November 29, 2012


What I've learned in my 2 weeks of teaching English lessons:

1. Everyone in Japan really DOES like sushi. 
I mean don't get me wrong, I like sushi just as much as the next Japanese and could very easily pound 36 kilo's of it (look at me...already using the English/Standard system. Peace out Metric's!). But, when I ask my students what is their favorite food 98% of them answer, "Sushi." Now, I'm not sure if they are just saying that because it's the easy answer and they don't have to think about it or they actually DO like sushi that much. I have no clue.

2. The Google Translate app ROCKS.

3. They ALL enjoy hiking and "trekking" mountains. 
Again, I enjoy the occasional hike here and there through a mountainous terrain, but it sure ain't my hobby. Apparently Japan has it's own set of Alps and many Japanese people enjoy spending their free time on them. Who knew...

4. These people travel EVERYWHERE.
I always thought the Japanese preferred to stay on their own little island, minding their own business, inventing the next best technological phenomenon, and staying brilliant. I knew that they took the occasional trip to Disneyland so they can take a picture with every character in the park, but I was shocked when I found out most of the students have travelled to several countries in Europe and Asia, Australia, and South America. I'm so jeal...

5. I. Love. Whiteboards.
Apparently this is a hidden dream of mine because when I first used the whiteboard in one of my lessons, I pretty much exploded all over it with as much verbage I could fit on there. I may or may not have just wrote out my whole dialogue with my student on the board. I may have also wrote it in Japanese too...and I may have drawn everything they had to eat for lunch that day. I just couldn't STOP!!

I love, LOVE meeting new people and getting to know them so this has been a blast. What do they do, where are they from, what do they enjoy doing, where have they been (which is apparently everywhere), where do they want to go, what are their goals. Usually this is my first lesson with a student and from then on we do more learning and grammar lessons. So grateful for this opportunity and praying God uses this part of my life to make His name known in Japan.

November 18, 2012

bow to your sensei

I'm sure it seems like I'm just chillin' here visiting grandparents, climbing mountains, stamping my name on everything I can find, and taking bus rides with little old ladies all around Southern Japan for giggles, but have no fear! I am being wise-ish and searching for a job as well.

Before I even came out here I had told myself that I would use that first month to settle down and find a job. A month. Great. I arrived in Japan on October 31st and November 1st I went into panic mode. We're talking Code Red style. "I don't have a job! What am I doing?! I'm not hearing from the people I contacted! How do I look for a job in Japan?! I'm so going to have to do the "walk/swim/fly of shame" back to the US!!"

One of the ways God is overwhelming me with His provision is through the people He has brought into my life here. The people of the church here are incredible and so filled with kindness. One of the ladies there mentioned that she teaches at an English Conversational School here in town and they are in desperate need of more teachers as all of them are overloaded. I shared with her I was interested and next thing I knew I'm talking with her boss and having classes scheduled for the following week. I'm tutoring English one-on-one with people ranging from 10 to 60 years of age. Schedule is very flexible and allows me to take time off when I need it. Also, the school felt my name was too Japanese sounding (most likely because it IS Japanese), and since I don't have a nickname we are using my middle name so to my students I am Marie-sensei. Whoop! (**"Sensei" is "teacher" in Japanese.)

There have been several other referrals from people for places in need of English teachers/tutors. None of which I had spoken to before coming out here. Crazy, huh? I can only try to do so much in my own power, but God's plan will always prevail...whether it's the way I was planning to go or not.

I would like to also note here that I had a similar episode when moving to Austin from Cali. That panic session began in the car ride before arrival into the state even. And what happened? God provided through the people He placed in my life. I should probably take a hint and remember this pattern/habit for the next time I do a big move. Hold me accountable, Internet.

November 13, 2012

a hiking we will go

Last Saturday I got to venture into the woods of Japan with the youth kids and young adults from the church. 
Clearly belching on this mountain was completely out of the question.
We were told this would be a "leisure walk."
The Beginnings of fall
Our View
New friend Mayumi and I
Towards the top of the mountain we started noticing a lot of these random idols placed along the way that just didn't seem to have a purpose. We finally came upon a big home and other totally random items. A boat filled with bath tubs, a pony, a slide that was lying down on it's side, and a gardener trimming the trees. Okay, the gardener wasn't so random...but when we asked him about this stuff he said that the people that live there are apparently collectors and collect all these items. Obviously...
One of the more flamboyant idols.
We were blessed with gorgeous weather for this day outdoors in the mountains. It was so much fun! At least us adults had fun...the youth I'm pretty sure felt that they just endured the trek to Mordor.

November 10, 2012

my roots

Well the other day I double-whammied and took the bus AND the train to my grandparents town to visit with them. Watch out!

My grandparents were also very impressed and thought I would change my mind from the time I called her saying I was getting on the train to when I would have arrived. Silly, G-ma...getting on the train and listening for my stop was the easy part. 
The Grandparents
It had been 8 years since I last saw my grandparents so it was so nice seeing them again and being at their house. So many memories! The smell, the sounds, the Japanese garden, the tatami mats. Love it. They live in a smaller more rural town than the city where I live which is the main city in that area. My grandmother makes the best miso soup so that was of course a part of the yummy lunch she prepared for me. 
Their backyard
Absolutely love these pictures of my mom and her sister that's hung up in their house.
I decided to take a stroll of the neighborhood that I grew up playing in. The rice fields where me and my cousin would collect tadpoles, bring them back to the house, pour them all in a tub filled with water in the backyard, and watch them turn into frogs. The homes where I would play with the kids or grandkids that lived there. It's also so cool for me to be where my mom grew up and think she was walking all around these streets as a youngin'.

Below is me and my grandmother. I'm sure now it's obvious where my height comes from.

Behind us is a doorway to another room. Having to duck through door frames so often has done wonders for my height complex.

I love my grandparents! And even though my Japanese is not great, I sure hope they know how much I love spending time with them and cherish them so much in my life.

November 8, 2012

gettin' around

Even though I've grown up visiting Japan my whole life and I have a mother who has maintained a good Japanese culture in the home, there are still things that I do here that I'm pretty sure are taboo that I'm just still not aware of. Such as...NOT pushing the "close" button on the elevator once everyone is in, sitting next to the elderly on the bus, and throwing plates on the ground at Starbucks and having them shatter.

Here's a little JAPAN 101 for you, friends:

Push the CLOSE button on elevator
I guess us lazy Americans are totally complacent with waiting for the elevator doors to shut on their own timing rather than bothering to waste the energy in using the close button. Or this could just be me. My bad, peeps, my bad.

Don't sit next to elderly on bus
I got on a bus and the only open seats were next to people. There weren't any empty rows. So I sat next to a tender, old lady ONLY because she scooted over as if making room for me. But at the other stops when people would get on, they preferred to stand in the aisle than sit next to someone. I just wanted to snuggle, is that too much to ask for???

Don't throw plate on floor at Starbucks
Yep, that happened. There's only so much this 5'9," fair colored, light skinned, American can do to fit in in this country. Cut me some slack, kids!

So if you folks ever find yourself visiting Japan and are glared at, shunned, or nunchucked, you have me to thank for giving foreigners a bad name. My apologies in advance.

Bus schedule for my hood
The bus is gradually becoming a good friend of mine here. I get on and it's usually populated by the Japanese elderly. I wait at the stop, I see the bus pull up and through the windows it looks pretty empty. I get on and it's filled with these precious gems of wisdom who I'm pretty sure wouldn't meet the height requirement for the It's a Small World ride at Disneyland. Their salon done hair barely grazes the bottom of the window sill which leads to the misconception of an empty bus. So it's a bus full of Asian Elderly Sweetness, and me, a big American...a big American with big dreams. :)

The river that runs right along the house I live at