Monday, December 30, 2013

Fabulous Second Graders!

I am not very good at picking up my mail, at my house, on a regular basis.  Truth be told, I have most of my mail sent to school.  It's a little easier that way and in case of larger envelops or packages, there is always someone to sign for it.  I also find there is quite a bit of junk mail that ends up in the mailbox, mostly flyers for various stores or events.  It is another reason I don't check it too often.
So, today I was going out to run some errands when I saw there were a few things in the mailbox and thought I'd better empty it.  Wouldn't you know it!  There was an envelop from Washington Christian Academy!  This was what was in the envelop. 
Merry Christmas cards from 2013 plus the tree in the background from the class last year!
There were nine cards in the envelop, one from each of the 2nd graders from WCA as well as the teacher!  How fun!  What was really neat is that the cards spelled, "Merry Christmas!!" and each card had a note inside! 
I have been blessed to be a part of this class.  They are one of my prayer warriors!  Each week they pray for me and the work here at CAJ and for the people in Japan.  About once a month, I have the privilege of having a Skype session with the class.  For the Skype session, each of the students have some prepared questions but invariably they ask me about the previous prayer requests and ask if there are any other prayer requests.  Each time we end our session with a 2nd grader praying for the prayer requests.  Yup, I'm pretty blessed to be a part of this! 

Friday, December 27, 2013

Temple Sale!

Today is the 28th of the month, which means that there is a temple sale at the Naritasan Kawagoe Betsuin.  I have never been to the temple sale and thought it would be a good bicycle ride.  I started out at about 7:15 a.m. and was beginning to feel frustrated when my google maps would switch me from walking to driving directions, while I was on my bicycle.  I prefer the walking maps as the route tends to not follow the busy highways.  I haven't found a good bicycle map yet, but will work on it.  
I did end up making it to Kawagoe and found the temple sale.  
Lots of different wares.
I found a lot of people were in this stance while shopping. 
You can see the entrance to the temple area on the right, and some of the buildings, as well as the little umbrellas for the booths. 
My main purpose for going to the temple sale was to look for some fabric to use in my office and any articles that may be interesting.  I found there were a number of different things for sale.  Some were not appealing others looked interesting but wasn't sure if it was something I wanted.  Here are some of the things I purchased.  Actually, at one of the booths where I bought some of the fabric, the lady ended up giving me three of the smaller packages of fabric for free, "a gift" she said.  Wasn't that nice? 
An obi I believe
Found two with the same patterns
Three different colours!
I love some of the designs on these.
The last item I bought was interesting to me I have no idea what it is used for but it liked it.  I think it was the shape and the blue and white.  UPDATE:  This apparently is an old pillow!  Doesn't look comfortable to me!
Top view.
Top or Bottom?
Side view
Bottom or top.
The other side view
The frustrating part of the trip was the bicycle ride.  It was kind of bumpy and I was a bit nervous about the item I bought.  The other thing that happened is my phone fell out of my pocket while I was bicycling.  This is what is looks like now.  :( 
Sad, very sad...
Overall it was a good trip.  I was VERY cold on my way there as the temperature wasn't a whole lot above freezing.  It was warmer on the way back and I was glad to be home.  The total trip was about 40 km.  Not too bad.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Happy Boxing Day!

My Christmas tree

Well, Christmas is over here in Japan.  I think back when I was younger and heard that Santa was traveling around the world on Christmas eve to deliver presents, knowing what I know now, Santa could have skipped most of Japan and not be noticed by the population.  Christmas day in Japan is pretty much like any other working day.  The students go to school, the stores open on time and stay open until the regular closing time, the buses and the trains run on normal time, and doctor and dentists offices are open, everything runs like a regular normal day.  The stores do promote the idea of the Christmas season and there are Christmas carols playing in the stores and some restaurants.  It is weird to be walking through a hardware store in Japan and hear the Hallelujah Chorus in English.  
Boxing Day gave me the opportunity to go with Bette, Emily and Brandon on a Garden and Tea Ceremony tour in Tokyo.  We met at the Tokyo Government buildings and walked to Shinjuku Gyoen National Park.  We walked through the park looking at the different types of gardens, Japanese, English, and French as well as the greenhouse. 
Japanese garden
This building looks like the Empire State Building in contrast to the Japanese garden in the foreground.
You can tell the fish are fed by people, as soon as we stood by the pond, the fish all came swimming!
More of the Japanese garden
A Tiawanese building made with materials from Tiawan
English garden.  They tend to focus on lawns.  :)
French Garden
Another part of the French Garden
Very young bananas!
We took a couple of trains to hotel that had a typical Japanese tea room.  Before getting to the hotel, we popped into a temple and our tour guides showed us how they purify themselves and what they do when they go the temple.  When we arrived at the tea room, we also had to ceremoniously purify ourself, learn how to eat the sweet cake, and how to drink the tea.  Lots of things to learn.  They told us of the traditions associated with the tea ceremony.  I learned a lot. 
Temple where we stopped before going to the tea room.
Emily and Brandon sitting in the tea room.
The 4.5 tatami tea room.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Great Ministry!

 I thought I'd start with an updated picture of the plant.  It is really starting to bloom now.  Every day it seems more and more flowers are opening, non have fallen off yet.  I love the colour! 
It has only been three days since the beginning of the week, but to some degree it feels like it's been a whole week!  There have been a lot of things packed into these three days.  I'm glad I have officially begun the break and hopefully things will really start to slow down. 
Monday was an exciting day for me, as the grade seven class was involved in another ministry to three different nursing homes in Higashi Kurume.  One smaller group went to one home and spent the afternoon there singing and participating in various activities with the residents.  A larger group went to two other homes where they sang and shared the real story of Christmas.  When we went to shake hands or bow, some had tears.  It was quite moving! 
Grade seven students getting ready to sing and share.
A couple of the grade 7 teachers and some of the residents from the home.
More and more residents were showing up.
Some of the employees of the home were also there.
We are ready to start.
Afterwards we were able to go through and greet the residents.  Quite a moving experience for them and for our students.
We had a larger crowd at our second home we visited.  They were busy having snack when we came.
So, what are my plans for break you ask?  Well, I'm going to relax and rest up.  I do have some fun activities planned such as putting the bookcase together for my office, visiting with friends, writing some newsletters, getting my hair cut, some Hana sitting and I just made plans to go to see a movie.  I also plan to read a book, The Unseen Face of Japan by David C. Lewis.  I've started it already and it's interesting. 
Have you read this book?
I hope you all will have the opportunity to celebrate Christ's birth, whether it be with family or friends or even with people you do not know but can share the story of Christ's birth.  Merry Christmas!  Vrolijk Kerstfeest!  Feliz Navidad!  Joyeaux Noel! ークリスマス(Merii Kurisumasu)!  

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Last weekend before Christmas break!

Well, I am getting tired.  I am looking forward to the break, to be able to sleep in and rest my brain.  There have been a lot of things going on the last couple of weeks.  I am glad for the many good things, but it will be nice to be able to take some time to clean the house, go on a bicycle ride, sleep until I wake up... aaahhhh, I'm even looking forward to that more after writing it all down.  
Friday, December 13th was a busy day.  The grade six class had their Passover.  It is a great activity.  Pastor Teresa Sherrill (she has a daughter in grade six this year and is a pastor at West Tokyo Union Church) has volunteered to lead the Passover.  This year I took a larger amount of the bitter herbs (wasabi) than I intended and it did almost bring tears to my eyes!  
The tables are set.
One of the four cups, when we could sip the juice.
Washing of hands to symbolize the washing of feet.
Unleavened bread with haroset
The Fourth Cup
Friday evening there were a number of activities happening at CAJ.  We had the staff Christmas social.  It was a great spread of food, typical Christmas food like spiral ham but also a Japanese flavor of sushi.  Some of the staff entertained by singing Christmas carols.  It was a time of great food and great company.  
That evening there were two sporting events at CAJ, Varsity girls field hockey played The American School in Japan (ASIJ) and the Varsity boys basketball also played ASIJ.  There was also the Middle School Christmas Program.  This program is not as intense as the High School program, but it really is enjoyable to attend.  
Middle School Choir
Changing from a choir stage to a band stage.
Middle School Band
Saturday morning, the Middle School girls futsal teams traveled to ASIJ for a Jamboree.  We had four teams of girls playing in this tournament.  Each team was able to play seven - ten minute games.  The girls were pretty tired by the end of the seventh game.  They all did fairly well.  There were a few muscle strains and a twisted ankle by the end. 
ASIJ futsal fields
 The one thing I have been looking forward to is my cactus blooming.  I bought it with a number of buds. 
First day I bought it. 
This is what it looks like today.
It has started to flower, but there still are a number of buds that have not opened.  I think it may be a while before all the buds have flowered, which will allow me to enjoy the flowers even longer.  
I have enjoyed this weekend.  In the next couple of hours I will head to bed and rest up for the next two and a half days of school, with more activities planned.  Grateful for this season though and all that it means, Christ coming down to save us and we are able to look forward to Christ coming again!