Friday, January 28, 2011

For Now

So yeah...  The length of time between blog posts is getting longer and longer.  >_>  Sorry about that...  So let's start with last Tuesday, shall we?


Becky was gone for most of the day and I didn't have any plans, so I ran a few errands of my own.  I went to the post office to take care of a few things, which left me feeling quite accomplished because I had a decently long conversation in Japanese as I was being asked questions about the package I was sending.  I also went grocery shopping, which taking my groceries home was a bit of an adventure since I biked to the store and I kinda bought too much stuff, but in the end I managed, so!  Then that night Becky and I had gospel choir, and one of the ladies who sometimes comes to Carol's Bible study came to think about joining, which was pretty cool!  Generally a pretty chill day.


In the morning, Carol got her driver's license!  She is pretty excited about that.  So to celebrate, the three of us went to lunch with an older gentleman who was a student of Becky's dad and is a friend of ours.  The name of the restaurant is AIN...which I can't remember what it stands for right now but it's nonsensical English.  But anyway, the four of us had a nice time!  And the lunch set was pretty cool.  Carol and Becky got pasta, but I got hamburger with demiglace sauce~  The sets came with this little tray of different appetizer-type things.  Pretty nice!

Then that afternoon, I helped Carol with some gardening in our little garden just out front of the Center.  Then I was supposed to have class but my student didn't come, so the rest of that afternoon was pretty chill.  Then of course I had class that evening.  After my class, Becky invited me to go to Casa Mia with her and Paul, who had come from Osaka to help her with some financial stuff.  I'd already eaten dinner, so I got dessert: kabocha (pumpkin) tart.  It was amazing, and we had some nice conversation.  It was a pretty nice day!


In the morning, I had Japanese, as per usual.  After class I think I cooked lunch?  I think this was the day I cooked, haha.  Just like chicken and carrots and stuff, but it was actual cooking.  Then, since Becky had been in Nagoya on Tuesday, when we normally have our staff meetings, we met on Thursday afternoon instead, planning out that weekend's events as well as looking a little further ahead.  Then I think we ate at the cutlet (katsu) restaurant, which was amazing as always, and then I had class, and I think that was more or less it.


Thankfully I took pictures on this day, haha, so I can actually remember what I did!  Carol, Becky and I went to lunch at Coco's, where I got this awesome hamburger/katsu/curry combo lunch thing.

This lunch had a purpose besides just eating, however: Carol had offered to give Becky and I a kind of little seminar about teaching, especially me, since I'm still so new at it.  So she gave us some tips, tools and pointers, which were all really helpful!  After lunch, we ran a couple of errands, and then they dropped me off since I had class at 4.  The rest of the evening progressed as usual, with my other two classes at 6 and 7, and then we got ready for movie night!

This movie night was up to me, by which I mean I watched the movie, wrote the questions, and hosted the event.  This week's movie was The Blind Side, which I'd never seen but, as anyone who's seen it knows, is really good.  A guy from Becky's and my gospel choir group came with his wife- from their two hours away!  Pretty cool that he was willing to come that far.  Anyway, after the movie, a couple of girls who live in Yokkaichi, about half an hour away, stayed over at Becky's and my apartment, since it was too late for trains to be running.  It was fun hanging out and talking with them!


This was a totally fun day!  At noon, Becky and I met up with our friend Noriko and we went to lunch at Karakatta, a Nepalese curry restaurant.  I didn't take pictures because I've eaten there before...but of course I can't find the post right now.  It's there though, trust me.  With pictures of super gigantic nan bread.  But anyway, after we ate, we picked up Alicia and went to karaoke!  Noriko and I had been talking about wanting to go to karaoke for quite a while, so we were excited that it finally worked out!  Karaoke always has a different feel depending on who you go with and what kind of music they like, but it's always fun.  :D Although at first the karaoke people tried to give us the lamest room ever...  It seriously had metal benches inside...  So we asked them to let us trade, which they did.  Yay.  :D  

 I know I look kinda weird with my bangs clipped back, but they weren't cooperating that day, so...  Also, no one knows what Noriko is doing...

That evening was the church young adult group's goodbye party for Alicia, who's leaving Japan next month.  

The kabocha soup (in the cups) was SO GOOD.

We played a game where you had to tear letters out of the newspaper to spell words.  Pretty fun!

It says "Thanks, Alicia!"

A pictionary-type game.  Apparently some people thought sleeping was a good plan...?

Alicia was forced to cut her own cake.  Everyone was like "You're so good at it!"  lol only in Japan are people praised for their cake cutting technique...

My, this looks like a lovely gift.

A lovely gift indeed.  Alicia will cut you.

Bonus: Mine and Alicia's purikura.  :D

So yeah, it was a fun party.  :D  Then after the party, I helped Carol set up for Talent Night (the next night's theme for Crossroad).  It was sort of a lot of work because we were hanging up the various pieces of art and stuff that our students lent to us, but it ended up looking pretty cool!  But yeah, busy day.

So yeah, obviously this does not catch me up to the present, since this party was almost a week ago...but in order to actually post something, and to keep this post from being as insanely long as my posts tend to be, this is it for now!  Maybe part 2 will show up sometime tomorrow.  We'll see~

Monday, January 17, 2011

Whatever Normal Is...

So, after my last post, things have more or less gone back to normal, or at least, as normal as things are around here.  Let's see if I can remember what I've been doing...


I had Japanese in the morning, and man, it was COLD.  Also, it had been several weeks since I'd been to class thanks to the holidays and all, but I was able to get back on track pretty easily.  But I was so cold on my way home that I felt it was necessary for me to buy hot canned coffee from a vending machine.  (I LOVE Japanese vending machines.  Why don't American vending machines have hot drinks??)

In the afternoon, Carol, Becky and I went to lunch with one of Carol's students who was having a big birthday that Carol wanted to celebrate with her.  So we went to Casa Mia, of course.  I fail and didn't take a picture of the pasta and pizza we had, but the salad and dessert were super pretty!

It even came with smoked salmon sashimi!  Best salad ever!

Chocolate cake...mmmmm...

I spent the rest of my afternoon chatting on Skype, if I recall correctly, and then in the evening, our friend Michelle came to visit from Yokkaichi.  So we went to dinner, of course.  We went to Uretano Cafe, a cute little place I've been wanting to go to for a while but never had a chance to try before.

My "bacon" (actually ham) and potato sandwich.  Curry flavored!  The salad was amazing too.

My cafe au lait, which I got to assemble myself!  Super cute!

And because I fail, I didn't get a group picture of us...  But we had a nice time!  Michelle ended up spending the night at Becky's and my place since she had to be someplace in Tsu in the morning anyway, so other than the hour or so when I was teaching a class, I was hanging out and chatting with her.  A pretty nice day!


My main task on this day was teaching three classes; I also sat in on one of Becky's classes that's twice a month that I might end up taking over.  And I also cooked pasta for myself?  And worked on something for our upcoming monthly event?  A relatively uneventful day.


I didn't really have any plans on this day, and I actually never even went outside, haha.  But I did watch The Blind Side and write questions about it for our movie night this coming Friday.  I didn't have much else to work on, so I spent most of the rest of the day relaxing, talking to people online, and watching a drama.  Later that night, Carol came over and we kind of had an impromptu planning meeting, which was actually really good and productive.  Yeah, that's about it.  See why I haven't updated my blog in a while...?


A busier day than the days before.  We had church in the morning, then went to lunch with Paul Ewing, our field director, who came from Osaka for some meetings here at the Center.  A little later in the afternoon, I met up with my friend Anna from Yokkaichi and went to eat at Uretano Cafe again.  This time I got a different, but equally amazing, sandwich.  Anna seemed to really like it too, so I call it a win!  After eating, we headed over to Carol's where, along with five other ladies, we had our first meeting for a Purpose Driven Life Bible study.  I've gone through the book before, but it's been a while, and some of the others in the group aren't Christians or haven't heard this material before, so I think it's gonna be really good.  The Ismaili family was kind enough to give Julia and I rides home, since it was barely above freezing yesterday!  There was actually snow on the ground in Tsu in the morning, although not really where I live in Edobashi, since we're really close to the ocean.  But other places in Japan got lots of snow yesterday from what I've been hearing!  But anyway...


Which would be today...  Another day with not a whole lot going on for me.  Becky's been busy working on a book report, so I ventured out to run a couple of errands and do some shopping.  When I went out though, I decided to take a short detour to go see the bay.  It's been too long since I've been out there.

I loved the color of the water today.

Who wears boots on the beach?  Amber does!

Not sure why this is here, but.

I love this.  Only like a 5 minute bike ride from the Center.  Amazing.

The river that leads to the bay.  It looks pretty unless you notice the trash in the sand...but other than that...

Anyway, eventually I went on with my adventure.  My first stop was Daiso, the hundred yen store, to pick up a couple of things.  After that was McDonald's, because I heard there was a new Texas 2 burger, and apparently a new limited time burger at McDonald's means that I have to eat there.

Looks like I'll be going fairly regularly...  Curse you, McDonald's...

Not as good as the original Texas burger, but still pretty good~  It had chili on it.

I did a little more shopping around at Saty and bought a couple of things, like Heat Fact undershirts (they're supposed to keep you warm- this is the knockoff version of Uniqlo's Heat Tech and it was on sale!).  I also made this totally necessary purchase.  (In my defense, I was wanting new slippers, and they were...  5% off...)

These are the greatest slippers of all time, okay.

Anyway, this weekend should be a bit more exciting, but that's what I've been up to!  

Oh, and since I've been asked what my regular schedule looks like, here you go.  A Week in the Life of Amber.  For the record, returnees = kids who have lived in an English-speaking country and are now back in Japan.  Classes with returnees usually involves reading and answering questions about a story or article, since they already have a decent grasp of English.  Other classes (currently, my two kids classes) are the more traditional English language learning, like grammar forms, vocab, etc.

-10:30: church
-second and fourth Sunday only: Crossroad bilingual worship/fellowship event at the Center at 7pm

-day off

-currently no classes, although it looks like I'll be taking over a once-a-month class at 3pm
-late afternoon: Center staff meeting (i.e. me, Becky and Carol talking about our upcoming events, classes, etc.)
-two Tuesdays a month: gospel choir practice

-4pm: beginning English for kids.  One eight-year-old boy.
-6:30pm: middle school returnees.  Two girls.
-Mie University Bible study twice a month.

-10am: Japanese class.
-8pm: middle/high school returnees.  Three girls.

-4pm: kids experienced (intermediate maybe?).  Two girls and one boy ranging from ages 8 to 12.
-6pm: kids returnee.  One third (?) grade girl.
-7pm: middle/high school returnees.  Two girls.  (These two speak excellent English.)
-first and third Friday only: movie night at 9pm.

-used to have a class with a university girl from 7:30 to 9pm, but she cancelled for the next few months.
-second Saturday of every month: Inspa Christian returnee event in Nagoya.

So yeah, that's basically it, for those who were curious.  I'll probably start up some new classes when the new term starts in April~  But nothing's set in stone yet, so we'll see what happens!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Catchup Post

So, now that I got my post about Tokyo done, it's time to talk about everything that's happened since then...which, as usual, is kind of a lot.  Once again, this will be pretty long and photo heavy.  So let's get started~


I got back from Tokyo that morning, and sleeping on the bus is not the same as actual sleep in bed, so I pretty much put my stuff down, changed into sweats, and went to sleep.  I got up in time to go to lunch at Casa Mia with Becky and Alicia.  I didn't take a picture of my pasta, but Alicia and I got cappuccino mousse for dessert~

After that, Becky had to go, but Alicia wanted to do a little shopping, so I went with her.  We also went and took purikura, which was pretty exciting since neither of us knew what we were doing at all, and the instructions are really fast and in Japanese, haha.  And then we went to eat at a little cafe called Silk that I've walked by many times but never stopped to eat at.  It was pretty good!

Katsu curry.  And you can kind of see Alicia's omurice~

Coffee and dessert that came as part of the set.  All for less than 800 yen!

And cream soda.  Because apparently one dessert is not enough.

Later that night, Carol came over and gave me a bunch of addresses to type up for her New Years cards, so the rest of my night was pretty much spent doing that.


I ended up spending a big chunk of my day working on printing Carol's New Years cards.  (She knows a lot of people, you guys don't even know.)  And then I had class that night, and after class Alicia came over and we practiced a song (me on guitar, her singing) for her to perform in church on Sunday.  Kind of a good, productive day.


Carol, Becky and I went to have lunch at Denny's, which, even though it's technically the same restaurant, it's really totally different.  Get this: the food is actually good.  I know, shocking, right??  I got cheesy omurice with demiglace sauce.  It was pretty amazing.

The other nice thing about Denny's is that you get unlimited refills on coffee there.  That might not seem special until you realize that, unless you're at a restaurant with a drink bar (in which case you can get coffee, soda, tea, whatever you want), refills are basically unheard of.  So unlimited coffee is pretty awesome.  Especially since I've become a coffee drinker since coming to Japan...

Anyway, after lunch, the three of us did a little grocery shopping.  I also stopped in at the drug store next door, which was interesting, since it's hard to buy stuff like moisturizer when you can't really read the labels...  But I figured it out and everything was cool.  

So I had my classes that afternoon, which were pretty normal, and after that was movie night.  We watched Marley and Me, and to be honest, I was a little skeptical at first.  I mean, it's a dog movie...  But it stars Owen Wilson and Jennifer Aniston, and the story is really about their family and how the dog was a part of it, and um, I think I cried watching that movie more than I cry for most movies...  So yeah, anyway, movie night went pretty well.


Inspa!  :D  Or Inspire Union, the monthly returnee event in Nagoya.  Here we all are (except Jun, who was taking the picture).  (Note: Pictures from this day all shamelessly taken from Facebook.  I was too lazy to take my own pictures...)

 A couple of people had gone to the Equipper Conference in California, which is basically a conference to help people who have become Christians overseas to get ready to return to Japan, where being a Christian is not easy.  So the people who had gone talked a little about their experiences, and also had met some people who will be returning to our general vicinity in the near-ish future, so we broke off into small groups and prayed for those people.  My group was me, Jun, and a couple who had come for the first time, Ken and Mika, who were pretty cool.  I feel like I add at least one person on Facebook every time I go to Inspa, haha.  Which is not a bad thing!

After the actual event, many of us went to go eat at the Chinese place around the corner, which I think is the regular place because 1. it's close and 2. it can accommodate our large group.  And also, the food is super good.  Here we all are~!

We want ume chahan (plum fried rice)!

Afterwards, Becky, Jun, Kumiko, Makoto (all people from Inspa), and I went to Mr. Donut.  Man I love that place.  Jun was all upset because they wouldn't give him hot water so he could have more tea, haha.  They are very strict about free refills only on coffee, even though all the wanted was water.  Oh Japan...  Anyway, we stayed there and talked for some time, which was really fun.  When we left, Jun lives in Yokkaichi, which is halfway between Nagoya and Tsu, so he came on the train with us.  We had to stand almost the whole way to Yokkaichi, since we had to jump into the first car since we barely made the train and it was pretty crowded.  And once we finally sat (one whole stop for Jun), I'm pretty sure the guy sitting next to him threw up, and then was cleaning it up with tissues that the people sitting around him gave him.  A nice way to end the day...  But overall, it was a really fun day.  :)  


Another busy day!  That morning in church, Alicia gave her testimony, and then sang the song we'd practiced, so I accompanied her on guitar.  And then after church was mochi making!  Mochi is a really traditional thing to eat for New Years, and making it made me feel super Japanese.  Basically, it's made by pounding rice until it gets all sticky and...well, mochi-like.  A lot of people got to try it.

The pros hard at work.

Juri-chan giving it a shot.

Me.  Not gonna lie, it was pretty fun.  A great way to take out your aggression.  Don't worry, the guy gets his hand out of the way between hits.  It's part of how mochi-making works.





Everyone taking pictures.

Random English of the day, courtesy of the hot water pot.  "Princess Flower.  There are nice goods nearby.  Come hither, come hither, come hither!"


The assembly line, turning the giant lumps of mochi...

...into something like this.  Mochi in all kinds of flavors!


That night was Crossroad, but some of the girls from church came early to prepare for the next day's youth/young adult event.  Carol had made salad for us to eat, and there was enough to share with them too.

lol, Eri-chan loves food in every picture...

So during Crossroad, one of the games we played was Knots, a teambuilding game I've played before where everyone gets in a circle and holds hands with someone across from them, and then, without letting go of anyone's hand, you try to untangle the circle.  There were some pretty hilarious results.

This group was pretty fast.

This group...tended to have a hard time.  But they had lots of enthusiasm!

Somehow this group ended up as two groups.  Go figure...

Looks like it was interesting getting there though.

And the other group.  Good times~

The whole group.

Kensaku from the Chita Nozomi church (for those who know them, the church the Stollers work at in Nagoya) came and shared his testimony.  He and his wife Hiroko help out a lot with Inspa too, as well as JBC youth events in general, as far as I can tell.  They're both really great.

Hiroko giving her testimony while Kensaku translates.

After Crossroad, the young people (by which I mean both teenagers and young adults) headed over to the onsen (public bath), which was really nice~  The idea of a public bath is really weird from an American standpoint, but once you try it, it's really not awkward at all, and ahhh, the hot water feels really good.

Anyway, the group at that time included people from the Tsu church, the Chita Nozomi church, and a couple of girls from another JBC church.  Most everyone spent the night in the Center guest rooms, so a bunch of the girls ended up crashing mine and Becky's apartment for a couple hours that night.  It was really nice to get to know them a little bit better!


After what was definitely an insufficient amount of sleep, we had breakfast, and then a short break before the main session.  The session started out with a couple of games, and then we had worship, and our speaker was the pastor of the church in Ise.  After all of that was the main event: takoyaki making!  

The table before.  It's so nice and clean...

My takoyaki-making group!

Alicia joined us~

Yama-chan (lol, I doubt people normally call him Yama-chan but we kind of all made up nicknames for this event) and Aya-chan from my group.  Alicia working on the takoyaki~

The finished product!  Very delicious with ponzu sauce and mayo~

Kensaku trying our takoyaki~

So much going on!

Whoops, forgot to rotate this picture...  Anyway, this group had...interesting...takoyaki.  The regular takoyaki batter got mixed up with the pancake batter that we were using to make dessert takoyaki, so using that batter, they added azuki beans, octopus, strawberries, banana, chocolate, crab...and that white stuff is whipped cream...  Yeah, I politely declined to try it.

The group that made the...special...takoyaki.

Poor Eri-chan didn't know what she was eating...

What the table looked like after.  Not so clean anymore...

The event was rounded out with a little more worship before we parted ways.  I finally took a picture of the worship team.

And a group shot, of course.  It was a really fun event~

So everything got cleaned up and put away, and after a while it was just the Tsu and the Chita Nozomi people left.  The night before us girls had talked about a song some people knew about joy, and for fun we decided to sing it.  So we actually separated into parts, Kensaku taught each group their part, and we sang it together. It was a really catchy, upbeat song with nice harmony, so it was actually a lot of fun to sing, even though I didn't really know it very well.

I rounded out the day by having dinner at Denny's, where I had the "American club sandwich."  

I mean, I guess it was relatively American, but it had ketchup, egg, chicken and ham.  Not so much the turkey and bacon that I think of when I think of a club sandwich, but you know...


Pretty normal day.  I was feeling industrious in the afternoon, so I actually cooked lunch for myself!  

Chicken, rice, and kabocha (Japanese pumpkin).  I think I did a pretty good job!

I spent the rest of my afternoon doing some lesson planning, teaching a once-a-month class, and having the normal weekly meeting with Carol and Becky.  After our meeting, Becky had to prepare for a class, so Carol and I went to eat at Bronco Billy, which is apparently an Australian steak house.  It has a drink bar and a salad bar, which is pretty sweet.

Caesar dressing, bacon, corn, cheese...  Whoever said salad was healthy obviously wans't eating the kind of salad I eat.

Hamburger topped with bacon, fried onion, and egg.  And why yes, that's melon soda~  <3


Ahhhh finally caught up!  Today was pretty chill.  I spent some time online chatting with friends in the States, cleaned out my desk (it was a total disaster), taught a couple of classes, went to the last bit of the Mie University Bible study, and a few other things.  And maybe my next entry won't be super long, now that things are more or less back to normal (whatever normal is!).  Anyway, here's hoping I can stay caught up on what I'm doing here in Tsu.  :D