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This blog documents my experiences in preparing for and traveling in Japan.

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Snow White

Posted by Kathryn Marshall on April 26, 2012 at 12:30 AM Comments comments (69)

It's funny; as we've progressed through spring, I've noticed some interesting fashion trends; the dark sun visors, the 'motor cycle helmets' (extreme sun visors), plastic bike mitts, gloves, and long sleeves, and even turtle-necks. What's wrong with this picture that's in your mind right now? If you were looking at a picture of people out and about in the park and couldn't feel the temperature, you would think it was still twenty degrees here (that's fareighnheight by the way)! And it's all for the sake of a pale complexion.

To Americans (while being naturally pale is fine) a tan complexion is generally considered to look (more?) healthy and attractive. I don't really have a preference because I've seen gorgeous pale girls and beautiful tan girls. It seems to me that we only want the qualities that we don't have. This can be a good thing as well as a bad thing; it's a good thing to strive to better ourselves and it's a good thing to feel motivated to accomplish our personal goals; it's also a bad thing because, while we try to overcome our weaknesses, we end up comparing ourselves to others which leads to envy. This is something that we all struggle with. We're always grappling for the thing that is farthest from reach.

Our very human nature is to progress; everyone has this instinct built into their DNA. It is fallen human nature to become distracted from our goals by comparring ourselves to others who have what we want most. We become impatient and discontent with the qualities that we have, and the very people whom we are comparing ourselves to, may be admiring those qualities that we are blind to.

I'm not hammering the Japanese ladies for wanting pale skin, It's just the extreme lengths they go to to achieve a snow white complexion which caught my curiosity and attracted my attention to the time-consuming and costly methods that we all take to get what we want.

What I've been up to (last month)

Posted by Kathryn Marshall on April 3, 2012 at 3:00 AM Comments comments (3)

Wow, it's been a while since I last posted. And to think I've been on Spring Break this whole time.8) Well, I guess I'd better write a quick update of the recent goings on here. First of all my house mate, Mary-Beth, reunited with her mom for a couple of weeks in Japan. Her mom came to japan to see her, of course, but to also explore the place that her daughter has been living in for the past 9 months. I tagged along with them on a couple of outings -- one of which was Tokyo. I got my picture taken in front of the 'Hachiko' statue (Have you seen the movie? If not I highly recommend that you do!), On top of the Tokyo Tower, the view was absolutely breath-taking! You could see Tokyo for miles around including Mt. Fuji. We visited a few shrines (I've NEVER seen such beautiful buildings or gardens (which surround the enormous structures), but as amazingly gorgeous as they were, both on the inside and out, it makes me sad to think that they were crafted in vain :(). Anyway, that's what I did over Spring Break -- no big deal .;)

4/3

Spring Break has ended and school has resumed. I'm actually really excited about it! I had my 8th grade students collaborate and do a radio broadcast project, which was due today. They performed so well! A+ for all! :D (I'm really proud of my students, in case you couldn't tell.)

The Onsen

Posted by Kathryn Marshall on March 1, 2012 at 7:00 PM Comments comments (0)

One of the best things in Japan is the Onsen. Now, if you don't know what an Onsen is, you will either be suprised or terribly shocked. An Onsen is a public bath house, which uses natural hot springs to fill the pools. They are the best comforts during the freezing cold months!

Each Onsen is unique because of all the different types of baths/pools. The first time I experienced an onsen was during our snowboarding trips in Nojiri were the snow piles up to your cabin's second floor. This Onsen had a sauna and a rock pond outside where the snow was the barrier between us and the outside world. I met many young girls there who were on their school skii trip. They were so excited to meet a 'gaijin'. I was able to talk with them some in Japanese. They were so cute! We had a small snowball fight using our snow barrier. :P

My favorite Onsen is the one nearby our house in Chiba. There you can enjoy a massage or a meal before or after your dip. In the bath section, there's a milk bath (some places offer a tea bath), two regular hot baths (one has an 'electric chair', which is a small seat that uses electric shock waves to stimulate your muscles and 'aid in reproduction'), there's also a set of stone chairs with a 'water fall' cascading down them. The outside is decorated like a simple Japanese garden with a small water mill in one of the pools. Under a canopy lies a set of stone 'beds' which are just like the chairs that I described before. A stone pillow and a small groove at the end so your feet can stay submerged in the hot water. It feels so nice to have the hot water rushing against your back and the cold air above. Right before we leave, we usually take a dip in the COLD bath. Yes, it is freezing cold, not luke warm. I've stayed in for as long as TWO MINUTES! :D (It keeps the warm in and keeps your skin from drying out.) 

The Onsen is a great place to hang out with friends and relax. Maybe we should have them in America? I wonder if the idea would catch on there? Many people doupt it would because of the type of people it might attract. I must admit that the sight wouldn't be as pretty since Americans wear tattoos while that's a taboo in Japan. Would you like to try the Onsen?

Sing-Song Machinery

Posted by Kathryn Marshall on January 23, 2012 at 1:15 AM Comments comments (0)

One of the first things I noticed when I came here was how much everyone sings. EVERYONE. The students sing in the halls and during art class and the teachers can be heard in the teacher's office. I had no idea how much music and song was a part of this culture. Even the machinery plays a tune! The funny thing is that no one really dances. Yes, we do have a lady who comes in once a week to give ballet lessons, but dancing in general isn't nearly as much a part of this culture, it seems, as music.

One of my favorite things to do here is Kara-O-ke (karaoke). We go to the nearby karaoke joint and buy a (soft) drink and a couple of hours. Then we go into this small dark room that is set up with a couple of sofas, a table, and a large flat screen TV. We pick up the phonebook of songs (they have a HUGE selection and have most any song you could think of) and take up your microphone and rock out! The most popular genres are . . .wait for it. . . Country and Gospel. (Though Taylor Swift is about as country as it gets in that genre.) Gospel music is so effective in spreading, well, the Gospel. A couple in our church came to know Christ after joining a gospel choir then got married soon after. I attended a gospel concert a week after I arrived; it was spectacular! The people were jumping up and down with their hands stretched high as they belted out one African spiritual after another. One song lasted about ten minutes. The Japanese got soul!

The only thing lacking in this country is dance. I'm sure they still have lots of traditional dancing going on, but they don't seem to know any ballroom dancing. I pass a hip-hop studio every now and then, but nothing of interest to a swing dancer. An American couple who live right behind us host a music club once a month that I go to. This is one of the things I most look forward to because this is the first pair of people who know how to swing it! Last time we ended up teaching a group of Japanese ladies and a couple of gentlemen to swing dance. We had a ball! I think this is going to become a regular thing at music club (at least I hope so). 

Another phenomenon of the Japanese technical industry are all the sing-song machines they produce. Every kind of machine whether it be a microwave, rice-cooker, water-heater or door-bell (pretty much anything electrical) plays a tune instead of an obnoxious, ear-splitting, siren noise. This also includes the school bell; it plays the Big Ben chime. Our school tunes that we play are Beethoven, Bach and Mozart pieces. Isn't that lovely? Growing up I always loathed the sound of a school bell on TV shows (and thanked God that I was homeschooled and didn't have to hear that bombastic clanging everyday).

I love these small cultural differences. It's these little things that are the essence of a culture. It excites and inspires me whenever I come across a new one. I hope they inspire you just as much as they do me.     

My 'Thing'

Posted by Kathryn Marshall on January 16, 2012 at 2:10 AM Comments comments (1)

During the last two weeks, I started teaching the literature/language arts class. I'm still teaching the same English classes as before only now on a slightly altered schedule. In literature class my job is to keep everyone on the Sonlight schedule in the Bible and literature sections. Right now we are reading Going Solo by Roald Dahl. It's a good book and I can really relate to the main character. Have any of you Sonlight kids read it, yet? ;)

Aside from reading the books and going throught the Westminister Confession, I most enjoy teaching the writing portion of the class. I get to teach my seven bilingual students how to structure sentences, edit errors, and I also assign assignments. (See what I did there? That's called an 'illiteration'.)

This is what I realized highschool prepared me for. This is the result of spending hours studying grammar and writing everyday (Though, I must admit that I'm a bit out of practise).  This is what ends up happening when you just go with the flow (of God's will); you end up finding it one step at a time.

Teaching lit. class for two hours on Tuesdays and Thursdays are the highlights of my week! While I am happy teaching just about anything, I'm happiest teaching language arts. Yes, I think I've finally found my 'thing'.

 Prayer request: My students are all on different levels of Englsih so it's a bit of a challenge to adapt and come up with fresh course material to suit their needs individually. While some are almost ready to learn how to stylize their work, others don't even know what a noun is. Pray that God would give me wisdom as I go through the rest of this semester.

Generosity on a Stick Anyone?

Posted by Kathryn Marshall on January 6, 2012 at 11:40 PM Comments comments (0)

Aside from being trusting, Japan is already known for its generosity. (There is indeed an atmosphere of giving with expecting in return among many people, which should not be ignored as a flaw in this virtue.) A man who owns a meat stand right outside the grocery store that I stopped at with a friend who told me that this salesman normally will give him extra food simply because he's a loyal customer (and a nice person). I didn't buy anything at the stand because I didn't have any money on me at the moment so the vendor gives him an additional meat stick dripping with delicious sauce to my friend for me as a treat. Enough said.  

Don't You Count Your Change?

Posted by Kathryn Marshall on January 6, 2012 at 11:30 PM Comments comments (0)

Ok, so, yesterday I went shopping at the mall across the street with a couple of friends. We stopped by an icecream place which is set up inside the grocery store with a small sales window for the pedestrians. I ordered a custard and pineapple twist. The vendors here don't require payment prior to handing over their merchandise. He didn't even so much as glance at the money that I handed him. My friends and I agreed that he was a bit odd. Evenso, this country is very trusting.

Snowboarding in Japan!

Posted by Kathryn Marshall on January 5, 2012 at 1:40 AM Comments comments (0)

Hey all! I recently got back from Nojiri which can be best described as a winter wonderland. I've never seen so much snow in my life! I loved the rush of  sliding down the slopes and the adrenaline from wiping out. Haha. We spent three days up there in a cabin that was built back in the early 1900's which was pretty cool. 8) 

Hey guys! Unfortunately I had some technical difficulties trying to attach the video to the video section so I decided to give up and post the link in this one! http://youtu.be/X5lCfJ0U2xo

Enjoy!

 

New Year GOALS

Posted by Kathryn Marshall on January 3, 2012 at 8:25 PM Comments comments (0)

Yesterday morning the Iverson family, which now includes Mary Beth (my housemate) and I, sat at the kitchen table to discuss our new years resolutions. I personally don't believe in making resolutions especially for the new year because it seems so fickle and idealistic. Instead of resolutions I believe in goals. Now, I know that you may be thinking that they are one and the same, but they're as different as can be.

Every January millions of resolutions are made and come February they are all of them broken and forgotten (that is if they make it that far). If you asked someone what the definition of the word 'resolution' is, they mostly likely will say among other things that it means 'to set a goal'. While this is the general meaning of the word 'resolution', it carries an altered implication to me: fallen humans striving to better their lifestyle in 365 days. I noticed that among mostly non-Christians this is the case; our fallen nature striving for perfection apart from Christ. This is what I hear every time someone says the word 'resolution'.

In the Iverson household, however, the word 'resolution does not carry this implication. What Dan Iverson had us do was spend at least an hour by ourselves reading the Word, praying and examining ourselves. Then we met around the table to discuss what God had shown us. We prayed for each other's weaknesses and asked God to give us strength to overcome in the New Year. This seems more characteristic of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur doesn't it?

While resolutions come and go, the goal will always be santification in Christ throughout our whole lives. We should always examine ourselves and strive for the goal that is in Christ Jesus.

The Living Nativity

Posted by Kathryn Marshall on January 1, 2012 at 6:45 PM Comments comments (0)

Hey everyone! Since it has been a while since I last posted an entry, I have a lot to catch you up on, so I will start with the journey to Ishinomaki in Tohoku -- this is where the worst of the earthquake and tsunami hit back on March 11th. To the Japanese this date is as imfamous as September 11th.  

We left on the 23rd of December. Many team families and individuals adding up to approximately seventy people packed into a bus in the evening so that we could arrive in Tohoku by morning. Everyone wakes when the bus comes to a stop in front of McDonalds at 8:00am. We're all tired and sore from the ten hour ride, but thankful for a nice warm breakfast of pancakes and hashbrowns.

Later everyone unpacks at the building that we'll be performing 'A Living Nativity' and celebrating Christmas in. Set up commences immediately.Running through a couple of last minute reheasals, Mrs. Iverson is assured that everything's in place and ready to go. At the last minute, I'm placed as the third wiseman (from asia), which I think is hysterical since roughly half the cast is asian.

The crowd cheers as baby Jesus is born and the wisemen come marching through. Several elderly ladies in the front row literally jumped up out of their seats to pet the sheep (not real sheep of course, but little kids dressed in little wooly costumes that were so cute!). One woman grabbed 'Joseph' and had her friend take a picture of her hugging him.

After exiting the dressing room I stood looking at the crowds of people sitting around dinner tables laughing and and talking to each other in rapid Japanese about the show. Head bobbing up and down in agreement with each other about how cute the 'sheep' where. Needless to say it was a big hit.


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