First Day at a New Job

Last week I wrote about Trash talk and our Neighborhood Group… and this group theme has been on my mind.

Honestly, it’s been a new world since we started school a month ago, which has kinda shifted our local network and how we move within it.

For example, there’s a family that lives in our apartment, and they’re quiet folks. We saw them only in passing but we tried to be friendly toward them to open a door of communication.

Well, the door is now off the hinges, because we are both now part of our Neighborhood Group. We both have first grade girls this year… and though we could never get beyond much of a “hello” beforehand, now we see each other and small talk or discuss things in the morning while sending our kids off, and the kids often play together in the evening times in front of our building.

There’s a sense of acceptance of us, because now we’re bonded as part of the group.

This doesn’t have so much to do with us personally, I think it’s more to do with the fact that we all have to have a sense of harmony in the group.

But, nonetheless, it opens the door for actual friendship and community.

Next, let’s talk about what I’ll call the Orange Group. Our kids in our neighborhood area are subdivided into smaller groups (like the one I was talking about above). But we’re all part of the orange group– orange being the color of the little ribbon we had to sew on top of the kids’ hats.

We have a list of the people within closer groups and sometimes we need to communicate with them for patrol partnerships. And usually we all meet at a certain spot to meet the kids walking home from school. This is a group that I’m still trying to mingle with and get to know more.

But they all know me… and often times they know a lot about our family. I have another post I’m working on about that– about our fishbowl lifestyle.

Anyway, walking home from school, the kids all walk in a pre-determined place in a line. There’s a mom in this orange group who walks behind us. The first several days, I just spent the time chatting with my daughter (obviously in English) and asking questions to get a sense of what her new world is like and how she’s faring with new friends.

But on one occasion, this mom behind us invited another friend who speaks English to walk home with us so that we could all talk and she could get to know us. What a surprise that was!

And she was a bit surprised too to find out that yes, we do also speak Japanese.

Anyway, this has turned into her and her kids often stopping by for a bit after school to play in front of our apartment. That’s required a little adjustment in figuring out my schedule, but has been helpful in talking about church and being a Christian (again, fishbowl).

Others introduce themselves to me by telling me who I must be (“Oh, you must be so-and-so’s mom”)…. Whereas when they meet other Japanese moms, it’s not obvious, and they may or may not have heard of each other. We just seem to be an open book.

So, it’s taken a bit of mental sorting to figure out and remember all these new people and our relationships and how they all work… It’s kinda like your first day on the job, where you’re meeting all these people from all these departments and learning who’s who.

But I’m definitely looking forward to getting to know more people and learn from them… and hopefully be able to share my hope with them as well!

Slouching Efforts

Yesterday, I attended the school play for my middle daughter. My husband attended our eldest daughter’s performance and they rushed home after a flurry of frenzied texts about the delay in the dismissal of the previous session. Dad and I made a mad dash of a switch as he hopped off, I hopped on and pedaled off with a different kid on back.

When I arrived, I keyed the code to get into the school grounds and as staff saw us, they ran to meet us, check temperatures, sanitize us and rush us off to our respective locations.

It was pretty amusing see my daughter whisked off by staff, switching her outdoor shoes for her indoor ones, taking her school hat and getting her ready. Meanwhile, I ran up the stairs and was guided to my marked square on the tatami floor of the school hall.

I sat down, took my coat off and tried to get comfortable, giving into the temptation to sit cross-legged on the mat. Very unladylike.

But as I sat, waiting for my daughter’s 3 and 4 year old class to come on stage, I noticed with customary envy how the women can all kneel so prettily and keep their backs ramrod straight for the entire time.

The other acceptable position for a woman is off-kilter, like you just tipped over the side of your legs while kneeling. The legs are still tucked under, and though the hips are at an angle, still somehow these women stay straight up without leaning on their hands.

It’s so pretty, and try as I might, I cannot pull it off for very long. My legs fall asleep, I fidget around after 15 minutes or so, and overall, I feel like I sit significantly higher than them since I have wider legs than they do.

At any rate, I saw the rows of straight backs and thought to myself, “There we go. Though I’m a bit late, it’s a good New Years Resolution in the health department: Good posture.”

My back aches, and it’s the proverbial January 2 today and I’m still trying to be careful to correct my body whenever my shoulders slouch forward, etc. I don’t want to end up an old lady, in pain and unable to walk upright. That requires action now.

Anyway, last night as I was laying in bed, enjoying the relaxing of tired muscles, I was thinking about the various bits and pieces that we need translated into Japanese for our website and in the general running of our ministry. Honestly, thinking about doing it myself made my head ache in a way that I instantly found a “pair” with in with my weary back.

Nonetheless, it needs to be done. I could take the easier road and ask someone to do it for me. But if I am ever to do “well”, I must make the effort though I know I will fall drastically short of my desired standard when I get it edited by a native speaker. Sometimes I wonder why I make the effort, as so many of my word choices or particle choices are exchanged for better ones. This is not to be unexpected, this is normal. We have to learn this way. And I can only make progress if I make myself dredge through it.

But, I think this kind of attitude MUST be with those who go on the field, from the very elementary task of language proficiency to the more “advanced” tasks of effective cross-cultural ministry. It’s wearying, it’s a joy (ok…. sometimes), it’s daily and constant, all-engulfing, and ultimately a privilege I see this attitude in several of those I have worked with or am acquainted with or even read about. It’s that sighing and yet, still pushing of yourself in an area (in ministry and in their personal lives– I think it often shows up in both arenas), that tightening of slouching muscles– to do things rightly. To do well. Maybe not perfect, but better than it has been… closer to the goal. Discipline. Excellence. Vision for the end game.

Because, God is worthy of my effort, and my utmost efforts reflect my perspective of the worthiness of God and the task He’s given me.