Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Hats Off to Yuma, Kunitoshi & Ken

Today was an extraordinary day. I went to the junior high that is closest to our house which is about a five minute walk. I think they have about 200 students, this one being the biggest junior high of three on the island. I spent the first two hours in class assisting Midori, the Japanese/English Teacher, and then happily tootled back to the teacher's room where I tried to nestle into my short-back chair (hate those) and dug into my Japanese study. I was learning some new stuff in order to make my puny sentences into a little less puny ones, so, I was pretty pumped. Time passed quickly this morning and the sun finally came out to warm up the muddy soccer/baseball field that lies right in front of the school. I often cross it to get to the fusuma-like glass-sliding doors (the front door(s). For lunch, I ate with 7th graders and for some reason they were particularly talkative and NOT shy today, which is odd for most of my junior high schoolers there. We spoke Jinglish (Japanese and English) thru most of the lunch and tried to steal each other's chocolate that was a gift (omiyage)from someone who took a trip recently. I thought that this was one of the best lunch conversations I'd had so far. [By the way, in junior highs and elementary, we (the ALTs) usually eat with the kids in their classroom along with their teacher]. So, I was pretty happy about this particular lunch. Next was hiru-yasumi (kind of like recess) and the students play a wide variety of things from practicing on their instruments, soft tennis, soccer, volleyball, baseball and just hanging out and roaming the halls. Sometimes I play (soccer,baseball, tennis and basketball) too but often I just hang out and try to talk to them. Today, I really wasn't trying to talk or anything when I was suddenly surrounded by three girls (sitting next to me near on the flag pole platform) and three boys standing in front of us. We were sitting right outside the front door(s).

Then IT happened!
One of the girls and two of the guys (whose names are mentioned in the title) began to ask me all sorts of questions while making funny comments about my pink socks. I was so stunned and so bewildered that they were finally coming out of their shell and/or they had been studying. We laughed so hard and smiled so much. I think they were happy to see me laugh so much! I often laugh but today I really couldn't stop because their jokes about my pink socks and also the way they were dancing was hilarious. We had a little exchange of Japanese and English going on and it was by far the best group exchange I've had so far. I even gave them Spanish and French names for fun. I think the thought that most ran thru my head was, "how long have you been able to talk like this?" and "wow, I am so impressed."

Because of this day, I was even more encouraged to study Japanese than ever before. I never thought that twelve-year-olds would be the ones that would give me such inspiration. After that, I went back to the teacher's lounge and wrote my FIRST e-mail in mostly Kanji whereas usually I just write in Hiragana or Katakana. So, that is all I have to say. I thought it would be an encouragement to you who have been wondering about my language study. And yes, thank you Yuma, Kunitoshi and Ken for making my day.

Monday, February 27, 2006

My Brain Is Like Spaghetti...It's a compliment actually (*

Ok, so I am not a pro at blogging but at least I am trying. I am up pretty early this morning after eating too much black bean soup with an ungirth of rice. Yeah, I have been experimenting with beans and such that our friends (thank you Houston peoples) sent us for eatins.

Last night, I invited a Japanese friend and her baby to come over and try this soup. Happily, they accepted and even had a bowl of the dyeing Black Bean soup. [I say that because all the vegetables were completely black after I finished cooking the soup...still tasted good though]. Kei is quite adorable, I must say and if I had any idea how to post pics by myself, I would do it but I don't and he has grown so much since Thanksgiving, which is the last time we took good pics of him and his family. He turned 1 in January, I think. I like to watch him dance, walk and just about anything except cry at our Christmas lights...he doesn't like them! And I love his curly black hair and big beautiful eyes. K and T (his parents) must be really proud!

Other Blogs

Since I have been up so early, I thought I'd look at other peoples blogs a while just to see what they write about. It's really quite interesting actually to see what is going on in friends' and strangers' lives alike...they definitely write (mostly) about what they are passionate about. And they SEEM to be organized in this neat 'box' of their likes, dislikes, current readings, blogreadings, intellectual-magnet-sites, daily life and traveling. It could also be just certain people's blogs I checked out too. Also, it could be they write random things sometimes when they aren't sure how to harness their thoughts into bite-sizeable ideas.


So, I have been thinking a bit about friends back home and what they are doing and how they are doing. Yesterday I purposefully left Skype on and one of my friends from Dallas called me at 5:30AM Kikai time (which is not too early for me on weekdays). I picked up the phone and muttered a scratchy a 'moshi, moshi' [hello expression for phone in Japanese]. She felt bad to call me, but honestly, I wasn't bothered so much by it. I just got up and started my day and He gave me enough energy to make it through the day; always does.
So, if any friends read this blog entry, give me a call. If I am awake enough, I will talk to ya. Miss you guys.

Kikai Rain

So, it rains a lot these days but for some reason, I haven't been affected like a lot of people are affected by rain. I like rain, for the most part, and it reminds me of Oklahoma except not. There are no thunderstorms in Kikai and I really can't remember if I have ever seen lightening here or not. Rain in Kikai can be of varying degrees of intensity and direction depending on the wind. One time during a typhoon, Alan and I went walking (just a short distance) to the post office and back. Ok, I know, it was dangerous with the needled-rain and whipping wind and bending tropical trees but I was JUST curious and terribly bored to stay inside all day. I am thinking now since the rainy season hasn't even started and it is already quite a wet spring, I should really invest in some good goulash (just joking; goloshes)! So, as I stated before and was so easily sidetracked, I like rain in general but I do prefer summer rains to any other season. I also prefer hard rains to soft ones and of course, something warm to drink and a good book to read and/or an inviting journal to fill up. Alan next to me is an added bonus.

A Bit Disturbed

I found out that our neighboring island to the west of us [about 3 hours by ferry and 10 minutes by plane]also is run amuck with cults except they have one in particular that is much more well known. I won't mention which cult it is but I will say that it is quite disturbing to actually KNOW there numbers are growing over there-and all over the world. As a bright, young man told me, 'people don't just go out trying to find a lie or be deceived'. I haven't done any 'jogging' in my little head about this specific situation but I will start by doing a bit of heart-to-heart with Him so as to get some ideas. Signing off for now from rainy Kikai.

Saturday, February 25, 2006


Tuning In From Rainy Kikai

It's not cold here right now in the middle of the Pacific but it is rainy and windy. Spring has definitely embraced Kikai. All the yellow radish flowers and other unknown beauties are littering the patches of empty lots that aren't overcrowded by the proud sugarcane, Kikai's cash crop. And even though spring is unpredicatable and easy to get sick, I am glad there IS a spring because summer is long and sticky-and I don't mean Wrigley's either.

I have been quite sick recently with an attack of Celiac symptoms. It was confirmed that I have it about a week after I left for Japan, last July 2005 to be exact. A few people that I talked to probably already guessed I had it but I was truly hoping it was an allergy for if it were, I would outgrow it or beat it but alas I am stuck with it until I go Home. And yet, I know that God is going to use even this disease that I have to bring Him glory and I get to be a part of that. I am not for sure how He will do that but I am reminded over and over again that it truly is when 'when we are weak, He is strong'.

I wanna thank all of you who have been praying for me, for us and for many others here in Japan whom you have never met, never bowed to, or shook hands with yet. All who have called just to say 'hi' or even to chat a while, I really really appreciate it a lot. Conversations with people here have been sweet and He fantastically shows me sometimes a small piece of their part in the Body of Christ, if and when they give their lives to them. I am not saying other people groups are not talented but I have been around Japanese people for a while now and talent abounds in really incredible ways...I smile to myself as I fade into the background thinking what it would be like if they were my brother and sister...

Simple Pleasures

I have a friend who has been introducing me to rather common customs of the Japanese culture. I am sure she relishes them but these customs I have only read about and seen on movies and heard countless stories from my Japanese or other friends who have been here. Take 'tatami' for example. 'Tatami'is really so interesting. It is woven rice grass into tiny small squares measured according to a standard size of Japanese houses. We have a three-tatami room while others have a six-tatami room. A beautiful design outlines these huge mats. People spend a lot of time on their 'tatami' floors either scooted up to the small table, resting on it, or just doing whatever. I do have to say that sitting up straight with no chair support (even though there is a wall sometimes) is hard on the back though. Another thing that I am coming to relish is the Japanese bathtub. It's a small deep tub that is filled almost to the brim with hot steaming water-no bubbles. The protocol is very important: wash oneself outside of the tub by sitting on a plastic stool and doing all your washing there first. Next, you get into the tub to soak and relax-not to wash. After you are finished you get out and dry off and the NEXT person comes and uses your bathwater or vise-versa. This is really hard on the American mind, at least mine since I usually START in the tub not go there second. So, I guess the huge amount of water being used is justified by the fact that everyone in the family will use the same water. If I were born in Japan, at least I would've been the third to get in; being the oldest does have some benefits!


I am not the main chef at our abode but I do get flairs and wild hairs for cooking sometimes. Mostly, I just thrive in a kitchen that is big, spacious, clean and has an oven and interesting ways to hang or arrange all the utensils, pots and pans. I wanna learn how to cook good meals that people will like but with a truly international edge to it. I've never been big on American food since I moved to Norman anyway so I don't often crave a hamburger or hotdog-not anymore since Celiac but I still love French fries. So, I am hoping that in the coming months, I can slowly begin to explore this idea.

Finally, I just want to say 'hello' to my sweetie, Alan. He has been a huge huge encouragement to me while we have been separated. We took special care to give each other things to remember and things to read while apart. And so, I'll leave with that. Signing off from Agaren in Kikai, Japan.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Small children should not be allowed to be so cute

Logging in from the Dallas Metroplex today, waiting on a good time to talk to my lovely wife. At 1 am her time. Yes, we are desperate to talk to each other, thanks for asking. No, I'm not interested in having my carpet cleaned.

OK, so since last night that makes two of the past three nights when I have interacted w/ unbearably cute children. I had already mentioned the lovely and shy Zoe last time, and last night I went to Bryan's house and met his little Esperancita (of course, the phrase "little Esperancita" translate to "little little Hope," but I digress), who is not shy at all. Or at least, she wasn't w/ me. In fact, I do believe she ranked my face as one of Esperancita's Top 4 Most Interesting Objects of Yesterday Evening (ETFMIOYE, for short). I swear, she kept looking at me and smiling and giggling. Halfway thru the night I'm wondering what inside jokes Bryan and Audra have been sharing w/ her and which one she found so darn sneaky funny. Of course, my face was almost constantly contorting and I was doing funny things w/ my tongue (which she promptly learned, no doubt MUCH to B & A's delight. You guys can thank me for that later), but that merely KEPT her attention on me. She seriously did take well to me, which is not rare but not all that commonplace either. So we talked to her in Spanish and English and had yummy casserole while Esperancita feasted on strained sweet potatos and Cheerios... a fun evening was had by all. Bryan commented that one of the funniest things he's ever seen is naked baby crawling. I have to agree. That's just funny stuff.

Once again, I gotta get me one of those.

This makes 3 of the last 4 days that I have enjoyed Starbux' fine blends of quality coffee, soy milk, flavored syrups, and liquid gold (which is probably why it costs so much) w/ one BobbyD. Gotta love a guy who loves Starbux. I can neither confirm nor deny rumors that Tulsa and Norman Fourbux will also receive patronage dollars from me w/in the next week. One strike against them, though - they dropped their coconut flavored syrups, which was by far the best.

Some world politix issues are flaring up on which I have yet to form a strong opinion, which is actually kind of surprising. Not unheard of, but still. They are the UAE taking over US port mgmt, and the seeming buildup to a civil war between Sunnis and Shiites in Iraq. As for the latter question, I have to admit that I might just prefer them to do it and get it over w/, get it out of their system. But the ramifications are large and as of yet unconsidered by me. So never mind - forget I mentioned it.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Checking in from Houston

With all due respect and thanks to Benjamin and Tammy for letting me stay at their house, allowing me free rein of their kitchen, computer, etc, I must object to this keyboard. It and I are not getting along well. I will make do w/ what I can, however.

So, I've been in Houston now for about 40 hours or so, having arrived on Monday evening. It is now Wed morning, by my estimation (and also my watch says so) and I'm preparing to leave at some point to Dallas. Which is not to say that I've actually begun gathering up my things that are scattered all over the guest bedroom. Rather, I'm sitting here blogging. Priorities, man!
Speaking of priorities, my borrowed car is a mess! When I picked it up, it was fairly empty but my stuff is all over it, so I think I'll be cleaning out the inside, vacuuming out the floors, etc, before taking it to Dallas. It'll be nice to drive a cleaner car. It's been running great, gets good radio reception, and so I'm very happy to have it, to be sure. It has really saved me from a lot of headache, financial problems, and logistical issues. The lack of a CD player hasn't even been a huge impediment - I'm enjoying catching up on talk radio. I don't listen much in Japan to talk radio, though I usually enjoy it between a 5-8 on a scale of 1-10 (I said usually) b/c I've got way too much other stuff to do. But compared to what else is on the radio, it's become my favorite. And I include all talk radio, be it the evil Rush to the sardonic Glenn Beck to my favorite freaky wacko preachers like John Macarthur and David Jeremiah. Truly, my radio palate is a foreshadowing of a life lived in bent, closed-minded, clean-living obscurity. Truly, I scare myself.

It just occurred to me yesterday that I have so much going on over the rest of my trip - really a good portion of my time is booked solid. I'm supposed to do some shopping as well - I will have to get on that in Dallas, 'cause I don't have time to do it in Norman, really.

Kerwin, Sunny, and Zoe came to Benjamin and Tammy's house last night. Zoe is like 2 yrs and change, and she is oh-my-gosh-how-cute-can-you-be cute. And shy. But she was a joy, and she conked out on Kerwin's lap while we were chatting after playing guitar (Benjamin let me play his new Taylor. Sweet!) and then Kerwin picked her up but needed to put his shoes on, so I got to hold her for 2 minutes. I didn't want to give her back, to be honest.

Gotta get me one of those.

OK, the interview went quite well I'd say. It was funny that I knew the JET coordinator guy and also two of the three interviewers. One of them was the JET coordinator from last year and another was her boss who had fast-forwarded my visa app last July. So I was glad to see them as my interviewers. The other was an OU Japanese prof. I wonder if they pressed me a little bit more than they ordinarily would have just b/c they knew me and they know Aubrey and b/c Aub is already a JET. Perhaps. They definitely parsed how I would differentiate myself from Aub and also how we would function in a different setting than rural Kikai, etc. They also asked me a lot of questions about what I don't like about Japan, the JET program, etc. I thought that was strange, but in retrospect it is very possibly a good thing since I wasn't the one being negative so they thought they had to bring that out. Hope so - God knows I can be quite negative sometimes, but typically not in interviews. I was darkly sarcastic, just for a bit of comic effect, in an all-day interview once, and that was one of the main reasons cited for not hiring me. Lesson learned, and learned well, you know?
All that said, I'd say it was a good experience. I also offered advice and answers to questions from the other interviewers who were waiting, so they seemed to appreciate that. After the interview, I was tempted by Starbux downstairs, but I was strong! I did NOT give in!

Headed to Dallas today. Please pray for Aubrey - she has been sick for three days; nothing serious, just cold-like symptoms induced by eating some hidden wheat on Sunday.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Much Ado

Much Ado
Does this work? Sorry,I am not much of a blogger-reader-leave-a-comment. Let's try first.

The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away

Hello from the US!

I'm obviously here and have overcome sleep deprivation and time zones and jet lag in just under 3 days! Sleep is lovely. But let's not indulge too much, now. Only problem is that I've gotta do some driving over the next week. To Houston tomorrow via Dallas, then back to Dallas by Wed night, then to Tulsa on Saturday, then back to Norman on Monday. Ouch!

I thank God for the car that our friends Alex and Kendra lent me. I thank God very much for the time w/ friends I've so far enjoyed quite a lot. I have had opportunities to talk w/ people about the Gospel. I've seen friends long missed. It's been cool.
But I'm really ticked off this morning. A relatively minor ice storm hit Norman on Friday night and has predictably iced over the neighborhood roads. But by Saturday evening, the main roads were not particularly bad. Yet this morning, after being totally prepared and chomping at the bit to go to church, what happens? They CANCEL it. What...the...smurf??!?!?!?!?!?!??!?
I seriously do not remember the last time that church was cancelled for a minor ice storm. I think I probably remember the church I grew up in calling it off like one Sunday when we were IN THE PROCESS of being buried under near-record amounts of snow and ice. Like that morning. But a 36-hour-old ice fall?

Yes, I'm venting. May the Lord teach me the virtue of waiting on Him; ie, waiting perhaps another couple of years to attend my home church. Sigh.
Having some people over this morning to worship the Lord, at Eric's house where I'm staying. I should stop venting on the blog now and go prepare my heart for what we do get to do this morning rather than being bummed over what I've missed.

I was about to make a sarcastic comment to end this entry, but I won't. Over and out.

Aubrey chimes in on life without Alan

I am sitting here with a box of Kleenex

but not watching any sad love story.
Yesterday while at my friend Haruno's house
for a sleep-over, we made dinner together.
Accidentally, we used a Miso soup paste
that had gluten in it (I am allergic to wheat)
and boy was that soup good...no wonder!
My taste buds had not forgotten the delicious
taste of wheat but it was too late and I ate a full bowl
of vegetable consomme w/ white Miso paste and was
infected. My symptoms range from mild to severe depending
on how much gets into my system. This time around, I was not
too severly affected but quite inconvenienced. I have a major runny nose, water eyes and terrible sneezing fits. But, Celiac stories are best left for another time. Let's talk about the island life of Kikai, Japan.

Alan is in Norman for 15 days and he reminded
me just how MUCH we as Americans (and other cool countries) have
to be thankful for. If not for inconvenience though, I might not
write this!
My major form of transportation is a bike. His name is Frosty because he looks like well, gray and 'frosty' except he lives here on this hot island. Kikai is quite small in some aspects so we really don't need a car. I can get to the small grocery store in two minutes at normal speed. Everything has to fit in my basket or on Alan and my's handlebars. I don't think I have ever done so much biking in all my life, except when I was a freshman in high school. Now I've been up to it for about 6 months and some bananas. I like it most of the time. I've been caught in downpours, huge gusts of wind but no typhoons yet. Usually don't ride in them but walk and video in them! he he

The Super
The supermarket still feels a little bit like a puzzle to me. Each time I go though, if I am attentive, I find another piece and things make more sense. See, I don't really read Japanese Kanji. I only read Kana (Hiragana and Katakana). A lot of Japanese people say they
don't even read the Tokyo paper because they forget Kanji. Wouldn't that be horrible? I mean, sure, there are fifty-cent words (in English) all over the place that I don't know, but I can usually figure it out by the context. What about Kanji? I'm not sure. I haven't delved into that world too much but maybe someday I will know. So, I feel weird wandering around for a LONG time in the supermarket which is about the size -well, I can't think but it's not big. I buy usually what I SEE. Does that make sense? If I can SEE(clear plastic bag or container) what it is, and I need it, then I buy it. If I can't SEE what it is, well, I am gonna have to pull out Mr. Jisho (dictionary) and try to figure out something or ask someone. Japanese supers here in Kikai usually play dorky music. It's loud and annoying but I guess so it is in many American clothing stores too.
Maybe it's better I can't understand all the words in the songs yet!
Japanese supers are crazy about tape too. They tape between the handles of the plastic bag and also they are good at trying to get everything in ONE bag. I know Alan is bit perturbed by that...but it's ok to me.

Traffic-wait, there's not really...next

Roads-We have some. Most in Kikai-cho are under construction.
I laugh and giggle at the construction signs because they are these cutsy animals and landscapes and then at the bottom it tells you how many km until the construction. Kikai 'imports' their construction workers from the mainland which means that these guys stay on this island until their project or assignment is done. I remember Alan being kind of excited that at a restaurant we saw some younger Japanese (as opposed to quite a bit older) guys. He thought he'd befriend them and then found out that they were leaving next week. They were construction dudes from Yokohama. Yes, we made many jokes of the name with ours since it sounds so much like Oklahoma.

The kitchen in our little house is about 300cmx175cm. Bathroom and Bath Room are quite smaller. We have a small range, a large silver sink and really no counter space. When I mean no counter space, I mean NO counter space. We usually cut things up on our EVERYTHING table in the living/dining/den/teaching/entertaining room. Our fridge and freezer is about 150cm tall and about 50cm wide. We have a microwave and a toaster oven. No real oven and Aubrey feels quite out of cooking rhythm without one.

How do they heat up that there place?
Well, I'm sure some people in Japan do have CHA but I would say they are quite the MINORITY and they don't really think they need it anyway. It's too expensive. During the winter or cold months, people us hot tables called 'kotatsu'. I love these things!!!! There is nothing like eating a meal with my legs and feet under a nice fluffy blanket that is heated by some heating filament underneath the table. Sometimes people(not the whole person..just their thighs down) sit under there and have tea and chat. In our bedroom, we have a hot carpet. I like them too. Ours is gray and looks like a tough-looking electric blanket that plugs into the outlet and can be adjusted by a sliding clicky thing on the side. We also have a little heater too. I heard some people up on the mainland use kerosine heaters too.

The seasons
Well, island seasons can differ depending on where you are but in Kikai I'd say that summer is the longest season next to spring. We have a rainy season in May or June but I wasn't here at that time so I don't know. Today is February 19th and spring is already here but it's still a bit chilly, overcasty, windy and rainy most of the time. Reminds me of France's weather in Clermont-Ferrand! I think that December and January were milder here for winter than they have been in the past. I can't give you any temps but I can tell you I saw NO snow, nor frost, nor any kind of that precip. I would compare Kikai's weather to that of Houston since they run on the same latitudinal line. I was disappointed in Kikai's fall though. Most things just stay green and a few things change colors or die. I miss Oklahoma's fall; that's for sure. Thanks all of you who sent us pictures of Oklahoma's fall!

What do we actually eat? Well, not Sushi and Sashimi everyday but we could if we wanted to. Alan is the cook, the main one, of our household. He is excellent and unwavering in original dishes to please me and guests. I will say that we eat cabbage salads now instead of iceberg lettuce (although they have it). We eat salads, French fries, Onigiris, chicken and or beef dishes, lots of soups, omelettes, tons of rice and rice dishes and the occaisonal treat from those back home who send us some missed American goodies. Since I can't eat wheat, Alan has had to come up with some pretty interesting but tasty dishes. My favorite this month is his Omelette-Rice dish. It's an incredible mixture of rice, spices (you can get them easily), and diced tomatoes wrapped in a piping hot thin egg omelette. AHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!! Now I am hungry for one like Alan makes.

Going out
Is an expensive affair. Truly, it is HARD not to pay $20-$30 bucks for two people if you go to a regular izakaya (rest./pub). They serve most things at night 'tapa' style which means that they come in tiny dishes for all to share. Alan and I had a hard time with that one since the portions are not always so big. If you go with a group, they order tons of these little 'tapas' and then they split the bill. Sounds ok but can get pretty expensive. Some of the stuff we've eaten is
eel, octopus, crab, clam, raw fish, raw goat, squid, little fishies (looks like fishing bait but saltier), seaweed, radishes(the radishes here get as big as American leeks!!! Eeeeek!), Miso soup, Keihan, Omurisu, pasta, steak, French fries (the fat kind kinda like Braum's has), Salsbury steak, Nikujaga, egg-wrapped rice bullets, and tons of other stuff I can't think of right now.

table manners
I have to hold in my giggle when we eat with tons of Japanese. It's like a monotone of Itadakimasu (let's eat!) in happy unision as they clap their hands together height of the breastbone and pause for a second until they dig in. I usually pray after that because I am already in the natural position to. Sometimes we talk and a lot of times just slurp if we have a dish to slurp. Chopsticks are handled like second nature to us now even though we used them in the States. I love the rice in Japan. I could write a paragraph on its consistency...mmmmm sticky rice is sugoi (cool)! After the meal is over, they say gososhama deshita (what a feast!) and then clear their plates quickly.
Speaking of plates, my bowl of Hamburger Lentil soup is calling my name. I will let you go. Until next time on Island Life.

So, be thankful of all that you have no matter where you are!

Monday, February 13, 2006

My last day in Kikai for a while

It's but 10 hours before liftoff.
Err... liftoff... I don't know if big ol' ferry boats "lift" off, but whatever they do, that's it. I guess embarkment. It's weird - I'm looking forward much to my trip to the States and relish the opportunity to see friends and family, that's for sure. And I get to see so many people - it's really great! But I do not want to leave Aubrey behind. Looks like I have to, though. It's gonna be hard - we'll be separated for just under 3 weeks, and that's just no good. Last time, when we were to be separated for 5 weeks, we thought it would be good for us. Chalk that one up to experience! I guess it was "good" for us, but we did NOT enjoy it. I would call it a dead heat on "good for us" and "unnecessarily unpleasant." Only the fact that I believe God called us to do it keeps me on the more optimistic side of things on that count.

Anyway. Got lots of things to do to prepare today, and I have to pack and such. So it's gonna be fun times, that's for sure. I'm bringing certain funky and not-so-funky snacks to the States for friends and well-wishers to enjoy, such as Pocky Stix (not funky), dried fish (funky), and, um, I'll think of something else. Gonna hoof a whole bunch of presents for Aub's family to the States in my luggage and then send it in a box from there, so it'll cost about 1/4 of what it would normally cost and get it there sooner. Shipping from the States to the States is always preferable, man.

I also have to teach 3 classes today, which I'm not looking forward to. But hopefully I don't have to prepare too much today. It does definitely hurt the profit margin that I'm not working for 3 weeks. My wallet is moaning softly.
On the bright side, looks like smooth sailing on the ferry, since it's great weather today and not very windy. The next day's night bus to Osaka is definitely questionable, but I've heard it's not too bad. And once I arrive, I have 5.5 hours before my flight takes off, but there's apparently an express bus that'll take me right to the airport from my bus station, so I should be in good shape. I might walk around just a bit in Osaka to see what there is, but I doubt I'll be anywhere near anything very interesting. And I don't read much Japanese, you know.

I am wondering if anyone about my size can lend me a suit for my interview. Thanks!
Finally, if you need to reach me after Tuesday evening (ie, about 5 am CST in the US) then please email my cell phone. See you in the States!

This, my friends, is the culinary masterpiece known as "keihan." I am hoping to introduce it to some of you when I get there.
This is a picture.

This is a pic of the mother-daughter combination w/ whom we have dinner most every Sunday night. Sachiho is the little girl and Yukari is the mother. Yukari is a great cook! Sachiho was shy at first but now she has really warmed up to us and loves to sing Magi-Ranger stuff for us and be silly. Magi-Rangers are like Power Rangers, only far cheesier and, um, Japanese-er.
This is a picture.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Burning property and traveling to the States

First let me extend my thanks to the thousands of Muslims out there rioting over the Danish cartoons. At least you're burning some Euro-property this time instead of firebombing or defacing a synagogue or American property!

Yes, I am half-kidding. But only half. You take issue w/ the other half, go live in France for awhile and then come back and take issue.

And just one more elbow to the ribs, a similarly-themed cartoon that certainly has ME, a conservative literalistic freako-Evangelical, up in arms! I'm about ready to say, "Wow, the mainstream media sure doesn't like me!" and then go on w/ my life.

So today I'm sick. I think I caught a cold yesterday from one of my little girl students. She was coughing and stuff during my first class and by the end of my 3rd and last class I was feeling quite out of sorts. So now it's about 27 hours later and I don't feel great still, but at least it's mostly just one symptom - general achiness and fatigue. I hope to be over it by tomorrow. Tomorrow, even if I don't feel great, I think I'll go w/ Aub to her kindergarten class so as to help w/ crowd control and mostly to play guitar and aid in game-playing. She will have to do most everything in Japanese. We are both wondering what the point of sending a JET teacher to a class that knows NO English is when plenty of other schools could use her services, but we're not the bosses. If we were, it's for dang sure there'd be less constant road construction around here.
During my sick time, I watched the Sugar Bowl, having downloaded it last week. A very entertaining game, so I was glad again for the ability to download.
You know, just like I considered such luxuries as being able to download a whole football game (w/o commercials, no less!) and to video-conference over the Internet to be only for the rich and highly technical/savvy. And just yesterday I was talking to Nate about how cool it is that we can vid conference for free. So many varieties of technology are grand, man! I thank God for it regularly, seriously.

OK, so I have confirmed my arrival in OKC. 16 Feb at 5:10 pm I'll arrive at the airport, and I have a ride, thank you again! I'll go directly to iMPACT that evening and then Saturday hit the Chi Alpha Alumni party. Sunday will be church - looking forward to it, to be sure! To Houston by Monday evening, back to Dallas probably on Thursday or Friday 23/24 Feb, to Tulsa or Norman by Sunday evening 26 Feb, probably. I'm not sure whether I'll make it to Tulsa, but I am leaning towards going there from Dallas before coming back thru Norman by Tuesday at some point, to fly outta OKC on Thursday 2 March at 6 am. I'm really looking forward to it. If you're around, please make it a point to see me - I really do want to see everyone I can, at least a little!

Time for resting. Have a lovely day!

Monday, February 06, 2006

Thanks for the offers! Got a ride.

I never know how to start these blog entries, so I'm just gonna start.

Thank you very much to all of you who offered to pick me up at the airport. I got a ride from a friend who works like 2 miles away and gets offa work right when I come in. What's more, I wanted to go to his house for a meeting of my iMPACT friends that very evening, so it all works out very well.

I'm looking around at how I might get to Dallas from OKC on Monday Feb 20. Anyone want to take me to Gainesville, TX, sometime that day?

Many thanks to Jenny and Kaki who offered me the use of their digital cameras. I'm looking forward to taking quite a few pics.

And a happy coincidence - there is a Chi Alpha alumni reunion on 18 Feb, Saturday. So I'll be hanging out w/ them and Nate (the BlackBlogger to you) on Saturday, maybe even going to an OU basketball game. That should be really cool. And there's PIZZA involved! I don't care about lactose intolerance, my friend. That pizza will be eaten. By me.

Finally, I'm looking to borrow a suit for my interview in Houston on 21 Feb, Tuesday. Anyone in OKC/Norman who is about my size have a decent suit I could borrow? I promise to give it back. In Japan I don't have much use for suits...

Saturday, February 04, 2006

The big day

So we have made the call.
We won't be returning to Kikai next year. I'd say the deciding factor was our desire to have a baby sometime soon and refusal to wait for another 18 months before having a baby. There you go.

Telling certain members of family was not easy, and reminded Aubrey of one of Aesop's fables:

The man led his donkey to market as his son walked beside him. They passed someone who said, "You don't lead a donkey! You ride him," so the man smiled and put the boy on the donkey.

Feeling good about this solution, they passed someone who said, "Look at that selfish boy. He rides while the poor old man walks." Being eager to please, they changed places.

They felt this must be the right thing to do until they passed someone who said, "Look at that mean man. He rides like a king while the poor little boy walks." Being eager to please, they both rode.

Who could object to this solution?
Soon, they passed someone who said, "That man and boy are so cruel! The poor little donkey must carry both of them!"

So they got off and tried to figure out what to do. They decided to tie the donkey's legs to a pole and carry him.

Everyone who saw them pointed and laughted. The man and boy kept walking.

The strong little donkey didn't mind the other arrangements, but he didn't like this at all! He squirmed and brayed! As they crossed a bridge, he got one leg free. He kicked the boy making him drop his end of the pole. The poor donkey slid into the river.

Moral? Try to please everyone and you please noone. So we'll be trying to please Jesus, and if other people want to come along, they are certainly welcome! But we're hopefully not coming "home" yet b/c we won't be there until we croak. Until then, it's wherever God wants us.

Looks like I'll be coming into OKC at 5 pm on 17 Feb. Anyone wanna pick me up? I promise I'll smile broadly and I might even offer you a hamburger and/or coffee on me!
I'll probably save around $300 by taking the ferry to Kagoshima and then the night bus to Osaka from there rather than flying, though that extends my travel time by about 40 hours. Time is money, you say? Indeed! Going slower is way cheaper. Traveling in Japan is expensive, to be honest. Just getting to Osaka from Kikai and back will cost me almost as much as the overseas flight. Argh.

Declining the re-up option today. Should be fun.

Today was Saturday

1st picture is me at the ping-pong club, the same club to which I have not gone in about 5 weeks now. I miss it, but Saturday night is not the best night for such things, you know?
The next is a pic of us out east of town on a bike jaunt to look at some empty houses and an old no-longer-used tomb. Yes, we have weird ways of spending our time. Get off it.
In other news, I have deleted the Rose Bowl from my hard drive (what a great game!) and have completed the download of the Holiday Bowl and am 18% away from the Sugar Bowl as well. The Holiday Bowl only took 35 hours - that's not bad! A big shout out to the peer computer from whom I dnlded the game. Thanks for the file, but couldja upload just a TAD faster than 8 KB/sec next time?

Now then, today was Saturday. Today was so full! Whoof!

We were supposed to go over to my friend Izumi-san's house today and talk around 10 am. I haven't seen him in a while and he's quite nice to me...he doesn't have any kids and I think enjoys having me around. And so Aub and I went over there to find... no Izumi-san. Left a note in Japanese in his mailbox that he may or may not get and went over to Ariana's house, the other American on the island. Hung out at her place for a while in the usual way - Aubrey and Ariana and Alan talking for a while before the 3 kids invite Alan to some back room to play, 1st w/ toys and then by pummeling Alan w/ fists and other blunt objects, and then demanding that he hoist them into the air about a zillion times, before Alan gets tired and goes back into the kitchen to continue drinking his tea/coffee and talking a bit more and the kids come in and make noise, occasionally hit Alan some more, whine and laugh. It's crazy, man.
At lunchtime we went over to a restaurant to meet w/ a friend of mine named Tama who works at the post office. We ate lunch (I love this restaurant's lunch - the place is called Jube and their food is my favorite) and talked, and afterwards Tama pulled some funky little games out of his bag. We drew slips of paper out of a box and Aubrey won some gum and chocolate, and I won nothing. It's a bit eccentric to carry around games like that in your bag, but oh well. That's what he does, and he's really nice and funny, so you just let it pass.
Leaving the restaurant, we happened upon our friend Midori who was driving up w/ her boyfriend, who is newly returned from living in China for 15 months. (!) He's glad to be back... we drove around and eventually found a place to fish and we just talked. He thought he saw an octopus (I tawt I taw an octoputh!) but it turned out to be like a stick or something. So we didn't catch anything, but had a good time.
We were then supposed to go to a big badminton tournament and watch teachers play, a teacher-only tourney. We invited Midori and Satoshi (boyfriend) inside, but here's a weird thing about Japanese (or at least Kikai) schools. If the teacher has a romantic relationship that's not marriage, they are supposed to keep it VERY secret. One friend of ours has a boyfriend (who treats her like garbage, but that's beside the point) and only Aubrey knows about it - none of her co-workers! Same w/ Midori here. Why? They say that if the students find out, they'll talk. OOOOOOOoooooohhhhhhh. Interestingly, the teachers brag about getting sloshed on the weekends in front of their kids, but they are prohibited from even allowing their face to be seen around w/ their romantic interest. Zounds! That's just messed up.

Anyway, the tourney was fun and I saw alot of friends, but we had to leave before the final match to prepare for Midori and Satoshi to come over for dinner. We ate leftover homemade soup and a massive salad, and generally made merry. They brought beer, unrequested by us, and had a couple each. To be honest, I had no idea what to do... I had asked them pointedly to bring "juice," which means Gatorade or tea or actual juice, but I guess that was clear to only Aubrey and me. Next time I'll keep w/ my usual routine of specifying no alcohol.
You may be wondering why. The main motivation is that there is this idea in Japan that you can't have fun or get to know someone until you're drunk or drunk w/ them, and we are of course highly interested in overturning that stupid idea. Case in point - we showed our friends a couple of videos that we had made w/ Kaki and Erica, just when we were feeling random. They were like, "Is Alan drunk?" Why? B/c I was being loose and funny, natural. They don't think you can get there w/o chemical assistance. Keep that in mind when praying - 'tis a real stronghold over the people here. Though nothing like another large Asian country, I hear (hat tip to Troy).

So now I'm tired and thinking of changing my email sig line to some quotes from Job. Think I will - that guy was just a stud. Peace out.

Friday, February 03, 2006

OK, just one more! When Erica and Kaki were here, we rented the movie "Hitch" one night. At the end of that movie is a scene where they're all dancing to this old-school Jock Jams song called "Now That We've Found Love." So we rewound it and started dancing to it ourselves while Kaki took a video w/ her really sweet brand new digital camera/video recorder. This camera takes still shots WHILE taking video, so this is one of those shots. Problem is, when it takes a still shot, it freezes the video for about a second, so we didn't like the vid as much as we could have, but you can see here that we are freaking some really sweet moves to this mix, yo.
This is a picture.

As proof of the aforementioned gaining of Austin's affection, I post a pic of one of my favorite pasttimes - pettin' nice kitties!
This is a picture.

Me taunting Shoyu (which means Soy Sauce) in the backyard. He swiped at me like 8 times that day and only got me twice. So that's a pretty good record!
This is a picture.

And to top off my picture-posting spree, I present a few more KittyPix! Here's my hand about to pet an only-kind-of-unwilling Rapha. He's getting a little nicer. Austin is chowing down on the cat food we feed them about every day and lets us pet him any time we want now. He seems actually to like it a lot.
This is a picture.

Kaki and Alan being very serious outside Hana No Ren, where we all 3 ate just before Kaki took off on the night ferry.
This is a picture.

Kaki was able to capture some of Kikai's seasoned citizens on film. Thanks Kaki! I asked someone in another part of town and she shook her finger at me and told me I better not. Maybe it's the hair.
This is a picture.

Kaki w/ Midori and some of her students at Daiichi. Midori is a 1st-year English teacher at Daiichi.
This is a picture.

Kaki and Aubrey and a nefariously subtle introduction of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to a couple of girlfriends. That's a tract entitled "The Passion of Jesus Christ" in Kaki's and the one student's hands.
This is a picture.

Kaki went to work w/ Aubrey one day, like the day before she left. Here she is w/ the middle school students of Daiichi Jr. Hi, the closest one to our house and the biggest on the island.
This is a picture.

One friend brought over a confetti grenade and detonated it inside after eating kebabs. He didn't want to have his pic taken (something about practicing grenades w/ confetti) but he allowed us to take a pic of the after-effects.
This is a picture.

Two budding English teachers. They will no doubt one day attend OU and become huge football fans. No doubt.
This is a picture.

And here is the tea/coffee/cookies group along w/ kids.
This is a picture.

Here is what Aubrey looks like just before leaving for work on Monday morning. Well, something like that. Her bike, Frosty, is her favorite form of transportation, especially when it's mostly sunny, a slight breeze, and about, oh, 72 degrees outside. Or if she's late. Either one.
This is a picture.

Here's me cooking kebabs on our borrowed hibachi grill. We invited two friends over on the fly and to our surprise each was able to come. That's almost unheard of, to be honest!
This is a picture.

Kaki and Aub in their flamenco get-up. Aub is taking flamenco and seems to enjoy it quite a lot.
This is a picture.

Aubrey, Tomoko, and Kaki trying to thaw out. We ate omuraisu, which is like an omelette covering a mound of rice. It has ketchup on it and it's pretty good, really (I know, it doesn't sound all that good, but believe me). It was cold today so we sit on a hot carpet and cover our legs w/ that big blanket/tablecloth thing and another heating element under the table also puts out heat, so it keeps you kind of warm when you sit down. Problem is, sitting on the floor gets really uncomfortable for back, thighs, calves, pretty much everything, after about 30 minutes.
This is a picture.

A little bit later on, we walked out to the pier and took this pic. This is at Soumachi Park, and it's approximately the farthest you can get from our house and still be on Kikai island.
This is a picture.

The kid on the left is half Chinese and half Japanese and is one of my students as well as the son of one of my students. The other two are sons of one of my adult students. While the ladies were enjoying tea, coffee, and cookies inside, I was keeping the kids occupied outside so they wouldn't disturb the proceedings w/in. We were hoping for some good conversations that day, so I took one for the team and ran around outside for like 90 minutes w/ these boys.
This is a picture.

Here is Aubrey at her Board of Ed New Year Party (or as they spelled it on her paycheck stub, Niu Yia Pati).
This is a picture.

This is Aubrey's (soon-to-be-former) softball team and Kaki at their New Year Party. It is very common to eat in a private-style room like this and many restaurants look like this in Kikai.
This is a picture.

Here are Hiromi and Erica eating tacos. Thanks to all those who sent taco stuff! We just ate our last batch last week. I think we hosted like 6 taco parties in all, so the stuff was used wisely.
This is a picture.

Erica and two of our Japanese friends, Michiko and what's-her-name. Michiko is going to study in Australia in the spring or something, so that's cool for her.
This is a picture.

Here are Aubrey and Kaki while I'm playing guitar up on stage at Sabani. At least, I think so.
This is a picture.

A Post With Pictures

This is a pic of us roasting marshmallows and making s'mores while Kaki was still here. The Japanese girls w/ us thought it was great!

This lighthouse is too far from the sea, it seems, to make much difference. It's in Shitooke and is a popular spot for tourism, I guess. People come from tens of meters around to see it! Here Aubrey, Michiyo, and Kaki are kaptured by the kamera.

This is a pic of the ladies at Shitooke Beach, our favorite beach.

I don't think this layout is turning out too well, but oh well.
Me on the bridge is at a remote (but cool!) restaurant called Tori No Yama, and the other one is me playing guitar at home.

A Post With NO Pictures

Well, it's early Fri evening and I don't want to study anymore and I don't want to lie down and I probably should write on this blog, so yeah.
Many thanks to Kaki for sending that video of your house church - we loved it! Other people should send us videos too - we love to get them!
My classes were tough this week, not only b/c of the interrupting cop (reminds me of a Knock-Knock joke) but also b/c my kids were either NOT getting the game I wanted to play or they were too busy disobeying my 5th request not to jump on the sofa. My rowdiest class on Wed. only had 3 kids and still one of them kept jumping on the sofa. I finally pulled him off and told him to stand in the corner and look at the wall (except I'm still not quite good enough to make it exactly clear what I wanted him to do). But he knew he was supposed to stand there in the corner anyway, and he flat didn't want to do it. I was ready to throw him over my knee, let me tell you! Got a really nice wooden spoon in the kitchen, too! He started crying and I knew that he could almost certainly get his way w/ his mom and any other authority figure in his life by crying. I let him cry for about 30 seconds before I invited him back into the activities - the class is only 30 minutes long, after all!
When I thought about Japan when I lived in the US, I was pretty sure that parents would be generally stricter than American parents are. Boy were we in for a surprise! Japanese kids run ALL OVER their parents! Yeah, it's not the stereotypical stern Asian father shouting down his kid whenever he acts up. Maybe in areas where academic performance is more widely regarded as important, for older kids it's like that, but at least here in Kikai, not at all. So my job is made more challenging b/c kids are rarely if ever disciplined. And I'm not talking just taking a spoon to their depraved little behinds (please note that I believe ALL children [and adults] are depraved until converted by the grace of Christ, but also note that children much more often display wanton selfishness and disobedience than adults do). But even steadfastly denying children what they whine and cry for b/c it's not good for them or it's impolite or sthg of that nature is rarely seen. Suffice it to say we don't plan to take Kikai parents in general as models of parenting, now that we're in full kid-wanting mode.
I had a convo w/ a young Japanese family on Tues night in mostly Japanese, and that was encouraging. When they talk slowly enough, I can start to have real understanding, and I'm learning alot more verb conjugations these days (and vocab) so talking is going fairly well. Aub's aural comprehension stuns me, actually - she's just talented! She's bummed that she can't speak better, but hey, I'm bummed that I can't understand better. Anyway, it was sad to see this young man (about 32) w/ a pretty wife and a cute 2-year-old daughter throw back 5 beers over the course of the evening (w/ wife and daughter present and accounted for). Equally sad was our convo about hobbies and sports on TV - he likes to watch tennis sometimes. Great, so do I! Love it, actually. He likes to watch Sharapova and Hingis. Hmm, wonder why. Later we were discussing American football and he was like, "Yeah, I really like to look at the cheerleaders!" Argh.
I was telling Aub about that afterwards, and she asked me why I didn't ask him why. That was frustrating - I always ask why! It's like my trademark phrase. But I forgot that evening. Maybe later.
Aub was talking to another friend of ours, a teacher, and told him she saw a pic of his wife (who lives elsewhere, which is very common for teachers) and that she was pretty. He responded, "No, she's not." Aub was like, "Yes she is!" "No, she's not." Aub: "Look, you can't say that about your own wife!" Wow - it's really amazing to hear sthg like that. I'm really hoping to get a chance to talk to him about that pretty soon.
Today I took about 90 minutes to go help the Board of Ed move their office to the new facility up the hill. Boy, were those desks dusty! They seemed to appreciate my contributions greatly. I was surprised upon my 1st entry into this brand-new bldg, which will house all of City Hall, to find that it really seems to be a low-quality construction, and the driveway wasn't very reliable-looking either...It's hard to describe, but I got that sense. So did another friend of ours who was a temporary worker in the B.O.E...she was also disappointed that the B.O.E.'s seating area didn't seem to be much bigger than the original. I have to agree; it is a little bigger, but not by much.

OK, I think today I'll post some more pics 'cause posting pix is playing to the crowd. And I never want to disappoint. See above for pix. Pix are nice.