Monday, February 27, 2006

snow camp

Yokohama and Chiba college outreach teams arose with the sun Wednesday morning. They headed north - by van or by train - to Nagano prefecture for a three day snow camp. I entrusted my life – what choice did I have? - to Nagata's ancient Toyota mini-van for the four hour trip. In my car were Yuko, Hajime, Nagata, and myself. None of them spoke fluent English, so I thrust my beginner Japanese on the lot of them.

Me: Where are we going?

Nagata: We are going to Nagano.

Me: What are we going to do?

Yuko: We are going to ski.

Me: Is that so? How many children do you have? (etc, etc)

The Japanese countryside was very beautiful, even through a dirty van window. It's interesting how a few places in Japan, like Tokyo and Nagoya, can be so crowded, while vast stretches of green in other parts of the country only boast a few houses and farms. Location, location, location.


I get carsick in Japanese vans, I'm not sure why.


Snow Camp was a very memorable experience. I was the only person there who spoke fluent English. This proved initially frustrating, but by the end I felt exhilarated because of all the Japanese I had learned. The ski resort didn't have snowboard boots in my size (they stopped about 7 cm shorter) so I tried skis for the first time. By the end of the day I was poling my way around with relative ease, although I wished I had learned more Japanese curse words when I attempted a mogul run.


Here is a picture of Shinya leading worship in the evening. Next is a snapshot of the group before we went our separate ways. I made a lot of friends that week, had many interesting conversations with people even with my limited vocabulary.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

my morning view

I drink at least one pot of green tea (matcha, Japanese) every day. Two pots if my math students aren't paying attention. I drink at least two pots of green tea every day...


I was able to recover a few photos from the smouldering remains of my CompactFlash card. The first is a shot of my neighborhood's jinja - Shinto shrine - after the 30-year snow. I don't know exactly how it works, but I think that, unlike Buddhist temples, Shinto shrines aren't social places. I've never seen monks live near them. Jinja literally blend into the countryside, growing alongside the grass and bamboo trees. Many of them are very beautiful and reflect the Japanese' skill in working with and complementing natural surroundings in their architecture.

The word "Shinto" is made up of two Japanese kanji. The first one is pronounced "kami," and can mean "sacred spirits which take the form of things and concepts important to life, such as wind, rain, mountains, trees, rivers and fertility." (Wikipedia: "Shinto") However, we Christians use the word "kami" to describe the Christian God. It is obviously very easy to confuse the concept of God the Father with the animistic spirits in the collective consciousness of Japan. I wanted to highlight just one example of the difficulties missionaries face when communicating with a people that has no memory of Christianity.

Tokyo's busiest train station, Shinjuku Eki services approx. 750,000 passengers per day, although Wikipedia ("shinjuku") sets the number at two million. Shinjuku is a business, government, and entertainment hub of Tokyo, especially for the younger generation. Sushi, Karaoke, Gucci, you name it.

Friday, February 03, 2006

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My teaching life is changing quite a bit this month. I have now taken on two additional English classes on Thursdays. The age groups are 8-10 and 40-50, respectively. Teaching such diverse age groups keeps me on my toes with respect to presentation and technique. I have found that younger children respond far better when I use varying tones of voice, over-emphasizing almost every point I make. Dynamic and visual presentation is essential for teaching Japanese children. In this respect, they don't differ from American children very much.

The 40-50 English class is supposed to finish by 9pm, but if everyone participates heavily it may finish as late as 10. My 40-50 year olds (ha!) speak conversational English, so it is my job to smooth out their grammar, pronunciation, and syntax. Although I loosely follow a textbook, my primary goal is get my students to hold interesting English conversations with each other. We talk about Japan, Japanese food, America, American food... Actually, politics and economics are pet topics as well. I sometimes learn as much about Japanese culture as my students learn English.

I also started a 2 hour/week speech class today for my MK students in the Keiyo Christian school where I teach. Although I will have to be flexible and open minded because I am dealing with students of all ages - between 8 and 16 years of age (!!!) - I hope that it will one day resemble Nate Wilson's rhetoric class which I attended at New Saint Andrews College (Moscow, ID) a few years ago. My goal is 1) to provide a positive opportunity for the younger kids to speak to an audience, and 2) to provide further practice and accountability for my English-speaking high school students in persuasive speaking/writing. The speech class will be fully integrated with the HS students' other studies, providing a place for them to read their essays and research papers from their other classes. I'm really excited about speech class - please pray that it will be a positive experience for all the students.

I'm sorry for the lack of photos recently, but most of my photos got deleted by accident, which is really lame, because my Prefecture had a 30-year-snow recently (like, a foot), and Chiba looked really beautiful covered with snow.