The past few weeks have been semi-slow, but still busy. I've been busy everyday, but there hasn't been too many special things going on.
Last weekend Jared and I hosted a party to watch Spring Sing online with some friends that have been exchange students at OC. It was a lot of fun to watch, but bittersweet having to be away from campus. We enjoyed the morning though, and had a lot of fun watching our friends. Afterwards, a friend and I went to the mall and took some pictures in a photobooth known as ぱりくら (pelicula). This is very common amongst girls in Japan and a lot of fun. Here are some of the shots.
Things are winding down for the school year, so there have been special rehearsals for graduation, end of the year field trips, and parties for the students. I believe I mentioned before, but the school year here lasts from April to March, with a one week break between the years (spring break). My school is an elementary school, so the sixth graders will leave at the end of March. As a small private school (about 400 students in the school, approximately 70 per class) the students know each other well, and the majority of students attend for all six years. This makes it very difficult for the students to say goodbye, and the rehearsals and parties have been very bittersweet as many of the students will be attending different middle schools. Nevertheless, it is an exciting time.
Students have been rehearsing songs and programs for the graduation ceremony. The students will perform an exchanging of dialogue, mostly in Japanese but also in English, where the sixth graders reflect on their time at the school, and the underclassmen wish them good luck and farewell. I am helping the students with the English portion. It is very formal and somewhat difficult, but the students are doing well. The entire student body will also sing a song (accompanied by a very difficult piano part played by a sixth grade student) that includes difficult harmonies. It is a beautiful song, but I'm not sure what it says. The students are working very hard.
My head teacher wanted to have a fun lesson with the sixth graders before graduation, so last Monday we had a special cooking lesson and baked peanut butter cookies. She had an American recipe (as peanut butter cookies aren't common here), and last Saturday we set out to gather the ingredients. I've baked a ton in the States, but finding the correct ingredients and things here can be difficult, not only because they can be hard to find, but also because I can't read much of the labels to know what I am buying. There are many variations of flour and butter and other things here just as in the states, but I cannot distinguish anything with my limited Japanese. Coincidentally, my head teacher has grown up in Japan and knows next to nothing about baking, but Japanese comes naturally (literally) for her. We decided this made us the perfect team and sat out to find what we needed.
Peanut butter is not sold in the usual grocery stores, so we started at a store in the mall that specializes in foreign foods. There we found jars of Skippy, the size of the small jars in the US, for around $5.00. After buying four we headed to the supermarket. We bought brown sugar and white sugar (which is different from the sugar at home), pondered over the flour to find the correct kind, paid an outlandish amount for unsalted butter (the dairy cows are all in the northernmost part of Japan and its apparently expensive to ship it to the mainland), and called my mom for help distinguishing baking powder and baking soda. All of the baking powders here say baking powder, and we couldn't find anything that said baking soda. Not knowing the difference but knowing there was one, I made a call to the US to ask mommy what to do. My teacher was very surprised when I was like, Oh, I'll just call my mom!, but it worked out just fine. I love technology!
On Monday we took on the task of baking with groups of 25 twelve year olds who have very little experience baking. They were afraid of the hand mixer, each trying to make a different student use it instead. Japan also bakes by grams rather than cups, so we had to weigh all of the ingredients. We only had one egg casualty though, which I consider a success. The students rolled out the dough on to wax paper, and then we had to transport it across the room (on cutting boards since there was only ONE cookie sheet) and line the cookies up to be baked. We made a total of six batches in all, two in each class. Here is the oven we used to bake them.
Yes, that is an oven the size of a microwave, used to bake 250 cookies. It took about five hours to bake all of them, as we could only bake about 12 at a time. Needless to say, I spent the entire day rotating the batches of cookies.
On Tuesday, we rearranged the schedule so that we could have class with the sixth graders again. We ate the cookies with hot black tea. Apparently black tea is the common drink to have with cookies, especially cookies that are sweet, and they considered these VERY sweet. The twelve year olds were exclaiming that they were sweet -- now that's something that doesn't happen in America. It's funny because in America peanut butter cookies are some of the least sweet, and these seemed a little bland to me; it's funny how your pallet adapts to what flavors you are used to. As we had cookies and tea, we watched videos that were taken of the students when they were in second grade. They said their name, age, something they liked, and something they didn't like. The kids squealed as they saw themselves and their friends, and many were embarrassed when their video came on, putting their heads on their desk or even running to hide in the closet. It was a lot of fun, and the videos were so cute!
This upcoming Sunday marks one year since the earthquake that devastated northeastern Japan. It has been especially on the minds of the staff at my school today because today the sixth grade is on their annual field trip to DisneyLand in Tokyo. It was last year on the day that the sixth graders were at DisneySea that the earthquake struck. God worked in that, however, because the part of the campus that suffered the heaviest damage was the sixth grade classrooms and because they were at Disney, no one was in those rooms. Additionally, after the earthquake it was no longer safe to stay in the buildings and it was a very cold day so the teachers loaded the students onto the school buses. The buses were filled with the students at the school; if the sixth graders had been on campus there would not have been enough room for all of the students. The teachers here consider it lucky, but it gives me chills knowing that God was watching over the students at this school. I am extremely grateful for their safety.
Earthquakes are still pretty frequent here, much more frequent than they were before last March. There are usually at least three each week that are strong enough to shake buildings. None even come close to the impact of the earthquake last year, though. I can't imagine what it must have been like to be here. Now people hardly bat an eye at the earthquakes that occur. There will be special events remembering the earthquake and honoring those who passed this weekend. Although much progress has been made, there are still thousands of people in government provided temporary housing. Many people from across the country (some Christian, most not) spend a large amount of time volunteering to help with the efforts. Much progress has been made, but the disaster is not over yet. Please continue to keep the people of Japan, and especially the victims and their families in your prayers.
On Thursdays since LST has been here, I have been studying the Bible with a lady. She has been at the church a few times before, but seems to still not know much about the Bible. We focus mainly on the English, but she is learning the Biblical material as well, and I think it is very interesting for her. She has asked me some good questions about Christianity and my faith, and I hope she will continue to want to learn more.
Thank you for your thoughts and prayers. I hope all is well at home! Please feel free to text me any time (let me know if you need my number) and I'll get back to you as soon as I can.