Sunday, September 29, 2013

May, June and July! Oh my!

Well, it seems like the time has quickly come and gone and, seeing how these months are long gone, I thought I would just fill in the gap for the spring here.

Since Caitlin and I are now married, this blog will mostly fill space for my ruminations on Japan and the various adventures that we get ourselves into that don't make it to the monthly newsletters posted on Caitlin's blog.

May, June and July went by fast, and the first trimester of my second year of classes was over before I knew it. Between finish grading, continuing to plan new classes and getting ready for our wedding, things were quite busy.

We did have Sports Day again, which was again enjoyable, even though the black team didn't win.
Cheering on the black team!
School proceeded as usual for the most part, although I am teaching new classes and still had to continually plan every week and still keep up with grading.

One of my favorite diversions from the planning was the time spent with Caitlin, mostly by Skype calls, but also with a few lovely visits from her, and occasionally, with her sister in tow. We also managed to plan for our wedding and transport the majority of Caitlin's things down to Kyoto in preparation for her moving down after said wedding.
A wonderful visit and good food too!
That's a quick wrap up of the quickly fleeting spring. We appreciate your prayers and please continue to pray for both the work we do in Japan and our new marriage!

Monday, May 6, 2013

An audacious April

Hello friends and family!

In Japan, school begins in April, so we have started another year already! Things are going smoothly, thanks in part to the fact that I have had a little more time to plan for the new year and I have a year's experience under my belt.

This isn't to say that everything is easy though. I'm teaching a whole new section of classes, along with many of the ones I taught last year. Some of the students in my new class are relatively new learners of English and it's been a little bit of a struggle to find activities that are at the student's levels. One of the best parts of my days though, are when the students finally 'get it' and their eyes (and relieved expressions) show realization that they do know what a concept means in English.

Making pancakes for Easter breakfast!

I ended March and started April in Tokyo with Caitlin and her family. We had a lovely time during Easter and during the break between school years. She was able to come to visit me in Kyoto during the festivities of Golden Week, one of the largest (and longest) holidays of spring in Japan. We had a wonderful time together, getting the apartment ready for her arrival this fall, attending a friend's wedding and getting our engagement photos taken!

One of my co-workers is a very talented photographer and he graciously offered to take some engagement photos for us. We had a great time - laughing and posing, but still trying to act natural in front of the camera. If you're interested in Japan or just like good photos, you should click here to check out his website.

This month, please remember these prayer requests:
  • Pray for all the students as the year continues. 
  • Pray for Japan and the salvation of the Japanese people. 
  • Please continue to pray for the teachers and staff with all the work we have to do.
  • Pray for peace and repose as Caitlin and I finalize our wedding plans. 
Thank you for your support of God's work in Japan!

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

A fleeting February and a maniac March

Hello friends and family,
It has been a while! My apologies for the lull in updates. Between school ending, days of endless grading and my computer becoming a very large paperweight, I regrettably did not send out a newsletter for February.

February, as always, was a short month. Valentine's Day this year was notable, as Caitlin came to visit me. We had a very nice time taking walks, exchanging gifts and eating lots of chocolate. Valentine's Day is a little different in Japan, as women as expected to give chocolate to men. The next month, on March 15th, men are expected to return the favor and give the women a gift in return. White Day, as it is known, was created by candy companies to sell more product. The Japanese mindset of reciprocation is also a big influence on both holidays, as anyone who gets a gift is obligated to return one. For a little more detail, see this blog post.
Exchanging gifts for Valentine's Day.
It was fun to see the students giving each other little gifts and enjoying the holiday. I was also able to share in my classes about St. Valentine and his love for others and appreciation of marriage and love between couples. I also gave all my students a small piece of candy on White Day, although some of them seemed confused as to why I would do that.

March came and left almost as quickly as February, but with lots more to do! KIU follows the Japanese school year, which means the school year ends at the end of March, which means I have finished my first year of teaching! March was full of grading, planning for next year and graduation for the senior class of 2013. Things were very busy, but we got everything accomplished!

Enjoying the cherry blossoms in Tokyo!
This week I'm enjoying a bit of a break and relaxing with the Essenburgs in Tokyo and getting some planning done for next year. Classes start in a little more than a week, so please keep me in your prayers as I start my second year of teaching!

This month, please remember these prayer requests:
  • Pray for my planning and lesson making for brand new classes and a new school year. 
  • Pray for all people in Japan who suffer from hay fever, myself included. 
  • Please continue to pray for the teachers and staff. 
  • Pray that school year can start well, both for the students and teachers. 

Thank you for your support of God's work in Japan!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

A Jaunty January

The chill in the air is still here in Kyoto.
January has passed and it is cold!

After staying in Tokyo as long as I could, I made my way back to Kyotanabe for teacher workdays. Winter semester has started, and I am almost done with my first full year of teaching at KIUA! School is still a bit of a challenge, but things are going well. The short winter term means that I have to start getting ready for next year already! Between grading and planning for next year, there's not much time for anything else.

Thankfully not much time doesn't mean no time for anything else. This month, I was able to visit a rice pounding ceremony called mochitsuki at the local city hall. Mochitsuki amounts to a New Year's Festival where cooked rice is made into a soft dough, called mochi, by pounding it with a hammer. The dough is eaten with various fillings and toppings and is very delicious. For those who live stateside, there is even one in Portland every year!

I might have gotten a little excited...

Kinako, in front, and anko filled mochi. Tasty!

This month, please remember these prayer requests:
  • That I can stay on top of planning and grading this trimester.
  • For the students' health and attitudes- that both would be good.
  • Please continue to pray for the teachers and staff.
  • Pray that the final trimester of the year will be finished strong and planning will go well.
Thank you for your support of God's work in Japan!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

A Delightful December

Winter is definitely here, the weather is chilly and my apartment is very cold!

There is no central heating in Japan, and getting used to living without it has been a bit of a challenge for me. I do have a heating unit in my apartment, but it is not the best when it comes to raw heat.

Despite the cold, December went quickly. We had one week of classes and followed by Finals Week. I seem to have gotten some kind of hang of things, and this finals week was a little better than the last one. After I managed to get a large amount of grading done and my scores reported to administration, I zipped off on the shinkansen (bullet train) to Tokyo!

Christmas with the Essenburgs
I got to spend a lovely Christmas season with Caitlin and her family. I was inducted into the rather extensive traditions of the Essenburg family, which were all wonderful. We made a gingerbread house, enjoyed Christmas pudding, eggnog and other holiday treats, watched Christmas movies and filled in the advent calendar. Unfortunately, the holiday could not last forever, but I really enjoyed it while it did!

Caitlin and I also worked on our wedding and honeymoon plans. We are happy to report that the honeymoon lodging is booked!

 This month, please remember these prayer requests:
  • My personal level of stress and that I can deal with it - preferably with more exercise.
  • That I can get acclimatized quickly to being back home in Kyoto.
  • Pray for the winter trimester that we can all do our best, teachers, staff and students.
  • Pray that the last part of the year will be finished strong.

Thank you for your support of God's work in Japan!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

A Noteworthy November

And another month has flown by, leaving me with a newsletter to write!

Especially noteworthy this month was KIU's school festival! School festivals in Japan are a special time of year when students get to show their parents, relatives and community what they are able to do. Here's an interesting and informative article on school festivals in Japan.

All of the classes ran booths for the school festival. The high school classes ran food booths, while the middle school classes had activity booths. The activities included sports, like a basketball shootout and batting cage, as well as nail painting. My sixth grade homeroom students ran two booths! The boys had a air gun shooting range and the girls ran a accessory shop. All the students worked hard on their booths and actually made a profit, which was then donated to charity!

The school festival theme.
All in all, the school festival was very enjoyable; the food was delicious and the students all seemed to enjoy themselves. The school festival theme "One for all, all for one" was proudly displayed as the high school and middle school worked together to help everyone have an enjoyable time.

In between another round of TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) tests and wrapping up the trimester, I was also able to take a group of high school students to help with a community service event for the Osaka Marathon. All of the high students are required to complete a certain amount of community service before graduating. At the marathon, we checked in runners on Saturday and handed out snacks to them on Sunday! It was a difficult two days, with ten hours volunteering each day, but we pulled through and it was good to see that most of the students have caring hearts and are giving with their time and energy.
Runners at the marathon as our students cheer for them!
Also of note:
-Caitlin came and visited during my birthday weekend! We had a wonderful, enjoyable time getting my apartment ready for the cold Japanese winter.

Please keep the following in your prayers:
  • Energy to finish grading strong and begin planning for next semester.
  • Pray that the students' behavior and that they will see the benefit in living for Christ
  • As the weather is cold, please continue to pray for everyone's health.
Thank you for your support of God's work in Japan!

Friday, November 23, 2012

An Outstanding October

October has come to a close and the harvest is over! The days are ever shortening and the nights and mornings are chillier.
Some of the fields near my apartment after the rice harvest.
While school is not over yet, finals are the first week of December and the end of the year is swiftly approaching!

This month Caitlin came and visited and we had the opportunity to go hiking! We went with some of the college and young adult members of our church and another church body, Ikoma chapel. It was a wonderful hike, with the warm sun complimenting the somewhat cooler air.

I'm just about two-thirds done with my first year of teacher and I have to ask myself: Am I finally getting the hang of things? Probably not, but it is getting easier. My fellow teachers at school have been especially helpful and I am learning a lot of new things every week. Plus, Caitlin is especially helpful when she helps me with my grading during her visits.

Please keep the following in your prayers:
  • Energy and initiative to finish grading strong.
  • Patience and wisdom as I interact with my students, especially as we are all very tired.
  • As the weather gets colder, please continue to pray for everyone's health.

Thank you for your support of God's work in Japan!