22 September, 2017

Kids Musings September 2017

Here's another thing I published this week. It's my desire that you use it and pass it on to anyone it could be useful to.

20 September, 2017

Two are better than one

Today is our 20th wedding anniversary. I'm glad we celebrated back in August by going away, but today we're just in the midst of everything and there's not much room for celebration. 

However, in the midst of the everyday, was an encouragement. This morning, as we usually do, we read the Bible together using the Our Daily Bread (ODB) notes. Today's short reading was Ecclesiastes 4:9-10: 
Two are better than one . . . . If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. Ecclesiastes 4:9–10
The short ODB article today referenced the 2016 Olympics where two 5,000m athletes helped one another when they collided. A picture of mutual encouragement that many across the world saw.

Though the notes didn't mention marriage, but that is of course where our minds went. How many times have one of us helped the other throughout these last 20 years! Our marriage is very much a team event, we wouldn't have made it this far if it had not been for a strong mutual commitment to one another. 

I'm so thankful. We're not perfect and neither of us is very romantic, but I'm grateful and content with what we do have.

19 September, 2017

Celebration of things achieved

Before I move on to the next things on my to-do list, I want to celebrate the things achieved.
Cover of the new magazine issue.

In the midst of the last week of travel and workshopping (and illness), two projects that have taken considerable amounts of my time have gone to the printer:

  • The latest issue of Japan Harvest
  • A greeting card for the use of our Japan Members for mobilisation of prayer
It's easy to peck away at the keyboard here day after day and forget that things I'm working are actually moving forward. The magazine issue I've been working on since May. The greeting card came out of the realisation that the prayer calendar I usually produce for the field was going to be cost-prohibitive this year, something that I discovered back in March. It is easy to just say, "They're done" and move on to the next project, but actually THEY'RE DONE! After months of work, they are actually completed.

Other things that I've also produced have been published online in the last week:
  • Three blog posts for OMF Japan: 
  • And I've been getting more active on social media too, with re-posting relevant things on OMF Japan's page. One of my fellow workshop attendees muttered, "What used to be just for fun has become work." It's true. I'm doing Facebook for work now! That changes the things a little. Although, I guess, in a way I've been doing social media for work for a long time, this blog being a big part of that.
And of course now I'm already working on future projects:
  • The next issue of Japan Harvest has been in the works for more than six weeks now, but thankfully I've only got one issue on my plate, instead of two for a few months now.
  • More blog posts continue to come in for the OMF blog
  • Another printing project for OMF Japan is on the horizon, I just need to kick-start it
I find it easy to think that I'm not doing much, but it's a lie. Perhaps I'm not doing what I do as fast as I'd like to, but I am not fluffing around doing nothing. What I need to find is a better rhythm. I'm not doing much in the way of exercise just now and it isn't helping my stamina nor, probably, my mental state at all.

18 September, 2017

Explaining is a key part of parenting

It's a relief to finally be sitting at my desk during a work day with (almost) everyone gone from the house and with energy to work. It's been more than a week since that happened!
I also did this on the weekend: supported our two younger boys at
cross country. Parenting is hard. Parenting TCKs is also hard, with an
extra layer on top that we wouldn't have had if we've brought our kids
up in the country of their passport. Interpreting elements of both cultures
they are a part of is one part.
Another is that we are their only family in
the country, though I know that many children in their passport countries
never have extended family at important events (I never did).
But we do feel it's important to be there for them at events like sport.
TCKs have more transition in their lives than I ever did and we, as their parents,
are two of people in their lives that don't move in and out of their lives.

Here are some slightly random thoughts from the weekend:

As a parent you're always teaching. But I wonder if parents of third culture kids spend more time explaining? I've mentioned this before: helping them explore Australian food and translating for soft drinks.

Yesterday in a short period after church I found myself explaining to them several other people's reactions to them.

This month our oldest son has started playing guitar for the singing part of the service at church. Yesterday I chatted briefly with one of the young mums who told me that there was a lot of admiration for him from the young parent's group. 

When I passed this on to our son he was a little confused. First of all he didn't understand the Japanese word used by the lady, then he was thoroughly embarrassed by the attention and didn't understand why they admired him. We explained that parents of young children look at families with older children who are "turning out okay" and wonder if that will happen to their own kids. Even hope desperately that it will. That's why is it great to have friends in a variety of stages of life, it is a great encouragement to see that the stage you are currently in ends and there can be better things ahead. Once we'd explained this, he understood and was happier about it, even slightly bemused as he pondered what we'd thought of him when he was younger and looked at older kids.

We've also received a lot of positive comments from the staff at school about him. He's working 28 hours a week there on the maintenance team, doing all sorts of things from shifting heavy things around, to weeding, and cleaning air conditioning vents. Apparently he's really appreciated, not just for the work, but for his reliability and quiet, but thoughtful nature. I'm thankful that he's not only earning money, he's making himself useful and genuinely helping others. Not to mention that obviously he's encouraging others by his general character. 

I'm also thankful that he has this meaningful work to do in this period of waiting. It's good for his brain to have a rest before embarking on the next stage of the journey, which is going to be far from easy. I talked this afternoon to a Japanese CAJ mum who's son graduated with ours. He's gone to Canada and is finding life and study there very challenging.

Why are they staring?
The other reaction of our kids that I fielded after church yesterday was this:

"Why must old Japanese ladies stare at us?" 

In fact the boy that said this was quite upset. We were sitting at Mister Donuts waiting for our order and a couple of older ladies were having quite a stare at me and my three white boys. I politely greeted them and they replied in turn. Sometimes someone would want to have a bit more conversation than that (where are you from etc.), but yesterday these two just looked. It's an age-old problem for foreigners in a land where you don't look like the locals. 

I said, "Just smile and wave." But that seemed to upset him more. This did surprise me. I thought that they were used to this by now, having grown up here, but obviously this is something that is bothering this boy just now.

So there you go: my random thoughts for the day. Thanks for stopping by. I'd love to hear how explaining is a part of your parenting. What have you had to explain to your kids in recent days, about other's reactions to them?

15 September, 2017

Adventures in Manila Part 2

Yesterday I spent all day getting from the OMF guesthome in Manila to my home. You would think with only a 4 ½ hour flight between Tokyo and Manila it would take less than 15 hours to make the journey, but neither the guesthome nor my house are close to the airport (in terms of travel time), plus in air travel there is a lot of waiting around. Travelling on your own can get boring! So to fill in time, I pulled out my computer a couple of times and wrote this:

I’m sitting in the boarding area at Manila airport. It’s a noisy place. Unlike some airports, there is no carpet, only tiles and vinyl or metal seats. There is a constant stream of people walking past. This terminal seems strangely small for an international airport (there are two other international terminals that aren’t connected). I can only see about 10 boarding gates and yes, I can see them all, if I lean around the big round pillion to my left. I think this terminal only services Philippines Airlines.
Talking about social media and using it in our work.

Reflecting on the workshop
I’m really glad I came. I wondered in this post back here, whether I would be “on the edge” again, but it seems that I was fairly well positioned to be doing this workshop. In fact within OMF, Japan is one of the leading countries in social media, especially amongst the fields. 

Indeed, I think it is the first training I’ve done with OMF that has mostly consisted of people who are involved in non-front-line work within the mission. It’s nice to be among others who aren’t so different, though there were no other editors in the group as far as I know. We had a handful of Aussies too.

My mind has definitely been stretched. The workshop has been challenging in that there is a lot I don’t understand and will probably never have the time to be involved in.

I took brief notes, but mostly about things that are relevant to what I am doing now and can foreseeable do in the next few months. Just like when you move to a new location, you first learn about the streets around you, and gradually the circle of local knowledge that you have expands to include places further away. That’s how I feel about this field. It would be too overwhelming, and indeed impractical to try to do or understand everything all at once. I’m starting where I am and will build up as I can.

At this point I’ll be working on getting into a good rhythm with the Japan blog and our new Facebook page too (some of you will have received an invitation to “like” the OMF Japan page, I’ve sent that to many of my friends, that’s one aspect of using social media for mobilization: getting the news of what we’re doing out to as many as possible). 

On the Facebook page I’d like to post not just links to the blog, but interesting information about Japanese culture as well as general prayer points and even photos. I’m happy to receive suggestions if you find things you think might be of interest or even have photos that I could use for prayer “memes”. 

On one of our jeepnee journeys I was directly behind the
driver. It's a little hard to see, but he's got a Peso
note in his hand. On the little ledge in front of him is
a bunch of coins from which he gave us our change.
I'm going to attempt to figure out some kind of rough schedule for that too, like I have the OMF Japan blog, so I have a bit more control over my schedule. I need to do some work with the lady who's in charge of our Twitter account, so that we can get some consistency going. That’s probably enough to start with, considering the pace I’ve been working at recently! Anyway, enough about work.

Out on the town
Last night we went out for an end-of-workshop meal at a lovely Filipino restaurant. The food was delicious, but probably what will remain with me is the journey to and from the restaurant: on the quintessential jeepnee and, unexpectedly, a “motorized tricycle”.

A jeepnee is like a mini bus that you board from the rear, with bench seats along the sides. They are naturally air conditioned, with no glass on the windows. Amazingly the driver deals with the fares and giving change while he drives, with passengers handing the cash up to the front via other passengers and then the reverse for the change . . . all while the vehicle moves. I guess the less time he’s stopped, the most income he generates?

The motorized tricycle is a covered sidecar on a motorcycle, although not a low sidecar. We fit three people on ours: one behind the driver on the motorcycle and two inside the sidecar, though it was a challenge for two Westerners to fit on the seat inside the sidecar, though neither of us were large. It was a bit scary because our driver drove fast—he was zipping past other bikes and vehicles.

Both there and the way back we traveled around a 10-lane roundabout. Though it was large enough that it mostly felt like a single-direction road on a curve. What was amazing was watching our jeepnee driver make his way from the inside lane to the outside lane to exit. Somehow, I didn’t notice the return journey around the roundabout. I’m pretty sure we did do it, but I was jammed between two locals on a tiny edge of seat and because you’re sitting with your back to the outside, visibility isn’t great.

I’m sure it would take a while to figure out how to ask when to get off a jeepnee, because it seems they can drop you off anywhere along the route and there are no announcements! Nor could I figure out how you know how much you pay. Thankfully we had some locals in our group that kept us from getting hopelessly lost.

There were a few small birds inside at the Manila boarding area!
Another overwhelming impression was how thick and polluted the air seemed. I felt like washing out my lungs after we arrived at the restaurant.

More public transport
The adventures on public transport continued this morning as I made my way to the airport with my roommate, a lady in her 20s from Malaysia. We used Uber, something I’ve heard about, but never used. The car we rode in was a very comfortable sedan. The traffic was pretty horrid, though, it took nearly two hours with lots of stops and starts. I have a lot of respect for the driver. Actually, all the drivers. The traffic just seems to flow in and around each other, very close at times—though the lanes were very fluid no one collided. It reminded me of driving in Bangkok and Indonesia.

I’m going to have to put this computer away now, it’s time to squeeze into the metal tube they call a plane and wing my way north to Japan again. Hopefully I’ll make it home in reasonable shape. I’m really quite tired.

A bit later in the air
Yes, I hopped on the plane, but it took two hours from doing that until it took off. If we were told why, I didn’t hear the explanation. It’s so frustrating, knowing that all I want to do is get home into my own bed.

I’ve said before that travel isn’t my favourite thing. It’s exhausting. Even though this is just a 4 ½- or 5-hour flight, it’s going to be well over 12 hours from door-to-door.

We’ve got a very tired and grumpy toddler in this section of the plane. Actually, I was sitting with her and her mother, but because the plane isn’t full was able to move one row forward to give them a little more space. Hearing the screams doesn’t make me nostalgic for those years that we travelled with little ones.

It took me until just after midnight to get home. Thankfully I was able to lie down on three seats and rest for quite some time after I wrote the above. That gave me the stamina for the two-hour train journey home, during which I stood a good portion of the time.

12 September, 2017

Adventures in Manila Pt 1

I'm blogging from the OMF guesthouse in Manila . . . and I shouldn't really be. But I do find that writing down what's been going on when things are a bit intense helps me process and unwind.

So here are a few highlights of the last three days.

I left for the airport straight after church, travelled the 1 ½ hrs on three trains, and went through all the procedures for catching an overseas flight. No real hitches! Phew!

In the midst of it all I realised that it really was only about the fifth time that I've flown overseas on my own. Usually I've been with family or at least one other person!

Where I'm spending my days.
My chief concern was the plan to link up with someone from the UK who landed at a different terminal and to catch a taxi together (for about an hour). Getting public transport in a country I'm unfamiliar with is not something I'm super confident about! But we eventually managed, not only to get our electronic communication to connect, but also to find a taxi that wasn't going to charge us an arm and a leg.

The workshop started Monday morning. It is about mobilising people for mission using social media and the web. I was surprised to find that I'm a bit further along in what I know than many of those at the workshop, but still I know (and continue to have found out) that there is much, much more I could potentially learn or do. I think that's the challenging part of it. What you can do seems almost unlimited. You could certainly spend far more hours of the day than I have, doing it.

View out our bedroom window. There's a not-so-quiet
10-lane road in front of that church!
My notes are full of action points and things to further investigate. I'm certainly not bored. After all, there aren't too many all-day meetings that you can go to when you can "fool around" on Facebook, while totally being on-task!

I had the yummiest fruit for lunch today: mango! Something that is a rarely enjoyed treat in Japan. These were just perfect.

Screen shot from my phone from early afternoon.
But sleep is something I've struggled with, as usual when I'm away. First night I tried to sleep in the muggy heat (long story about the aircon that I decided not to put on). 
Last night my roommate and I decided the air con was a good idea and I slept a lot better, but was woken at 5am with torrential rain. 

5am is my body clock's 6am, about when I'd usually get up on a Tuesday, so it isn't surprising to me. But I've been "going" with little break now for about 15 hours, so I really need to call it quits. Workshops like this are really stimulating. So many ideas, so much to learn. It is hard to switch off. And, of course, I've got other things going on too (I was proofreading between sessions today and answering emails also).

The rain continued to periodically pour down torrentially all day. Apparently there was flooding in various areas of Manila, but we are high and dry. I haven't even been outside since Sunday!

There's much more I could write, but really, really I need to go to bed.

11 September, 2017

Encouragement from our local church

This was our pastor taking a photo of the congregation of the
9.15am congregation on the 56th anniversary early this year.
One thing I love about our Japanese home church is that it is balanced. It has a wide range of ages—from babes to elderly and most of what’s in-between (a thinning in the teen to young adult range, though). The other balance we’ve repeatedly seen demonstrated over the years is its view of its place in the world. It is not insular.

It is rooted in the local community which is demonstrated in events like the annual summer festival and weekly cafĂ©. They’ve just started an afternoon homework-type club for local kids.

It’s a rooted in Japan, demonstrated by concern for ministries going on in various parts of Japan, we regularly have had speakers from various ministries like Bible translation into Japanese sign language, hiBA (a high school ministry), university campus ministries. For several years the church sent teams to the post-tsunami devastated area of Tohoku.

It’s got its eyes on the rest of the world too. The church supports ministry and missionaries in other countries. It supports a school for disabled and abandoned kids in the Philippines. Missionaries in countries such as Taiwan and Turkey have spoken at church and the church supports overseas missionaries. I’m not sure how many (to say I find reading the finance report a bit difficult is an understatement), but it seems that we often have a guest here saying thank you for supporting our ministry.

It does all of this, while at the same time working hard to pay off the debt of the small block of land next to it that it bought in the last couple of years. But that hasn’t stopped it looking outwards.

Yesterday we were blessed with a guest speaker from Wycliffe. The speaker was not a translator with Wycliffe, he was a teacher of the kids of missionaries in Papua New Guinea.

It was amazing to hear the parallels of this family’s story to ours. Actually, I have worked with the wife at CAJ’s Thrift Shop, but hadn’t heard much of their story. The husband was called to ministry when he did a short-term mission trip to Indonesia (we also did a trip there in our early 20s). He was felt specifically called to teach missionary kids, as was my husband. They first went to Papua New Guinea from Japan in 1999, just a year before we went from Australia to Japan. He still feels passionate about the education of missionary kids, despite being called back to Japan to head up Wycliffe’s sending branch here.

I’m thankful to be a part of such a church. Oftentimes I struggle to feel a part of it at all. My language skills hold me back from knowing more people and what’s going on. But it’s a blessing that we can be present every week. There is a love there that goes beyond the spoken. I love standing on the sidelines and seeing what this church is involved in and quietly thanking God that his name is glorified in this place.

It’s good for us during the summer to go to more rural and remote places and worship in other churches, to catch a glimpse of how it is to be a part of smaller churches. But I continue to be encouraged that, in this country where the chance that you will meet a Christian is less than one in a hundred people, there are mature churches and mature believers. Churches and believers, that though they are seriously in the minority in this land, continue to draw their strength from God. They haven’t collapsed in the face of the enormity of the task and they aren’t looking inwards. It’s terribly encouraging.