Auto-correct

Auto-correct.

Oh the endless memes singing the censure of auto-correct! Ah, the awkward conversations that have resulted from its programmed eagerness to help, the ruined conversations and stained friendships, and the hilarious new inside jokes that have sprung out of its misguided substitutions! I it certainly makes typing romanized Japanese an entertaining challenge. Especially when combined with predictive texting!

Sometimes the mindless predictions and substitutions of technology actually have a lot of heart. Recently, whenever I’ve tried to sign my messages using the sweet tried and true traditional way, my predictive text has filled in the word with a different, but worthy sentiment. One appropriate for whatever passion, pain, or joy my loved ones may be going through. It is not the auto-correct talking when I write to you this: whether you are laughing today or crying, whether you’re caught in the doldrums or sailing briskly through the good times, there is power in effort, and this life you have is a valuable gift.So please, don’t give up, don’t give in. Keep breathing, and do the best you can with whatever you have. Cherish the good and the quiet moments.

Live,
Charlotte

Many Happy Returns!

The Knoxes are back!
The last week of June was busy with teaching my final English lessons and getting the house prepared for the Knoxes return from their furlough in America. Their homecoming has been a joyful one! It’s great to see them back among old friends and new. ^_^ Right now, we’re planning for English camp up at the church’s mountainside camp facility on the 18th. It’s going to be Birthday themed and should be a lot of fun! The Knoxes brought back a lot of old birthday and greeting cards one of their late parents had saved throughout the years. For the craft we’ll cut the pictures from the old cards apart and glue them to the front of some fresh cardstock to make birthday cards. The campers will write the message inside themselves based on some English phrases we’ll study together. It will be kind of like a very educational giant birthday party! I’m kind of language-geekily excited about the whole thing. >^_^<

English Camp will also be my last goodbye to most of my students and many of the friends I’ve made here in Japan. I’m happy to return to the US next month, but I will certainly miss them!


In other news, my Kickstarter campaign funded successfully! I’ll be traveling through Hokkaido for a week at the end of July. Thanks so much to each of you who helped the project — look for your hand-painted postcards, soon ^_^.

I’m writing now from my friends’, Tim and Christiane Marcy, house up in Nagano now. They’ve been here in Japan as missionaries for about seven years. Talking with them is joyful and encouraging! It’s a bit cooler here than in Saitama, which is nice. Their house is in a lovely, quiet area that has a nice country feel and very traditional-style houses. We’re off to walk around a park in a few minutes, so I’ll sign off for now.

Through Perseverance

   One of the calligraphy pieces my friend Fusae helped me write the other week was a favorite proverb of hers, “継続は力なり“which she explained as “through ongoing effort there is power.” Though the first thought to spring to mind is a picture of physical exercise, the adage holds true when applied to many other areas of life well! Certainly it’s true artistically.  Every mark on paper or canvas helps bring the work slightly closer to its finished state as the artist steps through the maze-like process of working and reworking the image as needed. Don’t give up. Even a drawing or painting that doesn’t fit the artist’s vision is valuable practice and can teach something. It is a building block in the foundation of the palatial skill the artist hopes to build.

   This is a concept I wish I had understood as a child! Back then, only excellent results rightly achieved mattered to me. I took Yoda’s pseudo-encouragement from the Star Wars series far too literally: “Do or do not; there is no try.” If my skill was not equal to the excellent competition of some task, I was defeated before I ever began. I didn’t see the value of trying if my vision of success were not fairly guaranteed. In a world of limited resources, giving up just made more sense.

  Don’t give up. You can’t see the results of your actions yet. Some old friends of mine had a story of a similar sentiment posted on their refrigerator about a man who was asked by God to push a giant rock.

   These have been frequent thoughts as my time in Japan comes to a close. I’m honestly not sure what I was trying to achieve as an end goal in coming other than having been helpful to the people around me — perhaps that’s a good thing, because this way I’m not distracted by thoughts of being a “failure” or a “success” at some greater goal. Coming here was the right thing to do. In the areas of linguistics, teaching skills, maturity, independence, fearlessness, human empathy, creativity, and faith in God, the simple acts of *effort * engaged here have helped me to grow in many ways unanticipated beforehand.  Trying to do the best I can with the resources at hand is in all ways beneficial, regardless of the outcome. What better can anyone than that?

I am going home, but I’m not giving up.

“Through perseverance there is power.”

M-San

    Last Saturday was lunch with M-san, the first person I met in Japan. Msan, longtime friend of our team leader, was our guide when the BJU mission team arrived back in 2012. She safely navigated 14 jet-lagged team members through the spaghetti-like train system from Narita to Narashino. She showed us the local sites and taught us new phrases. Laughed at our jokes and helped us with anything we needed. We only spent one week out of six under M-san’s care, but she left a great impression. Reminiscing with her that day made the four years since our parting seem like very little time, indeed!

   My own memory is faulty and full of holes, M-san’s is flawless I think. Thankfully, the typical way of Japanese speaker’s English is to provide a recap before adding a question or giving comment. “Four years ago you painted a picture for us, do you paint pictures like that now?” “Four years ago you mentioned you were once in a car accident. I wondered that was about,” “Four years ago, we said you reminded us of our friend, Ms. C. Do you remember that?” And, surprisingly, I found that I did. So much and so little can change in four years! Many of our team members are now married or have children, or have moved off to interesting places and done interesting things. M-san herself has been fighting cancer for the last few years. Yet she is the same hopeful, joyful person I knew then, though perhaps more mellow. Perhaps she’s more solid in her hope for having trials to prove it against.

We had a pleasant time reminiscing and agreed to meet again in July if at all possible. Strange that you can spend so relatively short a time with a person and yet feel that you know and value them as if you’ve been together so much more. This is not an uncommon sensation when spending time with Japanese believers. There is a hope we hold in common that is deeper than our words. A hope that defies the language and culture barrier.

13442157_500724936804159_9010389708426300470_n

Calligraphy

     Last Friday my friend Fusae came over for a bit of a reversal on our usual arrangement: instead of getting an English lesson from me, I got a calligraphy lesson from her! She very patently walked me through the time and basic strokes with the 筆 (fude) brushes and how much 墨 (sumi) ink to use. Then we practiced through some of our favorite kanji and finally she let me try using the fancy washi paper instead of the cheap stuff! I still have a long way to go before I can win prizes like Fusae, but she and I were both amazed at my progress. It’s so helpful to have someone skilled point out what to look for! There are angles and points in writing that I’ve simply never noticed on my own.

Calligraphy

    Back before I was a rabbit person, I had half a dozen pet hermit crabs. My sister, Crista, had only recently acquired her first rabbit pair, and we both happened to be exercising our pets at the same time. Poor young Bunbury couldn’t understand why I kept exclaiming at him to be careful and pushing him away from me. He finally buried his little fuzzy head under my arm in distress and a despairing apology. He simply didn’t know how to notice the tiny hermit crabs he was nearly trampling every time he hopped over to say “hi.”

1011962_560984227935_516457187_n

Bunbury as a teenager. He probably spent too much time online during those months, but he complained it was too hot to play outside.

   Living in a foreign culture seems similar to being a bunny in a roomful of hermit crabs (or vice versa). On your own, you may not even know how to notice the matters of cultural importance you’re trampling under foot until one of them pinches you severely. How valuable it is to have friends who will gently explain the matter to you and lift your understanding to it eye to eye! Thankfully, Japan is full of patient and understanding friends who do just that for me. However, I still sometimes find myself running into hermit crabs within my own culture.  😦 perhaps there is less gracious feeling among people who expect me to already understand. To them, I bow my fuzzy little head in apology and ask for patience. It will take time to learn what to look for. Living somewhere foreign is helping. 🙂 how amazing to see our own lives through the lens of somewhere else!

Good Grief

CricketChild and some of her family came to visit me again last week! It was great seeing her and CricketChildrenmeeting her brother and sister. We enjoyed the usual pastimes — Netflix, walks, exploring part of Tokyo, and getting purikura pictures to commemorate the visit. Though I hope to somehow get to Sado again before my time in Japan is over, this very well may be the last time I see CricketChild on this side of the planet. 😦

It was while we were shopping at my favorite recycle shop, Hard-Off, that the realization hit : I’m grieving leaving Japan. As much as I’m looking forward to being back with American friends and family at the end of the summer, it won’t be easy to go. Seems with only a little more time in Japan the article that says, Why Missionaries Can Never Go Home Again, will also be true for me.