Lord Vader...Rise!

In approximately seventeen days Lord Vader will do just that in Japan! I cannot wait! As such I have stepped up efforts to an almost feverish pitch by watching the trailer at least four times a day and still getting more giddily excited with every viewing. Its like I've never seen the trailer before (although I think I am rapidly approaching 500 viewings) and I still scream in horror when ever I hear the words, "You were the chosen one!" or "Lord Vader...'Yes Master'...Rise!" Almost every time!

But alas, I am not alone. Last evening one of my good friends sent me this great picture that shows that Japan is about to go crazy waiting for this movie! My jaw dropped a good literal two inches when I saw this. Take a good close look!

My People

So we are ready. I know, I know. You people in the United States have already been there, done that and are on to the next big thing. But the hype is building here in the land of the sun. I'd write more, but I've got to go watch the trailer again...


Cultural Exchange

Saturday night my friend Jessica and I decided to continue to extend the arm of positive foreign relations between Japan and the good ole U.S. of A. In an effort to catch the Japanese up to speed on all things that are cool about America we were given the task by our fellow partners in crime Raelynn and Travis to get a picture of some gangsters giving out a gang sign. I unfortunately missed this entire part of American culture, as I believe did Jessica, and we were at a loss for what a good gang sign was. Then it hit me! The "Live Long and Prosper" sign, a favorite amongst my people (Trekies) dawned on me and the exchange began. See below:

Jessica and the Homeboys

Blake a.k.a Mr. Culturally Sensitive

In exchange I got a free break dancing lesson!

True Style

I think this will go a long way for helping the two countries to understand each other better. Don't you?


The Ride to End All Rides

Being in Japan can be equated with a roller coaster experience. Before you get on there is huge anticipation and giddy excitement for what is to come. Sometimes, if you're a wimp like me and really dislike riding roller coasters, you don't even want to get on which was certainly the case when I was first thinking of coming to Japan. However, you know its going to be great once the ride is over so you get on anyways.

But like any roller coaster there are highs and lows. My last few posts were written on extreme high points of my journey where I was looking out from the top of the ride and seeing nothing but the whole amusement park known as Japan. However, since Friday I have felt all mixed up inside and have felt like I'm falling perilously to my death (ok, well not that extreme but it worked well with my analogy).

And so I came upon today where I barely made it through my classes and prayed several times that God would give me something to salvage my day and change my outlook. And then it happened. My Japanese father, who I haven't really bonded with in the past several days probably because I have had more of a stand offish demeanor at school decided he was going to spend an entire hour just practicing kanji (those funny Japanese characters) with me. It was so great! I had started to feel distant from this school and with that one simple kanji lesson I had people all around trying to help and teach me and I once again felt like a part of the community even though I am quite different from them.

To top it off I then went to language class with my friend and afterwards another girl who I study with on Thursday nights came to the library to study English with me. We got to talking awhile and I told her about the English Bible lessons we have at church and she seemed interested and may come one of these days. So yet another inroad in the most unlikely of places!

So with all of the highs and lows, I conclude the best thing is merely to get on the ride and enjoy it for all its worth.


A Hundred Times Over

"I tell you the truth," Jesus replied, "no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mothers or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age (homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields - and with them persecutions) and in the age to come eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first." Mark 10:29-31

Before coming to Japan I read Matthew 19:29-30 over and over to remind me why I must go to Japan. I've quoted Mark's version of this passage since it seems to flesh out the meaning a bit more, but this scripture is what got me here. I honestly believe that without it I would still be in the U.S.

You see, in the U.S., I had it good. I worked for a great company, I went to a great church, and had great friends all around me. Life really didn't seem like it could get much better except for the nagging fact that something seemed to be a bit missing. Yet, how could I be crazy to leave a life of comfort and joy to go to a country of a thousand unknowns and a less secure future? I'll be honest, I trusted in my abilities of computing and in the security of my paycheck, and really could not make sense of leaving a life I enjoyed immensely.

But now, two months into this crazy journey known as Japan, I am beginning to get a glimpse of what both Matthew and Mark are saying. I didn't at first, and yes, persecutions are sure to ensue, but after every Sunday and another week of life in Japan down I realize, "Wow! Jesus was dead on once again!"

I wish I could fully give you a glimpse of what I am thinking and feeling right now, although really it is quite impossible unless you go through much the same experience yourself. But I am beginning to form friendships and finally starting the work that God has set out for me and I am beginning to realize the hundred times promise that Jesus himself gave to those who leave to serve Him and the gospel. It is amazing!

While I don't want to sermonize, and I'm afraid this blog fell way short of what I was hoping to convey, I beseech (I really like that word) you to pick something that doesn't make sense in the Bible and "test [Him] on this." The beauty of God and the Bible is that it continues to turn common logic upside down and just puts me in utter awe of how wrong and foolish I am, and how I must always trust what God is trying to teach me even if it doesn't make sense.

All that said, I'm glad I'm here!


The Joys of Being Cool

Sometimes, we as AETs (Assistant English Teachers) have the tendency to be a bit negative about our current situation in life. This could be a human disposition as a whole, and perhaps it is only amplified in a foreign country. Whatever the case may be, tonight I want to highlight all the joys of being an AET for both my friends and family back home, and for my friends here.

1. I'm Cool!

Let's face it, all of my life I've been a nerd. Shoot, all of my life I will be a nerd. Always picked last in dodge ball games, always laughed at because I like books and Star Wars sometimes more than girls, and the list goes on and on. But in Japan, I am way cool! I may be the coolest kid in school for all I know! I shout at least a thousand hellos in a day, give high fives like no other, and always get jon-kened (Rock, Paper, Scissors) for dodge ball. How great is that?

2. Being American is Fascinating

In America, being an American, is well, typical. The abnormal is normal, and everyone strives to out do everyone in uniqueness. It's a bit tiresome to a degree. But in Japan the "group" is in which means that everyone is trying to be like everyone else. And to some degree, especially concerning politeness, I try to fit in too. But I'm hired to be an American and that naturally means I possess my weird traits that I get to exhibit daily. People are fascinated by America, and as an AET I am a walking textbook of American life. Scary, neh?

Not only though do I get the chance to be quirky, I also get to teach about more important lessons. Today I had a broken conversation about whether the song "Ten Little Indians" was racially insensitive or not. Let me just tell you, in Japanese that is hard to explain but it is great that they are curious about racial issues and hopefully in the future other issues.

3. Cultural Confusion

It is hilarious to see the confusion that goes on in Japan as they attempt to mimic American culture. My favorite example can be seen on my last blog in the picture of me posing by Yoda-Batman. Can you think of a more heinious mix-up then mixing these two cultural icons? I can. How about little boys and girls who wear the Playboy bunny icon and think it is a cute pink rabbit? Or what about stores called Save-On or Hard-Off? Or cars called "Move" and scooters named "Let's" or "Let's 2?" Wow!

4. Japanese People

Japanese people are extremely polite and courteous, almost anywhere you go. When you go shopping you can bet you bottom Yen that they will go all out to serve you and will serve you with a smile. McDonald's included! We could learn a great deal about how to treat others in service industries by studying the Japanese.

Not only are they polite, they are extremly fun delightful people that are insatiably curious, hard working, and enjoyable. It is hard to get to know Japanese people on a real intimate level but they are probably my favorite people in the world.

5. Ministry

The last, and perhaps most important benefit, is the opportunity to serve. It never occured to me until I came to a place predominately atheistic and almost wholistically untouched by Western Christianity how many service opportunities abound. We are not trying to overcome the scars of Christianity's mistakes here, we are simply trying to bring the gospel message to these people who so desperately need it. And that is a unique and tremendous challenge that each AET is blessed with. I hope to write more on this issue later.

So tonight I will go to karaoke with my Japanese friends, sleep on my futon (hopefully for the last time since I'm getting a bed!), and be thankful for the opportunity that God has given me at this point in time. I hope wherever you are you can do the same, no matter what place you find yourself in.