22 October, 2016

Grand finale day of Thrift Shop

I'm done in! Feeling frazzled. Quietly quivering on the inside! It was the grand finale of Thrift Shop today. The day when anyone can come and shop from 9 till 1. 

It was exciting to hear people excited to see what the campus looked like. I heard one mum explain to her daughter that it was a place where a lot of people speak English. I heard of another couple of ladies who were found wandering in the neighborhood who wanted to come but had trouble finding the school. They weren't interested in shopping, just seeing what the inside looked like. Thankfully my friend was able to show them where to go. Another local lady I served at the register said it was her first time, she seemed very impressed. 

One of the families I sold goods to had a little boy who was intrigued by my "register". We use old fashioned calculators that provide a printout of your calculations on a long strip of paper. I made his day by allowing him to type a few numbers and then giving him the printout!

It was also great to see a number of new parents at CAJ joining in as volunteers during the day. It's a great way to get to know other parents, especially if you have older kids. 

We spent the afternoon restoring the gym to its former state. I'm glad it's finished. But it was and almost always is an enjoyable and definitely worthwhile event. 

I'm also thankful for friends who helped me personally. One brought me coffee at 11, just when I was waning. Actually I was so tired at breakfast that I messed up making my toast, I was concerned about how I was going to manage handling other people's money (and speaking in Japanese) for four hours and not make some big mistakes, but it actually went fairly well. This morning I missed going to our sons' second-last cross country meet for the season. A couple of friends assured me yesterday they'd cheer extra hard for my guys. Gotta love having friends!
People everywhere you look. These are the registers.
 I spent most of four hours there today. And almost six
there yesterday. 

The view straight over the head of the register. We served people continuously
for at least three hours straight before we got to the end of the line
and had a break.  
This was the foyer of the gym where the seniors were selling hot food.

20 October, 2016

Fun while working

Thankfully I had a great sleep last night and enjoyed my day much more. But I'm still tired. I'm typing this on my phone while sitting in my "lounging" chair with my feet up and ice on my knees.

So, today I feature a couple of fun things about Thrift Shop.

1. Silly fun with other people.

Half of the Senior (Yr 12) class came in to help us this morning. They were in fine spirits. They did do some work, but there were some hilarious moments. Especially when one of the guys put on this tiny, sparkly shirt (it took help from a couple of others to get it on). He then added a black wig, a furry shoulder shrug, and picked up a guitar. The effect was stunning!

This is my son with a transformer mask.

We asked this friend, and fellow hard-worker to take the "triplet" photo below but first he tricked us by taking a selfie!

The red aprons indicate "responsibility". Thrift Shop committee members wear them. I thought three of us in red shirts was a fun coincidence and tried to get a photo with all three of us together but it was surprisingly hard to get us all in the same spot at the same time. Running Thrift Shop is a big job but fun moments like these help it to be a joy too. 

2. Crazy/interesting/unusual things that you find.

I think these are self-explanatory. 

I also did a bit of sign-work, especially late this afternoon. I couldn't resist taking this photo as an example of someone taking signs into their own hands. She obviously got a bit frustrated with what had been going on with the set-up of this table.

So now we rest and tomorrow is the fun, social day of Thrift Shop, when the CAJ and wider missionary community come to shop from 10 till 4. I get to sit down most of the day too as I work the registers, a great contrast to today. My knees will love me!

19 October, 2016

Signs and rubbish

Some of the signs we put up. Telling you you must put your PTA number
on the goods you donate (two on the left) and listing the things the money
made from Thrift Shop has been used for in the past (two on the right).

I'm feeling exhausted after a full day of helping with the school's Thrift Shop (garage sale). Yesterday afternoon/evening we set up the bare bones of the shop, meaning all the tables, clothes racks, and signs. It's the last of those that is my main job. Signs and rubbish. These two things are the main responsibility of me and another mum.

This is what the gym looked like yesterday after we'd finished setting up
the tables etc. Today we started filling those tables and racks. When I left
 after 6 tonight there wasn't much white space left.

We have hundreds of signs. No kidding! We have signs to tell you where you can put your stuff and where you can't, when you can put your stuff there and when you can't. We have signs to tell you where you can put other people's stuff and where you can't. There are signs about what sort of stuff you can put there and what you can't. We have signs for volunteers and visitors, members and non-member. Signs for cars and carts, rubbish and non-rubbish. Signs for calculating and sorting, pricing and tossing. Signs about entering and exiting, signs about staying and going. Signs for sections and subsections and sub-sub-sections. Well, maybe the last one is an exaggeration.

Yesterday evening we put up a lot of signs, maybe more than half of them. Today I've periodically heard my name together with the word "sign" mentioned. I tried to run away when that happened but they usually found me and wanted me to find another sign in the black hole that contains our signs. 

The problem with Thrift Shop is that there are lots of people helping. That's a blessing too: otherwise this would not be possible. But the problem with lots of people helping is that things don't always go as planned, so there can be inefficiency. Someone does something wrong that needs fixing up by someone else later. Someone doesn't know there is a sign for something, so makes one, and we therefore end up with multiple signs. Someone tells someone else to do something and then someone else tells someone else to do it differently. Yes, it happens. Just yesterday I had about four or five people tell me to do the same thing, something I'd already done.

The problem with signs is that they're out there for anyone to work with, so they often get put in places that are hard for someone else to find, even in the files that are supposed to be organised, but are hard to keep as such because so many people can access them.

These are, however, the prices we pay for working with many volunteers and at a speed that inevitably produces exhaustion and inaccuracies.

Then there's rubbish. Mostly consisting of plastic bags and damaged or dirty clothes. These seemed to multiply faster than rabbits. Both of us were picking and sorting up bags of rubbish from around the gym at regular intervals throughout the day.
At one of the two entrances. There are two ways to give goods to
Thrift Shop: as a donation (all the money goes to CAJ but the
volunteers on Wednesday have to price all the items
ourselves) or as a "tagged item" which means the donators have
to price everything themselves and the volunteers on Wednesday
and Thursday have only to sort and put everything out on the floor
in the appropriate places. But the "donors" get a percentage of
the sale price back if their goods sell before Saturday.
The white signs are about what you cannot sell at Thrift Shop.

On top of that I helped supervise students from PE and home ec classes who came to help sort, price, fold, hang, arrange, carry, wheel, and distribute goods to their correct place in the gym. You see this is a highly organised process and where most things go is well documented with signs!

In th midst of all this I managed to have fun talking to people. Three of us had a spirited discussion about the fact that two of us think we're ENFP (Myers-Briggs), but there are some significant differences in our personalities. I worked and chatted with another friend who also brought me coffee when she heard that I'd been awake for more than an hour during the night (my mind didn't shut down so well last night, I had signs running through my thoughts). I had lots of little fun exchanges as I worked alongside people.

But now I've run out of words and bed beckons. Because there will be more signs tomorrow. And more rubbish too.

18 October, 2016

Thrift shop craziness begins

Thrift Shop is about to begin (i.e. the set-up, the shop doesn't open until Friday). I'm feeling that normal pre-Thrift Shop tension: get-as-much-work-done-as-possible feeling because I know that I will barely sit at my work desk until this is all over. I know that there will be emails come in over that time that I won't adequately deal with. I know that at the end of Thrift Shop I'm going to be exhausted and it's going to take some time to get back into the work I'm doing now (mostly editing today).

But a friend put this photo up on Facebook today. It was a spontaneous group hug during set-up a few years ago.  It reminded me of how fun Thrift Shop is. It is a place to catch up with old friends and make new ones. It's a place to connect into the CAJ community. See here for an example.
Here's one of my friends and her two daughters,
all in teal and soaking up the atmosphere.
Here's another time when you can connect into the CAJ community: supporting sports, especially basketball and volleyball matches also in the school gym.

The seniors sell snacks, curry, hot dogs etc. at these home games. We often go down to mid-week games and have dinner. This particular occasion was heavily promoted, it was "Dig Teal Day". Everyone was encouraged to wear teal and they raised funds for ovarian cancer (I think the money was given to a school family who fighting ovarian right now).

It was a great night with lots of students and parents. But especially students: very loud students. A great night of school spirit.
Volleyball in motion. Even the photographer was in green.

This is the gym foyer where they set up shop

But now I'm feeling that panic monster on my shoulder again, "Get back to work, Thrift Shop is coming." So it's bye for now folks.

17 October, 2016

Another campsite to discover

I'm a bit excited, we've got our next camping expedition booked. It's at a campsite on a lake at the base of Mt Fuji: Lake Sai, about two hours drive from home. 

We're heading off on the long weekend of American Thanksgiving, the fourth Thursday of November. Perilously close to being officially winter! We've camped several times before on this weekend at a campsite a bit north of this one (see here for last year's camp roundup). That campsite has spectacular mountain views but last year we discovered that a couple of the things we really enjoyed about the campsite had disappeared: a big swing and the flying fox (zip line). So we decided to try a different campsite this year.

This one has advantage of not being on the side of a mountain, so hopefully it will be a little less cold. I loved the view at the previous campsite so I'm hoping that this one isn't a disappointment. Lake views can be great, though, and by the looks of what's on the website the lake is surrounded by mountains that appear to disappear straight into the lake. Plus there are other attractions like a mountain biking course, canoes to hire and nearby "bat caves". So we'll see if it is worth the swap. 

Check out the camp's website:

16 October, 2016

Acute culture shock

Every week we put out at least this much
clean plastic, most of it wrappers off
food. It's great that this seems to be
"recyclable" rubbish, but prevention
would be better! Part of the problem is
that portion sizes are small, so we get
through so many small packages being
a family with big appetites.
A few days ago I came across a blog post by young American lady who has been in Japan only a couple of months. She's suffering from acute culture shock. Lots about Japan is strange and abhorrent to her (she's also promised a blog post about the things that she loves about Japan, I can't wait to see that). We still struggle with some of the things she mentions but generally we've gotten used to them or have found ways around them. 

But it's nearly 16 years since we first arrived in Japan and it's hard to remember how strong those feelings were at the beginning. Of course we as a missionary couple with a young child we had different stresses, but we also probably had more support around us than perhaps this lady has. My biggest impression of the first 2 ½ months of life in this country was cold and snow: we arrived in Sapporo in December! One of the snowiest cities in the world.

But part of me wishes I could get alongside this girl and help her with some of her concerns, like finding water fountains and trashcans. All are available, she's just not finding them. I'm not sure where she is shopping, because she's having trouble finding cheese and decently priced fruit and vegetables. She just needs a few pointers and a bit of encouragement.

Other things she's concerned about makes me want to shake her and say "get over it", like Stamping: in Japan you rarely sign, you use a personal ink stamp with your name on it. It's not worth getting worked up about. Squat toilets: I actually don't mind them, they're not as bad as she's suggesting, life could be a lot worse. Sorting "trash" also isn't so bad, just a little tedious at times. Actually now I'm so used to it that it is hard to throw it all into the same receptacle back in Australia.

I agree with others that she mentions, like smoking indoors, excess packaging, and carrying around a soggy towel in your bag because there often isn't anything to dry your hands on is pretty gross and I avoid it if at all possible. The cash society can be an issue, in fact we had a problem with it just this last week. But with some planning ahead to ensure that you have enough in your wallet and it doesn't have to be a big issue most of the time. In fact this is something that we wouldn't have noticed if we'd come 30/40 years ago, because that's what the West was like back then too.

In any case, it is good for us "old timers" to be reminded of what it feels like to be new to all this. It's easy to judge her but I think compassion is probably the better response. And if you know a new missionary, prayer is the best response. Because adjusting to a new country without all your old support structures is really hard. Even harder when you're considering committing yourself to this for longer than a year or two.

15 October, 2016

Relaxing yet productive day

Today was a slow day. They cancelled cross country so we got to sleep in. So nice. I read for quite a while after that too and breakfast for me was very late. I surely needed the rest, I've been feeling very tired recently. Today bears that out, I've relaxed and it just seems to have made me more tired. That ever happen to you?
Oh, it also was clothes-sorting day. Fortunately the boys
were cooperative on that front today: enjoying trying on
clothes that fitted at the end of last winter but
 don't necessarily still fit, evidence of growth!
Cherry Blossoms on my route home, they've nearly lost all their
leaves. Early bloomers and also early "fallers" (what's the opposite
of blooming?.
Yesterday was a busy day, I spent nearly three hours on the trains, had a three hour meeting (that was stimulating and enjoyable) then a quick lunch with my boss. I also had to take my middle son back to the orthodontist so they could have another go at getting an impression of his lower teeth for when his braces come off in a fortnight, an hour and a half venture. I was out of the house from 8.30 to 5.30.

It was a gorgeous day for our local primary school's
sports day. It was postponed from last Saturday
 because of rain. Surprisingly it wasn't noisy. I'm a
little disappointed, I didn't get to hear the final
performance of the trumpeters who've been
"serenading" us for the past few weeks.
After lunch today I rode to get groceries I didn't have time to get yesterday. It was gorgeous out. About 23 degrees, warm in the sun, cool in the shade. I rode home along the two rivers I showed you yesterday, just to absorb the gorgeous sun and cloudless sky (the latter being very unusual in Tokyo). Thankfully my eggs survived, they haven't survived that trip before, it is a little more bumping than my usual route home from the grocery store!
Then I baked. A good fairly relaxing activity for the afternoon. But I really had trouble getting my head into the game, more than usual. However I did manage to make enough for our family's snacks this week (and hopefully into next) as well as snacks to give towards feeding helpers as we set up for CAJ's Thrift Shop again this week. Unfortunately I'd also scheduled a "busy" evening meal: Tuna Lasagne, so I collapsed on my bed after dinner, quite done in. I'm feeling a bit better now.
I'm thankful that tomorrow is also a slow day, aside from going to church, which always tires me out (something about listening to a sermon in Japanese does that).