Sunday, January 08, 2006

Happy 2006! Akemashite Omedetou Gozaimasu!

Yeah, so as you guessed I am still in Japan and 2006 has come. Yet again, I need to update y'all on the interesting twists and turns of my life. haha, "twists and turns" that is a diluted way to put it!

Ok, so Christmas here in Japan was actually really fun, different than usual but overall my family doesn't have the normal Christmas anyway. I celebrate Christmas during American Thanksgiving with my mom's side of the family and then my immediate family sometimes opens presents on Christmas Eve so we can travel to the other Grandparents house. It changes a bit every year. All that to say that i am used to things being different.

My Christmas went like this: on Christmas Eve a few of my friends here and I went to a Christmas story performance in Koriyama and then that night the 5 remaining teachers (that didn't go home for Christmas) had a sleep over at my place! We watched "It's a Wonderful Life" and chatted while eating lots of yummy Christmas treats (thanks to all that sent some from home!). In the morning we all woke each other up and opened our stockings we stuffed for one another! That was sooo much fun! Then we all had omlettes over at Lis and Tammy's house (Tammy's tradition). During Christmas day we called our loved ones and talked to them a while. I felt some sadness but I knew that LOVE travels long distances and that I will be home to visit sooner than I know it is here. Christmas night we all went to a service at our church and then ate lots of Japanese specials that night...hehe...definitely no turkey there! We were asked on the spot to both sing and DANCE for the church! haha, you will never believe this but Lis and I taught the congregation how to salsa dance after supper! That is what I call bringing dance into the church! It was amazing and really just good clean fun (much to some Christian's surprise YOU'RE HIPS ARE NOT FROM THE DEVIL!).

So, Christmas night Tammy, Lis, and I began to pack our bags for what we thought would be sunny and hot Okinawa! (It ended up raining most days we were there but still much warmer than Funehiki). We left for the train station on Boxing Day (for all you Canadians who know what day that is) at the butt crack of dawn and oh my was it frigid! I swear my hands got minor frost bite in just a 10 minute walk. Anyway, we got on our train to Koriyama, our bus to Fukushima Airport, and our plane to the city of Naha, Okinawa all with no problems. Right off the plane we asked for information about things to do in our area 'cuz we hadn't planned anything and we liked it that way! It was a good thing too 'cuz the rest of our week was totally an amazing mix of parties, new friends, restaurants, site seeing, shopping, and to top it all off --- SCUBA DIVING! The first full day we bumped into a spunky Okinawian-born women in her 60's that had been living in New Jersey for some 20 years and was visiting her homeland again. Obviously, her English was refreshing and she really pulled us in to hang out with her. We had a great ol' time. Teiko took us to a fun restaurant with Live music and really good Okinawian food. Us three girls tried everything and even interacted with the music going on (let's just say between me and Lis we had the percussion section taken care of). Later that night one lonely American looking lad comes into the jamming party and Teiko marches right over and invites him to join us. We learn that he is just in the area for a night and day and then he goes on to one of the many surrounding islands in Southern Japan. He invited us to go to a little island the next morning and we said "sure, we have nothing planned" ( and this became our response for practically every invitation we received).

Ojima Island was beautiful and not touristy in any way. It was a little fishing community and we enjoyed getting away from all the shopping stripes (DANGEROUS - those shopping stripes!). The four of us (Lis, Tammy, Evan, and I) found the beach side and climbed along the huge build-ups that had made themselves into fun exploring caves and such. Tammy hopped her way out to a lonely little rock and just took in the beauty of God's majestic waves and peaceful presence. I found a crevice where i hid myself from all people and found myself inspired to write a poem while there. I felt something like this:

Sharp holds, oceans build-up
the water laps against the rocks,
A small piece of peace,
shelter from the bustle
Wind, a welcome friend,
Rush away, on to the next site...
I need this peace.
The crevice gets few visitors,
so l i n g e r
and be at peace.

On the 30th Teiko invited us three girls to a big company party for the largest and very traditional alcohol company in Okinawa! We ended up dancing a traditional Okinawian dance in front of everyone and we had no clue what we were doing! We just followed Teiko's lead. Haha, crazy for sure 'cuz at one point they left just us three American girls on stage to dance alone and we ended up doing the Electric Slide of all things! The best part was that this performance won us 1st place among the other karaoke and music specials! We think they gave it to us out of shear pity or because they were too drunk to realize what they had seen! But we ending up coming home with 3 bottles of Awamori Oosake (the companies product) and a big loaf of bread. Good times!

On New Years Eve all the Marine men came out of hiding and so there was no shortage of attention drawn to us as women who are NOT in the Marines are a hot commodity. Early in the week the three of us had spotted a Salsa bar that we wanted to go to for their NYear's party. On our way walking to the bar we met a group of 6 Marine guys looking for an Irish pub that they would still be lookin' for if we hadn't invited them to come to the Salsa place! Now you might be thinking, "Cristy, are you completely naive! What do you think those guys are looking for?" But I want to tell you just how God-planned this invitation was. We had no idea that things would pan out the way they did. So, Lis and I first had to teach the guys how to Salsa dance...we both have a heart for men to be educated dancers! There is a real lack of these in American culture! After we took them to the dance floor to test their retention...Not too bad! We really got that party going 'cuz when we first got there it was just a bunch of marine guys on their way to happy land and one couple on the dance floor. I had a blast 'cuz there were bongos and a set of kongas too! But we also got to talk to alot of the guys and hear about some of their hangups and dreams. I met Liam and we had an interesting discussion about God, truth, and how is the right way to live. i also got to hear one Marine guys whole life story and how he believed that we had met that night for a God-given reason. It was so great to see God at work in the salsa bar. I truly believe there are no limits to God's touch and influence. So I had a lot of Fun for sure! The group of us stayed up to see the first sunrise as it is Japanese custom and then we parted and slept alot!

The only other really BIG thing we did was go scuba diving! And that was BIG for me cuz I have wanted to do this since I was a little girl! We decided to do a coast dive since it was all our first time to scuba but the fish were amazing nontheless! Just being able to swim and breath underwater is a dream come true for a little girl that always thought she would have been a dolphin if she hadn't been a person. We fed the fish and touched the coral (the ones we were allowed to touch) and sadly it was short. But I know I am going to do it again and deeper! Scuba is a real challenge for my jaw problem because it takes alot of work to keep your mouthpiece in your mouth and the pressure on the ears is also a challenge for me. However, I try not to let little things like physical issues get in the way of dreams especially ones that bring me to a place of worshipping God amidst His amazing creation!

Well, i better wrap this one up but there is much more to share. Here are some pictures. I hope you like them!

I love stocklings!

Found my tree in the moutains with Lis :)

Tammy, Hitoshi Miyagi, Lis, and Me (Live Music at our restaurant)

Beautiful Okinawa!

Monday, December 05, 2005

Hey Everyone!

Christmas season is here and things are busy for sure. Japan is not excluded from the craziness of this time of year. I am performing 3 times this week ...singing a little song and even doing a little dance. Yippee!

Yeah, so I've been in Japan for three full months and I'd have to say that overall I am feeling content being here. I know this is where God wants me right now so that is fine with me. Really! I have not been homesick in a bad way yet and I haven't felt like crying because I'm different or anything (Come on! I was always a little different). haha, well the count is on for Tammy, Lis and I. We are going to Okinawa in 2 and a half weeks! Warm weather, nice beaches, and some really interesting experiences are heading our way! I am excited to have some fun!

As for teaching, I have my good and rewarding days and my annoying "God let it be over" days, but i believe this is pretty normal for most new teachers! So, I take it all in stride. Life isn't a bouquet of roses or anything...sometimes it hands you pickles (gross!)...oh well make pickle juice (give it to your friend and tell him it's apple juice! hehe).

There are some major changes happening here and I believe God has got a hold of Funehiki! We are hosting a highschool Christmas party which we hope turns into a weekly Bible study. I really have a heart for this and I think I could really pour my heart and passion into talking and building friendships with these older students. I also feel that there is going to be more freedom in the way the church here in Funehiki worships. Already our team or 10 girls is leading one song a week of our choice that is translated for the church family to read along. I hope greatly that we remains bold and continue to push for change knowing that God has all of His glory ready to be poured out on us here. Things are and will happen.

Well, that is all for now. I love you all dearly and I am sorry I haven't been updating as much. This time no pictures but soon I will update my webshots albums so then you can visit that.

To one and all...peace be with you.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

* Autumn's Arrival *

So it has been about 2 months since I arrived in Funehiki, Japan and the leaves are now turning golden yellow, rustic brown, vibrant orange and passionate red along with the deep crimson that sometimes tricks the eye and looks plum or even purple. I thought i would miss Canada's colors this time but I can get lost in the scenery here and be home in a moments time. I cherish the beauty of God's painting.

So, November has come with sunshine yet cold winds and without central heating all of us teachers are learning to wear many layers to school and to trap heat into tiny places and enjoy being warm. Don't worry I am a Canadian I can survive in sub zero weather so this shouldn't be hard...haha...anyone that knows me knows that I wear scarfs and mittens from september until may! I get cold easily so let's just say long johns and spandex are my best friend (Ungie...are you proud of me?).

Halloween has come and gone. That was a best celebration here. I think I started dressing up in September and going into elementary schools to teach about how American and Canadian children get lots of candy! They love that idea! I was a panda, bat women, a pumpkin, and a gypsy all this fall! It was good fun.

I have been learning a few things about myself in these past 2 months. For instance, I like to cook interesting dishes that I have never tried before and just add whatever I think will taste good. I have made 2 different kinds of soups both turned out really yummy! But I do not enjoy baking near as much! It is especially difficult here because Japanese people don't have full sized ovens...they have these microwaves that can be changed to an oven setting! Small though so you have to make more batches and baking is always messy! (you would think i would like it then but I think cooking is more fun). I am also learning that as much as I love my young grade 2 and 3 classes cuz the kids are sooo cute, I know that I am not made to work with that age group with my life. I enjoy challenging my jr. high classes and my fellow teachers in their work, faith, and encouraging them to the enth degree. More and more I feel that I will be coming back to Canada/US to study pastoral care and counseling so I can help people.

Last weekend the family (my boss and his wife) took 7 of us teachers to Mt. Bondai which is actually a dormant volcano. We took a guided tour and saw many different views of the volcano that errupted 100 years ago and blew half of its top off. Due to the minerals in the lava there are now 4 different colored lakes around the volcano (blue, red, purple, and turquoise I think). We also went to an onsen together which are natural hot springs around the volcano. That was a relaxing experience and there is no need for a bathing suit or a towel! (hehe).

Just yesterday I was able to go apple picking at an organic orchard an hour and a half north of Funehiki. It was a beautiful drive with many scenic beauties! My heart was worshipping the Master painter (Yahweh God) the whole trip there. The family that owned the orchard were so kind and very generous! Man! We got 40 apples for $11 dollars...and usually apples here are about $1.50 each! I learned that if you "knock" (flick) the apples and listen for a higher pitch then the apples are ready to be picked! How fun! I knocked a lot of apples and had a totally of 6 stuffed in my pockets! Now that is what i can a 6 pak!

The biggest news is that Tammy, Lis and I are going to be traveling to Okinawa Island for Christmas/New Years break! This island is located on the most southern part of Japan along the same latitudinal line as Florida! Oh baby! Okinawa is called Japan's Hawaii and I am so pumped to be somewhere warm for a little while. More then the warmth though I am excited to do 2 things that I have wanted to do since I was a little girl. First, we are going to go whale watching and see the humpback whales! (i have never seen a whale other than on T.V). Second, we are going to go either scuba or skin diving! And this one in particular I have been intrigued to do since I have been maybe 10 years old or younger! I am sooo excited to see all the coral reef and colorful fish. What a sight to behold and again to worship God while experiencing. We leave on the 26th and come back to Funehiki in the New Year on the 3rd. By the way, New Years is one of the BIGGEST holiday/festivals in the Japanese year. So, we will be in Okinawa for whatever festivities they have there!

Well, that's a good portion for now. Please enjoy the pictures both here and on my webshots albums!

~ Cristy <><

Look out at Mt. Bondai

Autumn at the Yochin (kindergarden school across from my apartment)

Halloween (Bat Woman (me), Cow (Carrie), and Jack O Lantern (Lis))

One of my 2nd Grade Classes on Halloween Day

Funehiki Evangelical Church to Date :)

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Hello to all!

Well, it's been a while since my last blog. I guess I better fill you in a bit! Well, Sumo Wrestling and Tokyo in general was a blast! Haha, I saw a lot of butts flying in the air. I tried lots of new wonderful foods including raw fish sushi and japanese pancakes ( i can't remember what they are actually called). We visited a historical/art museum which was sooo interesting to me! I hope to do some more reading about the history of Japan.

I had my third week of teaching and this time I was teaching solo with only a little help for a couple classes (interpreter). The first 2 days of the week were so rough. I felt like I was doing things more wrong than right and that I wasn't going to like teaching very well. But then Wednesday came around and God really came through and I had a great day! The rest of the week followed suit and well, I think I am finding my teaching feet now. I enjoy teaching somewhat and I hope that I continue to find JOY in it more and more cuz well, it's my job for at least 11 more months. Yet, I have so much to be positive about! I work with Kate, Carrie, Lis, Kano, Kono, Miyuki, Okobo, and Kawaai sensei! It is a great team to work with and I feel pretty welcomed as part of the staff.

Anyway, I am currently trying to figure out my plans for Christmas. I think Tammy Mullin and I are going to travel around Japan and see somemore of this mysterious country we live in! Not sure of the plans for sure yet, but I will let you know more when I know!

Well, that is all for now. I will be sure to update again soon! Peace to you.

Cristy <><

Picture Time:

Sumo Butts ;)

Tokyo City paint job!

City Life.
American Icon Meets Tokyo

Oh Yeah! We Bought a Keyboard In Tokyo!

This Buddah Does Not Look Happy!

Hope you enjoyed these :)

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Konnichiwa! Genki desu ka? (Hello, How are you?)

Yes! hai! I am in Japan safely and learning more and more of the language each day :O) Our flight went rather smoothly. We had one mishap when we arrived in Japan and found out that Patty's luggage had been lost or taken by mistake. However it was found and returned to her in two days time. Since have been long awaited here in Funehiki many people wanted to meet us immediately. So far we have met the mayor of Tamura-shi (surrounding city which includes Funehiki), the police, the postoffice people, the education board, and obviously all of our superiors (Mr. Maki, Kawaai-sensei, etc.). On Wednesday I visited an elementary school in Funehiki during the morning and then observed and helped a bit at Wakakusa school in the afternoon. I will be doing this each day. Soon I will be a solo teacher in the afternoons at Wakakusa school (it's an English cram school so it doesn't start until 4pm after the normal school day is over).

So I am living in a nice somewhat Japanese-style apartment with Adriane (one on my fellow teacher friends). We love our place and can't wait to decorate it with interesting Japanese decor. I will add some pictures of it at the bottom of this blog. Our bathtub is really deep and there is a movable shower head that you can use in the bath if you wish! I really love this feature. We also have sliding doors which act as dividers between rooms. So we can have one big room or 3 separate ones :)

The children that come to Wakakusa school are so extremely cute! They are energetic yet quite respectful and they have a nurturing relationship with their teachers. I am very impressed with the education system in Japan so far.

As for me, I am adjusting quite well to the new and interesting culture. Sometimes I experience neck pain and head aches but over all I feel very welcomed and accepted. I am with a very respected and Christian founded organization and I am grateful.

This coming weekend a group of us teachers are going to Tokyo to a sumo wrestling match! That should prove to be extremely unique to my eyes. Also, we plan to visit some shines, museums and such while in Tokyo. We are staying over one night and then coming back on the bullet train. It should be an once in a lifetime experience. Tell you about it when I get back.

Picture Time:

Carrie cooking us some yummy meats Japanese style!

A glimpse at our lovely deep bath tub!

Outside shoes stay at the door before you step up into the rest of the house.

The whole group of us with the police officers of Funehiki.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Kombanwa! Junbi Deki Ta? (Goodevening! Are you Ready?)...


It is official after a full month (we arrived in Ohio on August 7th and now it is September 7th) we have the little paper we need to work in Japan! Thank you God! So, "I'm leav'in on a jet plane, I don't know when I'll be back again...". Although I will have to come back to see all your beautiful faces (although at this point I am speaking to my dad cuz I think he is the only one that checks this blog...Leave me comments Pleasse! hehe.)

Anyway, keep us in your prayers as we try to adjust to the time different, culture, full time teaching, and new faces. There will be much need of God as our source of strength. Also, please pray for Japan as it has been hit by an earthquake, and 2 typhoons in the last month! The second typhoon is still happening so pray that it doesn't affect our flights and also the town of Funehiki where I will be living.

Ok, so here is my Japanese Address:

66 Hiradate, Funehiki-machi
Tamura-shi, Fukushima-ken
963 4312

And I will let you know my phone number as soon as I know it myself. I should have internet access within a few days of my arrival (which will be around 5am Saturday morning September 10th for you all). Hope all is well and PLEASE drop me an email or a comment whenever you think of me 'cuz I want to have pieces of Home with me and you are all part of that!

Now for the Pictures of the night :)

On My Trip To Amish Country I Found This Sign..hehe.

Origami Night with Keiko (a Japanese doctor staying with Holly's family for a week)

Today in Detroit...Sauntering the city in celebration of receiving our visas!

Hope to be in touch with you all when I reach Japan :) Peace to you!

Monday, September 05, 2005

The Count Is On!

Yeah, so my residence in Ohio will soon be no more. The group of us girls are taking a roadtrip (rather expensive with the stink'n gas inflation!) to Detroit to get our visas from Carl! Yes, we know our visa guy by name since we have bugged him so much. I am excited 'cuz I've always wanted to visit Detroit (the rough and violent city it is) but my parents bypassed it on trips. Once we get the long-awaited visas in our hands we are gonna go out to celebrate :)

This coming Friday (Sept. 9th) at about 11am we will board NorthWest Airlines and take a short flight from Columbus, OH to Detroit and then the 12 hour flight from Detroit to Japan! It should be somewhat grueling I should think, but at this point we are antsy just to get there. I am particularly looking forward to having some kind of schedule again and less food to consume. I swear I put on 5 pounds with all the hospitality that was shown to us here in Mansfield! Grace Fellowship Church has been an amazing blessing to us and really serves with all their heart.

The group has had to face its set of obstacles over our stay here. The latest being that Lis hurt her neck diving into a pond and hitting the water at a funny angle. Yet, God is faithful! Holly's whole one side of her family are chiropractors and so she has received treatment for free in the past couple of days! Praise God! No obstacles will stop the plans God has for Japan to experience more of the grace of Jesus that they need to know so desperately.

Over the past 4 weeks I have also had amazing friends come and visit me each weekend here in Mansfield, OH. Here they are:

The Ravishing Kimberly Bright and Stunning Cristy Williams

Nate and his Best Friend :)

My Beautiful Kristin with Me

Hope you Enjoy the Pix!