Friday, December 30, 2011

One Month In JAPAN - Apartment and School

Wow!  This week marked my fourth week of living in Japan.  Time truly has flown!  I apologize for the lack of updates, but as you can imagine my schedule has been really crazy.  I've had to spend a lot of time doing various things to settle in to my apartment, in addition to all of the events for Christmas at the church.  I intend to update you on all of these things, but this will be a VERY long post.  YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.

I ended my last update telling you about my apartment and giving you a teaser for the next post.  Well, at that time I had NO IDEA that it would be so long between posts.  Never fear, you don't have to hold your breath any longer.  Here is some more about my apartment.

This is the shower room I showed you last time.  In Japan they have a big room for the shower and bath.  The shower head is on the wall.  They fill the bath, and shower to get clean and then soak in the bath.  The entire family will soak in the same bathwater and drain it at the end of the night, but it doesn't get dirty because everyone cleans before they get in.  I love it!

This is the other side of the bathtub.  On the wall is a control to turn on the hot water, choose the temperature, and to reheat the water in the bath.

This control is next to my sink upstairs in the kitchen.  The button on the right turns on the hot water, and the button in the middle fills the tub downstairs!  I can push the button, choose the temperature, and within five minutes when I go downstairs the bath will be ready to go.  It's great!

This sink / vanity area is next to the shower room

My washing machine.  Then I have to hang dry my clothes.
This is the inside of the door.  There is an area to take off your shoes because you can't wear shoes past the entryway.  This is the case virtually everywhere in Japan.

View through my apartment from the front door.  The vanity and shower room are to the immediate left, behind the first wall is the stairway, then the washing machine, and my bedroom in the back.

Stairs to the upstairs.  They're pretty steep, and curve once again like this.

This is my living room area.  I've since moved the table and added more furniture.  This room is to the left from the top of the stairs.

My kitchen.  This is to the right of the top of the stairs.

My stove and oven.  Yes, that small thing in the middle is my entire oven.  Japanese people don't bake much, except perhaps fish. 

The control to my heater, mounted on the wall.  I have two heaters in my house, one in my bedroom and one in my living room.  Central heat and air is uncommon in Japan.  I turn on the heater when I get cold and turn it off when I leave the house.  The remote is convenient, though -- I can keep it next to my bed in the night and turn the heater on before I get out of bed in the morning!

My entire upstairs.  I am standing against the wall in my living room.  The first door frame is my stairs, the door frame after the cabinet is my fridge, and then my kitchen.

The view outside of my back door.  I have no idea what this is, I don't think I've looked out there aside from when I took the picture.

A beautiful garden I walk past every day

Fun trinket.  Bonus points to whoever comments and knows what it is!

The week of December 5-10 I was in training for my job.  I shadowed a man from the company that hired me, so I wasn't actually at my school.  I observed his classes and did some other logistical things like completing my contract, applying for my foreign resident registration, and registering for the national health insurance.

I started work at my school, Lily Vale Primary School on Monday, December 12.  Lily Vale is a Japanese shogakko, or elementary school, but it is modeled after a British school.  The classrooms are in individual buildings, with courtyards in between.  The buildings and 'streets' have English names, such as Chelsea Lane and the Great Hall.

The school has students from grades 1-6, and three classes in each grade, for a total of 18 classes.  Each class has English twice a week.  There are two Japanese English teachers, Ms. A and Mr. M that split the classes.  There is also another AET, or Assistant English Teacher, at the school besides me, and he is from England.  He has been sick since I arrived, though, so I have not met him yet.  The past two weeks I worked with all ages of students and took over some of the other AET's classes since he was unable to attend.  It made for a really busy schedule, but I enjoyed it a lot.  I like to keep busy, and it helped me to be able to meet many students and get a feel for what the classes at different levels are like.

As an AET, I do not teach the classes, but work as an assistant to the Japanese English teacher.  I help a lot with examples and pronunciations, as well as teaching them about western culture.  There are so few foreigners in Japan (called gaijin) that non-Japanese people really stand out and are pretty uncommon in rural areas.  People, especially children are shocked to see gaijin, and it is not uncommon for them to stare.  The children are happy to get to know me, and are astonished by my height, my brown hair, and my green eyes.  They love to ask me how old I am, if I have a boyfriend, and to just interact with me in general.  This is a big part of  my job.  Between classes I go into the courtyard and interact with the students, engaging them as much as possible.  I am not allowed to use any Japanese at the school (even basic Japanese, such as good morning or excuse me), which encourages the students to practice their English.  Some times we have a difficult time communicating, but a smile and friendly demeanor truly do communicate across cultures.

In the morning, all of the teachers line up at the large wrought iron gates at the front of the school and welcome students as they come in.  The students say おはよございます!(ohayo gozaimasu - good morning) and bow to each teacher.  I great the students with a 'Good Morning', and they're expected to answer me back.  I get to school by school bus though, and it seems that my bus is always the last to arrive.  So, I get off the bus and say hello to the remaining students that come in, then go into the office, or to the weekly morning assembly, depending on the day of the week.

The schedule is divided into six periods, with home room in the morning and afternoon, and lunch after fourth period.  Since I don't have a homeroom, my break time is during the homeroom times, and I attend classes all six periods.  The teachers also eat lunch with the students.  I eat the school lunch, which includes rice and miso (soybean) soup every day, in addition to some cooked veggies and a main course.  We've had fish with some sort of fish gravy, curry, tonkatsu (fried pork cutlet), and some sort of egg.  Everyone's surprised that I don't mind eating the school lunch.

Last week the students had a Christmas Assembly (recital) for the parents.  There were three different plays, one for the 1st and 3rd graders, one for the 2nd and 4th graders, and one for the 5th and 6th graders.  There were three performances, as well, because each play only consisted of two classes.  Kind of confusing, but all in all there were 9 plays.  We spent three days of the first week I worked rehearsing for the plays (one day for each performance), so those days we only had classes after lunch.  The recital was that Saturday, and it went very well.  The students did such a great job!  The plays were entirely in Japanese, but they were fully costumed and choreographed, with mics, sets, and scene changes - even for the 1st graders!  I was blown away. 

Because the play was on a Sunday (the only day most people have off in Japan), the school was closed the following Monday.  That Friday was a national holiday for the emperor's birthday, so my second week was only three days of classes.  I was supposed to work Saturday, as well, but I twisted my ankle and was unable to work (it's mostly better now).  Since then I've been on Christmas / New Years' vacation and will start back to school on January 10.

Hope this clarified some of your questions about my apartment and work!  I've also been very busy with some activities, travels to Tokyo, football games, and of course, Christmas.  I intend to fill you in on more of that soon.  Til then, I hope all is well.  Have a happy new year!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

First Days in Japan

Konnichiwa!!  Watashi wa chou genki deshou!
Hello!  I am very good!!

I'm finally in Japan!!!!!!!!  Thank you for all the prayers, support, and well-wishes you have offered me over the past several months.  After much prayer, frustration, and lessons in patience it has finally come to pass.  My flights were all on time, all of my bags arrived, and the customs went relatively smoothly.

A gorgeous view as we approached the Seattle airport

All set and ready to go for the Tokyo flight!

The menu for the flight.  I had two meals and a snack

The first meal: shrimp, salad, stewed beef and fried rice, bread, and a brownie 

I was met at the airport by Jared, Yuuki, and Noriko, my little sisters in Pi when they visited OC.  It was so great to see them again!!!!  Afterwards, we went to a conveyor belt sushi restaurant for dinner.  I wasn't very hungry, but it was so good and a great welcome to Japan!

Yuuuuuuki and Norikokokoko!

Jared and me

On Wednesday, I had a very Japanese breakfast of biscuits and gravy, and then Jared and I left for Ibaraki Christian College.  The trip to the college took about an hour, consisting of a ten minute walk, two trains, and another ten minute walk.  We attended their chapel and ate curry afterwards.  I saw a few students I already knew and met some of Jared's students as well.  It was so incredible to be back where I had been three years ago.  I can't wait to continue getting to know the students better.  That afternoon we walked to the beach.  It's really amazing to be so close to the beach (even if it was really cold and the water rough).  Although where I will be isn't so close to the beach, I still hope to visit the ocean from time to time.

Waiting for the train to IC

Yummy curry

Arriving at the beach
Wednesday evening we met up with Jared's friend Allen and his wife, Laura.  Allen took us to an Indian food restaurant where we had.. more curry!  Indian curry is different from Japanese curry though, and I really enjoyed the food and fellowship.  After dinner we went to Allen and Laura's apartment and had tea and watched part of the movie The End of the Spear.  We weren't able to finish it, but we plan on having an encore soon.

Allen's North Face and Jared's South Butt
After dinner and the movie we went to Tomobe church (where Jared is a missionary) to meet a few of the students who were finishing class.  They were very excited to meet me.  So many people have been thinking and praying about me for so long.  It's incredible to me to hear of friends in Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Indiana, and Japan who have all been thinking of me.  Leave it to God to bring all of us together!

Today I went to meet up with my contact at the school where I will be working.  We didn't go through a lot of contractual details, but he took me to see my apartment and I was so surprised!  Last week he gave me the option of three different apartments and I chose the largest of the three.  I'm very glad, because the apartment is new, relatively large, and high-tech.  It is about a 15 minute walk from the train station, near a grocery store, several restaurants, and other convenience stores.  The neighborhood seems nice as well.  Here's an overview of the apartment and I'll write more in detail about it soon!

Apartment building
Close up of the door and intercom system
The view when you first walk in.  The shower and bath are to the left, the stairs behind the first wall, and the bedroom straight ahead.


Techy toilet 
Shower room
TEASER:  Stay tuned for fun facts about this room!

I will meet with my employer again on Saturday to go over the contract and other details, and then start work on Monday.

After leaving the apartment, we went to Tomobe church where Jared had two classes.  The first was supposed to be two elementary students, but only one was able to come.  We studied english with her, focusing primarily on spelling, vocabulary, and word usage.  The second class was with a high school student who wants to be a preacher and hopes to attend OC next year to study ministry.  I helped him with an essay about why he wants to be a minister and the impact he hopes to make in Japan.  It was really nice to be able to meet him.

Tomorrow I will attend several classes with Jared, and then meet again with my employer on Saturday. I'll update when I can.  Hope all is well with you at home.  Feel free to comment or email me with any questions or anything else!  Thanks again for your prayers and support!

じゃねじゃね! (bye!!!)

Wednesday, November 23, 2011


I have a ticket.  A real, live, no-turning-back-now ticket.  I will be leaving the morning of Monday, November 28 and arriving in Tokyo the next afternoon.  I AM SO EXCITED!!!!!!!  Booking my flight was so surreal.. I have planned to go for so long, thought about it, worked towards it, but now..  Now it's REAL.  I have a flight number!  Whoa!!!

To get to this point, I had to worry about a criminal record that doesn't exist, the US postal service (the least helpful service thus far), and the Chicago Consulate of Japan.  It's been an eventful and frustrating past few days, but it has all come together and I HAVE A TICKET!!!!

I was also contacted about my apartment and given the choice of two - a Teeny apartment, and a Really Teeny apartment.  The the one a chose was no longer available, so I was offered a Really Small apartment instead.  I believe I will officially be living in the Really Small apartment.  Luckily, my employer will buy me a Japanese futon (mat bed) (with my money) so I'll have a place to sleep when I get there!  How thoughtful.  More on the apartment and other details later.  All that matters now is


Monday, November 14, 2011

It's Here!!!!

Here it is!!!  This is the little stinker that took months on end, and its finally in my hand!!!  It won't be in my hand long though, because tomorrow morning it'll be sent off to Chicago!  The immigration office in Chicago will take about four days to issue my visa, and then mail it back to me.  After it comes in the mail, I will (FINALLY) be able to purchase my ticket.  I'm still planning on leaving November 29th, which is the Tuesday after Thanksgiving.  Keep your fingers crossed and prayers said that this government office will process things more smoothly than the last one!  I'll let you know when I have more information.  Thanks for the prayers!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Finally, Good News!

Aug 10:  Application for Certificate of Eligibility mailed to Japan
Aug 19:  Application received in Mito, Japan
Aug 23:  Application submitted to immigration office
Nov 7:  Certificate of Eligibility received in Mito, Japan!!!!
(89 days)

Last night at 8:00 everyone had finally gotten home from work and running errands and were sitting down to dinner.  I was helping get dishes, drinks, and condiments ready to go when I noticed I had missed a call from an +81 number, but had no voicemail.  For those unaware with international calling, each country is assigned a country code to direct the calls (the US is +1, hence the 1-800 numbers).  Japan's country code is +81.  My first thought was that maybe my boyfriend (who is currently in Japan) had tried to call me, but this was odd because we usually talk online as it is much cheaper.  I messaged him and reached him as soon as I could to find out if he had called me, which he hadn't.  I called the number back right away.  Sure enough, it was the school that I will be working for in Japan.  He told me that they had received my paperwork (which would have come last week but it got lost in the mail).  They are sending it to me and I should have it in a week!!!!!  I still have to send for my visa, but I anticipate leaving for Japan shortly after Thanksgiving!

Thank you for your prayers.  Many of you have told me that you have been praying for me and I can't tell you how much it means to me.  God is good, and our prayers have been answered.  With this timing, I will be home for Thanksgiving and see all of my family together before I leave.  What a wonderful celebration of things to be thankful for and a reunion of family!

I finally uploaded pictures, so here are a few of the things I have been up to in my time at home.

Heather and I with two of Daisy's nine puppies

Me, Kellie, and the Nolan kids at Old Settler's Days

One of the two loads of 700 bales of hay I helped unload

Brandon's 18th birthday breakfast

Beautiful sunset at home

Fishing at Roaring River State Park

Alex and Krista Swainsbury's wedding

Sara Bareilles

Shopping with Megan on a Thursday date :)

Halloween Party with Bob and Pam
The Band Perry

Reba concert!

Hope you've enjoyed the pictures!  I will let you know when my Certificate comes in the mail.  Thank you again for your prayers, and I look forward to sharing more good news soon!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

News (And the Lack Thereof)

I know its been a while since I updated, but I haven't known what to write. 

Yes, I'm still in America.  Yes, I am still waiting for my certificate.  No, I don't know when I'll be leaving.

This is the beginning of the eighth week since I sent the application for my certificate (so much for the 3-4 week estimate).  I heard from my employer last Wednesday (Thursday in Japan), and the school had been contacted by the immigration office.  The immigration office requested some more information from the school (about the school itself, not about me), and they were mailing the documents to Tokyo by express mail.  The good news is, someone is finally looking at the application.  The bad news is, there is no way to know how much longer it will be until my application is approved.  The documents should reach Tokyo today or tomorrow, so it could be approved immediately, or there could be some more time processing.  Hopefully I'll have more news in the next few days.

In the meantime, I've been able to do a lot of things I didn't think I would be able to.  I celebrated my Grandparent's 50th anniversary with them in Kansas City.  I spent the weekend in Manhattan, Kansas with a friend from high school.  I attended the beautiful wedding of a former boss that means a lot to me.  I had lunch with a childhood friend that I haven't spent time with for several years.  I went thrift store / Asian market shopping with a girlfriend who recently moved with her husband to Wichita.  I've spent time with people from my church and been blessed to get to know several of the ladies better through a Wednesday night class.  I've had time with my parents, brothers, grandparents, and great grandmothers.

Although it's been stressful and I am frustrated with the delays, it has been a very good few weeks.  God has blessed me with time to rest and time to spend with friends and family.  I have been reassured multiple times that I still have the job and they will hold it until I get there.  Although I am confident that this is God's timing, I am anxious to begin my work with the school and church in Japan.  Please continue to pray that everything will come into place quickly. 

         (Thank you)


Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Lessons in God's Timing

In my last post I detailed the process my application had to go through in order to receive my COE and Visa.  I was waiting for my COE to come.

I'm still waiting.

God has definitely decided it is time to teach me a lesson in patience.  I was told that it would take 3-4 weeks for my COE to be issued.  This is the middle of the fifth week.  Today is the day I expected to arrive in Tokyo.  I was supposed to start working at the beginning of next week.  Obviously that isn't going to happen.

Every day (okay, every five minutes) I anxiously check my email hoping for confirmation that it has been issued.  With each new email my heart surges, with each new email (including a cruel one from Southwest Airlines entitled You Could be Leaving on a Jet-Plane) my heart falls. 

I was able to speak with my contact at the school I will be working for and he reassured me that they are checking the mail each day.  He emphasized that nothing was wrong with my application and that the bureaucracy is just taking it's time.  No, it won't be rejected.  Yes, it's okay if I have to come later than my intended October 1st start date.  Yes, they will let me know as soon as they hear anything.  No, there's nothing else I can do.


So I wait.  And I pray.  I trust that there is a reason God is keeping me in the States for longer.  He has never let me down and He never will.  He knows better than I do what I need to do here; why I can't be there.  I am working hard to remember that.

God is definitely giving me a lesson in patience.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

The Waiting Game

This week and next I am back home with my family, spending time with them, with others back home, packing, and taking care of errands.  The most common question seems to be, "So when are you leaving?"

Let me tell you, I would LOVE to know the answer to this question.  I REALLY hope to leave on September 26th, but I'm waiting on some paperwork before I can finalize my travel plans.  For those of you interested in governmental hoops, here is the process.

About a month ago, I received my contract and paperwork.  I signed my contract (which was printed entirely in Japanese), and filled out about five immigration applications before I completed one without any mistakes.  The application had to be on A4 paper, which is a different size than the regular 8 1/2 x 11, so I had to search through about 5 stores before I found a copy center that could print in that size.  In addition to the application I had to send in my original official diploma, an original official transcript, four passport pictures (in a different size than our passport pictures so I had to have them taken and cut them down), a resume, a letter of recommendation from a past professor, and copies of my passport.  I then had to mail everything to my employer in Japan, who submitted the packet to the local immigration office.

The immigration office has been reviewing my information for approximately three weeks.  When they are finished (I hoped this week, but since it's already Friday there, it probably won't be) they will issue me a document called a Certificate of Eligibility.  This certificate is basically permission from the Japanese government to work in Japan.  After it is issued, the certificate will be sent to my employer in Japan, who will send it to me, here in the states.

After I get my Certificate in my hands, I have to submit it with my passport and another application to the Japanese embassy in the US.  The closest embassy is in Houston, so I have the option of mailing it (and risking losing the Certificate and my passport in the mail) or taking it to Houston.  The processing time there is about three or four business days, and then they will (FINALLY) issue me my visa.

Until I receive my passport (with my visa) back from the embassy I cannot (or should not) book my flight to Japan.  SO.  I say all of this to say that I cannot book my flight, and therefore know when exactly I am leaving until I obtain my visa.  With the length of time that it has taken and will continue to take to get my visa, I may end up receiving my visa and booking my flight for only a few days later.  I will let you know as the process progresses.

Until then, please pray for my patience as I continue to make preparations and trust that everything will come together in God's timing.

またね!(Talk to you later!)

Monday, September 12, 2011


This past week has been a difficult one for me.  I have never been good at saying goodbye to people, especially people I care about.  This is definitely a bittersweet time in my life, as I transition from a place where God placed me and blessed me in many ways to a new and unknown place that God is now calling me.  I was prepared for difficult farewells, but really didn't know what to expect.

Needless to say, I have been completely blown away by the incredible amount of support, compliment, and love that has been shown to me by a wide variety of people.  I was not prepared for the storm of encouragement that I received, both for the time I have spent in Oklahoma and the work that I am about to do.  And for that, I want to thank YOU.  I want to thank everyone who expressed love, faith, confidence, and joy in the things that I have done through my time in America and the things that I will do over the past few years.  You have no idea how much your love and support means to me.  I have been blessed by my encounters with you and could not be more grateful.

So here's to the facebook posts, the going away luncheons, the cupcakes, the hugs, the words from the pulpit, and the hard goodbyes.  Here's to you who opened your home, to homemade ice cream, to walks through the neighborhood, to talks in the forum.  Here's to my friends, colleagues, employers, classmates, roommates, friends, and surrogate family.

There is no possible way that I can express the love and joy that I felt over the past week.  All I can say is

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Becoming Real

I apologize that I haven't updated for a while. I am really hoping to post fairly frequently to share everything that is going on. I have shared this site with people I care about, and that I want to make sure stay in the loop. I think it will be a great way to share with a lot of people at once, but so that everyone can still get a (mostly) clear idea of what is going on.

The past few weeks have been very busy trying to tie up loose ends before I move home for a few weeks. I've had appointments, road trips, time with family, time with friends... oh, and I've been working now and then too. About a month ago I began a very specific packing list (to hopefully help keep my bags light!), and I started actually putting things in my suitcase over the weekend. I have to take basically any clothes that I am going to want over the next year because I will be hard pressed to find my clothes or shoes in my size once I get to Japan. It's hard to anticipate everything I am going to need for a year, and to be able to fit it all in only two suitcases! I am trying to be as strategic as possible, but that includes only taking things that I know I will wear often. Coincidentally these are the things that I -- ahem -- wear often, so I can't pack them yet. You get my drift.

Somehow, even though I have been busy and working through various preparations, the move for the most part has not seemed real. I was so excited when I first got the position, but for the most part, the last month has pretty much been life as I've known it. I've settled back into a routine, and the thought of going to Japan seems like a hazy idea in a crazy dream from a long time ago. Until today, that is.

I'm not really sure why today was the day that sparked my attention, but I can only guess that it has partly to do with one (or both) of two things. One, the fact that tomorrow (eek!) is my last day at work. I have loved my job, my responsibilities, my company, my co-workers, and it is going to be very hard to say goodbye. Two, a friend who has been helping me prepare for Japan left for Japan toady. In fact, they are in route this moment, somewhere between Las Angeles and Tokyo. All summer we have talked together of when the time comes for us to (respectively) head to Japan, and I can't believe the time has come! I think being aware of that and experiencing that really caused things to sink in. I had butterflies in my stomach all day.

I am so excited. Nervous? -yes. Scared? -yes. But mostly I'm excited. I know that God has prepared these circumstances for me, and that he is orchestrating something incredible. The joy and confidence that He has placed in my heart is overwhelming, and it is overflowing to cover all of the doubts and fears that I have. These next few weeks will be very difficult, but I press on, focusing my eyes on what is ahead. I know that the Lord's plans are greater than mine could ever be, and he will take care of all of the worries that I may have.

Please pray for me as I pack and say my goodbyes. I hope to grace you with another update soon.


Sunday, August 28, 2011

I am His

Here is another journal entry, this time from June 20, 2011. This was when I realized that after a lot of prayer, research, and wrestling with the idea that God was definitely calling me.

June 20, 2011

I have been called to serve in Japan.

Crazy. Scary. Weird. Awesome.

I don't know what it is. I don't know how I feel. But after a couple of months of prayer, reading, and an open heart I feel confident that God is calling me to GO.

I don't know how or what all it will entail, but things are falling into place. By means outside my own.

I'm going to disappoint a lot of people.

I hate that. I'm a people pleaser. But this is something I need to do. I need to go. I need to teach. I need to serve.

I must be strong.

I am loved. I am supported.

I am His.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

God-Given Traits

This is a journal entry from June 16th. A friend shared an exercise with me that they heard at a youth rally. He asked me to read Psalm 139, pray over it, reread Psalm 139, and then spend some time listing things that I am good at. They then told me that these are the traits that God has put on my mind that he wants me to use right now. This is my list and reflections.

Things I'm good at God has given me
Interest in others

These are the strengths that God has given me for me to use for Him. How can I use them right now? I've been told often that I'm a good example or inspiring or help people think about things, grow. I can use them in my position now, I already do, but most of my coworkers are already Christians. I believe my work makes an impact but I could do more. I could serve the needy, I could advance the Kingdom. I have been given what it takes. Is it wrong not to use them?

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Is He Calling Me?

Many people have asked me why I decided to go to Japan. Here is at least part of the process that I went through.

In 2008 I participated in a study abroad trip through my university. Throughout the semester we spent time in China, Japan, Hong Kong, New Zealand, Australia, and Hawaii. We spent a total of five weeks in Japan, and this was my first experience with the Japanese culture. I loved the culture, the tradition, and the friendliness of the people. I stayed near Mito city in the Ibaraki prefecture (similar to a state) of Japan. The region is considered countryside and is about 90 minutes by train from Tokyo. It was similar to home and different, at the same time. It was during this time that I learned of the AET (Assistant English Teacher) Program, when graduates move to Japan to work as assistants to English teachers in Japanese classrooms. Many students from my university went to Japan after graduation, either as singles or couples. I knew that this would be a great experience and began to consider the possibility of teaching after I graduated.

During my junior year I obtained an internship at a financial company that I strongly believed God provided me with. I very much enjoyed my job and intended to continue my employment after graduation.

In March 2011, Japan suffered the largest earthquake in history. The damage from the earthquake and the subsequent tsunami was widespread and devastating. The earthquake actually took place while I was in Destin, FL with friends for spring break, and I knew little of the extent of the damage. When I returned home and learned the magnitude of the quake and how many people were effected, I was shocked. I quickly reached out to my friends and confirmed that they were safe. They had suffered some structural damage, but were unharmed. The following Sunday in church I was reflecting on the tragedy, the magnitude, and the length of time that it would inevitably take for the country to recover. I began considering the process that they would have to go through, the length of time and amount of time it would take to get back on their feet. It was then that I realized that I was the perfect candidate: I was young, unattached, physically fit and strong, comfortable with the culture, learned the language quickly, and had connections in the area. I also had no doubt that I would be able to raise funds to serve if I needed to. God was definitely opening my eyes to a situation that needed him and His love, and showing me that I was the perfect person to carry that love and service to a desperate people. It was an earth shaking realization that petrified and excited me all at the same time.

I reached out to some contacts I had at the university and let them know of my interest in helping with the relief efforts. I prayed and waited to hear back about more information, but I did not. I decided that God wanted me to be aware of the need and my potential, but at that time it was His will for me to continue to the job that He had led me to. I contributed to a collection, volunteered my time at a relief concert, prayed for the recovery, and continued along with my life.

Throughout the summer, the people effected in Japan continued to be on my mind. I couldn't seem to ignore a persistent tinge that there was more that I should do. I continued to pray for direction and God began leading me to the idea of teaching English in a school in Japan. I continued to pray and research the options and what that would mean. Over time through my prayers God continued to lead me to the idea of teaching and I knew that I could ignore it no longer. I began the process of searching for jobs and contacting various English schools to see if they had any open positions over the upcoming months.

Some of the schools reached out to me, and some did not. I spent a lot of time making international calls through Skype late at night (so it would be during business hours), and learned the phrase, "Eigo wo hanaseru katawa imasuka?" meaning, "Does someone there speak English?" Often the person who answered the calls responded with "I speak English," but that wasn't always the case. I scheduled and completed several interviews, and had one position that I was fairly certain would go through, but another applicant was selected in the end. At this point I had felt God leading me through the process and had quit my job, told my family, and began to deal with the internal reality that I could be moving to Japan. Not receiving the position I had thought would come through, in addition to not receiving a follow up interview I had expected, caused me to become a little discouraged, but I continued to feel God's presence and blessing around my decision. It has definitely been a lesson in faith, as I have had no control throughout the majority of the process. I simply had to let go and trust that God would lead me to the place that He wanted for me.

I knew that time was short before the next semester began, and I was anxious to have something solidified. I was confident that God was leading me to Japan and that everything would work according to His will, but I was anxious about the way that things would come together, especially in a limited time. I reached out again to the director of international programs at the university that placed students in the AET program in Mito. He told me that if I had contacted him a day earlier he would have said he had nothing available, but that only that morning he had received an email from a private school in Mito (different from the usual AET program) asking if he knew of anyone wanting to go to Japan to teach in the fall that he would recommend. He quickly contacted me, I sent him a resume, they scheduled an interview, and before I knew it I had been offered the position! I was so excited, and I could definitely see God's plan in the way everything came together.

I will be teaching at two kindergartens and two daycare facilities in parts of Mito, Japan. The children will be aged 2-5. I will have a Japanese teacher in the classroom with me "to assist with emergencies," which I'm sure will be very helpful. I will have a three month period of training that I will learn the curriculum, schools, and observe the classes. I intend to become involved with a church in the area, and to assist with relief efforts to the Sendai region on weekends or when I am available. I believe that God has blessed me with this flexibility and the opportunity to work and serve congruently.

I am in the process of applying for my visa and completing the necessary immigration requirements and hope to leave for Japan during the last week of September.

I am currently continuing my work at the same company for a few more weeks, then will return home for a few weeks.

Continue checking my blog for updates on my experiences, trials, and adventures. Until then, sayounara!!!