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Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Outreach Week 2

I’m taking advantage of the 19-hour ferry cruise between Osaka, Japan and Busan, South Korea and catching up on blogging.

Last Saturday was the day we left the hostel in Chiba and headed to Nagoya and Gamagori. Traveling in Japan is awesome. They have these great rest stops where the bathrooms are so big you need a map. They also have food courts and supermarkets. Lately I spend a lot of the time on the bus sleeping. Sometimes we watch some movies or video clips from our performances, or we just hang out and talk.

We spent a week in a church in Gamagori. It was probably my favorite place we stayed. It had A/C and Wi-Fi, a hot shower, an awesome massage chair, super cozy 5-person rooms with lofts and tons of matts and blankets to sleep on, and a beautiful view of the bay and a Ferris wheel. It was really pretty at night. Down the hill, there was a mall and a water park called LagunAsia. The guy who hosted us in Gamagori was a little crazy, he had so many performances planned for us and when he said it would take half an hour to get somewhere, it usually took two hours. Even that first night we showed up at a train station to just hand out some fliers, and he wanted us to do our whole show!
They have a thing for ferris wheels in Japan
I still had a pretty bad cold the first few days, and I took a rest day on Sunday. It was nice to just lay there and relax and Skype my family. We still had a team/small group meeting in the afternoon, and even though I was falling asleep, that was great pick-me-up. I felt really refreshed afterwards.

On Monday there were some opportunities for smaller groups to go do some performances, as well as have a meal and spend the night with Japanese families from the church. I was one of the 10ish people that stayed at the church, so I got an extra day off.  Even though we missed everyone who had left, it was kind of a nice break from being in such a big group. Some of the girls walked to the mall. We got some ice cream for a Coldstone-ish place. It was really hard to order because they didn’t speak any English. I bought a pair of shoes and some accessories. I’m trying not to spend too much money or take up too much room in my suitcase, but I’m really looking forward to the super-cheap shopping in Korea though.

Japanese shoes!
That night we had a crazy awesome interpretive dance party. We also had props, like yoga mats, umbrellas, chairs, capes made from piano covers, and flashlights. It was so fun, probably the most fun thing that’s happened on DTS. It made me miss home, and how my siblings and I have dance parties all the time

Tuesday was also a day off for everyone. We spent some more time at the mall and just hanging out. We never made it to the water park. The church put on a dinner and games for us in the evening. Everywhere we go they love to feed us. I think we’re finally past the noodle-eating phase. This week I ate so much food. 
Giant sea creatures!
 I think Wednesday was when we got busy. And I mean BUSY. We had a shortened show at a junior high in the morning, and then we went straight to a high school a couple hours away. It was up in the mountains and it was sort of an alternative school. Not so much for kids who got kicked out, but kids that didn’t fit in or were feeling rejected. served us curry and salad for dinner. We did our whole show in the gym.  I think they were quite moved. No one has ever done a performance for them before. Kevin, one of the guys on our team who was kicked out of school and in a lot of trouble in the past, preached afterwards and he was on fire.

We had a lot of really late nights and really early mornings this week. I think I only got 3-6 hours every night. I definitely learned how to sleep in the bus. Or the van; some days it was just my small group in a van. Not my favorite; I miss the whole group.  

I definitely have had times when I feel kind of down since we’ve been on outreach; like things just don’t feel that exciting and fun sometimes. Even when I have more prayer and worship and small group time. There’s a part of me that wants to just go home. Part of it is exhaustion, frustration, stress and having been sick for half the time. I think the other part was feeling like I’m not really doing what I’m here to do. The mall and food just wasn’t satisfying me. Other people have had more profound experiences with praying for people having generators start when they prayed for them. I've had my doubts about even coming. But the last few days have been better.

On Thursday, we drove to downtown Osaka and performed in a park/train station. The show went pretty well. I actually had some good conversations afterwards. I prayed for a few people. Bri Anne and I talked to one lady who liked how tall we were, and said she knew the story of Christ. She spoke pretty good English. There was also a Christian girl who was inspired to start dancing in her church. 

Across the street from where we perofmred was a super high end mall, containing such shops as Swarovski, Coach, Chanel, Prada, Giorgio Armani, Dolce and Gabbana, and Louis Vuitton. After rehearsal, Bri and I managed to find 20 minutes to walk through a few stores. It was pretty fun. I was afraid we might get in trouble for taking pictures.

The next day was an early morning with a lot of packing, cleaning and cooking. It was kind of stressful because they didn’t announce the plan until I had gone to bed the night before, so I wasn’t expecting to spend my whole morning working and hardly have time to get ready.

We performed at a church.  That was a good show. Afterwards we got to pray and hang out with a bunch of adorable little kids. There were these super chubby baby twin boys with spiky hair. They made me miss my baby cousin and his little fat rolls. I prayed for one sleeping toddler in her mother’s arms, and then one of the translators told me that the woman was also pregnant, and I prayed for the baby. That was one of my favorite experiences.

The next morning we packed and left the church, and drove to City Hall in Osaka. We got to perform in the most beautiful theatre. I was in love. That was when my spirits really lifted. I just wanted to lay there and hug that stage. There were even dressing rooms. God has blessed us so much on this trip. It was a great place for our final full show in Japan. The people loved it and wanted to pray with us and take pictures with us and 
hang out with us. From there we had to drive to a hotel in Kobe.

We even had a real dressing room
It was like 8:30 by the time we got there. It turned out to be like a 4-5 star hotel, and we got to stay there for free. It was so nice. There was a ginormous buffet. My favorite thing was the tempura shrimp and vegetables.  
We had hoped to go see the new Harry Potter that evening, but it was too late. But they were playing one of the older ones on TV in Japanese and we watched some of it. It was so entertaining. That night I had the harebrained scheme to do laundry. My costumes were getting really stinky and I really wanted them washed. There wasn’t a place for it, so we used the bathtub, but it was so hard to wring everything out, and my arms got tired, so it was still dripping wet in the morning.

So we spent most of the morning packing and trying to blow-dry our costumes. The breakfast buffet was pretty awesome too. I even had ice cream. We performed at some kind of event at the hotel. There were a ton of performance groups. We had a lot of waiting around time. We had some small group and used the Wi-Fi.  

I’m trying to work on being really friendly to people; my small group leader told me that sometimes he has a hard time reading me and thinks I don’t like him, which is totally untrue. When I mentioned it to another girl, she said she felt that way when she first met me too. So I’m trying to figure out if there are ways I can come off more friendly and open. I really don’t have a lot of experience making close friendships. I think that’s something I’ve learned a ton about while I’ve been on DTS and I want to keep working on it.

It was, of course, much later than we planned by the time we left, and there was a ton of traffic, so we made it to a church at like 8:30. The van ride was fun: I was with a bunch of girl’s and we had some great girl bonding and prayer time. They gave us dinner at the church and the hip-hoppers did a really quick performance. It was fun. The church had fun decorations and it felt just like home because they had the same chairs we had in our classroom in Kona.
Our chairs!

We spent the night at YWAM Osaka, which is empty right now. It was another late night and early morning. I tried unsuccessfully to get my clothes drier. We also had to repack because we were told that we had a 50lb suitcase limit on the ferry to Korea. We drove to the port this morning.  Hauling our luggage was quite a hassle. I had like 5 little heavy bags, plus my suitcase and one microphone case that I’m responsible for when we travel. It turned out our rooms were big enough we could just take everything and they didn’t care about weight.
Japanese food
 It’s hard to believe we’ve been here for almost three weeks already and we've already left Japan. Korea’s going to be great. One of the hardest things in Japan was the language barrier, but since about half of our team is Korean, that will be so much easier in Korea. We’re all enjoying some rest and relaxation on the cruise ship now.  It’s about time for me to go for dinner, and then I’m planning on some time on the deck, in the free sauna and then some sleep! Good night from somewhere in between Japan and Korea!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Outreach Week 1

Ah, it’s been a crazy first week on outreach. It feels like we’ve been gone forever already. Japan is awesome and the time is flying by. We’re already about halfway through our time in Japan and then we head to Korea!  

Let’s see, I’ll start with Tuesday, the day before we left Kona.

On Tuesday night I had lots of nervous energy and I didn’t sleep well. We had spent the day cleaning and packing, and then seeing two of our roommates off. We stayed up watching a movie, and then woke up again when another girl left at 3:45am. I only slept for another hour after that. We left the campus at noon on Wednesday. I spent the morning getting all the last minute stuff done. My stuff was already almost packed and since 5 of my roommates had already left, the room was almost clean. I did laundry, had a room inspection, skyped my mom, and had my last campus meal!

We flew from Kona to Honolulu and then straight to Tokyo! Fortunately the Kona airport is pretty laid back, so it didn’t take too long to get all of us through check-in and security. My suitcase ending up being exactly 50lbs. I had spent a long time re-packing it and figuring out what I could leave behind or put in my carry-on. It was a long day or night or whatever it actually was. Our main flight was about 8.5 hours. We spent it talking, reading Shakespeare, taking pictures, praying, sleeping, eating, (the in-flight food was pretty good) and watch the in-flight movies: The Adjustment Bureau (which had some great dance scenes) and two Japanese ones.

The first one was basically a typical teen movie, but a little more dramatic, in which the students had to break out of their cliques, mend their relationships with their parents, defeat injustice, and overcome cancer to put on a fashion show and save their school from being torn down. It was so funny! The second was even weirder: it was about a man whose wife was dying of cancer. Every day he wrote her a sci-fi story to make her laugh, (it showed a lot of them and they were really weird) and it would seem she was getting better. It went on like this for a few hours, and then it got to the point where she was dying and you knew it was the end. But then she would be better, and then would be in a sunny meadow talking about their hopes and dreams. And then she would be dying again. And then she would be better. I don’t think we even got to the real end.

On the plane, which was from America, on Hawaiian Airlines, and going to Japan, I kept forgetting what to say for thank you, because the stewardesses were mixing Arrigato and Mahalo, but I also wanted to use Kamsamnida, (not sure if that’s spelled right) which is Korean. So confusing.
When we landed in Tokyo it was about 10:30 at night, a day ahead of when we left. So we only got to live during two hours of June 30.
Flying into Tokyo

From the airport we headed to a youth hostel in Takayanagi. Considering how clean the rest of Japan is, it’s kind of dirty, but there’s hot showers, futons, (mine has Hello Kitty on it) a kitchen and a/c in the bedrooms, so we can’t really complain. There are just two or three of use in each room, and each floor shares a bathroom with a few stalls. There’s only one regular toilet though. Most places here have some regular toilets and some squat toilets, which are basically in the ground. The toilets at a lot of the public bathrooms are so funny. There are so many buttons and options. You can have strong deodorizer, flushing sounds, a rinse, a warm seat and more, and there’s even a seat for your baby to sit in while you use the bathroom. Some of them have little stalls for kids. They all have automatic doors, and there are never paper towels, usually hand dryers. They work a lot better than the ones in the States.

Unfortunately there was no Wi-Fi set up here until today, so we went the first few days without being able to talk to our families. I really didn’t like that.

I only got about 6 hours of sleep in the first three days. Everyone was pretty tired. We had that first day off. We got all settled in and walked down to the convenience store and the supermarket. Everything here is cute: the buildings, the cars, the construction equipment, everything, is tiny and square (but kind of rounded at the same time) and adorable. And almost everything has a face. They’re really into little characters and colorful graphics. Cute is definitely the word to describe Japanese culture. Things are sporadically written in English mixed with the Japanese characters. There are vending machines everywhere, but they don’t have chips and snacks. Most of them have drinks, and I’ve also seen cigarettes, hot espresso drinks, and hot food, like rice things, spaghetti and French fries.
Ice Cream Vending Machine!

That day there was also a really loud thunderstorm and we watched a movie. There’s a TV downstairs and we watched some news, commercials, and Japanese roller girls on it for a few minutes one day.

All of the food is better here, even store-bought birthday cake and white bread. Most of the bread doesn’t come sliced, so I’m guessing they don’t really use the expression, “The best thing since sliced bread” here.  The juices and milk are awesome. Like the apple juice tastes like the farm apple cider. Like real fruit, not flavoring. Some foods I’ve tried: musubi, which is essentially spam sushi, and not that bad, cup noodles (not a huge fan) lots of bread, and bagels, custard, tea, donuts, and ice cream. We have ice cream pretty much once a day. I had cantaloupe ice cream, ice cream that is shaped like a waffle with cone on the outside and chocolate on the inside. We’ve also gotten to have a lot of Charlie’s (our Asian grandpa) cooking, which is incredible and usually involves beef. We eat everything with chopsticks, even spaghetti. By the time I get home I don’t think I’ll know how to use a fork. All the rice is sticky, which makes it a lot easier.

The next day I had to get up really early to shower, pack and do breakfast duty. We got to leave most of our stuff at the hostel, but we left for 4 days and went to Iwaki, which is near the disaster area. It was cool to see the country side. It’s a lot of misty hills and trees. There’s lots of bamboo, and we’ve seen rice fields. It feels very Oregon-ish, just with different trees. There are a bunch of tunnels to drive through. We drive around in a tour bus, which is pretty choice, and the driver likes us so much he’s taking us out for lunch tomorrow. It took us a few hours to get there, and then we drove around and looked at the devastation. It was so surreal. We were told we would have to walk half an hour to where they were serving lunch to the refugees. (Lunch, that, by the way, we were supposed to cook, but we didn’t get there until three in the afternoon.) So we were halfway up the hill, and the bus passed us. At least we didn’t have to walk back.
We hung out and talked to people, and the boys did a Korean drum performance and some breakdancing. 

We stayed at a church in town, about half an hour away from there. It was really nice, granite and hardwood and a/c and really nice bathrooms and showers. And Wi-Fi! I was surprised to see my mom awake in the middle of the night and I was able to Skype her.

We had some rehearsal that night and then went to bed. I had felt achy all day, but thought it was just exhaustion until I went to bed and started getting chills in the air-conditioned room. I woke up with a fever and was sick the next day. Now I just have a little bit of a cough.

The pastor at the church was really great guy. There had been miscommunication, and he didn’t know that forty people were going to be staying there for three nights. He’s Japanese, but lived in Norway for 16 years and is married to a Norwegian, and speaks very American-sounding English. They feel like a YWAM family because of that. We got to spend some time with his three kids; one of his sons translated for us all weekend. Yesterday he decided to join us for the rest of the time we’re in Japan.

On Sunday we went to the church service and performed in the afternoon. It was a pretty messy show, being our first performance of outreach, but people liked it. The church took us out to dinner. I went to a steakhouse. It was the best thing I’d eaten in a long time. The steak was on a sizzling steaming platter and we had fries, yummy salad, melon slushies and ice cream with some kind of powder that kind of tasted like rice milk and malted milk and caramel.

The teenage (and college) girls are like fan girls for our guys, especially the Korean rapper and the hip-hoppers. They scream and ask for autographs and picturess. And one of the girls got mistaken for Avril Lavigne a few days ago. The girls that came to the hip-hop workshop asked about Miley Cyrus and Justin Beiber once they knew we were from the US.

Our last day in Iwaki was spent at a hotel in the disaster area. It’s still under construction and a bunch of older refugees are staying there. The room where we performed was, as Micaela put it, “It’s like Japan, really Japan.” There were bamboo mats and cushions and sliding rice paper doors.  That show went really well. We weren’t allowed to preach, but after the show we prayed for two of them who were totally in tears, one a tiny fragile little grandma who said she was crying with joy.

Everywhere we go, the people seem to love to feed us. The hotel owner gave us all cold drinks, and when we went to Tokyo, our tour bus driver (who’s been driving us the whole time) took us out for a hotel buffet lunch.

 Our first day back at the hostel was a rest day, so I did things like exercising, laundry, walking to the store for ice cream and just relaxing. On Thursday we got to have a sightseeing day in Tokyo. It was incredible. We all dressed up really cutesy. Fortunately Ashley invested in lots of hair bows and belts before she came. There is no such thing as too any accessories in Asia.

We first drove to Japan’s tallest building, Sky Tower. It was cool, but we could’ve spent less time there.  We went to the lunch buffet and then the biggest mall in Tokyo. It’s more of a hang-out mall and it didn’t have great shopping, but it was still super fun.

Finally we went to Shobuya, which is like for real downtown Tokyo. We took a train to what’s essentially Time’s Square. It’s so cool. We walked to H&M. the whole first floor was sale. For 3000 yen, which is about $35 American, I got a jumpsuit, some comfy traveling pants and a formal dress. don’t know why I’ve never been to an H&M before. I loved it. Unfortunately, that was about all we had time for. We got dinner (meat and rice bowls with egg, yummy!) and mango peach bubble tea, then took the train back and headed home.

Yesterday we were also in the Shobuya area, at a Aoyama University. It was founded by missionaries but most of the students and staff aren’t Christians. We got to be in the auditorium, on a real stage for our first time here. It was awesome. We performed twice in the women’s college. The second show was our best since our Kona performance. The audiences in Japan are interesting. They’re very reserved at first, but then very lively after the show when you talk to them. The college girls were just slightly less squealy than the high schoolers.

It’s hard to find a lot of Jesus time here. We’re really busy and never really have group times of worship or prayer. I definitely miss that. Sometimes we pray on the bus or I read my Bible, but I’m probably going to have to work harder on that. The times I really feel close to Jesus are when we perform. There’s always a point where I see someone’s face in the audience light up and I feel so joyful. Ministering to people is still a bit uncomfortable; I have a hard time being bold and knowing what to say, especially with the language barrier. I think it will get easier and easier. We’re moving on to Nagoya today, and maybe staying with some Japanese 
families, which will be really interesting.

I’m thinking more and more about what I want to do next. I’m definitely wanting to spend some time at home. A lot of arts opportunities are coming up and I have a lot of vision and ideas of stuff to do at home. I’m loving it here, but I’m also excited for what God has for me at home!

Sayonara for now from Japan!