Thursday, September 20, 2007

"You Don't Know What You Got..."

As the saying/song ("Big Yellow Taxi") goes: "You don't know what you got 'till it's gone." (Grammatically incorrect, I know.)

Today at Kirita there was a mini-concert performed by members of a local (junior?) orchestra and the songs made me feel a little...nostalgic/homesick. Towards the end of the program they played "Take Me Home Country Road" (from the Studio Ghibli anime "Mimi wo Sumaseba" aka "Whisper of the Heart") and a medley from "The Sound of Music."

The cellist explained the background of the songs (in Japanese, of course), and encouraged everyone to sing along if they could--particularly for the "Do Re Mi" song from "The Sound of Music." Listening to the familiar music, I had the urge to play the piano.

But of course I remembered that I don't have a piano of my own here.

Funny, isn't it how one of the first things from Canada that I feel the lack of is something that I didn't even really use when I was there? If I can download & print or otherwise rustle up some sheet music, I may ask the music teacher at Kirita if there's a time when I can practice without disturbing people.

The "Country Road" song specifically also made feel a little nostalgic. When I heard the opening bars of the song, I remembered watching the movie with Ceci and laughing over how they killed the song in the movie with overuse!

I miss hanging out with the girls and/or small group people. All the JET friends I've made here are great, and we get together quite frequently, but it's not quite the same.

And I know I've been pretty complacent about my relationship with God since coming here (if not for the sense that I "should be" attending church, I probably wouldn't feel bothered at all by the fact that I'm not going to make a concerted effort to find a church until I get a car), but I think that this is really where I can see "the difference."

Don't get me wrong, my friends here are amazing people who are always more than willing to lend a hand or to go the extra mile for a friend--and I don't know how I would've gotten along in Japan without them--but without God in the relationship, there isn't that same feeling of investment in each other's lives.

I miss sharing not just about the events and details of life but about the true thoughts and feelings that arise from them. I miss that feeling of knowing others and being known by them. I miss being able to pray with others about anything and everything.

In a nutshell, I miss Christian community.

And I guess that just highlights the strength and weakness of my faith.

I've never doubted God's presence in my life. In all the times of trouble or apathy I've experienced, I've always known that God is here for me. I don't think I've ever really doubted his love or wondered if he's deserted me.

But because of that certainty, I am also complacent. I don't worry about my lack of action to accompany my faith. And when I neglect God, I don't feel the same sense of loss/disconnection that I feel in relation to people.

One of my goals before coming to Japan was to earnestly seek GOD. I wanted to build a relationship with him that wasn't contingent on other people or service in a church/ministry.

And here I am, a month and a half into my life in Japan (and an hour into writing this post) and I'm only just realizing that I've completely lost sight of that goal.

As certain as I am (and have been) of God, I can see now that I still have no idea what it means to be a Christian. And I'm pretty sure I've come to this realization before.

I just wonder how many more times I'm going to have to come to it before I start figuring things out.

Post-Script: Reviewing what I've written, I ask myself:

Should I post this here, or should I post it on my devo blog?

Will people who aren't from MCBC/the Mississauga church circle be turned off from this blog after reading this post? Will they ask me questions I won't feel comfortable answering? Will it negatively alter their perceptions of me somehow? I've used a lot of Christian jargon; I don't want to seem like some right-wing Bible-thumper.

Who is this blog for? How much of myself do I want to share with its intended audience? Do I compartmentalize myself too much--a Japan blog, a devo blog, a hockey blog, an anime/manga/random blog, a Xanga blog...?

What does it say about my "faith" that I am a bit uncomfortable with sharing these thoughts with anyone and everyone who feels like reading this blog post?

Will people who aren't close Christian friends bother reading all of this anyway? And even if they do, will they comment on it, or say anything to me about it?

And finally:

I've spent over an hour writing this thing! Isn't it about time that I took a shower and got ready for bed? I've got classes to teach tomorrow, and I've been going to bed pretty late for the past few days!

How to Spend Very Little on Groceries in Japan

I know I'm still about a month behind in my posts, but I figured if I don't start posting current stuff (i.e. as it happens), I'm just going to keep falling further and further behind!

Anyway, here's my random list of "tips" on how to live with a grocery budget of ¥1000-2000 ($10-$20)/week--all from personal experience!

In no particular order...

  • like eggplant, tofu, small green peppers, and bananas--some of the cheapest food available!
  • have a high tolerance for repetition: I have eaten the same dish (eggplant, green peppers and sometimes tofu with packaged sauce--all cheap ingredients!) 2-4 nights/week for the past 5 weeks, and I'm not sick of it yet!
  • appreciate simple foods: grilled cheese or tuna sandwiches, baked potatoes, onigiri, etc.
  • appreciate bland foods: keeping a large variety of spices, condiments, etc. on hand can get costly; the only condiments I've purchased so far have been soy sauce, mayonnaise, "Tare" sauce (available only in Towada/Aomori), and salt, and I hardly even use them!
  • introduce yourself to/make friends with your neighbours: one neighbour gave me potatoes and tomatoes!
  • show interest in different Japanese foods: a teacher at my base school talked about eating "soumen" and I asked her what it was, then today (2 weeks after she explained it to me), she gave me a package of soumen, a bottle of the sauce for it, and a handwritten explanation of how to cook/eat it!
  • teach at an elementary/junior high school: you will usually be provided with a school lunch at little to no cost! Not only are these lunches quite large, but they're also reasonably balanced/healthy! I always try to finish my lunch at school so I can get away with a small dinner at home
  • bring a large bag of your favourite cereal with you from home: I haven't had to worry about breakfast once yet since coming to Japan!
  • eat your cereal with a banana: again, bananas are cheap, and the space they take up in your bowl will help you to conserve your cereal, so it will last longer!
  • drink tap water: it's perfectly safe; if you don't like the taste, invest in a Brita filter (I inherited one from my predecessor) or boil your water before drinking
  • invest in ¥100 ($1) onigiri molds: onigiri are cheap and filling, and the molds make making them fun and easy!
  • store your bread in the freezer: for some reason bread expires very quickly in Japan (2-3 days after the purchase date is typical)
  • limit your grocery shopping trips to once or twice a week: if you don't see all the different foods available (particularly ready-made foods) you won't be tempted to try them!
  • start a blog: instead of snacking, I go on the internet when I'm bored; if I don't have anything else to do online, I can always update my blog!