Thank you for answering my poll last post, but unfortunately many of you failed! Three people specified something specific they would like to hear about (none of whcih were in agreement), and four others said they want to hear about anything and/or everything. Since this means it was a tie, here is an account of what's been going on this month (including food, school, and Chrsitianity -- the three winners)
Some things going on in February:
On (Monday) February 6th Jared and I hosted a Superbowl party for some American friends that are also in Japan. The Superbowl was replayed in Japan at 6:00 Monday night, so we were able to watch it on television (unfortunately without commercials). We enjoyed some good American company and entertainment, which was really nice. Unfortuntately we didn't have the American Superbowl food, but I guess two out of three isn't bad!
That same week Jared and I also hosted a Mexican party for some students he studies the with at Ibaraki Christian University. Mexican food is rare in Japan, and Jared and I, as well as students who have visited OC really crave it. Jared spent the majority of the day cooking and made enchiladas, homemade queso sauce (without velveeta), tacos/burritos, quesadillas, and sopapilla cheesecake. Everyone ate a lot, and we definitely went over our calorie count, but we had a lot of fun! Afterwards, we had fellowship and a Bible study, and then some aerobic dance to work off the food. The party lasted until about 2:00 in the morning. It was draining, but so much fun!
IC PartyA week later the long term exhange students that came to OC from IC last year invited Jared and I to a dinner reunion they were having. We had a private room in a traditional Japanese restaurant, and the food was really good! We had four or five courses, including a salad, two varieties of fish, and a pasta with a sauce made of fish eggs, as well as lots of time to just visit. Some of the students I knew well, but a few I didn't and it was really good to have a chance to get to know them better, as well as to catch up with the students I was close to while at OC. Two of the girls, Yuuki and Noriko were my little sisters in club and came to my house for a weekend, so they asked about my family and we talked about things that have happened since OC. I was also able to practice my Japanese a little, which I really enjoyed as I am not able to use it at work. It was a lot of fun to have a cultural experience with both old and new friends!
While at the Mexican party, everyone talked about wanting to be able to study and fellowship more over the upcoming weeks as IC is on their spring break. (Spring break here is the break between school years and for college students lasts about two months. The school year runs from April to March.) We decided to have a study the following Saturday at Starbucks. With various weekend events going on there were only four people able to come, but many others mentioned they would love for us to have one again. We spent about two hours fellowshipping and talking about the Bible, then went to lunch together and spent some time in Mito. The two girls that came were both Japanese, one of whom is a Christian, and one of whom isn't, but who has been very involved with the church. We had a good time and some really good discussion. Studying with others is so encouraging! It was a great way to refresh and prepare for the upcoming week.
That evening an LST (Let's Start Talking) team arrived in Tomobe (the city where I go to church) where they will hold free individual English Bible studies with people for a month. It's marketed as a way to practice English for free with native English speakers, which gains a lot of interest, but the material works its way through one of the gospels and teaches the reader about Jesus and his life. It's a wonderful opportunity because few people in Japan are familiar with Christianity. Most people are a combination of Shinto and Buddhist, but its primarily cultural rather than religious. They often don't realize why they go to a shrine for a birth and a Buddhist temple for a death, or have shrines honoring ancestors in their houses other than that it's because they are Japanese and that's what they do. If they are familiar with Christianity, its often associated with Jehovah's Witness members who are very persistent here, or with weddings (Japanese young people really like the grandeur of a Christian wedding). Few people have heard much about the Bible or about Jesus and his life and sacrifice, and the forgiveness he offers. They don't know that its possible to have a personal and loving relationship with a God who is interested in his creation. It is very hard for Japanese people to become Christians though, because the other religions are so integrated into their lives that they don't understand committing to one religion. Some families also will shun their children if they convert to Christianity. It's a very complex situation, and conversion takes a very long time, but definitely something that you can see how a seed is planted and it grows over time. The LST team consists of three people (two from Argentina and one from New Mexico) who spend their days holding Bible studies. They also host weekly parties and will help around the church during their time here.
Friday nights we usually have a youth group event, which generally consists of me, Jared, and a Japanese boy who will begin attending OC in June to become a preacher. Occasionally one or two others are able to come, but the group is rarely larger than six. The activities alternate between renting a movie and doing an activity, such as bowling. Last night our event was karaoke, and the LST team came along, which made our group 8. If you are unfamiliar with karaoke in Japan, it is definitely a cultural experience. Rather than a large room (or a bar) where one individual performs a song, Japan has companies that specialize in karaoke and rent out rooms. You can rent a room by the hour that has all of the equipment (and even tamborines and moraccas). This way it is only you and your friends that can hear the singing, and you can sing as many songs as you like. They also serve food and drinks. This is a popular passtime in Japan, even though it can be fairly expensive. They have songs in Japanese, English, and as we found last night, in Spanish. I would like to see America start a similar version of karaoke!
Today is the one Saturday each month that I have to work, and my school is holding an exhibition. For the past two or three months the students have been preparing, and today all of their work is on display, as well as various performances and presentations. Each class presents for about 45 minutes to their parents and has a display in the gym or cafeteria. In English, they have created both a presentation and a display. It varies by grade, and I am very proud of the work the students have done.
1st Grade: "Teddy Bear Song" (including solos of "I am a teddy bear", "teddy bear wake up", and "teddy bear jump!" among others)
2nd Grade: "Hokey Pokey"
3rd Grade: Each student was assigned a part of the book Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What do you see? that they read all together
4th Grade: Speeches about a family member, telling the family member's name, occupation, two things they like, and a character trait. The speeches were illustrated, memorized, and presented formally.
5th Grade: Go Dog, Go!, read as a group with individual 'solos'. The students also created eight-page mini books that six students read and presented.
6th Grade: Three paragraphs of Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream", as well as speeches they wrote (in both English and cursive) and memorized about what they want to be when they grow up, why, and what they plan to do.
I was extremely impressed with the student's level, and all of the performances went very well. It has been an exhausting couple of weeks preparing, but the hard work paid off and they have done extremely well.
Sorry for the lack of pictures in the last two posts. Hopefully I'll be able to get more up soon. Several have been posted to Facebook, so you can check there to see some photos of what has been going on. Hope you are well!