Monday, November 29, 2010

Day Off~

Before I talk about my day, let me do a couple of ~important things~.  First off, look at this.  It's Rilakkuma inari!  SO CUTE.  (Note: Rilakkuma is a cute bear character that I happen to be a huge fan of- for example, I have a planner, a notepad, etc. with him on it.  Inari is a soybean pouch kind of thing that's stuffed with rice.)  Also, I had my blog added to The Japan Blog List, which I just happened to find on Google yesterday, so if you're interested in reading other blogs about Japan, check it out!  I mean, I haven't really looked around on that site much, but.  lol

But anyway!  Since Mondays are our days off around here, Becky and I went and had fun this afternoon~  We got covers for our iPhones (mine is purple, of course), and then went to lunch at Mos Burger.  Now, I need to preface this by saying that I learned something about Japan last week: They're amazed by napkins with designs on them and often refuse to even use them.  When the girls from the Mie University Bible study were over, Becky brought out some random Valentine's Day napkins with a teddy bear on them and the girls thought they were super cute and wouldn't use them.  They said that they'd put them up on the wall!  It seems like most Japanese people use tissues at the dinner table, although I have seen normal napkins at restaurants and stuff.  But anyway, all of this to say, I was pretty amused when we sat down at Mos Burger and saw this decorating our table.

Oh Japan.

And then, of course, the food.

The Hokkaido Croquette Foccaccia.  Croquette is really just a deep fried mashed potato-type thing.  Seems like most of the "burgers" at Mos Burger aren't really burgers at all, haha.  But it was delicious!

Onion ring/fries combo.  Whyyyy is there no ranch in Japan.  ;__;  Someone send me some :D?

After we ate, we went to the castle park.  Which, okay, it's pretty cool that there are castle ruins in Tsu, but there's really not all that much left.  There's like, the guard tower or whatever, and some of the walls, but that's about it.  

The guard tower.  I wonder what the whole castle would've looked like.

The lord of the castle.

Pretty sure this fountain isn't an original part of the castle though...

But we didn't really go there for the castle.  We went there for the leaves.  And man, fall in California is nothing like this.  The maple trees here are amazing.  I took tons of pictures.

One of the old castle walls.

This was part of the moat, I think.

The moat on the other side of the park.

An old-fashioned Japanese lantern.

I mean, look at how perfect these little leaves are.  (And, um, how imperfect my nail polish is.  >_>)

A little tiny maple tree.

I just can't get over how amazing these leaves are.

After leaving the park, we came home, and I chatted on Skype with a couple of people and studied some Japanese (so that I don't procrastinate as much as I did last week...).  And then, around 6, we headed over to Carol's to celebrate Becky's birthday.  Here we all are:

Carol worked really hard on the food.  Everything was really good!

Pumpkin soup and an orange biscuit.

Salad with crunchy sweet potato stick things and sesame dressing, which is possibly the best salad dressing in the world (second to ranch, of course).

The main course: cinnamon carrots, macaroni, and a chicken/ham/chicken cordon bleu-ish thing which was my favorite part of the meal.  The sauce was so good!

Pumpkin pie cheesecake.

And, of course, the birthday girl!

I didn't get a picture, but the candle on the cake was awesome!  It was like a sparkler, shooting off sparks pretty far around the cake.  I've never seen a candle like that before!

The Mouth of Truth.  It's for your toilet paper apparently, haha.

And we all had a really nice time talking about how we met Becky (I'm the most recent of course, but Carol and Nori-chan have known her since she was five!), and just chatting about various things.  I've met Tomomi-san before, on my first day in Japan when we went to the Audacious concert, but I got to know her a little bit better today, and she's really funny!  Of course Nori-chan was there, and Eri and Youko from church, and Miho who comes to the Bible class on Wednesdays.  I had a lot of fun!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Let It Snow Baby...Let It Reindeer

In case you're wondering about the title of this post, it's the title of Relient K's Christmas album.  This is what I call Christmas music.  It's the Christmas season now, so I figured it was about time.

So today was actually pretty busy.  There was church, and then brief choir practice (we're singing O Holy Night on Christmas Eve, I think.  In Japanese, of course).  After that, a few of us went to a convenience store to pick up some lunch, where I found this, which was too good not to take a picture of.

It's black melon bread.  I don't even know, you guys.  Only in Japan.

Anyway, so we went back to church and ate, and then helped out with a church work day, which mainly consisted of spreading gravel.  After that, a few of us had a Bible study (there's a young people's Bible study once a month on Sunday afternoons), and by the time that was over, it was already 4pm, so Becky and I left to get ready for Crossroad.  

The theme for Crossroad tonight was Thanksgiving, so I talked a little bit about what Thanksgiving in America is life (Becky referred to me as a "real American"), we sang some Thanksgiving-type praise songs (can anybody guess which ones?), did a couple of activities, and Aoki-sensei from Kyoto spoke, which was really great.

Afterwards we had snacks and tea, and among the snacks were some of the pies from the baking day yesterday.  I never had sweet potato pie before coming to Japan but I am definitely a fan.  I met a few new people today, including a couple of really nice ladies who live in Matsusaka, and a girl who's from California who teaches English.  People ended up staying to chat for about an hour after Crossroad was officially over.

So yeah, this post isn't quite as epic as my last one, but I'm keeping relatively busy!  Tomorrow should be fun.  :)

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Oops... Time to Catch Up

It's been a week since I posted in my blog...  My bad.  lol, I was definitely right when I said that I probably wouldn't be posting every day anymore.  Actually, it's really kind of bad for me because I've done a lot this week, and I've been uploading pictures for a while now, and basically this is your warning that this is probably going to be very long and very picture-heavy.  I'll at least divide it up by day to give this unwieldy post some kind of structure?

Disclaimer: Some of these pictures were stolen borrowed from Becky's photo albums on Facebook.

Additional note: I have been working, I promise.  I currently have seven classes throughout the week.  I've actually been having a lot of fun getting to know my students (some kids, some teenagers, and one university student), but I don't really have much to say about it, which is why I don't usually mention my classes.  But for those who were wondering what I do, for the kids, we mostly do more interactive stuff, like games and songs and role-playing, and the classes with the teenagers are more discussion-based, like reading an article and talking about it, usually with a short game time at the end.  They're all really great kids.


On Sunday, Carol, Becky and I spent the day with our friends Aki-san and Rieko-san.  We started out by having a curry lunch at Carol's.  Did I take a picture of my food?  Of course I took a picture of my food.

And here we all are.

And then, as we were leaving to head out to Nabana no sato, the scenery from Carol's balcony was really nice, so I took a few pictures.

From there, the five of us went to Nabana no sato to see the winter illumination there.  It was AMAZING.  Absolutely gorgeous.

Winter illumination!  Yay!

A chapel.  The colors of the lights kept changing.

The fall leaves in California do not compare to the ones in Japan.  There's a better example of this later.

This is over water.  The colors kept changing.

This may have been my favorite part.  It was just a really long tunnel of gorgeous lights.

lol obviously one of Becky's, because there I am.  Her camera takes better pictures than mine.

If only Aki-san would smile in pictures...  He's actually a really nice, funny guy.

No idea why I'm laughing in this one.

And then we approached the main attraction: Mount Fuji.

It was AMAZING.  You really can't tell how huge it was from these pictures.

Pretty changing colors.

After Mount Fuji was this rainbow tunnel.  Also amazing.

Amazing fall leaves, reflected in a mirror pool.

And that was basically it.  We got there kind of late due to intense traffic, so we didn't have much time to check out the various food places, but we did use our souvenir coupons in the various gift shops.

These were absolutely necessary items.  Especially the Rilakkuma mug.  I'm using it as we speak.


On Monday, I had my ~official orientation~.  Basically, some of the other missionaries went over various things I need to know, including financial stuff, culture, the history and structure of NAB and the JBC (Japan Baptist Conference), played some games, chatted, and ate sushi for lunch.

There was some debate, but I do believe this was my first time having sushi in Japan.  It was pretty fantastic.

After that, almost all of the other missionaries came, and we had Thanksgiving dinner together.  It was cool to meet and get to know everyone, hang out, talk about the cool things that God is doing around us, and, of course, eat.

See the turkey?  It was legit Thanksgiving dinner.

The Food.  Turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, veggies, salad, pumpkin pie, apple cake...

My missionary family.  <3  Yuri wasn't able to make it, but I think everyone else was there!

It wasn't quite Becky's birthday yet, but since we were all together, we decided to celebrate a little bit.

And then we kind of spent the rest of the evening sitting around chatting and playing games.  It was really nice, especially since it was my first time meeting several of the other missionaries.


Tuesday the young people from the Tsu church met up with some other people from the Chita church (the one the Stollers work with), and we went to Tokoname, a historical town known for its pottery.  The weather was gorgeous, so it was really nice just walking around.

I think these big chimneys are for the kilns.

Taking pictures of Becky is always entertaining.

After just a little bit of walking, we arrived at the highlight of our trip: a place where we made our own pottery.

Becky and Nori-chan make it look easy.

It doesn't look that hard, does it?  Alicia was doing a good job.

I...was not good at it.

The guy had to keep helping me...and Kensaku had to keep translating for me...  And in the end, I don't even know if what I made is a cup or a bowl or what, really.

But at least I could laugh at my own fail, so it was fun.

Only half of us could go at a time, so we were waiting for the others to finish~

When we were done, the place gave us free coffee.  So here's me and Nori-chan~

And across the table from us were Alicia, Becky, and...Eri, I think?

Next was lunch at a little place called Tanpopo, which, I learned, means dandelion.

I wasn't always totally sure what I was eating, but it was good.

And then we got this really interesting dandelion coffee.  It was naturally sweet.

Did I say it was small?  This wasn't all of the restaurant, but um...a decent portion.

And then we just walked around the town.  Here's a Buddhist temple we passed.

This is a gigantic kiln.  You can walk inside.

Or...frolic inside.

It was pretty interesting though.

The guys.

And the girls.  lol, so unbalanced.  I totally have the windblown look going on.


I really couldn't get over what a pretty place it was.

Group shots!

So that was about it.  After that, we visited a tile museum, which had lots of really old tile artwork from all over the world.  There was also...a toilet museum.  Yeah.  All Asian toilets, of course.  So overall, a really fun day!


No pictures.  BUT.  I finally (lol it's "finally" because I would have gone to the midnight showing if I was in America!) got to see the new Harry Potter movie.  Carol and I went together because Wednesdays are apparently Ladies' Days, where women get in for 1000 yen (about 10 bucks) instead of the usual 1700 yen (about 17 bucks) or whatever it is.  Totally worth the money.  I can't wait to see the last movie!  It's going to be amazing.  Also, I had a quick lunch of onigiri (rice balls with stuff inside) and melon soda on my way to the theater.  Did I mention that I love food in Japan?  Even cheap, normal stuff like onigiri is just so good.  

After my class that night, I joined the Mie University Bible study, which is held in the Center, just down the hall from my apartment.  It's all in Japanese, but partly thanks to Becky and to the fact that I had an English Bible to follow along, I actually kind of understood the conversation and even contributed a little bit.  I was pretty proud of myself!  Afterwards, the group came over for cream stew over rice that Becky made.  And then we sat around, ate sweets and talked.  I was able to get to know my friend Alicia better, as well as Saki, who I'd met once before and is really great (and who spent the night because she lives kind of far away), and of course the other girls who were able to stay and hang out.  I honestly really enjoyed myself even though it was such a simple time.  I get so much encouragement out of the Christians here.  Being a Christian in Japan is difficult, so they don't have the luxury of being halfhearted about their faith.

Okay, I lied.  There's one picture.  Some of us who were hanging out in our apartment~


I had Japanese in the morning with Ishikawa-sensei, which was really nice!  I think I'm going to like studying with her.  She's really sweet and patient, but also very helpful.  She tells me that it's okay to make mistakes, because when you make a mistake, you're embarrassed, which makes you remember it well so you won't make that mistake again.  I need to keep up with studying throughout the week so that I can really get a good grasp of this new grammar and vocabulary.

After getting back from class, Becky and I went to Saty, the department store, to, at long last, get our iPhones!  We got a great deal on them, and it's really nice to have.  It definitely makes it easier to keep in touch with everyone, plus the fact that I can actually contact other people here in Japan now.  Not to mention play games, but you know.  It took a long time to get everything set up though, so by the time we were finished we were starving, so we headed over to McDonald's, where I tried the most recent icon chicken sandwich (a promotion going on here in Japan), the carbonara.  It was actually really good, with its carbonara sauce, egg and bacon.  Good job, McDonald's.

Thursdays are our traditional going-out-to-dinner days (plus we had some planning to do), so the three of us went to dinner at Coco's, where I got a cheese hamburger plate thing with super awesome steak fries, and, my new favorite beverage ever, melon soda.  (What is it with me and green soda...?)


It was Becky's birthday!  So we went out for a special lunch at a cute little French restaurant.

I love the corn soup that seems to be kind of standard here in Japan.

Hamburger with sweet potato and walnuts.  It was actually really amazing.

And for dessert, chocolate caramel noix or some kind of French name, idek.

After that I went to do some prep for class while Carol and Becky went shopping, and then I taught three classes throughout the late afternoon and evening.  Fridays are, right now, the only day I have more than two classes in one day.  Some days, like today, I only have one class.  But really, even though it's technically work, it doesn't feel like work at all.  Especially the two high school girls I had last, they're so sweet and fun and their English is so good, it makes it hard to believe I get paid to do this.

SATURDAY (oh look, that's today!)

Today was the much-anticipated Fall Baking Day that Carol put a ton of work into.  Like, really, it's incredible how many hours of work she put into this.  But I can say that it went really well!  Everyone seemed to enjoy it.  And I made a new friend: Katherine, a JET who's from Ireland.  We both have iPhones, so we friended each other on Facebook before she left, haha.

Hard at work!

Ready (almost) for everyone to arrive.

Pre-made pies for people to take home.

Fun event.  :D

Afterwards, I walked over to Saty, the department store, to buy a couple of things and pretty much just to check it out.  I've been in there, but I haven't really had a chance to walk around and explore until today.  And MAN.  I totally underestimated how big it is.  I knew about the grocery store in there, but I didn't know that it had an arcade!  And there's a food court, and stationary, and music, and toys, and a ridiculous amount of clothes.  When I have more money, some serious shopping is definitely going to happen there.  

And then I had class with my university student from 7:30 to 9, and then I checked my Facebook, watched a little tv, and now, at long last, here I am, writing this ridiculously long blog post to cover my entire week.  Props to anyone who read the entire thing.  Hopefully I'll be able to keep up a little better this coming week!