2:46pm 3/11/11


It’s 6:30am on Saturday morning and I can’t seem to sleep. I’ve been up since 5am thinking about our friends here in Ishinomaki. It’s going to be a tough day on Monday for the entire nation. March 11th is for Japanese people what 9/11 is to Americans. I cannot even begin to imagine how one can deal with the pain of remembering the horrific events of that day, especially those who lost loved ones. All the volunteers here are definitely on high gear prepping for several events that will hopefully bring hope and comfort to a lot of hurting people.

I just became Facebook friends with a sweet lady who lost her 3-year old son in the tsunami (you can read her story here). She posted a photo of him on Facebook – it just blows my mind to even begin to think of losing your child that way.  Last night I chatted on Facebook with my Peruvian-Japanese friend who lost many dear friends in the tsunami. She admitted she is hurting a lot and feeling very sad. I invited her to an event tomorrow and she’s planning to come with her husband.

Today we’ll be visiting a few temporary housing units to do two mini concerts; I get to play the piano. Tomorrow morning we will attend a special house church service at 10am and then a big memorial event in the afternoon. I think a few people will be sharing their stories of what happened on 3/11 and there will be some special music. On Monday a Christian group is having an all-day meeting called (hmm, hard to translate) “we’re there for you.” (In Japanese, 共にいる会) People can freely drop by and receive prayer or simply find a safe place to relax and talk to someone if they need help. To be honest, we are all a bit worried about the possibility of people committing suicide so we are praying frequently for people not to fall into despair as they remember 3/11.

Well, I’d better be off, but here is a nice photo that was taken on Thursday. We had a visit from a retired German missionary who joined us for a home visit with two Japanese neighbors. The cute little redhead is a missionary kid who speaks fluent English and Japanese. What a nice afternoon!

Week in Review


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After returning safely from Nagoya we jumped right into lots of activities. One of the highlights of my week was helping with teaching English to elderly folks. The administrator of the home said that teaching English in a nursing home is extremely rare in Japan; in fact it’s so rare she would like to do a presentation about it at a regional conference. The residents seem to love the class and there were of a lot of smiles! I love being around elderly people and since my dad is in a nursing home, I kind of felt at home. I think this one of my favorite photos of 2013:

Me with Mr. E. – his hat says, “I’m incredible!”

Handing out handmade hats to the residents – the class theme was the weather

I also assisted at a crafts class for ladies from Onagawa, one of the most devastated places in Tohoku.

My teammate Katherine, in red, is teaching the ladies to make a tablecloth. There were craft classes two days in a row this week which is quite unusual.

In addition to two English classes and two craft classes, we also enjoyed a birthday party, a big prayer meeting, a team dinner, and a big community event this morning. Folks from the neighborhood start showing up at the local community center every Saturday at 9am to drink coffee and chat. Sometimes there is a musical concert around 10 or 10:30. Our teammate Andy leads a rousing game of Bingo at 11am complete with small prizes. At 11:30 or so we (“we” being our team and a few other teams) start serving lunch to anywhere from 50-80 people, mostly elderly.

The youngest in attendance at the weekly community event

Our teammates, Lorna and Tobi

Rather random photo – Matthias and I were amazed at how big this apple was. Do they sell them this big in the US?

It was definitely a good week. This upcoming week is also looking quite busy! On Tuesday, we will visit old friends in Yamagata and I’m really looking forward to that. 🙂

Nagoya visit

We’re in Nagoya! I lived here during 2008-2009 and it’s been nice to see a few old friends. Matthias and I made the long 11-hour drive from Ishinomaki to Nagoya (almost 500 miles) on Friday and Saturday. We came for a meeting and are going back to Ishinomaki tomorrow. Here are just a few photos from our short but fun and busy trip:

Our friend Michelle is quite a lady! She is only 25 but has already passed the highest level of the national Japanese Proficiency test. She is JET English teacher in several public schools and and we’re excited to see what plans God has for her.

Visiting my former English student in her home! We had a great visit with her and her cute little daughter. (I loved her teeny anpanman slippers.)

We visited the Japanese church that I attended during my 18 months in Nagoya. My sweet friend Ayako had a baby boy and he was so cute that I held him every chance I could get.

Dinner with a sweet family – they are Japanese but the daughter is named Ribeka (Rebecca) and the son is named Joshua!

Kana and I were in the same German class in Berlin! She is so young and full of life and we are excited for her future. She treated us to Krispy Kreme donuts – wish we had one in Ishinomaki!

Hanging out with German young people at the Hope Youth Center in Inazawa

It’s been a fun past few days but I am looking forward to getting back to Ishinomaki. By the way, the characters of Ishinomaki (石巻) literally translate to “rock and roll.” 🙂

“Devil’s tongue” and other delights


We are settling back into a routine now that I’ve been back for over a week. One of the most delightful parts of being in Japan is the food. There are so many wonderful things available at the supermarket and I often tell Matthias, “Ah, I’m in food heaven!” I am especially fond of veggies in Japan. I recently discovered there are major health benefits to some of my favorites. I thought I’d share a few photos of foods I enjoy that might be a bit unusual in the U.S. I should note that except for meat and eringi, Matthias doesn’t like these things.

Konnyaku – also known as “devil’s tongue,” konnyaku is a jelly-like food made from a kind of potato called “konnyaku potato.” Honestly, it doesn’t have much of a taste (perhaps a bit salty) but the texture is incredible. In addition to block form, it also comes in long, thin strings (ito konnyaku) which is fun to eat in sukiyaki.
Nagaimo (Chinese yam)- This root is known to help reduce high blood pressure, regulate digestion and relieve fatigue. It contains many nutrients such as magnesium, zinc, vitamin C, and vitamin B1.
This hairy potato-like vegetable is very slimy which makes it tricky to peel. I love to slice it and serve it with ginger pork. It is a bit crunchy and sooo good!

See the slime?

Renkon (lotus root) – An excellent source of dietary fibers and vitamin C, it also has healthy amounts of copper, iron, zinc, magnesium, and manganese.

One way I like to cook lotus root is to peel, slice, and fry it with soy sauce, vinegar, and sesame oil and then add tuna fish. It looks so pretty when it is sliced, just like art!

Jako fish – yes, indeed these are itty bitty fish! They are super yummy sprinkled over rice and full of calcium.

Yikes, you can see the eyes!

Meat! – I love that in Japan you can buy beef and pork sliced very thinly – this is so great for a stir fry or marinating. The meat in the package below is called kiriotoshi. In NJ, I have not seen meat cut like this although I suppose you could make a special request.

In Japan, this type of meat is popular for various dishes including gyudon (beef bowl):
Eringi mushrooms – We love to eat these sliced thinly and fried with butter and soy sauce. So delicious!

Before…and after!

Enoki mushrooms – A good source of iron and niacin, these pretty little snowy white mushrooms are crunchy and delicious in a stir fry or nabe (hot pot).

These mushrooms come from the package in one big clump so the first thing you need to do is cut off the bottom before cooking with enoki.

I should add, most of these foods, if not all, are available in the U.S. at Asian supermarkets like H-Mart but the prices are rather expensive compared to Japan.