This is our documentary put together by Creative Impact Ministry. This is our story of coming to Japan, beginning outreach, and the “why” of it all!
We are uploading more videos soon!
This is our documentary put together by Creative Impact Ministry. This is our story of coming to Japan, beginning outreach, and the “why” of it all!
We are uploading more videos soon!
Well, I hope everyone has enjoyed the holiday season! I just love the wonder that fills the Christmas season. It’s just such a wonderful season… the hustle, the bustle, the parties, the decorations, the cookies… and a snowy Christmas Day or New Year is just about the best thing I can imagine.
I tolerate winter way before before Christmas and New Year than after. What about you?Once the afternoon of January 1 rolls around, I’m done with winter and ready to move on. January always seems to drag along, cold and frozen and unappealing. I’ve never really liked January, I casually observed to my husband the other day.
I still feel that way, but I’m trying to use this slow, cold time to make sure I’m setting priorities right for the coming year. We have a lot to do (I feel like I’m always saying that) and get done, a lot to think of and plan for… and even though we’ve been preparing in prayer to bring this year in, it’s been a good time to soak in some good heart-to-heart time with God. Especially since I spent most of Christmas break at home– Christmas colds made their way around the house.
Anyway!! I came here to post our latest video newsletter. We’ve been slowly transitioning the way we communicate, hoping to be more effective and let you experience what we’re up to and what it’s like. We hope you’ll enjoy it!202 – Japan Insider from NipponAlva on Vimeo.
It’s been a looooong time since I posted on here. But you’ve been on my mind. Tonight, I have a few minutes and my brain is still in semi-functioning condition.
Part of what has been keeping me away was a major (for me, at least) project that I was working on– a bilingual children’s church curriculum for next year, with a ton of resources that all had to be edited, put together and even produced. No, I didn’t translate it– my networker-extraordinaire friend Kayo hooked me up with a friend to work on this project. This has been a naptime and all-night project, pretty much every day for the last 7 months.
There will be more about that later, in newsletters and such. It’s really cool, and it seems like the Lord is opening doors for it.
But the other thing that has been keeping me away is just LIFE. Life with kids, life with your spouse takes time and commitment. But living life here, with kids, a spouse, ministry and a long list of must-dos that you wouldn’t expect to fall under that job title– it just takes up every last minute and every last brain cell.
Not complaining. It’s God’s grace that allows us to be here. It’s also just a matter of prioritizing what can realistically get done in 24 hours and letting other things fall to the side.
For example, I just got back from spending over an hour at the phone store. Our contract is ending and we have to decide what to do next– what’s the most economic route. We’d been trying to go all week, but something would always come up. I knew I needed to go alone to focus, so I put dinner on the table and snuck out the front door, leaving my husband to watch the girls.
The sweet girl behind the desk took her time to explain the system to me and what my options were. Sometimes she’d explain, I’d say ok….. Then I’d squint my eyes, look at what she wrote, pause, think some more, wait for the full connection to happen and then say, OH. Ok. But at the end, I did understand everything.
However, it took me only 15 minutes to explain it to my husband when I got home. There’s a big disparity of time there.
Last week, my daughter’s teacher called. Our conversation went something like this.
Teacher: Hi, This is so and so teacher from school. Is now a good time to talk?
Teacher: Ok. This week at school, ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ ROSALYN ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Christmas sock ~~~~~Fill it with candy~~~~ Sorry it’s so late ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Is this ok?
Me: A Christmas sock (stocking)?
Me: So I need to send a Christmas sock to school with Rosalyn.
Teacher: Yes, please. Sorry it’s so late to ask for it.
Me: Ok, so what size do you need?
Teacher: Well, the bigger the better.
Me: Ok, when do you need it by?
Teacher: We’re going to work on it on Friday, so can you send it tomorrow? I’m so sorry it’s so late.
Me: Yes, I will send it with her tomorrow. Thank you.
Teacher: Thank you.
Roughly end of the conversation. I look at the clock, load up the kids on the bike and head up to the dollar store to buy a Christmas stocking before dinner. Rosalyn picks it out, we stand in an unending line with a toddler who wants to rearrange every item in the store, and finally head home. I debate where to write her name on it, fold it up nicely to put in her bag and clear my brain of the task.
The next day, my husband comes in from picking our daughter up from the bus station.
“The teacher [another teacher on the bus] says you need Christmas paper for tomorrow.”
“Christmas paper? What for? What kind? How big?”
“I don’t know. She got really nervous and couldn’t really explain it.”
Thankfully, right about that moment, my neighbor chimes in my phone with a message. “I heard the conversation Vicente had with the teacher explaining that you need to bring [wrapping] paper from the dollar store to make a Christmas stocking tomorrow. I’m sorry you brought the wrong thing. I have a lot here, please use mine if you want.”
And I think, Good, because I don’t have time to go to the store again today!
So, she knocks on my door early the next day to let Rosalyn pick which paper she wants. I thank her multiple times and formulate a plan for repayment thanks– you always, always, always reciprocate any kindness. For repayment thanks, that weekend I bake her some sweets and deliver them to her door. She returns the plate in a bag the next day, along with some juice boxes. Her little repayment thanks.
There’s just a lot of little things like this that pile up and create long to-do lists that never end. It takes time to make sure we understand correctly, to do what’s asked of us, to figure out how to respond, to plan events, connect with people, make decisions about budgeting and taxes in two countries and how to balance and make the most of the framework we’re working in, pray and plan for future ministry endeavors, do newsletters, study, etc. etc. etc. etc. (there’s no particular order to this list, btw– and it doesn’t even include family life).
So, that’s where we are.
Now that some big projects are closing up for the year, I’m looking forward to Christmas break and hopefully a little rest for our brains before preparing for 2019.
We are really praying for what the Lord has for 2019– so please pray for us and for guidance from the Lord and that we will be bold and courageous and see this land for Him!
We’re well into the preschool year here. It’s created a whole new set of routine life for us. Rosalyn enjoys it immensely and comes home, repeating the phrases and songs she’s learned, hundreds and hundreds of times over. I’m amazed now, watching her interactions with the other kids at the bus stop and the kids at church. She uses what she knows and isn’t afraid to try anything, anywhere. She’s even occasionally called me “Okaasan” (mom), which gave me a double turn.
Speaking of Okaasan life… boy, it’s a new dynamic! I am so thankful for our neighbors– my next-door neighbor’s older child is a 3rd year preschooler and enters 1st grade next year. So, she’s beginning the process of preparing for her son to enter elementary. To that end, I’ve been with her when she’s stopped another mom in the complex to ask about rules and “how-tos” of elementary school. Yet another mom in our building was asking recounting her experience searching for a “randoseru” (bookbag) for her daughter– that she will use during the 6 years in elementary school.
As you can imagine, the bookbag with such a life as this, comes with a price tag– anywhere from $300-$800.
I had to take a deep breath after writing that sentence.
So, 9 months in advance and moms are already looking for the right randoseru. I asked about a certain store close by where I’d seen bags in the $300s and I kinda got the squinty -eyed blah look about their styles. Mental note to mark that down as “not cool”. Apparently the decent ones should run us some $600.
Anyway, that’s the future. We’ll start saving now, but that’s the future.
There’s a lot to pay attention to for school right now. I frequently reference the file folder bin on my refrigerator that has all the paperwork sent home from school throughout the week. Every month I have get a paper with the list of dates that I need to know.
Ok, kids are having dental checks on this day. She needs her toothbrush packed. They’re doing water play on Tuesday and Thursday this week– she needs her specified pool bag with towel and swimsuit. Bento days are also on Tuesday and Thursdays. I must do laundry as soon as she gets home on Fridays so that all her bags and shorts, uniforms, socks, towels and handkerchiefs are clean and ready to be sent Monday morning. (We don’t have a drier, so I can’t wait until the last minute to wash things). Parent-teacher meeting on this day. This form needs to be filled out and sent to school with her by this day. Money for this must be signed, stamped and sent to school with her on that day.
Occasionally, I get emails from the school with important announcements or happenings. For example, the kids at school grew cucumbers and eggplant (which Rosalyn points out at the grocery store every time now) and they made some kind of soup for the kids. That’s pretty cool!
I have a Bus Stop Group on the messaging app we use here. In the group, the 4 of us moms let each other know if our child is sick, will be absent for X reason or if we’ll take them directly to school that day. The other moms will communicate that to the bus helper, who communicates that to the school. Although– if it’s a school lunch day, I have to call the school too.
I also have a Class Moms Group. We have 3 moms who are official… somethings… in the class. They help organize something, though I don’t recall exactly what. One thing they are doing though is organizing a group lunch for all us moms of that class, which is next week. One mom reserved the spot and sent us the menu and we had to reply with our order and if we were bringing younger children. So, we’ll see how that goes!
Back to the bus stop. We typically gather about 10 minutes before the bus is expected. So, it’s 20 minutes a day to chat with the other moms, which is a great chance to learn and develop more friendships as well.
It’s very interesting how everything works. I feel mostly like I have the hang of things, though that’s in big part thanks to my neighbor and another class mom at our bus stop. I see how the cultural dynamic of “sempai-kohai” works. It’s kinda like a mentor-mentee system, but a lot stronger. I can feel the kohai-ness of my position. I feel like the system in general can be so complicated that this dynamic of sempai and kohai are necessary. It’s a lot of food for thought as I explore this dynamic in a personal but still informal way.
Well, it’s time to head to the bus stop to pick up my kiddo. Sayonara for now!
I stood in front of the rack of plastic-wrapped packages, one hand on my forehead, one holding the open book in front of me. I glanced up and studied the rack. I looked back down and studied the book.
Five minutes later, the scene was the same, only my kiddos were nearing the end of their patience. I looked around and spotted a lady with an elementary-aged kid.
“I’m sorry, I don’t work here.”
“I know, but you have a kid. [awkward pause] Can you help me?”
I had a whole list of things to buy, some of the packages looked like they might match the pictures in my book, but without labels, I couldn’t confirm. Everything made sense to all the Japanese moms, who knew instinctively what they were but I was at a loss as to why I needed so many separate bags. On some of them, the measurements and shapes mattered. Some didn’t.
I bought what I could confirm I needed and texted my neighbor on the walk home. A few days later, she helped me figure out what all I would need, what fabrics were used for what types of bags and where I could pinch pennies and just get it at the dollar store.
Gee whiz! The next couple of weeks were spent at the sewing machine we borrowed, sewing labels onto my kid’s uniforms and even writing names on socks, shoes and undergarments. The socks (I was advised to go dark colors) needed a special white oil pen and were best written on the arch of the foot, but as it wears out easily– I was warned I’d be forever doing this.
After finally redoing her uniform jacket’s sleeve adjustments multiple times, I finally called it a season and started to put away the pile that had become “school stuff”.
I began to look to the Entrance Ceremony. I was expected to wear a first-lady looking suit, with a corsage. Spring colors are chic for entrance ceremonies, black is better for graduations. Store that somewhere in my mental file cabinet of pertinent particulars. My husband would need a suit and tie for the occasion. I added these things to my checklist. Incidentally, I just learned that the corsage is not a real flower but a fake flowery thing… most of them too phoo-phoo for me.
I sat with our instruction booklet and a lady from church who went through each page with me.
“On Mondays, you’ll take all these bags. You put this, this, and that in this bag and the rest go on that bag. On Wednesdays, the towels (with the little loop you sewed to the center) will come home; wash it and send another back on Thursdays. School lunch is Monday, Wednesday and Fridays; you pack a lunch on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Still, go ahead and send the cup/bag each day because the kids get thirsty. Notes home from the teacher will come in this pocket. Check it everyday. You can send notes to the teacher in the same pocket on this type of paper; don’t call the school except for X, Y or Z reasons. The school will withdraw the money from your account right around the first of the month, so make sure it’s deposited.”
The specifications went on and on.
Thankfully, in all this process, it’s been so wonderful to have a lady from our church and my next-door neighbor to help answer the many questions I come up with.
This morning, I spent 30 minutes searching in near panic for one of the pins I’m supposed to put on her jacket. I stopped, prayed, and happened to look down at the book and read right at the spot where it said I would receive this pin at the entrance ceremony.
Whew. Did I mention I had a dream in February sometime that it was the first day of school and I had done none of these preparations and my kid was the only one standing out completely unprepared?
Yeah, I had that dream. It was occasioned by a note in the instruction booklet saying that kids experience a terrible shock when they realize they don’t have what they need and everyone else has– so please be careful to make sure you prepare your child well.
Well, I think we are all ready for tomorrow. Rosalyn certainly is, and I think that’s the main point. After months of preparation, I think we’re ready to embark on this first leg of the journey that is full-time school life in Japan.
The day before our trip home, during the trip home and even a few days after arriving back in Japan, our three year old let us know several times just how happy and excited she was to be going back home. When I asked why, she would always answer, “Because Japan”.
I suppose that’s a good enough answer. I’m sure we’ll realize it more as the girls get older, but we can start to see different ideas forming in their heads. For us, home is here, of course. But home is in America. That concept is fluid for us, at times. But for the girls, home is here in Japan. Here is where their friends are, their lives are. It doesn’t mean that they don’t enjoy the time in our “home”, but here is where home is for them.
Even our [now] one year old woke up on her first morning back in her room. Vicente tells me she was smiling and laughing the whole time, looking around and didn’t know what to play with first. She knew she was home.
I don’t know anything about this though. After counting down the minutes from 11.5 hours, we got off the plane, and I had one of the worst headaches– migraines– ever. But we made it. I took a drivers-license-worthy photo for the immigration desk, grabbed our lonely, waiting luggage off the side of the claims area and made it out the official doors to Japan.
Then, we had 10 minutes to make it from the upstairs bus ticket counter to the downstairs bus stop with 6 suitcases, 7 carry-ons, a stroller and two kids who weren’t exactly feeling the rush. We came home, after a hectic hour in which we put screaming kids to bed and ravaged through suitcases to find the immediate necessaries (re-set up the monitors, wash the bottles, where are everyone’s pajamas?, quick, let’s make the beds!), I went to bed at 7:30pm on Friday night and got up at 8am on Sunday morning. There were a few brief periods of consciousness, but they were few and far between, riddled with fever and chills and the voice of a bullfrog.
Welcome home! Love, the flu XOXO
Sunday morning, we made precious cups of coffee and when the kids began to make noise, we went in to find a baby with a fever and snot everywhere and a 3 year old who have vomited in the middle of the night and now had diarrhea.
Thus proceeded the next few days as the flu took over our apartment and we went into quarantine, as much as possible.
Except, that is, when I got a call from Rosalyn’s preschool letting me know I desperately needed to go in to pick up paperwork. I knew about this, but explained that we all had the flu. Apparently, that wasn’t as important as picking up the paperwork and opening an account at this certain bank so we can pay her tuition. With a sigh, I agreed to pick up the paperwork on Tuesday when Vicente got home from a meeting and could watch the kids.
With barely a voice and mask donned amid snow piles, I picked up a giant bag of school uniforms and lots of papers. I sifted through them at home to figure out what was important and realized that surprise! today was the deadline to turn in all bank paperwork and forms on Rosalyn’s personality and health history, as well as other necessary forms for schooling. No wonder they were in such a hurry to have me pick this stuff up.
Great. So, Vicente called the pastor and literally an hour and a half later, was beginning the process of opening a bank account for the purpose of paying the school. Two hours later, he rushed home and I finished up the paperwork while he printed a picture I’d just snapped on my phone of our daughter. Quick! Grab a gluestick and paste it to the form!
I grabbed my coat, ran outside, jumped on
my flying carpet bike and peddled my hiney off to the school. Six minutes before the deadline, I turned in all the paperwork, came home and collapsed.
Apparently, we’re back to Japan, where deadlines wait for no one– especially not moms with the flu.
I think we’re fully recovered now and can begin the process of figuring out life again. Besides a surprising lot of official things that have to be taken care of over the next several weeks, we have to re-adjust to life again and all our old relationships and cram our unpacked suitcases back into the nooks and crannies of our apartment.
Because, we’re home again.
I’m currently standing back in the flight attendants’ kitchen area bouncing my baby to sleep while on our trek across the Pacific. It’s been a good and exhausting trip— 6 plane rides for a total of 30ish hours crossing the skies, many hugs, way too much food and an ever fluid schedule.
Everyone asks how our vacation is going. “Vacation” is a debatable choice of words— something which our missions pastor and we laughed about just a couple days ago in his office.
I don’t really know how to describe trips back home now that we have kids. There’s a whole new spectrum both we and our kids go through on these trips.
We are house guests (well cared for, by the way). So we mind our Ps and Qs and are thankful that our wonderful hosts use ear plugs for our middle of the night rendezvouses (sp??) with our kids.
It’s a new acclimation to the American way of life. Finishing laundry in 2 hours is something that will never get old. I secretly doubt people who tell me they love to line dry their clothes. Clearly, they’ve never hung wet clothes in the winter and waited days for it to dry. Besides, drier-dried clothes are so much softer. And my jeans go back to their correct shape. 🙂
We’ve been gone for 3 years now, and while our hosts ask us if there’s anything we’d like from the grocery store– I find myself trying to recall what American grocery stores actually have in them! They’re huge though. HUGE.
Both our kids went through bodily changes during their stay. A change of diet, new foods left little tummies unhappy. And— all American formulas are apparently enhanced with iron, which required us to figure out solutions for.
Pedialyte: life saver for both our kids. I think I will buy it first thing off the plane in the future. Maybe in bulk.
New schedules, new beds.
New people! Many of whom know them, but aren’t known by them.
Reuniting with grandparents and aunts, uncles, cousins. Sometimes facilitating that relationship was hard and painful. Sometimes it was easy. We made quite a scene at the airport when my almost 4 year old clung to grandma, saying she didn’t want to leave, she wanted to stay or go together. We held up the security line as we sniffled and got our tickets and documents together and tried to do the right thing for everyone involved.
This same four year old everyday, sometimes multiple times a day, asked for our schedule. “Where are we going mommy?” “Are there friends there?” I think her having a grasp on the schedule for the day was her way of feeling in control of her new environment.
New names. We joke because everyone she referred to as “hey guys”.
But overall it was an enjoyable experience. Not without many considerable difficulties— imagine a screaming, sick baby for hours on end on a flight. Or the many hours spent after the kids went to bed preparing diaper bags and activity bags and extra clothes and baby food and formula and carriers and whatever souvenir gifts or paperwork needed for the next day.
Supply lists, choosing when to run errands.
Coffee. Lots and lots of coffee.
That’s one of those good things (coffee and creamer…. what a dreamy concoction!). We had lots of great fellowship with people, great events, and so much love and support from people. People were so kind and understanding toward our kids. Many times, trusted friends would entertain our kids (when they allowed it) during events or at church missions tables.
And we survived. We learned. We grew through it.
And we thank our home communities for their love and support, to make our “not so vacation “ a very enjoyable trip.