Feb 28, 2015

Ten Things of Thankful: February 28

Ten Things of Thankful



   Last Saturday, I attended the cross-cultural understanding class at the municipal International Affairs Center. This time, the theme was Chinese New Year. The teacher was Mr. K*, a Chinese chef running a restaurant in our city. He told us about some of the New Year traditions in China. We tried Peking chicken (instead of Peking duck), and almond jelly, which the chef had made for us. The Chinese dishes were delicious. He showed us how to make the Chinese pan cake, too. At the end of the class, Mrs. S*, taught us a few basic movements in Tai Chi  (太極拳). They were very difficult, and I remember only the first, easiest one.



a Chinese ornament for good luck




Peking chicken and Almond jelly



* * * * *




   I've finished the Bible memory challenge, and I've learned Psalm 27 by heart.


   In addition, I'm still keeping my New Year's resolution, and reading the Bible everyday.





* * * * *


   I'm thankful for the rice crackers that Mr. D* has given us. I especially like the ones that look like cherry blossoms.





* * * * *





   The Girls' Day known as Hina-matsuri (March 3) is just around the corner, and traditional dolls are displayed for this festival everywhere in our city this week. I saw these lovely dolls displayed in the city hall the other day. The dolls are dressed like the Japanese noblemen and noblewomen that lived about 1,000 years ago.








I'm also thankful for the hina dolls of my own, which my parents bought for me when I was about three years old.





Feb 24, 2015

Invitation









   I'm glad to have accepted His invitation.

   I accepted Jesus as my Savior at the age of 21. No one in family is a Christian, and I had never gone to church until I was 20 years old. Before that time, I had taken a glimpse of God in European and American novels and movies. I had been deeply moved by the novels and essays written by a Japanese Christian writer, Miura Ayako, as well. I had read a few books of the Bible, including Genesis, the Ecclesiastes, and Matthew in Japanese translation. In those days, it seemed to me that the Bible was a collection of rules, adages and stories. It was not until I started going to church that I learned the Bible is a love letter from God to me.

 
   Before I came to know Jesus, my goal was to have my own way in everything I did. When I was successful, I was proud. When I couldn't get what I wanted, I was bitter and depressed. I always wanted to be the best in the group. I wanted to be a 'perfect' person by making great efforts. I wanted to be admired by everyone. I wanted to be better than anyone else around me... I had thought that I needed to be 'perfect' in order to earn the love of others...


   Naturally, the time came when I had to admit that I couldn't live up to my own expectations by any means. I realized that I was burdened with myself and that I had been working hard for a wrong goal. I'm a sinner. I need Jesus, who has given up His life to save me.


   Jesus says, "Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest."

 
   I'm thankful that I've made up my mind to come to Jesus, casting all my care upon Him.













I'm joining Josie @ Two Shoes in Texas
for Two Shoes Tuesday.
 
writing prompts:
invitation / imagine




Feb 23, 2015

Memory Monday: My Other Jobs

Retired Not Tired Memory Monday


 

   I had my first part-time job as a private tutor when I was eighteen years old. I had my second part-time job for a few months just before graduating from university. This time, I helped a senior high school student, Yumi, to prepare for the college exams. I taught her English, Math, and Japanese Classics once a week. Her mother insisted on cooking supper for me, in addition to paying me for the private lessons. She was a friend of an acquaintance of mine. Every time I visited their house, I had supper with Yumi and her parents. She was a good student. She passed the exams.


   Immediately after graduating from university, I started teaching English as a foreign language at a senior high school in a small city by the Sea of Japan. Everyone was kind to me, and I enjoyed working with my students. I worked there for five years. I wished I could remain in that beautiful place for ever... The fact is that I was employed by the prefectural government, not by an individual school, so I was to be transferred to different schools run by the prefecture.


   The second high school where I worked was in a town surrounded by the mountains. It was famous for its heavy snow. While I was living in that town, I practiced skiing from time to time. My students were far better at skiing than I was. In spring and fall, I sometimes went hiking in the hills. I was blessed with excellent colleagues, friends and students. I enjoyed teaching there most of the time, except when I was going through a bout of winter depression. I came to love this town so much that I was very sad when I was transferred to another school.


   The third school where I worked was slightly different from the others. It offered various vocational courses and it had smaller number of students. There were fewer required subjects and more electives. Some students were keen and creative. Others were very difficult. What I liked best about this school was that there were relatively small number of students in a class. My smallest class (Writing in English) had only nine. Even the largest one (English 1) had thirty-five. (In other schools, there are forty students in a class.)


   Soon, it was time to be transferred to another school again. The last school where I worked was in a large city. Most of the students were highly motivated. I enjoyed being their teacher.




   I had planned to keep working as a teacher until my retirement age. I had never dreamed of giving up my job prematurely, but somehow, God has had other plans. One thing led to another, and I finally made up my mind to quit my dream job about two years ago.

   When I quit my job, I felt as if I had lost everything. Certainly, I lost my source of regular income. I lost my students. I lost my colleagues. I lost my apartment. However, I haven't lost my hope. I haven't lost my future. I haven't lost my joy. I haven't lost what I've learned from my experiences. Moreover, I have regained my health.





Feb 21, 2015

Ten Things of Thankful: February 21





Ten Things of Thankful




1. Last Saturday, I went to the snow festival held in the suburbs of our city. It was a beautiful day.



2. The chocolate cake I baked last weekend was O.K.




3. On Sunday, I had lunch with Mr. and Mrs. O*, Mrs. T*. Mrs. N* and Mrs. F*.



4. Our Christmas roses have come out at last.



5. A few weeks ago, a friend of mine told me about the bakery where they had begun selling good German bread. The other day I went to the shop for the first time, and got a loaf. It was delicious.




6. I'm thankful for the chest of drawers that belonged to my grandmother, which I'm using now.



7. I'm thankful for the long walk I took the other day. I took the photo below at that time.



8. I'm thankful for Johann Ludwig. Krebs, who arranged beautiful preludes and chorales for the organ in the 18th century. -- I've been practicing playing Allein Gott in der Höh sei Ehr (All Glory be to God in High) recently.


9. Our city library not only lends us books, CDs, and DVDs, but also gives us access to a web site, where we can listen to classical music for free at home. They give the user a password that is valid for two weeks. When the password expires, we can ask for a new one. We are not allowed to save the files in our computers, but we can listen to as many pieces as we like. I'm glad that I've found the pieces I'm practicing playing. I wish I could play as beautifully as those professional organists do.












Feb 19, 2015

Compassion






compassion

com- + passion

com- (together) + passion (suffering)

suffering together




* * * * *


   The English word 'compassion' is often translated as either 'omoiyari' or 'doujou' in my native language, Japanese. 

omoiyari

'Omoiyari' is made up of two parts: 'omoi' (thought) and 'yari' (sending, giving). This word can be literally translated as 'giving thought,' that is, giving consideration (to the others). The attitude of 'omoiyari' has been regarded as one of the most important virtues in our group-oriented society. 


The word 'doujou'  is spelt as follows:
doujou

The first kanji character in this word, 'dou', means 'the same,' and the second one, 'jou', means 'emotion.' Thus, 'doujou' literally means 'the same emotion.' 'Doujou' is sharing emotions with the others.


* * * * *




I've been studying English as a foreign language. I don't remember exactly when and where I saw the English word 'compassion' for the first time in my life, but I do remember how I learned the meaning of the word. I looked it up in the dictionary, and read the etymology, as well as its definitions.

'Compassion' -- 'com (together)' + 'passion (suffering)'


Compassion: suffering together -- This is a very powerful word. When we are compassionate, we not only give thought to the others and feel in the same way with them, but also 'suffer together' with them. It seems to me that neither 'omoiyari' nor 'doujo' conveys the meanings of compassion accurately. Certainly, compassion involves giving consideration and feeling in the same way, but it seems to mean something more. Compassion is not merely a feeling, but also sharing the suffering with the others, being with them, listening to them attentively, crying with them, and praying with them.



* * * * *


I may not come up with any excellent pieces of advice for you.
I won't be able to understand you fully.
I may not be able to help ease your pain. 
I may feel overwhelmed with the intensity of you suffering.
...It would seem far easier for me to ignore you and mind my own business...
However, I can choose to spend a little time being with you.

I will listen to what you have to say.
I will listen to your silence, too.

I will no longer refer to you as 'one of them.'
You will no longer think of me as 'one of them,' either. 

You and I will truly learn to call ourselves 'us.'





 * * * * *

I'm taking part in
and















Feb 17, 2015

My Grandmother's Chest of Drawers





   The oldest piece of furniture in my house is the chest of drawers that originally belonged to my grandmother, who had passed away years before I was born. I don't know what my grandmother looked like. We don't have any photographs of her. All I know about her is what my father has told me about her. She was hardworking. She was good at sewing. She worked as a housekeeper to help support her family. She raised three children. She died of kidney disease. She passed away on December 25.

   My grandmother's chest of drawers had been kept in the storage room, until my father had the house rebuilt decades later. When the new house was completed, it was moved to the new storage room along with other old pieces of furniture. I had no interest in the old furniture in those days. A few years later, I moved out, and started living alone in another city to go to university.


   Years passed. Now I was working as a high school teacher, and living near the school. During the vacations, I usually came back to my hometown and stayed with my parents for a few days. When I visited them one summer, I noticed a new chest of drawers in my mother's room. My mother had taken my grandmother's chest of drawers out of the storage room, cleaned it, and begun using it herself. One of the handles was missing, and she had put a makeshift handle in its place.


   The chest of drawers is made of paulownia wood, which is believed to be the best material because it is moisture-proof and difficult to burn. My parents once told me about the old Japanese custom of planting a paulownia tree when a girl was born. By the time the baby grew up and became eligible, the tree would be big enough to be made into a chest of drawers as a wedding gift. Even today, it is still customary for the bride to bring a new wardrobe and a matching new chest of drawers of her own to her new house in most areas in our country. --My parents didn't plant a paulownia in the garden when I was born, though. My mother's parents didn't seem to have planted one when she was born, either. Her wardrobe and chest of drawers were made of plywood. They couldn't afford those made of paulownia in those days.


   I don't know if my grandmother's chest of drawers was made of the paulownia that had been planted when she was born. It is at least eighty years old. Fortunately, it survived World War II. Though my grandparents' house was burned down in the air raid in 1945, they had taken most of their furniture including this precious chest to my grandmother's parents' house in the countryside several months before, so that it wouldn't be damaged in case of an air raid. When their house was destroyed, they stayed with their parents for some time, until the war was over. They finished building a new house the next year, and their furniture was carried into the humble house.


* * * * *



   My mother passed away in November, 2012. A few months later, I moved back to my father's house, and inherited my mother's room and everything in it, so to speak. I placed my mother's clothes in the storage room, and put mine in her wardrobe and chests of drawers. When I open a drawer, I sometimes think of my grandmother whom I've never seen. I also think of my mother, whom I miss.









I'm joining Josie @ Two Shoes in Texas
for Two Shoes Tuesday.

 
writing prompts: faithful / furniture





Feb 16, 2015

Memory Monday: My First Job

Retired Not Tired Memory Monday
   


   I had my first part-time job when I was eighteen years old. I taught a junior high school student English and Math as a private tutor during the summer vacation. The student was a sister of one of my classmates in my junior high school days, and her mother was a friend of my mother's. Her house was about a twenty-minute walk from my house. I visited her a few times a week, and helped her with the homework. --We have tons of homework for 'vacations' in Japan.-- I also helped her prepare for the entrance exams to a senior high school. I worked with her for a few weeks, and went back to the city where I went to university. 

   I don't remember exactly how much I earned, but I was happy to get paid for doing what I liked to do. I spent the money on books. I was glad to hear that my first student passed the entrance exams the next March.

Feb 14, 2015

Ten Things of Thankful, February 14

Ten Things of Thankful




Last week, I was the tenth person to link up to Ten Things of Thankful, which means I'm to answer the ten questions that Sarah gave me. In answering them, naturally, I'm going to count the things I'm thankful for.


1. What do you think you could eat for the longest number of days without getting sick of it?
Rice. In fact, I've been eating at least one bowl of rice every day for the last two years. I'll keep eating rice at least once a day for the rest of my life.
2. How often do you shower and wash your hair?
Almost every day. 
3. What actor or actress would you like to play you in a movie about your life?
松 たか子 (Matsu Takako). -- She doesn't look like me, except that she has black hair and brown eyes. It would be amusing, however, to watch the beautiful actress play the role of me. The theme of the movie would be how God has been leading me through ups and downs in my life. 
4. Name something you wish you had never thrown away. Explain.
The journals I wrote when I was a high school student. I threw them away about a decade ago.  If I hadn't, it would be easier for me to write the script of the movie about my life. :-)
5. Are you a good dancer? What makes you good (or bad)?
I'm afraid not. I'm not very enthusiastic about learning how to dance. If I were to dance in public, I would probably feel very embarrassed. I'm thankful that I don't have to dance in public at all. 
6. What fictional character would you like to have dinner with tonight? Why?
It would be fun to have dinner with Curtis Newton in the Captain Future series written by Edmond Hamilton. When I was young, the science fiction was made into an animated cartoon and broadcast on TV from 19:30 to 20:00 every Wednesday for a year. I had a crush, so to speak, on the good-looking and intelligent hero. I watched every single episode of the cartoon, and read all the novels in Japanese translation. I even wrote fan fiction myself. If I could see a fictional character in person, then I would like to see Curtis Newton. He would tell us a little more about his adventures in different planets.

7. What do you plan to purchase next? Why?
Right now, I'm not planning to purchase anything other than food and daily necessities sold at the local grocery stores and supermarkets. We have everything we need.

8. Look up at this very moment. What do you see?
I see the ceiling.

9. Tell about a favorite childhood toy.
I loved a toy dog, which I called Shin-chan. I bought it with the money one of my aunts had given me as a New Year gift when I was eight or nine years old. I felt as if it were a friend of mine, and I would often talk to it. I still have the toy dog in my room.




10. What is something you do every single day without fail?
I have two cups of hot green tea with breakfast.


I'm thankful for Sarah, who has asked me these questions. I've enjoyed answering them.






Now, let me follow the example of Kristi, and nominate anyone who'd like to answer the following questions. 

  1. What do you like best about blogging?
  2. What is one thing that you like about the place where you live now?
  3. If I were to visit your city as a tourist, what would you recommend I should see there?
  4. Have you ever eaten sashimi ?
  5. Do you collect anything as a hobby? If so, what do you collect, and why? 
  6. As a child, what did you dream about becoming when you grew up?
  7. What is your favorite season?
  8. Who is your favorite musician?
  9. What is the first thing that the word 'poetry' make you think of?
  10. What would you like to have for lunch tomorrow?



Feb 9, 2015

Memory Monday: My Favorite Teacher

Retired Not Tired Memory Monday   



  I was blessed with so many good teachers that it is not easy to tell who my favorite teacher was. I don't have enough time to write about all of them now, so I'll only write about Ms. Hosono, the teacher that has come to mind first. She taught me Spanish when I was a freshman at university. 

   I took the Spanish course because we were required to study at least one foreign language, in addition to English, whatever we majored in. Before I entered the university, I had known only a few Spanish words such as gracious and adios. 


   Our teacher, Ms. Hosono was from Chile. She spoke only in Spanish and English. She was probably in her forties in those days. She was petite, but she spoke very loudly. Her explanations were short and clear. She was friendly and cheerful. She mainly taught us basic vocabulary and grammar. We practiced saying different forms of verbs together again and again. "hablo, hablas, habla, hablamos, hablan ...."   (Somehow, we always omitted the second person plural.) Even now, I can clearly remember what her voice sounded like. It was a clear, pleasant, encouraging voice.

   Thanks to Ms. Hosono, I came to love studying Spanish. She is the best teacher of a foreign language to beginners that I have ever known. The class was 75 minutes long, but I never got bored. It seems to me that her smiles and enthusiasm made the repetitive pattern practices interesting and enjoyable. As far as I remember, she didn't use any special, innovative teaching techniques. She had us repeat after her. She had us practice in pairs. She had us write down the answers in our notebooks. -- There was something in her personality, however, that made her classes so worthwhile. She was always lively, kind, sincere, muy amable y simpatica.




Feb 7, 2015

Ten Things of Thankful: February 7

Ten Things of Thankful





  I attended a class in Cross-cultural Understanding at the Municipal International Affairs Center last Saturday. The teacher was Mr. E. from Bangladesh, who is now working and teaching karate in Japan. We learned a little about the history of Bangladesh and people living there. It was my first time to see someone from that country in person. 





   Mr. E. also told us about his life in Japan. He had begun to learn karate in his country, and came to Japan to learn more about it more than twenty-five years ago. When he arrived in Japan, he didn't speak Japanese at all. He studied the language and karate in Tokyo for a few years, and moved to our prefecture. One day, he realized that he had lost his wallet somewhere. On the next day, the police called him, telling him that someone had picked it up and brought it to the police station. He had his credit card in it. He went to the police station to get his wallet, and he was amazed to find it intact.

   After the lecture, we had Bangladeshi curry. It was similar to Japanese curry, but a little more spicy. (The city paid for the lecture and the food, and it cost me nothing at all.)




  
* * * * *

   I'm thankful to have served as the organist for the worship service on Sunday, February 1. I've been spending a lot of time practicing playing the electronic organ, and it seems to me that I've been making progress. However, the problem is that I've been practicing so hard that my keyboard is now out of order. The most frequently used key, Middle C, is broken. I've been using it for more than twenty-five years. 



   Getting it repaired would cost almost as much as buying a new one... I'm thankful for my father, who helped me take the music instrument apart to see what was wrong. We unscrewed dozens of screws carefully, removed a-quarter-a-century worth of dust, and found that a little piece of rubber under the key in question had been broken. If we could replace that part, the key might make a sound again, but I've decided to get a new one. We couldn't repair the electronic keyboard, but I now know what its inside looks like. We've assembled the instrument again so that it can be used until I get a new one.


* * * * *


I'm thankful for a friend of mine, who has given me some cyclamens.



* * * * *


The cookies from Denmark that I got at the supermarket tasted good.



* * * * *

I'm thankful for the books I've borrowed from the city library.





One of the books is about traditional Japanese fabric, two are on music, and the others are cookbooks. I've been more interested in practical books than fiction recently.



* * * * *

  ... and I'VE GOT A BRAND-NEW ELECTRONIC KEYBOARD, which is far better than the old one!