22 June, 2017

Sleep deprived nation

Japan is a sleep deprived nation. If you live here and travel around on trains, there's no need to look at a study to know that. Morning or night, people fall asleep in all sorts of public places. I don't normally like to take photos of people sleeping in public, but in the last week I've had two opportunities to do so without embarrassing anyone.

People often stop their cars or trucks (especially work vehicles) and sleep in them, often with the engines running. This gentleman was in a work vehicle, stopped next to a local park with a cloth over his face. The time was 6pm.

This lady, I presume, was having a cat-nap. It was at a local food court at 10.30 on Monday morning.

Many people, especially men, come home very late from work (8 is early). School children also often are doing cram classes or sports training late into the evening. It isn't unusual to see kids on the trains after 9pm. Indeed it seems that many pre-school kids are kept up late too. Having a 7/7.30 bedtime for our young boys seemed extraordinarily early to my Japanese friends. So exhaustion seems pervasive in the whole lifestyle here. It's no surprise people are sleeping any time they get the chance.

Napping in public is actually a sign of diligence in Japan, this article says. Indeed it seems to be quite the acceptable thing, as long as you don't sprawl. It's not uncommon to see people asleep on the train falling to one side or other. That isn't so acceptable.

But apparently lost sleep is costing Japanese economy billions. I'm not sure how they figured this out. But this article says:
[the researchers] tapped into government and large company data sets on sleep duration to estimate defined costs. It also predicted the future economic effects if the trend continued. Absenteeism (people not showing up for work), employees not working (people taking breaks), and presenteeism (people being present but working at a sub-optimal level) were the reasons traced for the unproductivity.
It is a significant problem, obviously, and not just for economic reasons. This Japan Times article gives an example of someone who ended up with clinical depression due to overwork. Death by overwork is recognised by society and if it can be proven then employer is in trouble.

But why is this such an ingrained part of the culture, you may ask? Well, people have written whole books on this, so this little blog post is barely going to touch the surface. 

One theory is that the culture has been formed by the rice-growing past. Growing rice is not only requires constant attention, but it also requires collective work, hence we've got a hard-working culture where it's hard to change individual habits. It is frowned upon to leave many workplaces exactly when your shift is over, in fact, leaving before the boss is a no-no in an office environment. I've never worked in a Japanese office, but this is what I've heard and read. (One article about the "rice theory": rice paddies and culture).

In any case. It's difficult to change culture, and that seems especially the case in Japan. So, though the government is trying to make changes, I'm not sure that we'll be seeing less public sleeping any time soon.

21 June, 2017

Kids newsletter

Our latest Kids newsletter for your enjoyment. You can contact me for a full-sized pdf version. Feel free to use it however you wish.

20 June, 2017

My weekend

This last weekend I spent about six hours on trains over two days. 

I travelled from our western Tokyo home to east of the capital for an OMF gathering that included some long-term missionaries, but mostly foreigners who aren't officially with OMF, but also have a heart for reaching Japanese. Most Our region of OMF has been trying to provide some support and encouragement for such folk and this three-hour worship, fellowship, and discussion time was part of that. I enjoyed it, but it remains true that our headquarters is a long way from home.

Then on Sunday I travelled from home to Yokohama, south of Tokyo. This was an equally long journey. Just like Saturday, it involved three of four trains and about one and a half hours.
We met our friend at the train station nearest where the
church was meeting and we found an attractive little
pizza restaurant nearby. This is the salad that came
with the pizza. Minimalist, but tasty.

I took a friend to Yokohama and we met another friend who lives down there for lunch, Bible study, and then church at 2.15. We joined with a small OMF church plant for their worship time. 

My intention was to introduce our friend, who's moved to Yokohama, to a church down there. It was also a good thing to do. It's not very often that we get to see what other OMF colleagues are doing. Seeing a young church plant reminded me to pray for our colleagues even more. It's tough, slow work in Japan!

I was pretty tired at the end of the weekend. But I'd been fairly tired to start the weekend. I've been dodging illness-bullets for some time now, but obviously not taking time-off over the weekend was all that was needed to end my winning streak and I ended up at the doctor with an infection yesterday afternoon. I was pretty wiped out from lunch on. Thankfully it's an easy-to-treat infection and I'm already feeling better.

I'm thankful too that my job is fairly flexible and it isn't usually too hard to take things easy if I need to. The trick that I haven't yet found is how to avoid these situations altogether. I don't think I'm terrible at managing my time, but somehow I get over busy and I periodically get physical reminders like this, that I need to take some time to rest.. Probably it's a great blessing that these are relatively small things, gauges to help me see when I'm getting too worn out.

At this point I'm looking forward to our holidays. We're going away for a while in July. The rest is much needed and much anticipated. For three of the nights we'll be camping at Lake Tazawa (check out the lakeside campsite) towards the north of this island, with other venues planned either side of that. I'm looking forward to new experiences and stepping away from most of my responsibilities for a bit.

16 June, 2017

Life's been a bit topsy-turvy this week

Feeding the family continues. I made these brownies from
scratch yesterday and some are already gone. That's a
good sign! It's the first time I've made brownies from scratch.
Probably they're healthier than the packet-mix ones, they're
certainly lighter in texture.
It's time for a "what's been going on in our neck of the woods" type post.

This has been a topsy-turvy type week, as is usual in our house, the first week that students are on summer holidays, with the usual schedules all out the window.

Monday to Wednesday David was at school full-time participating/leading various compulsory meetings and finishing off his responsibilities for the school year. The boys were "full-time" at home.

Well, that's not quite true. Our eldest went off on a two-night hiking/camping trip in the mountains west of here with more than a dozen of his friends. You might think it is crazy to let a bunch of teenagers do that, but it's safe in Japan and looking at the character of this group of kids, we had no concerns at all. Oh, and one of them was a scout while another has exceptional orienteering skills. So our son was gone from Sunday lunch time till late on Tuesday, then Wednesday was a recovery day.

Our youngest son hung out most of the time with a classmate who lives nearby and has both parents as teachers. The boys spent most mornings outside and afternoons upstairs in his bedroom here.

Our middle son was home almost full-time. The most extreme introvert of the family, he's enjoyed being a homebody and having few people to interact with.

Thursday and Friday David's been at school part-time, doing preparation for next week (summer school) and next year (handing over some of his classes).

Our youngest and middle sons continued a similar schedule to the above. 

Our eldest son had training at school yesterday for the two weeks he's left for today as a summer camp "leader" (Americans call it "counselor"). During those two weeks they have three camps coming through, first one is grades 1 and 2! Then 3–5 and finally from next Saturday is 6–8. They're going to be busy and have a lot of fun. But it also is a paid gig!

There's no doubt about it, having older boys is definitely a different parenting lifestyle. But I like it.

My week?
And through all the above? Aside from Monday morning, I've mostly been at home trying to catch up on what has been put on the back-burner over the last month as I dealt with a senior graduating and parents visiting. I'm finally feeling a little more on top of things again. 

Oh, as well as mopping up the final things from the events that I helped coordinate for the seniors over the last ten months. I'm so glad that that is almost completely done. I don't think I'll be volunteering to such an extent for our younger two sons classes!

I also went out with a couple of friends for dinner on Wednesday night and that was a lot of fun.

This morning I did one of my least favourite chores: a starving blood test as part of an annual check-up provided by the Japanese medical system. 

I'm a little peeved, though. From my experience trying to get a blood test for an OMF medical last year, I knew that in Japan you can't get health maintenance checks at the "wrong" time of the year. But I'm due (according to Australian recommendations) for a couple of female-health tests. However it seems that I'm the wrong age. You can only have these two particular tests at a certain time of the year and only if you're 41, 43, or 45 (you get the idea, an "odd" age). But next year, when I'll be the "right" age, the tests will be in the second half of the year (as best as I understand the schedule) and by then I'll be back in Australia for a year! 

Sigh. As I'm not particularly worried about anything, I guess I'll have to wait another seven months till I'm in Australia settling out eldest son into university in February, to get those particular tests done. It's going to be a great visit to Australia (sarcasm intended!), but at least I'll be able to do it all in English.

So, in a summary, in the last twelve days we've gone from seven people in the house, to five, to four, back to five, (with an extra boy in there for several afternoons, but not for meals) and now four for the next eight days. Then, from the 24th, we'll have six days of three of us in the house, when our youngest goes away to summer camp himself. My meal planning and grocery shopping has taken a bit of a hit. Not to mention my sense of "normal". I remind myself occasionally that it's okay to feel a little off-balance.

15 June, 2017

Share my world #3

Camping and photography combined last summer!
Taken at sunrise at Lake Biwa.
I slipped off the wagon with this one. It's been a month since I last responded to the prompt. Here are this week's questions and answers:

What do you do when you’re not working?
I could write an essay on this, but my simple answer is: Read, watch DVD episodes, play word or card or other simple games on my phone, crafting, coffee with friends, riding my bike, photography, camping.
What would you do if you won the lottery?
I don't play the lottery, but if someone gave me a significant amount of money above and beyond what we needed, I might buy my first house or apartment in Australia. I'd probably also use some to support other missionaries.
What makes you laugh the most?
Yikes, that's hard. Possibly irony?
What is your biggest pet peeve with modern technology?
That I don't understand it well enough to fearlessly fix it myself when things go wrong with something like email that I use on a daily basis for my work.
Optional Bonus question:  What are you grateful for from last week, and what are you looking forward to in the week coming up?

I'm grateful that the regular school year has finished for everyone now. 
I'm doing something unusual on Sunday, taking a couple of friends to visit a church plant run by OMF colleagues in Yokohama.

This prompt comes from Cee's Photography blog. 

14 June, 2017

Summer holidays guidelines (2017 edition)

Last year around this time I posted about our family's "Summer Holiday Guidelines". It worked fairly well last year, so we're doing it again. Hopefully now they're one year older we'll see an even better response.

Here are our revised guidelines:

13 June, 2017

Advice on tentmaker ministry in Japan?

One email I had to answer in my work today was from someone who had found the OMF Japan website and was asking for advice about becoming a tentmaker in Japan. 

As I thought about how to formulate my reply, or even if I should pass this enquiry off to someone else, I realised that I had the perfect resource to start, one that has much more authority to it than I could on my own. Early this year we published a Japan Harvest magazine with the theme "Independent Missionaries".

A number of the articles from that issue are now online, so I sent our enquirer some links. I thought you might enjoy them too. These are articles "from the horses mouth". Independent missionaries/tentmakers themselves writing about their experiences.

Good and bad aspects of tentmaking by a friend of mine who has worked with her husband in a rural part of Japan since 1991.
Independent not self-reliant by a Malaysian lady who's been in Japan with her husband for just over a year.
Relational Evangelism by an American who teaches English in Japanese schools.
Doing mission when you're not a missionary by another friend who is in Japan after her husband got transferred by his company from the UK (she's the lady on the cover).

Tentmaking ministry in Japan looks different to other countries. I remember Aussie friends who were here teaching in schools when we arrived in 2000. One of the reasons they didn't stay long-term was that working full-time in Japan is very time consuming. Employers demand a lot and there is little left-over time for extra "ministry".

But some have made it work. I do recommend having a look at the articles I've linked to above, you'll see different perspectives to what you get from someone like me who lives (partly) off what we receive from generous friends elsewhere.

12 June, 2017

Special morning tea for staff

I did something a little different this morning. I helped put on a morning tea for the CAJ staff. It was a thank you present from the families of the Seniors who have just graduated. We did this instead of giving some of the staff presents. We figured that many of the staff at the school have contributed to our student's school experience and they all deserved a thank you. So rather than just picking out a few to give presents to, we put this together for the morning snack break of the staff's first day of meetings after school finished. 

If the reaction of the staff to this event is any indication, we did a good job of both surprising them, and showing our appreciation to them. They were extravagant in their praise. Apparently this is the first time senior parents have ever done this.

It was a team effort. I did little but help coordinate, buy some of the food, and be there to help set up and clean up. A few people who couldn't come provided food and decorations and this morning two ladies who came to help did a great job of making it aesthetically pleasing. We used money that was left-over from the banquet and after-party (we'd collected money from senior families at the start of the year to cover those two events). One of the dads even baked American scones, which were a major hit. 
I even got a bit teary in the midst of it all when I thought about how many of these precious staff members have taken the time to help my son. It hasn't been an easy journey and it was wonderful to be a part of something saying thank you to them all.
It was definitely the most satisfying of the things I've been involved in for this Senior class end-of-year events. The banquet was quite a spectacular event, but I spent a lot of time answering questions and dealing with problems, so didn't really get to enjoy it that much.

Now I'm looking forward to getting the final reports collated and handed over to the upcoming class so I can put this responsibility down.

11 June, 2017

Early Father's Day

We're living between two cultures that have the celebration of Father's Day on different days and we're thoroughly mixed up! We try to celebrate it according to the culture we're in (though it doesn't work if we move mid-year because then he either gets two or none). 

This year we didn't get either dates right: we celebrated a week earlier than the Japanese calendar says we should. But, as we sat with the boys at a Japanese bakery (one of David's favourite treats), the boys mused that really it shouldn't be just one set day that we appreciate a father (or a mother or any person for that matter), it should be every day.

It was a mistake in our planning initially, but it worked out for the best, for we soon realised that there won't be another Sunday until July when we're all together. In fact, for much of the next two Sundays there's only be David at home with two boys.

It was lovely to be out with our guys again. We did that on Friday night too, that time specifically to celebrate the end of school. It depends on boys' moods, but often an outing like this that includes food and drink is a winner for all concerned. It makes more sense to me, at this stage of life, to do this, rather than to buy more things. One of the most valuable things we can give each other is our time and for a teenage boy, it is an easier way of showing his love.

Below are some of the many unusual items I found today at the bakery. And no, we didn't purchase any of them.

Japanese bakeries are so cute. But they also have great food that you can
select yourself off the shelf at your own pace, rather than stand dumbstruck while 
the staff stare at you. Oh, you've never had that experience? 
Maybe that is because you're used to the bakeries in your neighbourhood. 
It is never easy for us to transition back to places in Australia that have 
counters where you order when you get to the head of the line. Not much
 time for considering all the less-than-familiar options (yes, even Maccas).

This English description had me curious, but not
curious enough to purchase it.
Stir-fried noodles in a hot dog roll. Interested?

Or perhaps a "mega-frankfurter doughnut" that
looks like it has cornflakes on the outside?

10 June, 2017

11 weeks of summer holidays?

Our youngest son came home with all these awards
yesterday (they were given in class and parents weren't
invited). Looking them over it seems I know my son fairly
well: creative and sporty. Even creativity in maths!
Yesterday school finished for our younger two boys. Now we face 11 weeks of school holidays. Yes. America has a crazy system! CAJ is locked into a similar schedule that the other schools in our region have. If they want to give the students opportunities like interschool sport, music, drama, debating etc, they need to keep somewhat in-step.

What are we going to do? Aside from going away for 16 days in July, it's not a very exciting summer, at least for three of us.

CAJ has three weeks of various "summer school" classes starting a week from Monday. Our two remaining school students will do a couple of "classes" each (art, wrestling, algebra, and computer programming). And David's teaching the algebra class. These classes are only one or two hours a day.

Two of our boys are going away to summer camps. Our eldest is also a leader (or "counselor" as they're called by Americans) on three summer camps for elementary and middle school kids (including his brother).

Early August David and I are also going away for a couple of nights on our own as an early 20th anniversary celebration.

My various jobs continue, but the pace of life at home is less hectic. Plus a husband around during the day who organises things like lunch and helps out in many other ways. Minus school-related things I'm involved in like prayer meeting and going to sports events. And minus homework and assignments to be concerned about in the evenings. So the pace is slower and the mornings later. Nice.

It does mean, though, that I get less time on my own and have to work with people in my "office" (actually just a corner of the dining room). Which has its own stresses, especially when it's hot enough to put the air con on. We only have air con in the main living area (kitchen-lounge-dining). So that means little breathing space for anyone.

But it's way less stressful than when the boys were little. We still need to get them out, boot them out sometimes (tiny backyards aren't ideal with boys), but they're not as difficult to manage as when they were younger. I used to particularly hate this coming week, when the boys were home and David still at work. I'm aware I'm privileged to be married to a teacher because I really did find "single-parenting" all the boys when they were younger very stressful.

I'm going to try to enjoy this uneventful summer. Because it will be at least three years before I get another. Next year we'll be moving to Australia and the year after we'll be moving back. Stressful times. This summer is a cake walk compared to that.

09 June, 2017

A slice of daily life in Tokyo

This is an "ordinary life" post. I don't see this as particularly noteworthy, but it's an aspect of my daily life that wowed my mum. I bought all these groceries at three stores this afternoon. They equalled two bike trips. A total ride of about 5km, 2.5k of that with a heavyish load (in a knee-length skirt).
Hauling groceries on a bike is just normal to me now. I know how to pack the bags and load my giant bike baskets so it all balances easily.

Maybe you might wonder why I bother when I could drive. And yes, all the grocery stores I went to today have car parks. There probably wouldn't have been much time saving either way, but I did get some nice exercise. And I like riding, getting out on my bike makes the chore of grocery shopping just a little more challenging and fun. I saw some pretty cool flowers too, but didn't stop to photograph them! This photo is from my own tiny backyard. But the hydrangeas are out everywhere.

Oh, and if you're wondering, this is not a usual shopping trip for me. I usually buy about half this amount twice a week at just one store. Some of today's shopping was for a staff morning tea we're doing on Monday as an end-of-year thank you from the senior class parents.

08 June, 2017

No street names

Only big roads have names in this country. The subject of our address came up recently with our boys and we explained (again) that the three numbers 1-19-10 in our address are 
  • the section of our suburb, 
  • the block number (and not a block as we'd know it in Australia, this is just a group of houses, our block has only about 12 houses on it and it takes the boys about 30 seconds to run around it), and 
  • A big intersection in our area: both streets have names.
  • the house number. 
The next word in our address is our suburb and then the city (Higashikurume) and then the prefecture (Tokyo). No street name at all.

In a way I'm glad the streets don't have names, there would be so many in Tokyo that it would be hard to work with. Instead we rely on landmarks (and Google maps).

I read in a book once that the way addresses are done in Japan is quite reflective of the culture. In the past you could only find an address if you were in the "inside group" i.e. family and close friends. It reinforces the "in" and "out" concepts in Japanese culture (see here for a good explanation).

07 June, 2017

Hints for staying afloat

Green spaces have helped me deal with the colander aspect of my life.
On Saturday afternoon I went to a farewell party for a family that we've have several different connections with. Their eldest two (out of five) children are in our youngest son's class. So I've been at various class-related events with this mum, including an overnight school camp. This year we've done sports with them too. Our paths have crossed for a few years and are diverging this month when they go to Singapore, closer to the dad's ministry assignment.

On Monday I went to the month OMF prayer meeting at our headquarters and we said farewell to three couples. Two are going on home assignment the other was just a temporary fill-in at the guest home.

Today I had morning tea with some OMF mums who have kids at CAJ. The youngest child of one of them graduated last week with our son and they're now going on home assignment (yes, one of the couples we farewelled on Monday). They hope to return next year, but possibly we won't see them for two years because we ourselves are going on home assignment this time next year!

Yep, farewells.

This week I found another post about resiliency. It's more about what helps you to settle where you are. The author suggested four things that have helped her maintain health and resilience:

  • Stay physically active.
  • Be fully present.
  • Make friends.
  • Unapologetically embrace your field.

I've touched on this topic a few times over the years, it keeps coming up and I need to keep working on staying afloat. Last year I linked to an article that had eight tips to help expats stay in their country of service. That list is:

  • Love the ones you're with.
  • Keep exploring. Keep learning.
  • Be you. (Or possibly before you can be you, discover you. I came as a young mum, I've had to figure this out as I've gone along.)
  • Be honest about the hard things. (But be careful who you share those with.)
  • Say hello well. (Be open to newbies)
  • Say goodbye well.
  • Help your kids say goodbye well.
  • Say "hey there" well. (Become friends with the locals.)
Yep, lots of good things. I might add some more that have been important to me:
  • Look after your health in general (sleep well, eat well, rest well, look after your spiritual and emotional health).
  • Take time for yourself. (Different people need different amounts of time, it turns out I need more reflection time than others in my family.)
  • Maintain connections with people who help but don't feel you need to stay close to those who don't.
  • Spend time in nature.
That's a fair range of things. Different personalities have different needs and levels of need.

What things do you find that helps you stay afloat? Be it in a foreign country, or in your own country?

06 June, 2017

Last week was a blur

As predicted, these last two weeks have been crazy busy and my head is feeling pretty fuzzy. As a way of untangling myself, I'm going to give you a quick glimpse of the bigger events of last week.

Our eldest son turned 18. It almost got lost in the busy week. 

On Monday night he stayed up into the early hours of the morning finishing his final high school presentation that we watched the next morning at school. He spoke for thirty minutes about gender inequality in sport, it was a culmination of a year's worth of investigation and writing. He did a great job!

On Wednesday night David and I accompanied our son to a parents and seniors banquet at a flashy venue downtown. I've been very involved in getting this organised, so it was almost surreal to be a part of of. All went smoothly except for the amount of food. Our group is a little different to the groups that facilities in Japan usually cater for: we've got larger boys (several over six-feet) and the party was non-alcoholic. Probably we were too frugal with our budget too.

It was fun getting dressed up (and then traipsing downtown on trains).

Thursday was a blessedly quiet day then Friday the biggest event: the high school graduation itself. I thought I'd be teary, but for the most of it I was fine. It's all a bit blurry now. There were 53 graduating seniors and about 600 people came to see it happen.

This was an extra special treat. We had several OMF colleagues, aka "OMF family" come to join us in the celebration. What a joy. Living at such a distance from our birth-families you tend to develop your own networks to survive and thrive. Over the years many OMFers have helped us in many ways and they do become a bit like an adopted family. Having these colleagues with us on Friday night was a reminder that our son didn't get to this point alone, nor did we. We've had a lot of support, both in Japan and in Australia. Many people have prayed for us and our family over the years too.

Straight after graduation we had a "mini" banquet, with a spread provided by the PTA for guests. It was crazy in a crowd that large. How many times did I get congratulated? Then just an hour after that the seniors all left on a final trip. A parent-organised all-night trip to the beach to watch the sun rise, eat breakfast and return (no sleep except on the bus). They were gone for 12 hours. David volunteered as a chaperone along with three other parents. When they got back our son slept most of the day and David had two long naps. But they did get a spectacular sunrise.

There is controversy about this particular tradition for a few reasons (not least being that it is expensive and took a lot of work to organise). I can see both sides. 

Last week I tried to explain to someone who hasn't lived overseas that graduation from an international school is a little different to a usual high school. I came away disappointed that my point didn't appear to be understood. These third culture kids (TCK) have a bond that will be hard to replicate as they go to other countries and mingle with a lot of mono-cultural kids who don't really understand what it's like to grow up in a country that isn't your passport country (or for the Japanese kids in the class, to go to a school that isn't in your native language or system and become a TCK as a result). When our boys were in Australia, it wasn't so much Japan they missed, but school. They feel "at home" there.

So for me, one reason I'm in favour of the trip because it gives these graduates time to say their goodbyes by just being together. This last week has been so hectic that I don't think there really was time for that otherwise.

And finally, we also said goodbye to my parents. Mum and Dad were with us for 12 days and on Sunday headed off on an adventure of their own. They'd booked a ten-day tour taking them to some very famous places in Japan. We're so glad they were able to come and get a glimpse of our daily life and celebrate these milestones with us. It does make me feel a bit sad and even guilty that they have to go to such trouble and expense in order to simply visit us. And then the best we can offer them is "camping" in our lounge room where they had little personal space.

So now, somehow I need to get back into ordinary life again. Our two younger boys finish school on Friday and David has a few staff days after that. I guess all of that will help jolt me back into reality, that and the list of things that got put on hold while I helped hold the household together over the last fortnight.

01 June, 2017

Last night's fancy do

This and the next photo were taken by Ush Sawada, the CAJ photographer.
It was such a privilege to have a professional to help capture the memories.
Last night we attended the banquet that I've been helping organise (since September last year). You can go back and see my post about the initial meeting here where I volunteered to write an email.

Alas it ballooned into much more than a simple email. As of now I have received at least 442 emails related to this and the two other parent-organised events we have going in these few weeks. And I haven't counted the hundreds that I've written, not to mention phone calls and just a few meetings. 

We struggled to find a venue in Tokyo that would hold us all (about 142 people)
 at the budget that we set. But thanks to one Japanese mum we found this
venue on the top floor of a downtown hotel and were able to negotiate
with the staff through her.
Isn't the room lovely? (Photo by Ush Sawada)
In that post in September I wrote "We have cross-cultural issues." We certainly did. We still did last night. But I'm not going to dwell on that because barring one problem, we had a wonderful night in a gorgeous venue with many willing volunteers who helped everything run smoothly. I think the night was enjoyed by the majority of those who attended.

A long escalator as we travelled down to the subway
for one of the three trains on our way home. Though
travelling this way wasn't odd, it was a little odd doing
it dressed up for a banquet. Thankfully I didn't have to
wear heels.
But I am thankful to have it over. As you can imagine a lot of preparation goes into something like this and the cross-cultural, bilingual team added to the challenges. My co-coordinator and I tried to stick by the principle of KIS (Keep it Simple), which meant we tried to keep extra fuss (and meetings) to a minimum. Unfortunately last night my head was mostly taken up with answering people's questions (which were important questions, and someone has to deal with that) and so I didn't have enough personal-social energy left in me to socialise as I usually do at events like this.

I'm thankful too, to my parents who were able to stay at home with our younger two boys (they watched State of Origin football, an important three-game annual series in our home state). It's interesting having overseas visitors stay, you see that what we've become used to is not "normal" to an Aussie. For example, that we travelled by train to this event, in fact we travelled on six trains. This is not abnormal to us anymore, but it was a new thought for our visitors.

Today's a bit quiet, but then tomorrow night is the main event: the graduation ceremony. Thankfully I have almost no responsibilities beyond being a mum (and daughter) tomorrow night.

30 May, 2017

Life is rushing past this week

Life is rushing on at a pace that I'm finding difficult to keep on top of right now. (Check out the schedule here.) So I'm taking a few moments today to process it a little here.

Last week we had our middle son's graduation and related celebrations. It was very good, but for me felt a bit overshadowed by what was to come this week.
Our son, who is more than happy that I don't want to put a photo
of his face here.
This week the focus is on the Year 12s. This morning our son completed his last assessment for high school career. He was metaphorically pinching himself at lunchtime, trying to realise that he'd really finished it all. The pressure has been intense over the last nine months and it's hard to believe it really is over. The rest of the week is full of various celebrations for the Year 12s, including the formal community celebration of the graduation on Friday night.
Yesterday I took my parents on a walk to a local department store
to get a couple of things they needed, on the way home I took a
slight deviation and showed them our local bamboo park. A little
haven of peace in our local neighbourhood. Only 900m from our
house, but because so much is stuffed into the space in-between
it seems like a lot further.
Meanwhile we've also had an 18th birthday here (and one boy at a 19th birthday down the road) and overseas visitors in the house. 

On top of that I've got emails zinging in and out of my inbox, many of which are related to the senior-parent-organised events that I'm helping organise. Just for good measure there are the usual kinds of emails I deal with related to the magazine, and OMF matters.

All of which are wonderful things, but I'm feeling a little like my brain has been shredded. I hope I don't make any significant errors in all that I have on the go.

I, too, am a little bit in shock that my eldest is finishing up at high school. Surely I'm too young? I need some time to process this, even though it is not an unexpected event at all.

In the meantime I'm trying to enjoy the present, moment by moment.

Enjoy having my parents as part of these significant events.

Appreciate meeting friends I don't often see.

More from the bamboo park. Such a peaceful spot and really very
close to home!
Savour the special events planned for this week.

Drink in these memory-making days.

And in the meantime, stay afloat!

Tonight we have out-of-town guests for dinner (here for the above-mentioned events). I'm looking forward to the simple pleasure of eating dinner with them and revelling in good conversation. But I really ought to go and chop up some carrots and capsicum before they get here.