Back in samui (cold) Japan!

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I arrived back in Japan on Friday night! It was extremely difficult and painful for me to say goodbye to my parents but God helped me to get on the plane for the long 14+ hour journey back to Ishinomaki. After landing in Narita Airport, I had a lovely visit with friends in Shinjuku (Tokyo) and we had tons of fun catching up. At nighttime, there was a spectacular view of downtown Tokyo from their balcony which took my breath away. Somehow, views of skylines move me far more than natural beauty  – go figure!

(Image from internet of Tokyo)

On Saturday afternoon, after a 7-hour bus ride from Shinjuku to Ishinomaki I was picked by my husband and there was lots of snow! The first thing we did was go to the supermarket, and I was greeted at the food court by our teammates, Lorna and Andy, who brought me a bouquet of flowers. After catching up with them, it was delightful shopping for food because I love to cook Japanese food so much more than American food. In fact, I had such a hard time tolerating “American food” that I actually lost weight.

I wound up making a nabe, or hot pot, full of steaming hot vegetables served over rice with a side dish of miso soup.

Whenever I come back to Japan, I get nervous about whether I’ll have culture shock (which can be stressful). This time around I had almost no culture shock whatsoever, only the positive kind. It was like slipping into a familiar outfit. I loved being able to hear and speak Japanese constantly and see all the signs in Japanese (which used to intimidate me). I appreciated how helpful and friendly the customer service was at the airport and I was very grateful for takkyubin service, also known as black cat (kuroneko). Takkyubin is a delivery service which allows you to send your suitcase(s) directly to your house for a reasonable price. Not only will the suitcases arrive the next day, but you can actually choose the time of day you’d like for them to arrive – super!

At the moment I hardly have any jet lag and I feel pretty good overall, not too sleepy. There is only one thing I don’t like; I am struggling just a bit to adjust to life without any sort of central heating. It’s a bit of a shock to come home and see my own breath inside the apartment. I’d forgotten how frigid winters are in this part of Japan. We use kerosene heaters, but it takes a while for the apartment to heat up. I enjoy using a small kotatsu, which is table with an electric heated lamp underneath to warm up your legs and feet.

(Image from internet of a kotatsu)

I’m looking forward to seeing friends here and catching up, but I’m going to jump back into things slowly. Yesterday I got to see a lot of people at a big meeting for Christian workers and it was really awesome to see everyone again and receive loads of big hugs.

One last thing: at the supermarket I freaked out because strawberry daifuku were on sale – one of my favorite snacks!

Daifuku: rice cake stuffed with sweet filling, most commonly sweetened red bean paste made from azuki beans…stuffed with a strawberry!

I am so thankful to be back. I am so thankful for the community of people here from all over the globe! Even though it’s cold and I miss my dear parents like crazy, there’s no place like home. 🙂

Heading “home”

I’m heading “home” in two days. I remarked to someone yesterday that I feel more at home in Japan than the US. I felt a little surprised to hear myself say that but it’s true. It’s not at all that the US isn’t my home anymore, but Matthias and I have lived in Japan long enough to start to think of Japan as our other home. Life in Japan has slowly become our new “normal.” This new normal includes things like being “gaijin” foreigners, speaking Japanese all the time, eating an 80% completely Japanese diet, and living among people who have greatly suffered. It also includes smaller things like using chopsticks, taking your shoes off when entering a house, drinking lots of green tea, bowing, not talking loudly, freezing cold houses due to lack of insulation, etc. However, I always enjoy these special times in the US and I am thankful for the time to be with my family and friends.

During these past few weeks, as I have been driving around my hometown of Somerdale, NJ and see all the familiar places and landmarks, pass my high school, or go to the pharmacy my mom has gone to forever and ever, it is totally surreal. My entire life feels like a complete blur and I have to pinch myself and say, “Wow…I grew up in this little town. Now live in Japan. I married a German guy. Amazing. Crazy. Unbelievable. How in the world did I, an adopted girl raised in a quiet suburban town, wind up with a life like this one?” My only answer is…God. God has taken me all over the world and I am thankful for so many wonderful life experiences.

In other news, we haven’t heard a peep about Medicaid. I wish I could leave NJ knowing my dad was approved but that isn’t possible. I visited my dad twice today and he was very lethargic and barely spoke to me. I am very aware that he might not be with us much longer and often wonder how many more months or years God will allow Him to live. I had a very difficult weekend because my mother fell down the stairs when I wasn’t at home and fractured her wrist. We spent a long night in the ER and I was extremely upset for several days afterwards. Mom is presently in a lot of pain and it is hard to watch her struggle to do everyday tasks such as dressing herself, making a sandwich, etc. I hate the thought of leaving her right now, but I need to get back to my husband in Japan. I am thankful for the gift of professional caregivers who will be helping my mom and taking care of her as well as doing many household tasks such as cleaning, laundry, food shopping, etc.

Well, I am off to finish packing. Tomorrow, my last day, is going to be very busy. I’ll be visiting my dad, doing last-minute shopping, and spending time with my mom. I always hate that moment when I have to say goodbye to my parents. It never gets easier and I am absolutely dreading it, but I trust God will comfort my parents and I and carry us though this difficult season of life.

 

Goodbye, New Jersey

Tonight I started to pack my suitcases to head back to Japan. I am scheduled to fly back next Thursday the 24th. It is amazing to think that I’ve been home for two months to care for my parents. A teammate of ours prayed for many sweet memories to be made during this trip; God answered that prayer abundantly! The most precious moments were during the dozens of visits I’ve made to see my father in the nursing home, reading the Bible aloud, praying for him, holding his hand and telling him I love him very much. I’ve had some unforgettable moments with my parents, times I will look back upon for years to come.

I have to confess, this period been an extremely emotional time in my life. I’ve had a lot of time to mourn and to think deeply about life. I definitely feel like I am at a great crossroad in my life. My dear parents are frail and failing, Matthias and I are newly arrived on the mission field, and I am already 35 years old (I’m no spring chicken). It feels kind of like a mini mid-life crisis of sorts. But it’s a good one, since I am reflecting so frequently on the brevity of life, the swiftness of the years, on the importance of making this one life truly count for something.  I am also learning to treasure every moment with my loved ones and to savor every precious memory like a good meal. A verse that often comes to mind is this one:

Psalm 90: 1-2, 12
Lord, you have been our dwelling place in all generations.
Before the mountains were brought forth,
or ever you had formed the earth and the world,
from everlasting to everlasting you are God.

You return man to dust and say, “Return, O children of man!”
For a thousand years in your sight are but as yesterday when it is past,or as a watch in the night.

Teach us to number our days,
that we may gain a heart of wisdom.

As I face the heartbreaking reality of my parents not being around for many more years, I am left to cling to God, to hold fast to His good plan for my life. As someone wisely said, I don’t know what the future may hold, but I know who holds the future.

Yes, I’m STILL in New Jersey!

Yes, I am indeed still in New Jersey – it’s been two months since I arrived back in my hometown. I haven’t written in a very long time mainly because my life has been rather uneventful for a while. Aside from Christmas festivities, I’ve been very busy caring for my parents which is truly a full-time job! Dear Matthias joined me for the holidays and we celebrated his 30th birthday together the day before he returned to Japan. It’s truly a miracle that he was here with me for this birthday, because his flight was cancelled and rescheduled twice!

I hope to return to Japan in two weeks or so. I am deeply thankful that I’ve had this precious time with my parents during the holidays. We’ve made a lot of sweet memories together as a family and weathered some difficult moments as well. I’ll definitely try to post photos from my trip once Matthias uploads them. As much as I love being with my family, I SOOO look forward to being back in Japan and seeing our friends there!

Short post from NJ

I am still in New Jersey, waiting for word from the local Medicaid office. I hope that I hear back soon! I would prefer not to leave NJ until this whole matter of Medicaid approval is finally settled (for the sake of my own sanity). Matthias is finally here with me for which I am overjoyed! I love being with my parents and have developed a routine of visiting dad every afternoon and also some evenings, as well as spending much quality time with my mom. As much as I adore being with my family, my heart misses Japan terribly. We love our friends and work there, and we are so thankful to God for the privilege to live in Tohoku.

In God’s timing, we will return to Ishinomaki and continue our work there. As we wait, I remind myself of a verse from the Bible:  “Be still in the presence of the LORD, and wait patiently for him to act.”