Hello there, readers, whoever you may be. I decided to stop using this blog address for various reasons. The main one was lack of space and that most of the traffic seems to be from weird/ random google searches. Our new blog address is: http://krammelsinjapan.wordpress.com/
It’s been a rough week with many family issues. Between Medicaid and my mother’s failing health I am feeling so very tired and weary. I really needed to hear this interview with one of my spiritual heroines, Joni Eareckson Tada, to put my so-called problems into perspective. If you have time, please do the whole thing – you won’t regret it.
Matthias and I are currently at a conference in Chiang Mai, Thailand! We have very limited internet access so I won’t be able to write a full blog post for another week or so. It is my first time in Thailand and I am very impressed with the natural beauty of this country. We are enjoying our time here very much and learning a lot during the teaching times. I feel so thankful that I am able to travel to another country in Asia besides Japan. On a superficial level, I have to admit I am loving all the yummy and inexpensive Thai food, especially Pad Thai noodles, fruit smoothies, and fresh mangoes with sticky rice.
One thing that has been heavy on my heart: my dad was denied Medicaid (which would pay for the nursing home fees) until my parents spend down more money to a certain level in order to qualify. It has been really hard trying to take care of these things from abroad, especially mailing forms and doing paperwork. Hopefully he will be approved in the next month or so, but I must admit that this whole process has been very confusing and difficult. I would definitely appreicate prayers for this process.
The happy homemaking has begun! We’ve been spending quite a bit of time during the last week window shopping, comparison shopping, and purchasing things for our new apartment. The size of our apartment is 36 square meters (quite small by Western standards) and has two main rooms in addition to a shower/ ofuro room, toilet room, and kitchen area. I honestly don’t mind living in a small place. I find it rather cozy and I look forward to seeing how we can decorate it creatively. We’ve bought almost all of the big things (fridge, bookshelves, kitchen table, stove, etc.) at used-goods stores called “recycle shops” and have been pleased with the low prices.
In no particular order, here are a few random things about life in a Japanese house/ apartment:
This is exactly what our stove looks like – it even has a little pull-out shelf for broiling fish. That’s my favorite part since I love broiled fish, especially salmon and tuna.
The Japanese futon system is…interesting. I don’t particularly like sleeping on one (not great for my back) but the alternative, buying a bed, is not possible in an apartment of this small size. They look like this (photo from the internet):
One is supposed to fold them up each night and store them in the closet but we usually only fold them without putting them away in the closet.
One negative thing: our neighbors have cockroaches and we’ve seen two so far which forced us to set out some traps. I thought these traps were some of the funniest things I’ve seen in a while. Sometimes Japan can be so goofy when it comes to things like this. It looks like the happy cockroach is inviting his buddies to their death.
When you enter a house or apartment you must remove your shoes and leaves them in the entrance, called the “genkan.” In theory the shoes ought to be neatly lined up but in reality this is what I often see:
It’s a bit awkward in our apartment that as soon as you step into the genkan, the door to the shower room is immediately to the right. I often panic that the doorbell will ring just as I am about to exit the shower!
In case you didn’t know, Japanese houses always have the bathing room separate from the toilet room. This is not an actual photo of our shower/ ofuro (bathtub) room but ours looks pretty much the same, just not as new.
Ever seen this in the U.S? Indeed, Japan has very fancy toilets that even have heated seats (quite nice in the winter). You can even get a little shower for your behind – this was highly amusing to my friends who have visited from the U.S.! One can even go as far as adjust the water pressure strength and temperature for the “shower.” We do not have one of these fancy toilets but they are in many shops and department stores.
Yes, it is very good to be back in Japan even though it’s cramped and very semai (narrow). The streets can be unbelievably narrow, parking lots tend to be extremely cramped, backyards are practically non-existent, and apartments are teeny tiny. Thankfully, we’re used to it but I have my moments when I long for a nice, green backyard and giant American or German-sized kitchen!
Our second week in Ishinomaki has flown by lightning fast! We continue to enjoy meeting lots of new people, both foreigners and Japanese, and are feeling so thankful and honored to be living in this city. It’s going to be hard to keep up with all the names of the many new people we are meeting! 🙂
Here are just a handful of the many photos taken this past week:
the house where we are temporarily staying
Sunset view from nearby the house
A funny t-shirt I saw at the supermarket (which I bought)
wearing the shirt and teaching a kid to play “Twinkle, twinkle little star”
We were reminded afresh on Saturday evening how much the people here need healing and hope. We attended a barbeque and met a 60 year-old man who lost his wife in the tsunami. He was there with his college-aged daughter and we talked with both of them. I even joked and laughed with this sweet man about marriage and being a newlywed – he seemed to enjoy teasing me! When I was alone in the car I cried softly as I thought to myself that this sweet, smiling man who I had just interacted with has suffered so deeply, so tremendously. He never found his wife’s body and I am sure he wakes up each day feeling like he is dreaming – is his beloved wife really gone? I also cannot imagine the pain that this young woman must be feeling – can you even imagine your beloved mother being swept away by a tsunami, never to be seen again? I certainly cannot and I often feel so inadequate to think we can help people like this who have suffered more than I can ever imagine.
I am thankful that there are so many people here who are reaching out to the survivors of the tsunami offering practical help, a listening ear, and friendship. We love seeing the relational bonds being formed between the survivors and the volunteers, both foreign and Japanese, and we pray these bonds will last for many years to come.
We know it will take time for us to make friends here and feel like we are a part of the community here; a key part of this will be finding a place to live long-term. We are still looking for housing and have no idea how long it might take to find something. A friend is going to take us to meet a realtor on Friday who has a few apartments available – maybe we will find something soon. It would be so wonderful to have a place of our own here and be able to start reaching out to our neighbors.
I am thankful that this is not the first time I have uprooted my life and moved to a totally new community in a foreign land. Though past experiences in Japan and Germany, I have learned that wherever I have gone in the world, God seems to have a special community of friends prepared in advance. Matthias and I can hardly wait to see where God decides to plant us in Ishinomaki, Japan.