Sunday, 29 September 2013

Farts, Music Boxes & Peace

The last big events for the summer was the Peace forum.  It is a camp for kids with the focus of peace and understanding. Over the 3 days many teachers came and taught the kids various things. Since the aim of the program is to create understanding about the world they invite foreigners as guests and campers if possible. This year there were three kids from the Philippines. One of the boys was the son of Deacon Glen and he spoke Japanese fluently. The other two could only speak a little Japanese. Therefore my friend Takuji and I were interpreters throughout the week.  

One of the teachers gave a math lesson that was symbolic of the way people are. Another teacher taught the kids how to make prisms. We were taught magic tricks and sang songs. One of the songs was Do Re Mi. It was the first time I ever sang it in Japanese. The teacher also taught us a song about farting. I am not kidding you. I got to sing a song in Japanese about farts. The best part was that I had to interpret it into English so one of the Filipino children could understand why we were laughing so hard. So there I am trying to keep a straight face while telling the child how the singer of the song was trying desperately to hold in his fart on a bus but couldn’t. It was a hilarious. 

Besides the singing, my favorite talk was about a music box. Have you ever seen the metal wind-up music players that you put into music boxes? Well one of the teachers played the music player for the children. The sound was pretty but very quiet. He told the students “if he found a good object, the music might become louder.” He then proceeded to place the player on the concrete walls and the plastic table. Both made the music sound awful. Then he placed in on the wooden doors. This made the player play the most beautiful music. The moral that I took away from the lesson was that there are people/things in this world that bring out the worst in us. But when you find those good people/things, they have the ability to bring out the best. They have the ability to make us play the most beautiful music in the world. In this life we should search for these good things and when we find them stick to them.

The last day we ended the camp with a feast of food that the children made. Each dish was from a separate country. A Korean Dance group also performed a traditional dance for us. Right before we said our final goodbyes Fr. Nomura gave a talk on why they host the Peace forum every year. He started out by saying that there are many countries in this world, many people of different colors, and many languages. Because of these differences people create borders, to build up walls to keep their possessions and cultures, which then lead to misunderstandings which then leads to wars. So how do we live among all the differences? The answer is peace. I know this seems like a nice but impossible idea. Fr. Nomura said that kids don’t understand borders or differences. Kids understand peace. Yes arguments happen but they are quickly resolved. As we grow up we are taught about differences. The hope of having these forums is to encourage the kids to look at the world with peaceful understanding. To look at the world as if there were no borders. Yes we are all different but deep down we are the same. We have the same needs and wants. We need to focus on our similarities rather than our differences. We need to find the good things in this life so that we can make beautiful music together. It is not easy but it must be done.

A visit to Osaka Castle

Depending on which stream of the waterfall (the building is built around) you
will either gain a long life, luck in love, or luck in school. Not sure which I drank from so we shall see

Getting ready for a summer festival with my good friend Ayako Japanese style.

Ran into one of my favorite students at the festival.

My church friends surprised me with a trip to Kyoto so that we
could all see each other one last time before I return home.

Saying goodbye on trains...

I wanted to let you all know that I will officially be returning stateside on October 9. I don't have exact plans for the future (if any one know of temporary jobs, I am all ears). However, I do know that catching up with family, friends, and my church families are in order, not to mention eating all the delicious Tex-Mex I have missed. For the next week and a half I will be enjoying as much of the time I have with the people I have come to know and love in Japan. Not looking forward to saying all the goodbyes that are a head of me but all good things have to come to an end, as they say. I just wish that wasn't so hard. I hope you all have a wonderful weekend!


Monday, 2 September 2013

Math, Fires, & Awareness

Ok so 24 hours to me is really about 3 weeks time for you. Sorry for the VERY  slow update.

We had our four-day long day camp at the youth center several weeks ago. The first day was game day. One of my favorites from the day was a game where the kids rolled across the ground while one of their friends was wheeled across their backs. Think conveyor belt with children. The leaders got to demonstrate…it was AWESOME! Each group also made origami balls. Everyone in the group wrote  their hopes for the week on a piece of paper. Then we folded those papers into a origami decoration.

The second day we went to the river. On the way to the river I sat near one of my favorite 6 year olds. Her camp nick name was Usagi-chan, which means bunny. Half way through the journey she started asking me math questions. Ok she’s 6 years old, and not only does she know how to add and subtract, she can also multiply. We had so much fun asking each other math questions. At one point I asked her “what is 7 X 7?” She looked at me, repeated the question, looked down at her hands, doubled checked the question and then proceed to count on her fingers. I turned away giving her space. Five minutes later she shouts “49!” I was very tempted to burst into laughter instead I gave her a high-five for her hard work.  

After having lunch and a little break, we splashed around in the river. I don’t know how often you play in rivers that are too low to swim in, with children under the age of 10 but let me tell you it is more entertaining than you can imagine. The really little kids were obsessed with catching tadpoles. I think spent half of my time pointing out groups of tadpoles and the other half having splashing wars. I tried my best not to get too competitive when the kids would splash me. It took all my might not to swamp them with splashes. Dad you would have been proud of my self-control.

On the third day each group made their own lunch over a fire. I don’t know what I did, but this year and last my group wanted to make pasta. Just so you know, pasta for 14 people, made over an open fire is not the most convenient thing to make. I was weary of the recipe when it called for the use of ketchup but in the end it was surprisingly good. Also I would like to brag that all the kids in my group LOVE veggies. They ate every vegetable in sight.

That day, the older kids slept over at the youth center, but before the younger kids went home we sang songs and played games around the camp fire. Then listened to Fr. Nomura give this year’s “Peace message.” He started out by writing numbers on the board, like the number of kids at camp and his own age. He asked them what the significance of the numbers were. Then he wrote the number 18,550 and 15,500. The first was the total number of people killed or missing after the Great Eastern Earthquake and Tsunami. The second was the number of confirmed deaths. Then he wrote the number of people displaced by the disaster, then the number of people living in temporary housing. Then he told us the number of adults (24,000) and children (30,000) that have been affected by the radiation. Fr. Nomura told the kids about how these children are not allowed to play outside for fear of kicking up the dust and inhaling the radiation. He showed them how to use a Geiger counter and explained what the “safe” levels of radiation are in relation to the levels in an x-ray room. The kids in those areas  have to have a Geiger counter on them at all times.

I was blown away that he was going into so much detail with the kids. Then I realized these things need to be said. In most Japanese households and I am sure in most houses in the world this disaster has been put out of our minds. It is something that happened two years ago to people that we don’t know. It is completely understandable that people have moved on to worrying about different things. But the problem is there are still thousands of people being affected by the radiation. Thousands that cannot put it out of their minds. It is their reality. Hopefully this talk stuck with the children and created an opportunity to talk about this problem with their parents. I pray that it opened up conversations for understanding and possibly even action of some kind.

Cooking bread on a stick over an open fire. The night
activity before sending the kids to bed...legit!
I joined everyone for breakfast the next day. Since I live above the youth center and there was limited space I did not get the pleasure of staying up until 2am trying to get the kids to sleep…darn the luck. The last day of camp we decorated reusable bags and had "group time." During that time we unfold our origami decorations that made on the first day. We then traded those papers around the group and each person wrote a note on another person’s folded paper. My kids were adamant about writing on everyone’s papers. It was great to see.

While we were all exhausted by the end of the camp it was hard to say goodbye to all the kids.

Saturday, 10 August 2013

English, Curry, & Understanding

Spent a day at a waterfall recently and
wanted to share the picture with you.
Two weeks ago we had English Summer Program at Nagoya Youth Center. All of the students from the English classes come to the center for three days of English fun. I was able to see many of my old students for the first time in a year. They were very confused by my new hairdo. In fact many didn't believe that it was actually me. With that aside, the program was a hit! The second day we were brought some homemade Nepalese curry and the kids made na'an. The third day was Nepal day. The Nepalese English teacher, Shristy, told the kids all about Nepal. I along with most of the kids now want to go to Nepal. I even took notes during her presentations of things I want to see and eat.

One of the many things I love about this youth center is that they want to educate the kids about the world. This is why they bring in guests from Nepal. That is why they have teachers from all over. The idea is that if the kids are given the opportunity to meet and learn about others seeds of peace are being planted into them. When you create an understanding between cultures there is less hatred, less ignorance, and more respect.

I hope you are enjoying the last bit of your summer vacation! Look out for my post about long day camp coming your way in 24 hours.

Thanks for tuning in,

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Pools, Crocodiles, and Fuji

Before the pool. Aren't they ADORABLE!?!?
As I stated in my last post I am back in Nagoya. The past three weeks, I was working at ELCC. This is a school that the church started for children of Filipino and Japanese parents. At the school they have several volunteers that teach various classes everyday. They very kindly made space for me teach there as well. Therefor I helped with art, PE, Japanese, religion (well one time only) classes, and taught English. The kids range from 4-9years old. They are the CUTEST children. In the school use three different languages. They mostly learn Japanese but they are also learning Tagalog and English. So communication can be difficult sometimes. Even with those difficulties we manage to have a lot of fun.

Last week was the last week of school for the kiddos so on Wednesday we went to a pool. I think I was as excited as the kids. We spent 4 hours splashing around in the kiddie pool. When it is the first time your back has seen sun light in a year and you are crawling around like a crocodile for 4 hours, put on sunscreen. Lesson learned. On the upside I have find a new way to gain better posture. 

On Friday we had a barbeque. Most of the adorable kid’s parents came. It was nice to visit with them and play with the kids one last time. They are a crazy bunch as any group of 4-9 year olds would be. One day their entertainment was opening a children’s book of anatomy to the page of the naked boy. I can’t tell you how many times they opened it, laughed, closed the book and did the very same thing over again. Another time, while reading a book to the kids, I told them "you have to be quiet because there was a sleeping crocdile. If they woke the crocodile up it will be angry." From then on any time I said "shhhh," one of the little girls would say "oh shhhh, sleeping crocodile!" Of all the things I taught the little kids this is what stuck with her. LOVE IT.

Also some other highlights from the last 3 weeks are that I celebrated my 24th birthday at my friends farm and then at the best Tex-Mex restaurant in Asia with friends.  As a present from my parents, the next weekend I hiked Mt. Fuji with a few friends of mine. It was a blast! Sadly due to the horrible weather we didn’t make it to the top to see the sunrise. BUT we did get to see the sunrise-ish on Mt. Fuji. The church recently celebrated the consecration of a new church. For the past 4-5 years (I might be off on my timeline) it has been a mission to Filipinos living in the area. So during the consecration some of the parishioners preformed traditional dances. It was great. I will try to get some pictures for you soon. I have had a wonderful time settling back into Nagoya. Its been nice seeing friends, going to TakiDashi (where we feed the homeless on Thursdays), being apart of the church here, and relearning my Japanese home.
Celebrating 2 birthdays! Love these women.

hanging on the farm

this is what Tex-Mex does to Japanese friends...

5/7 of the Fuji crew

About 1am and making friends

view about 3/4 of the way to the top

Thanks for tuning in!

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Tons of food, tons of songs, and tons of goodbyes

Let Us Walk Together Project's Staff's last meal together
The Let Us Walk Together Project has come to an end in June. The Tohoku Diocese will continue the project but at a more local level. The national church however will continue to support the victims of radiation. Not much information about the radiation “clean-up” and the things going on with the radiation are getting out of Fukushima Prefecture nor the to the wider world. So the national Anglican church of Japan’s priorities in this next phase will be supporting the victims and to tell others both domestic and abroad about all that is going on in the radiation contaminated areas.

I have moved back to Nagoya again to finish out my contract with the church in Japan. I resumed some of the work I was doing here last year and this past spring. I have moved back just in time to help out with the busiest part of the year. While I am thrilled to be returning to my Japanese home, I am not so excited about leaving the community in Sendai. It constantly amazes me how fast a new place can become a home. I have yet another family here in Japan. I
My Filipino family! Miss them so much already
have learned so much from the church members and the people we have been working with. I will miss the Filipino women that I have come to call my friends. I will miss the men in the church that love to tease me about my hair or lack there of. I will miss the women that have stepped in as my mother since I am away from my own.

This past month has been filled with closing off programs, writing reports, and saying goodbyes. I think I have been to enough goodbye parties to last me quite awhile. Here are some pictures of all the friends I have had to say goodbye to for the meantime.
the buzz crew (or no hair crew) at the goodbye party
best friends!

Prayer service for Shinchi base
 Ms. Keiko the woman who can do anything!

Sunday, 23 June 2013


Recently a priest, Fr. Richard Helmer, from Diocese of California, visited the Let Us Walk Together Project with his son, Daniel and his friend Fr. Shintaro Ichihara, chaplain of Rikkyo jr. high and high school. Fr. Ichihara has visited and volunteered with the project many times so he knew a lot about the area and the disaster. On a Saturday morning a couple of weeks ago my fellow coworker joined these three kind men. We went around the Ishinomaki area seeing the various disaster sites.  

One of the sites was a high school.  When the earthquake happened on March 11 they had 30 minutes before the tsunami came. In Japan earthquakes are common so every school has drills and well defined rules for what to do if they are to come. If they do happen then everyone is supposed to leave the building immediately. While tsunamis happen they are not as common so there are not rules on what to do. So on this day when the earthquake happened and the principal was away the teachers had a hard time deciding what to do. They finally decided that they should evacuate the building and seek higher ground. So all the students formed a line and exited the building walking along the big hill by the school. One of the teachers went back into the building to make sure everyone had left. He didn’t have enough time to make it out before the tsunami came so he went to the roof and watched as the tsunami took 10 teacher's and 74 of the 103 student's lives. That teacher has not been able to talk since the disaster.

Now that school is a memorial site. It’s a place where there is no laughing; all the talking is done in whispers. There is a alter where people have left flowers, pictures, and some of the former students favorite food. I want to ask you to keep the family of these students and teachers in your prayers. I especially want to ask for your prayers for the teacher who watched it all happen.

Thanks for tuning in,

P.S. For more information about that trip please read Fr. Richard's blog.