has a runny nose or is crying because they want their mom. I love these mornings even with the blood curdling cries. It is always a joy to see these kids play about without a care in the world.

Here are some recent pictures.

My bazaar partner and I at St. John's
Puppet show at St. John's Bazaar

St. John's Bazaar
Shirotori Garden

Market of hand-made goods

Thats right folks! That is a sledding hill made of real snow in the middle of a park.

Thanks for tuning in. I hope that you get to enjoy childlike wonder today, even if it is for a couple of minutes.

God's Peace,