Monday, 16 January 2012

Nabe, Reflections, & Community

One of my favorite places in Japan is my friends Makiko and Mitsuru’s farm. Every time I visit them I feel a since of peace. I love being away from the noise of the city and I love the people that fill up that house. They have been a huge blessing to me. A few of weeks ago I was invited to their house for their Year-End Nabe party. We spent all afternoon/evening eating and talking. Everyone there was so passionate about life and their roles in the world.

When invited, we were asked to bring a small gift for gift exchange. After each person opened their gifts they were asked to share their happiest moment of 2011. Everyone had very different years of course but the common thread was the joy they found in community. They were all thankful for the support system of friends and family; the people that they could share their struggles and triumphs with. 

As I sat nervously waiting for my turn to share my joy of 2011, I realized that community was my happiness as well. Last year was a great one.  But it was not the places I went to or the things that I saw that were the best; it was the people that I shared those moments with and the conversations that I had. And now as I sit in Japan I am blessed once more with an abundance of wonderful friends and great conversations.  

I looked around at the faces that were sitting in my friend’s house. I couldn’t help but be overwhelmed by their presence. Some of them I might never see again but I am thankful for that time we shared together. 

I hope that this year you will encounter amazing people and have conversations that stick with you. HAPPY NEW YEAR!


Monday, 9 January 2012

Carols, candles, & Christmas

Wonderful ladies from St. Stephen's church
I definitely missed my family this Christmas. But for my first Christmas away from home it was way better than anything I could have ever dreamed up. On the morning of Christmas eve I went to the youth center and made a couple of chess pies for that evening’s party. The rest of the day I cooked, ate, sang carols, and laughed a lot with the other members of the church. I felt like I was home. 

he first church service of the evening was a lessons and carols service. There were so many people that came that night. Everyone got a candle and a book of the readings and songs. The hall was so beautiful with the candles lit. There were several kids that were eager to play with the hot wax. Since St. Stephen’s is very involved with the homeless, many of the men that we serve at Taki Dashi were present at the service. After the service we readied the room for the Christmas feast and party.  There was more than enough delicious food for everyone to share! There were several different performances of songs throughout the party. Once everyone was done eating and the festivities were over we cleaned up. In between cleaning and the midnight mass, we sat around talking and drinking tea. It was great. Midnight mass was a relatively normal mass. Afterwards we sat around some more, drinking tea, eating sweets and talking. 

Snow the day after Christmas
I upheld our family tradition of waking up unreasonably early on Christmas morning due to the excitement of opening presents from my parents. As I sat on my bed contemplating this Christmas, I saw big fat snowflakes falling outside my window. It was so beautiful! Eventually it was time to go down to church. We had a Morning Prayer service and there were a decent amount of people considering that we were all just there 7 hours before. After church I got a lesson on Japanese culture from a couple of my friends. 

Later on in the afternoon I met up with some of my friends that are international students to watch Christmas movies. I only got to stay for the Muppets Christmas Carol but it was great to celebrate Christmas a little with people that were far away from their homes as well. After the movie Claire and I went to the wonderful Smith family’s house for a traditional Christmas meal. The delicious meal was complete with turkey, mashed potatoes, carrots, stuffing, homemade gravy and pumpkin pie. I was so thankful for their kindness and going out of there way so that we could share in their family’s Christmas festivities. 

After we were sufficiently stuffed Claire and I met up with other church members at St. Mark’s Church. Once there we all walked over to the prison for caroling. We sang several carols to the walls of the prison in hopes that they would hear us. This is the time that prisoners who are on death role tend to be sentenced. This has not happened in many years but there was a fear that this year would be the one. After the caroling we returned to the church where we drank tea, ate sweets and talked. As you can tell that is a trend around here. After everything we gather for fellowship and reflection.  

I am so thankful for my church family here and my friends. They helped make this Christmas incredibly special. I know we are now in the season of Epiphany but I hope that you all had a very Merry Christmas!