Hello all my friends and family!!
I hope that this email finds you all well and genki! (healthy) I have recently returned from what felt like a very long time away from Tokyo, but was just about 5 days. I have officially left the island of Honsho, and traveled down to Kyushu, the most southern island of Japan. I spent time in both Miyazaki (on retreat) and Kumamoto (on orientation).
I've decided that leaving this updates for a whole month span is a bit much. I've really been struggling with how and what it is I want to update you all about. There seems to be a tendency that these types of experiences are hard to portray to people back home. Some people might end up giving the excuse "you weren't there so you just can't understand." I realize that yes, most of the people that get this email have not been to Japan before. But I am trying my best to share my joys and struggles as I continue to adjust to life in the land of the rising sun.
I feel there is so much that I could write about. What a month it has been! November has been a very busy month... In lieu of the famous American holiday Thanksgiving, I would first like to give thanks to each and every one of you. You have been an important part of my life, and I thank you for all that you have done. If it wasn't for the support given from each of you, I would not have found myself in Japan today. (With a very special thanks to Kim Hover - as you gave me the Global Missions reference in the first place!) You all have been included in this email list as you have been significant for me. Thank YOU for being YOU. I hope that each of you is able to relax and enjoy good company on this fine American holiday. I hope that each of you is able to find time to reflect, be thankful, and rejuvenate yourselves to continue living balanced lives.
DISCLAIMER! For all you horse fans, and vegetarians, you may want to go ahead and skip this next section...
For some big news, I have added a new animal to my list of ones eaten. The town of Kumamoto is known especially for its dish called Basashi - raw horse meat! DELICIOUS! It is typically eaten with a bit of ground ginger and chopped green onions, and dipped in some soy sauce. There are multiple cuts that can be eaten. One of them is from the neck, and is mainly fatty tissue; the cut is all white, with a buttery texture that can't fully be chewed. We also had horse in the form of yakiniku, where we grill the raw pieces of meat on our own, on the grill that is built into the table. This could possibly be my favorite thing to eat, ever.
I enjoyed my time in Kumamoto immensely, and know that if I were to get placed there, I would definitely enjoy myself. I also know that if I am placed there life will be very busy. The J3s working in the school there are held up to Japanese work ethic standards, even though they technically teach a few hours less a week. They are also each involved in a church (the position is supposed to be both teacher and missionary), and it seems it is sometimes difficult to commit to both fully without burning yourself out. We shall see what the future holds. In either case, it was wonderful to get out and see more of Japan. It was especially great to meet the other six individuals that live and work currently in Kumamoto. Seeing their faces and making the connections were great!
In talking of connections, there are two other relationships I need to mention. The first is with Sei Pauro (St. Paul), the church I have been assigned to work with during my orientation period. The language barrier, as previously mentioned has been tough, as not much of the congregation speaks English, and then those that do were told not to, so that I would be more forced to practice my Japanese. I am also supposed to "work", or help out the church as much as they need. But the case is that they are a self-sufficient congregation. I found myself wondering if my presence was really doing anything for them, or for me. Was I just a nuisance who didn't speak enough Japanese? I realize that in these types of relationships, ones that have a definite end date (March-ish), it can be hard for people to really want to try. They might not want to get attached too much as it will be that much more difficult to say goodbye when that time comes. However, I had been asked to give a presentation on my life as a Christian in the United States. Every week after the two services (children's, then regular), there is usually either some sort of meeting, speaker or presentation, along with a delicious lunch. I prepared a short presentation, complete with pictures sent from home (thanks again, Mom!) of significant religious moments (ie baptism, first communion, etc), as well as an introduction I gave in Japanese! After the question time, they each took the time to go around and give a short introduction about themselves. It was an excellent afternoon for me, and the first time I felt accepted into and a part of the church of Sei Pauro.
The second relationship I wanted to talk about (sorry, I realize this is getting pretty lengthy), is the one I have started at my ceramics studio. A man from church, Uno-san, gave me a reference for a ceramics studio in Shinjuku. I was thrilled! I had asked nearly every Japanese person I met if they knew of any places. The first couple of days were hard. My ceramics Sensai speaks zero English. A couple of other attendees speak some. But I am slowly learning. It's astonishing how in frustrating situation of trying to speak Japanese, I will lose my ability to then even explain myself in English. But my Sensai is patient and understanding. We use drawings and non-verbals when the language fails us. And then it's a shining moment when we are able to understand through actual verbal communication. Although I've done ceramics various times throughout my life (childhood, high school, college) I really desire to learn the "Japanese way." In the ceramics world, Japanese ceramics are renowned for their distinct styles. This fact alone is not something I am yet sure that my Sensai realizes I want to fully learn more about. All in all, I am so pleased to have my hands back in clay. Even when all I do is renshu renshu renshu (practice practice practice), and end with a large pile of soggy clay. Maybe even especially on those days.
In love and peace and blessings to you all,