Wednesday, May 31, 2006

"Silence" by Shusaku Endo Review, Part 3

In a novel based on the experiences of missionaries to a pre-Christian land (indeed, to a land that remains pre-Christian even in the 21st century), obviously the missionary theme will be front-and-center. For a book that mentions Christ’s face so often, it is disturbing to note the dearth of Jesus in references to missionary work. At the beginning of the book, Rodrigues seems quite optimistic about the success and attraction of mission work.
“The reason our religion has penetrated this territory like water flowing into dry earth is that it has given to this group of people a human warmth they never previously knew. For the 1st time they have met men who treated them like human beings. It was the human kindness and charity of the fathers that touched their hearts” (p. 31).
No mention of the Holy Spirit or of the person of Jesus Christ in this endeavor. Rod later mentions fulfillment and happiness at being a missionary priest in a foreign land but wonders, “What are the Japanese peasants looking for in me?... a path in which they can cast away the fetters that bind them.” These same peasants later strongly request a relic to venerate from the priest himself. Being bereft of any personal possessions by this time, Rodrigues gives each a rosary bead and wonders if there were not a problem with their outlook. Later, we hear that “this Inoue, who had at one time received baptism to get advancement in the world, knew well that these poor peasants honored the Virgin above all.” This makes Rodrigues mildly uncomfortable, and the reader might reasonably expect him to do something about it. Yet that is exactly the frustrating aspect – with this group of Kakures one might expect a new priest to educate his flock on important things like WHO they are worshiping, at the very least. Yet we never read of any such education, leaving Rodrigues, during his imprisonment and temptation, at the mercy of others who know the Japanese situation better. He can offer no rebuttal to the assertion that the Japanese have transformed Roman Catholic doctrine to a highly syncretistic, uniquely Japanese, pidgin religion where Dainichi, the Great Sun that Japanese had worshiped for generations before, was the object of their reverence but the Virgin Mary was added along with Catholic liturgy.
Such ideas lead us into an estimation of another great lacking in the history of the book. Much is made of the fact that the priests had come to Japan to “lay down their lives” for the people of Japan, yet in the end the Japanese common people lay down their lives for the priests. Rodrigues, after reflecting on this, wonders what in the world he has to offer to the people, given that they are suffering and being martyred for him. Jesus answers: “I am the Resurrection and the Life.” Where is Rodrigues’ faith and message? Many times he mentions that only his self-respect and consciousness of his status as a priest was what kept him going during his misery of imprisonment, as opposed to the grace of the Lord. Jesus is silent, indeed. What chance do those who come “in His name” give Him to speak? What, when Rodrigues’ thoughts are consumed by doubts about whether God actually exists and things like “The only thing he (Rodrigues) had to offer was his (own) life and his death”?

Aubrey's back. What else is news?

I guess for starters, she's pregnant. That's news. I regret that I don't usually break big news on the blog at its earliest timing, but that's due to a lot of factors. You should be glad I tell you ANYthing!!!!!

Well, that was uncalled for. But yeah, she's pregnant and definitely experiencing her fair share of morning sickness over the course of morning, noon, and night. All the typical symptoms are present and accounted for. We appreciate them.

Going to Kagoshima and Miyakonojo (which is about 90 minutes away by train) on Thurs night to Tues morning in order to fellowship w/ our missionary friends and also visit an English-speaking Dr there for a baby-type checkup. It's 1st come 1st served at this place, and I don't expect that, though we plan to be among the 1st there, even before opening time, we'll get in among the 1st, given that we're gaijin and all. But I could be surprised. Since it opens around 8:30 am and we have to be on a train around 1 pm, it might get tight. But at least we get to go to church! Church rocks our pants off.

We haven't been on the Net recently b/c there was a lightning storm on Saturday night, and it apparently knocked out our DSL modem. It was a nice storm, actually - reminded us of home. Some pretty impressive thunderstrikes, I must say. So we had to wait until Monday to get the Internet guy to come out, which he did, w/ a new modem. But our ISP had never sent us our ISP password or UserID so we couldn't log in. And the liberry's Internet filter is so strong that it blocks gmail, blogger, hotmail, and yahoo. Mmmm, OK. And two friends who have Internet are out of town. So we were stuck until finally this afternoon Aubrey received the UserID and pass in the mail. Finally! It's a pain to be stuck w/o. But we appreciate it all the more, I assure you.

Recently I'd say we're on a downer - we kind of feel like our work here on Kikai is done. Thankfully, the Lord still provides opportunities to tell people the Good News; we had another conversation just Friday night. Nobody is exactly falling on their knees and asking us how to be saved at this time, which is unfortunate, but it's not like we expect that necessarily. I guess we just kind of feel like the Word of Life has been shared here a fair amount and now it might be best to move on. And we're tired of being so far from everything else. That's just how we feel; I'm not saying it's right. It resembles culture shock in a lot of ways. I can remember feeling kind of similar depressed feelings while studying in France, only then they came w/in about 4-5 months, whereas here they've waited until around the 9 month mark. Don't know what to make of that. Emotions are usually reliable to prove emotions only. And the fact that it's the rainy season doesn't help all that much, I would guess.

Tonight it was --gasp!-- rainy, and surprisingly kind of chilly, so we watched Luther on DVD. Man, that really is a good movie. There are a few lines that seem kind of out of place from Luther, but mostly it's quite enjoyable, gripping, depressing, and thought-provoking all at once. Glad we bought it (used for about $6.50 after shipping). I'm also just beginning to read Huizinga's The Autumn of the Middle Ages and so I'm feeling all cathedral-y. Like I want to listen to some chanting and light a few candles. And visit Europe. Yeah, definitely visit Europe...

Friday, May 26, 2006

"Silence" by Shusaku Endo Review, Part 2

We will begin by dealing in general with the theme of apostasy in that, when Rodrigues steps on the fumie, he notes to himself that “this was no mere formality.” We discover in Chapter 9 (his apostasy having occurred at the end of Ch 8) that Rod is engaged in intense solitary and personal reflection on his apostasy. A few things not in question that leave the conclusion without doubt are the “tremendous onrush of joy” that Rodrigues experiences when he tramples the fumie, his later co-operation w/ the evil officials to keep missionaries out of Japan, and the mention in the Epilogue of his writing a formal renunciation of his faith. No mere formality, in truth! And though he finally grants “absolution” through the rite of confession to Kichijiro and thinks to himself that even if God had remained silent, “my life would have spoken of him,” Rodrigues has now cut the heart and soul out of the Gospel of Christ by refusing to spread and even working against the spread of said Gospel. What reason does the reader have to believe that Rodrigues, after his apostasy, deserves anything but our condemnation and disgust as one who “went out from us” (1 John 2:19), to say nothing of the fact that his original message was that of a Tridentine Jesuit? As for Ferreira, he appears as almost a villain, though he, in the final equation, agrees with the fumie Jesus that Rodrigues should indeed trample the fumie. I will deal more fully with Ferreira later in the review.
Of great interest to me is the portrayal of Jesus in the book, as should be obvious. We first note that Christ’s face (seen often in Rodrigues’ mind’s eye) begins with an imaginative beauty, the beauty of the European medieval Roman Catholic church with its towering cathedrals and majestic rites of worship. The book moves steadily towards a more Scriptural presentation of Jesus’ physical face towards the end, where He is depicted as ugly and beaten. We note that this is the Jesus of the Scriptures, as Isaiah 53:2 tells us: “he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him.” The face of Christ during the course of the book eventually comes down from the beauty of Rodrigues’ imagination to the truth of the Suffering Servant, to a wasted, emaciated face, beaten and bloodied, hung on a cross. Yet which one is true of Jesus? Are not both? Yet we find Endo asking us to forsake the glorified Jesus in favor of the suffering Jesus, exclusively. Is that why Rodrigues’ strong desire is to yell, “Heaven is not the sort of place you think it is!” to fearful, simple believers before the persecution begins for them in earnest? Also, the Jesus depicted apparently has inconsistent desires. On the one hand, He desires to act mercifully towards the people of Japan and take their sufferings upon Himself, as made clear in His communication to Rodrigues through the fumie just before Rodrigues’ apostasy. Yet if Rodrigues and Ferreira are correct, this Jesus does not care to be made known to the people at all, or at least would prefer to wait for the “all clear” from the government. Yet where in the New Testament can we find a similar message? Is the Gospel not a call to repent and believe to ALL people, and indeed in spite of governmental prohibitions – “we must obey God rather than men” (Acts 4:19, 5:29)? How then will He carry the sufferings of the people if they know nothing of Him?

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

"Silence" by Shusaku Endo Review, Part 1

“What more can He say, than to you He hath said?”

Why did I review this book? My friend Shay gave it to me during my recent trip to the US; it had been assigned reading for his Japanese class earlier in college and though he remembered it only sketchily, he thought I might find it interesting. And so I did. So many themes in the book struck a chord within me because of my long-standing interest in them. And given that it is a book about the Gospel (or lack thereof) in the hands of Roman Catholics missionaries, it caught my attention even further. Its author has stated his desire in interviews outside of the book to re-conform Christianity to fit Japan better, and his book does much to decrease adherence to a belief in the absolute sovereignty of God in an effort to make God “gentler.” This idea corresponds closely with current Western traditional strands of thinking and thus drew me yet further into a mental and spiritual confrontation with the book’s claims. This review is an effort to deal with the venting of my frustration over the seemingly widespread (though certainly not unanimous) approval of the book.
In Silence’s author Shuusaku (alternate English rendering: Shusaku) Endo’s personal faith journey, he was struck during a visit to a Nagasaki church museum by the exhibit of a fumie blackened by the imprints of thousands of peasants’ toe-prints over the years it was used in persecution. Reflecting that history commonly describes the martyrs and the bold lions of the faith but leaves the weak and the condemned unmentioned, Endo decided to tell their story. Included in that story are thousands of people who had embraced a rudimentary knowledge of the Roman Catholic faith and had fled into remote areas to live when persecution came. Yet apparently virtually no one escaped detection forever, so these Kakure Christians avoided the persecutions by trampling the fumie, worshiping like normal at the Buddhist temple, and keeping up appearances, all the while secretly keeping their gradually more and more syncretistic faith alive despite the almost total dearth of written texts or trained pastors through the recitation of prayers in a Latin-Portuguese-Japanese pidgin language, a twisted version of the Eucharist (using rice balls and sake), and the veneration of “closet gods,” Roman Catholic icons and relics wrapped in cloth and kept in a closet hidden behind their Buddhist household shrines. So these Kakures kept themselves hidden for hundreds of years, emerging when official tolerance was restored in Japan in the 19th century, some to restored union with Rome, others to the continuation of their gradually dwindling movements and the explicit rejection of Papal authority.

Silence is the story of two Jesuit priests, one (Rodrigues) in particular, who enter Japan to keep the flame of faith alive during persecution. He assists the poor peasants in various Kakure villages before being betrayed to the authorities by his personal Judas, a conniving pathetic fellow named Kichijiro. Before his capture and certainly after, his faith experiences many buffetings and doubts, few of which are ever resolved and which end in his own apostasy at the persuasion of his former mentor, himself a former Jesuit missionary priest but now an apostate. After his apostasy, Rodrigues reflects for a time on why he apostatised and what God’s eventual communication with him meant. Most obviously, he seeks to redefine what it means to be devoted to God. Most glaringly absent is his taking into account and really grappling with the evil of the persecuting officials, who had (obviously) the largest role to play in the persecutions. The theme of apostasy is heavy in the book, clearly, as are the themes of missionary service, God’s silence, and power versus weakness. I can only deal with some of these themes in this review and so, regrettably, some will go only vaguely alluded to. This book is set around 1639 in Japan and revolves around the crypto-Catholic Kakure peasants and the Tridentine Jesuit priests sent to minister to them. I add the disclaimer that this book is highly, intensely, Roman Catholic, and I have sought to generalise the faith that the book deals with to include Christianity as a whole, using this term rather loosely, since I do not want to type constantly “Roman Catholic”, since the book itself uses the term “Christian”, and because generally, the Japanese Hiroki-on-the-street equates Christianity and Roman Catholicism. As a believer in the faith expressed in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, I regard neither Jesuits nor Kakure Christians as bearers of the true Gospel or true disciples of Christ, unless somehow the true “gospel of grace, the message of your salvation” (Eph 1:13) sneaked through, though I do not find that very probable. I ask the reader simply to bear this in mind.

Monday, May 22, 2006

"Silence" by Shusaku Endo Review, General Timeline

Relevant Timeline in Japan:

1579 – some 150000 Xtians w/ ‘sterling qualities and deep faith” according to Valignano ("Silence", p. viii)

1570 – 1619 – Jesuit missionaries have great favor w/ the court of the shoguns (Nobunaga, Hideyoshi, Ieyasu) (p. ix). Hideyoshi was even known for strolling thru his palace wearing Portuguese dress and a rosary

1597 – Hideyoshi executes 26 Xtians, European and Japanese, at Nagasaki

1610 – "Rodrigues" is born

1614 – Ieyasu begins persecution, afraid of the idea of missionaries preceding Spanish/Portuguese armed invasion and such. At this time, 300,000 Xtians out of 20 million Japanese.
His successors stopped giving glorious martyrdoms to the believers and tried to get them to apostate w/ by hanging them by the feet head-first into a pit of dead bodies and excrement, but no missionary did apostatise until Christovao Ferreira in 1632, leader of the mission. (p. xii)

1627 – Rodrigues enters religious life at age 17

1637 – Garrpe, Santa Marta and Rodrigues leave Portugal

Jan 1637 – 35,000 Xtians participate in armed insurrection at Shimabara, inviting bloody repression

1638-9 or so - Rodrigues and Garrpe arrive in Japan

"Silence" by Shusaku Endo Review, Preliminary

Aubrey returns tomorrow morning to Kikai Island. Yay!!!!!!!
At 4:30 am. Boo!!!!!!!!
Anyway, I accomplished most everything I wanted to during her absence, w/ the exception of the spend-an-evening-by-a-fire thing, which I will do soon, only w/ Aubrey by my side.

As promised, I am going to post my review of Shusaku Endo's Silence in stages over the next week or so. It's pretty much done. First, I have some preliminary websites to offer to anyone interested in reading the review w/ a little more background knowledge.

-Phillip Yancey on Endo - good article on the man's spiritual journey. Not-so-good summary of the book itself
-Good, short primer on the book
-Slightly more technical article on Endo's Christology
-Brief obituary article of Endo's 1996 death
-Another review of the book
-Endo and fairly liberal Vatican II Roman Catholic priest discuss relevant issues
-Brief Wikipedia article (wait, was that redundant?) on Kakure Christians
-Highly interesting article on Kakure Christians of Japan

And you can get the book for dirt cheap off that first link, or at your local liberry. I suggest you read it, honestly. But hopefully the review will be at least mildly interesting for the reader who's not read the book. If not, I guess there are other websites out there.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

"Cracking" and "Breaking" the Da Vinci Code. Tee hee!

I know, you've never seen those phrases before. Me neither.

Click here and here to see the Da Vinci Code Scrapple-faced.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

The Temptation of the Dark Side

To be tempted by the Dark Side (aka, Macintosh), watch these ads. They're great.

An amazing conversation

I really like James White when he's debating non-Christians and such - he's been a tremendous help to me in so many ways in my walk w/ Christ.
I don't like so much his stand on the 5-points of Calvinism all that much, but I'm perfectly willing to look past it. Why? B/c the guy is such a servant of the Truth of the Scripture on SO MANY other fronts, providing much-needed answers so much of the time. I really appreciate that about him and others like him (it's not just him).
I am lukewarm-ly interested in the upcoming debate between him, Tom Ascol, and the brothers Caner of Liberty Univ and the book Unveiling Islam on the subject of Calvinism. Apparently there has been a lot of difficulty in setting it up, and the Caner brothers are really disappointing me in the way they have dealt w/ White and Ascol. They and I probably agree more on the subject than do White and Ascol, but is it really necessary to act like White and Ascol aren't even believers? Come on!
Their correspondence is condensed into a .pdf file here. Here's hoping they'll improve their tone and their hostility. I'm not quite sure why the Caners insist that 5-point Calvinism is such a dangerous cancer to churches, as they clearly do. You don't like it, fine, don't teach it. Teach against it. But don't descend to such a level, please.

When in headache...

...go to the beach.

This is a post where I rub in your faces ("you" being my faithful multitudes of readers) the fact that, though I live in some tiny island in the middle of Nowhere, Pacific, it is still an ISLAND and I can go to the BEACH ANYtime I want.
So today I had a headache that was preventing any useful study of Japanese, so I decided to run an errand now instead of later and blow by the beach just before my English classes. W/ only about an 80-minute cushion.
But yes, it can be done! Done it. It was nice too - I had the whole beach to myself at Ridiculously Low Tide (kind of like Spaceballs' Ludicrous Speed), or I did for the 5 minutes I swam, anyway. But it was worth it. Got back home feeling all refreshed and sea-watery. And my classes went swimmingly. Get it? Swimmingly? Ha! :-
So yeah. I think Aubrey is finally getting used to the time zone difference in Kansas, so that's good news. She has the camera, so that's why I haven't posted any pics recently. Sorry.
Other than that, just spending a lot of time in prayer and Scripture memorisation and such, plus my other honey-dos, self-imposed and otherwise, on the list I mentioned earlier. Not fretting all that much about the porous US southern border or the Imminent Bad News that is Iran. But if I were living in the US, I'd be a bit more perturbed...

Monday, May 15, 2006

A veritable hodge-pourri of thoughts

Hey, if YOUR wife were 6000+ miles away, your thoughts might very well be a pot-podge as well.

Was reading a post on the Reformed Oasis the other day, linked to from one of the Triabloggers' personal blogs. I just liked it a lot since this T-blogger has recently undergone a miscarriage just like Aubrey and me and his thoughts regarding how the Lord uses suffering and difficulties to beautify His Bride were touching both to Aubrey and me. The 2nd paragraph in particular was exactly our experience, the hour after we knew and even now, 5.5 months afterwards. God is good. Very good.

A few things on my mind recently, but last night I stayed up late to talk to Aub and then got up early this morning to prayer walk w/ Pastor Maruyama. That all caught up to me in the afternoon to the point that my head felt like it was full of mushy cheese. The stinky kind. Insert cheap-shot French joke here. Anyway, to clear out said mushy cheese ('cause I really needed to think of a lesson for my English class) I took a walk and had a brownie and some coffee. All better. Class turned out pretty well too.
Where did I get the brownie in Japanese hick-land, you ask? Read on...

I am glad to report that Sunday night I went, as usual, to our friends the Harada family's house. I took a pan of brownie batter over w/ which to celebrate the birthday of their young daughter Sachiho. So we baked the brownies and ate Chinese dumplings (jiao-tze I think is close to the Chinese spelling). When we broke out the brownies, I broke out the presents for Sachiho. One was a kids' Bible book w/ some very elementary English telling a few stories about Jesus w/ kids and stuff. Her mom is learning some English and so can possibly work her way thru it. The other book was one of the Manga (Japanese comic book) Gospel accounts that we have. You know, just laying around. Anyway, after receiving these, Yukari (the mom) said to Akira her husband that Alan is really a serious Christian. Well, yes, I guess I am. Anyway, this in turn led to my being able to share the Gospel w/ Akira mostly w/ Yukari and daughter Sachiho in and out of the room. I also dealt w/ some of his objections, some pre-emptively (again, insert cheap-shot French joke here), such as reminding him of the fact that there are more Xtians in China, for example, than in America, and some after the fact, responding w/ the classic 'Lord, Liar or Lunatic' reasoning to his pluralistic "everything is OK to get to God" statement. All in all, it was a great convo, and one we've been praying for for quite some time, to be sure. Talked about a lot more but I'm too lazy to remember it all and yet again too lazy to type it all out. But he said "next time you come, let's talk about this more." OK.

And then today, after our prayer walk, Pastor Maruyama's wife invited me to visit her 98-year-old mother at the hospital this evening. She had had surgery (I believe) to repair a bone fracture in her leg. So I showed up at 6 and the Maruyamas' 35-year-old daughter Nozomi was there, whom I had met yesterday at church and found to be quite friendly. So we chatted a bit and listened to Grandmother as well. Unfortunately, her voice is quite broken up (understandably) and she's not quite all there all the time, so I didn't really catch much of what she was saying. Nozomi would repeat it in Japanese so I could get it, so that was nice. She asked me quite a few times if I knew the Ueno district in Tokyo (never been there) and if I knew her old boss from that area (I don't know him). She also asked if I'm Japanese, and Nozomi assured her that I'm not. My favorite line of the evening came when she was almost finished w/ her hospital meal, which apparently furthers the well-earned reputation of hospital food. Nozomi and I had been wondering to each other what the brown mush in one of the bowls was. Ever after smelling it, we didn't quite know what it was, but Grandmother had eaten several bites. Near the end of the meal, Grandmother pointed to the bowl and said, "Nani kore?" What's that? Indeed, Grandmother, indeed.

Note - I say "Grandmother" b/c I don't know her real name.

Anyway, later I went out to dinner w/ Nozomi and Mrs. Maruyama. I tried to follow the convo, mostly unsuccessfully, but I later was able to ask Nozomi about her husband who, she had earlier told me, is not a believer. I asked if she had asked him why he's not. She said no.






OK. Don't mean this in a mocking way, but don't you think that might be a good idea?
I was venting in that last sentence. What I suggested to HER was that we can't know someone's objections if we don't ask, and such questions can improve relationships if we ask w/ love. Used the example of the previous evening in my explanation.
Was later able to share w/ them how many people on Kikai have pain in their hearts and we are called to help that pain by sharing Jesus, only Aubrey and I can't do that very much b/c we don't speak Japanese well enough. Suggested that those believers who DO speak Japanese might be good fits for that job. I have to admit I saw less than 100% enthusiasm in their eyes, but at least I made myself understood. Making myself understood is like 80% of the battle, at least for me. Or heck, dang near 99%. There's just sthg, so far, about living here that has made me feel a great deal of freedom and release to soak my conversations in Jesus. Hard to explain. Give me a few more years. (You hear that, God?)

NOTE: Prayers, supplications, beseechings, and/or petitions to God found in this post are at least 51% tongue-in-cheek.

I feel like ending this post w/ an anti-climactic ending, so I'll tell you that though I felt like studying approximately 2 words of Japanese today, I was still able to memorise a whole set of cards (about 100-120 words). How was that?

Friday, May 12, 2006

Ain't Nobody Else

I was just thinking that I would write the first word that came to my head, and the word was "sofa," followed closely by "sopaipilla." Mmm, sopaipillas. W/ honey.
Speaking of honey, mine is now in the Topeka area. Too bad for me. She's been gone now for 54 hours or so and it's funny how lonely I feel. Ironic that when you spend so much time w/ someone, even your wife, you sometimes find yourself thinking that it might be nice to have a small break. But then you get that break and you think, "Man, this stinks!" But never fear - I have some honey-dos. Mercifully, very few were issued forth by Aubrey fiat. They are, rather, self-imposed.
I'm supposed to try to clean the walls and ceiling of the entry hall, which have some mold on them. I am also supposed to get the Board of Ed to send someone to fix some of the screen doors on our house. It would be very nice to have those fixed, I must admit. Good call Aubrey!
As for my self-imposed Things To Do, they include:
-drinking coffee
-oh wait, I do that most every day anyway regardless of whether Aub is here
-it's b/c I really like it
-anyway, bike around the island on the main road (that's probably an investment of 2 hours)
-spend at least one evening alone on some beach by a driftwood fire
-compose hippie "I'm a vagabond on the road" songs on my acoustic guitar while sitting by said fire
-write a review of "Silence," a famous novel by famous Japanese novelist Shuusaku Endo
-just kidding about the hippie songs
-email some people
-study Japanese more intensively than usual

So far, so good. Coffee, check. Bike around the island, prolly Monday. Night out on the beach, prolly Tues, Wed, or Thurs. I was kidding about the guitar. The book review is maybe 1/4 done right now - I've sunk 6 hours into it and am halfway thru the book in my "read again and take notes" phase. It's a really interesting book and I told Shay that I'd review it. I'm betting, however, that if I get to stay in Japan for another 2-3 yrs or more, any review of such a book would be much fuller by the time I'm closer to leaving than now. I don't understand a whole lot at this point about the state of the Japanese church, but I'm able to critique the theological issues in the book, so I'm a-gonna do that.
Anyway, email, check. Study Japanese, check. Just gotta keep up w/ that.
Random notes:
I'm listening to the new Radial Angel tracks a whole bunch. They're just pretty dang catchy.
A couple of old friends I've found on myspace. They used to claim they were Christians, and one of them claims still to be, but you'd never know it from their myspace pages or one friend's blog. So I sent a msg to both of them asking them whether they still claimed Christ and why, if they did, they had written x, y, and z on their webpages. I tried to be as friendly, serious, and loving as I could. One responded by dropping me from her friends list on myspace, and another refuses to contact me by email or whatever and has apparently deleted the blog to which I called her attention. Sad. Goes to show how rare and valuable is the intellectually honest person.
Speaking of which, God put another old friend (this one still a close friend) on my heart about 3 weeks ago and called me to pray for him that he would be "active in sharing (his) faith, that (he) may have a full knowledge of every good thing we have in Christ" (Philemon 6). So I was praying for him and then was about to initiate a convo about it, when all of a sudden we were talking today and he asked for a bit of advice on witnessing to some Mormon friends and later mentioned that God had been spurring him to evangelise people actively and he'd been following the call. Man, that's cool! Makes me so thankful for the love of the brethren in Christ's church.
Invited a friend over to eat tenpura tonight along w/ fruit smoothies. Asked him to bring half a Kikai radish (aka "daikon"), 1/4 of a Kikai pumpkin/squash thing, and "2 bananas." Radish and pumpquash, no prob. "2 bananas" became "2 bunches," though. Guess I'll get enough potassium these next few days. Fortunately, I dig bananas to a dangerous extent. But I was heartened to review what I had said: "banana futatsu", which means "2 bananas." Strictly speaking, I shoulda said "banana nihon," but anyway, I was being a little colloquial. He agreed that I had said it right, but he had made the mistake. Cool. Getting more confident in Japanese these days. Also showed him my sentence translation worksheets I've been working on, and he said they were almost perfect. Excellent!
A few example sentences:
-When I was a high school student, I studied math, science, and things like that.
-I called this morning, but there was no answer so I'll try calling again later.
-You leave the station and turn right. Then walk up to the traffic light and wait there.
-It looks like it's going to rain. Thus, I think it's best to take an umbrella.

Etcetera. I've found that I usually have to get a word/phrase into my head thru a flash card or sthg before I can hear it said in a normal face-to-face conversation. Not always, but that's the best for me.

OK, I think I'm done writing now. Peace out from the only whitey on Kikai Island!

Friday, May 05, 2006

Me sitting among the wild lilies at Sugira Beach.
This is a picture.

Us at Sugira Beach on Wednesday. My foot was still bothering me but we made it anyway. Nice day, lots of wind. Some people were swimming but they were sorry when they got out b/c of the relatively chilly and strong wind. We also ran across some Jr Hi students who had caught some fresh shellfish (in 3 meter deep water!) and were boiling them on an open fire on the beach w/ some seaweed to make soup. Nuts! Looked good, though.
This is a picture.

Here's our backyard taken from the porch. That's a big cell phone tower in the background.
This is a picture.

The other side of our back porch. The screen door that's off on the left has just been put back on.
This is a picture.

The center of our porch, where we like to sit and watch birds and listen to either 1) birds singing, 2) the sound of high schoolers at baseball practice (they are constantly yelling for some reason), 3) the sound of the garage band just behind our house.
This is a picture.

Here's our back porch, taken from the back fence. We hang our laundry from the green horizontal pole. The roof is concrete.
This is a picture.

A view of the front from another angle. The screen door, as I mentioned in the dog post, has fallen off on this door. The sliding glass door you see next to the shed is the entry into my classroom.
This is a picture.

A little farther to the left of the front door. That little hut behind the telephone pole is a tool shed where the ghetto dull-bladed spinning manual push lawnmower is kept. We inherited it from the previous owner and tried it out yesterday. It works, um, not great. But it's kind of fun!
This is a picture.

Here's our house and front door and "driveway." Bike on right is mine (Rusty) and on left is hers (Frosty).
This is a picture.

I asked Aub if I could take her pic. She was shrugging when I hit the shutter button. Caught!
This is a picture.

Here's me at the recent BBQ at the Tokumoto's house. Mr. Tokumoto is seen at the far left, laughing, and his wife Yoko is at the far right. See if you can spot me!
This is a picture.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Dog wake me up. Dog be gone!

Another beautiful day, another day spent around the house b/c my leg hurts and I don't want to strain it any more than necessary by getting out and seeing sights. Sigh.
I shouldn't sound so down - I'm really not; I just am bummed that I can't go around the island w/ Aub during these 3 days off. We wanted to go to several beaches and see the really cool big gajumaru tree whose pic I have previously posted, we wanted to go see friends at their houses, etc. And I guess Aub isn't feeling too great these days either but at least now she can get some rest and hopefully get over the hump.
Our new house had lousy screens on the windows and doors - literally all but 2 of them had big gaping holes in them. A guy took 'em off and then came back 5 days later to put 'em back on w/ new screens, but they do NOT get along well w/ the tracks and keep falling off. I'd say that rates about a 6/10 on the Annoyance Scale.

In other news, we are going to a BBQ party w/ the Tokumotos tonight that promises to be nice, provided we don't get carried off by the wind and deposited into the sea. Not that we're particularly close to the sea, but the wind is strong today.
I have just finished reading Early Christian Doctrines by JND Kelly and have almost burned my way thru a book dealing w/ 3 views on the compatibility of Eastern Orthodoxy and Evangelicalism. The guy who said they are compatible had some interesting points but they weren't compelling enough.
I may have mentioned that our Internet service is constantly choppy these days. Don't know why, but it'll sometimes just turn itself off. Like right now, I'm unable to post on my blog; I'll have to post what I'm typing later. Annoying. And I can't talk to the Internet people to ask for some of my (pretty expensive) monthly fee back b/c it's a holiday. Come Monday, though, watch out. I'll be nice at first, I promise.
Speaking of which, since we're in a new house, we have new neighbors. Or rather, the neighbors have a new neighbor. And just behind our house's backyard is another backyard where lives a dog. Said dog enjoys long walks on the beach, candlelight dinners, and barking and whining up a storm at 4:30 am. Said dog woke us up one too many times on Tuesday so Wednesday night I went to the neighbors' house, armed w/ a dictionary and having memorised the Japanese words for "to bark," "muzzle," "snout," and "tie up/restrain." You get where I'm going w/ this? :-) Anyway, I was very very nice and so were they. Told them their dog woke us up and it wasn't the 1st time and could they puh-leeze do sthg about it. They were scratching their heads, wondering what to do, when I asked them if the dog never woke THEM up. They cocked their heads to the side as Japanese often do and chuckled - oh yes, said dog apparently rather often wakes them up in the middle of the night. But I would imagine that I'm the only person who's ever objected to such things. Funny how common sense ain't so common. Anyway, it turns out that they decided to take the dog over to Grandpa's house farther away. So we heard them lead the dog over there, still going crazy, but we slept much better the next day. Perhaps Grandpa is hard of hearing. Perhaps nobody in Grandpa's neighborhood will complain. My money's on the latter.

A Day Without Immigrants

Would look like this.