31 August, 2009

I miss...

...tuck-you-bin (takyubin - for those Japan-philes). Now before you wonder if my boys are having trouble tucking their shirts in, let me tell you about this wonderful Japanese service. Takyubin is like the postal service, except you can get them to send just about anything anywhere inside Japan. Such as luggage to your destination. It is incredibly convenient and the prices are reasonable. Just about any little corner store can organise takyubin for you. It is particularly useful for young families with not enough hands to manage the luggage and the kids. A medium sized suitcase under 25kg from Tokyo to Hokkaido (and equivalent to Brisbane to Sydney) would cost around 2200 yen ($AU 27). Not bad. We could really use it on Friday here in Australia. We're travelling to Sydney for our mission's national conference and are arriving early to take in a little bit of the harbour and other sight seeing opportunities down there. Unfortunately, we'll be hauling luggage for the whole family for the five days we're away. We've found a place to store it, but it is not exactly convenient and will take away from the time we can spend seeing the sights while we dispose of it and later, collect it. Aussies, imagine if I turned up at Australia Post with my suitcase and asked them to send it to an address in Sydney. They'd first have a fit and then charge me a massive amount and then I'd need medical treatment! Actually hold that thought, I just checked it on Australia Post's website. It would cost me $AU 37 to post a 20 kg suitcase 80cm x 40cm x 30cm. But they only guarantee two business days. To match takyubin's next day (not just business day) delivery, I'd be paying in excess of $125 and even then it has to be posted on a business day! Oh, I wish we could import takyubin to Australia.

30 August, 2009

Encouraging encounters

I've had several encouraging encounters over the last couple of days. Home Assignment can be a time of giving and giving. Telling people about your country of service, correcting misconceptions, answering the same questions and repeating the same stories again and again. This can be draining rather than uplifting. The sort of thing which reinforces our feeling that we don't quite belong in Australia any more. The last couple of days have been different. On Friday I went to a Bible study with a small group of ladies I hardly know. Instead of dispassionately discussing theological truths, they revealed some scary truths about themselves with breathtaking honesty. A morning of soul refreshment! Friday night we had our homeside ministry team here for dinner. (The folk who organised our house, contents etc.) We shared a crazy meal (with lots of little kids) and then shared and prayed together. It is a weird thing to attend a prayer meeting that you are the focus of. However, if you can relax with that, it is an incredibly encouraging event. Saturday afternoon I met the lady I'm travelling to Manila with (and rooming with her too). This was our first face-to-face encounter. The context I where met her was unusual. She is the editor of Footprints Australia magazine, a locally produced magazine for Christian women. It is her 'baby'. Yesterday the team of women who help her put the magazine together, met to talk about various things. So I didn't only get to meet my future travel companion, I met her in the context of more than a dozen others passionate about this magazine. I met an Australian Christian book publisher who has just started her own company marketing family friendly Australian Christian products including books. That was exciting to see; her passion and dreams for Australian Christian publishing and writing. The other exciting factor was that all these women come from different Christian traditions. All with the same goal, of glorifying God and encouraging other Christian women in their walk with God. I left the meeting early because a friend I hadn't seen for 15 years was due for dinner at our house. He got to our house before me and introduced himself to my husband and children. A lower primary teacher, he got along with our boys really well. It was a delight to see a single, young man (got to be careful, he is only seven years younger than me) who is living his life for others and God, and is not sold out on his own pleasure. I've had to be careful writing this. Many of the people mentioned, actually read this blog! I don't want to put off people from talking to me for the fear of being mentioned here. But I did also feel that I needed to express my thankfulness for these people in my life over the last few days. People who've made me feel welcome, valued and loved. People who haven't treated me like an alien from outer space.

29 August, 2009

Outrageous intrusion?

GOVERNMENT TRIMMING THE WAISTS OF MILLIONS Recently summoned by officials of the city of Amagasaki, Japan, Mr. Minoru Nogiri, 45, a flower shop owner, found himself lining up to have his waistline measured. With no visible paunch, he seemed to run little risk of being classified as overweight. Because of the new state-prescribed limit for male waistlines is a strict 33.5 inches, he had anxiously measured himself at home a couple of days earlier. "I'm on the border," he moaned. Japan, a country not traditionally known for its overweight people, has undertaken one of the most ambitious campaigns ever by a nation to slim down its citizens. Under a national law that came into effect April 2008, companies and local governments must now measure the waistlines of Japanese people between the ages of 40 and 74. That represents more than 56 million waistlines! Those exceeding government limits - 33.5 inches for men and 35.4 inches for women - will be given dieting guidance. If after three months they do not lose weight, they will be steered toward further re-education and special checkups. The government will impose financial penalties on companies and local governments that fail to meet specific targets. Officials have moved aggressively into measuring waistlines, stressing that the campaign will keep the spread of diseases like diabetes and strokes in check and help curb the waistlines of an aging society. When the turn came for the flower shop owner, Mr. Nogiri of Amagasaki city, he entered a booth where he had to bare his midriff, exposing a flat stomach with barely discernible love handles. A nurse wrapped a tape measure around his waist across his navel: 33.6 inches, or 0.1 inch over the limit. That's a stunning blow! he cried out, defeat spreading across his face. Matsushita, one of the big companies in Japan, must measure the waistlines of at least 80 percent of its employees. They must get 10 percent of those deemed overweight to lose weight by 2012, and 25 percent of them to lose weight by 2015. As part of its intensifying efforts, the company has distributed to its employees towels that double also as tape measures. NEC, Japan's largest maker of personal computers, said that if it failed to meet its targets, it could incur as much as $19 million in penalties. Kenzo Nagata, 73, a toy store owner, said he had ignored a letter summoning him to a so-called special check-up. His waistline was no one's business but his own, he said. He planned to disregard the second notice that the city was scheduled to mail to those that refuse to comply. Source: NY Times, by Mr. N. Onishi, 2008-06-13

28 August, 2009

The joy of hospitality and pondering parking habits

Today we have some friends coming over for dinner - actually it is 'bring and share', but this morning when I dropped into the grocery store, to buy a couple of extra things to help us through the weekend, I realised that I had guests coming (amazing, what you figure out!). That meant that I needed to cook something for them. Now this sounds like an imposition, but actually it has been ages since we've been settled enough to have visitors. The last visitors we had for a meal brought their own food! So, as I happen to love cooking (especially desserts), it was an exciting thought. So, I've made mini Pavlovas (like meringue for those non-Aussies who frequently this blog). And we're anticipating their arrival with joy. The other thing I've been meaning to write about is wide Australian roads and the habit we Aussies have of parking along the side of them. We just take it for granted. I remember my grandfather, who lived his whole working life on the farm, commenting about how inconvenient the town's new shopping centre was - that you couldn't get a park directly outside the exact shop you were patronising!
In Japan you definitely do not take it for granted. Putting your car some place when you go somewhere is something you often have to plan for before hand. One of the questions we answered for people who were coming over for a meal when we lived in Tokyo was, "Where shall we put our car?" (Or "How do we get there on foot from the railway station?") The majority of roads do not have room for a car to be parked as well as for cars to drive. This used to make me feel quite claustrophobic. When I went out driving, I couldn't just put my car wherever, I had to plan. For example, CAJ had a carpark, but occasionally there would be no park available (it is pretty small). What to do then? Park illegally on the side of a nearby road (where there was a little room) or use expensive paid-car park (20 minutes for $1.50)? Below you can see one particular road close to our house in Tokyo. The photo was taken from the passenger seat of our car. It is a two-way road and the car on the other side is as far over as it could be. Somehow we made it through this tight squeeze and many others! Thankfully the speed limits are low. There is no way to drive at more than 10 or 20 km/hr on these skinny roads. Buildings butt straight onto the road and there is no visibility at intersections until you are basically into the intersection unless the council put a useful traffic mirror up (and there are many of these - see the photo below). There are many more things I could write about Japanese roads. Like the lack of roundabouts and therefore many traffic lights. Like having to problem solve your way through situations when several cars meet in a place where only one car can pass at a time. But this post has gone on long enough. I'll save it for anther day.

27 August, 2009

Marshall Musings

Spent some time recently putting our monthly news/prayer letter together (portion appears below). Let me know if you'd like a copy.

Finding a doctor

I went back to my search for a doctor today. Actually I went back to the doctor we saw last time we lived in Brisbane. She is a 20 min drive away on the Ipswich Motorway and costs $15 more, but it was definitely worth it. A doctor who is willing to sit down and sort through the immunisation of kids who've lived in two different countries and whose immunisation records are in both Japanese and English. Who then sits back and says, "So how are you all?" and "How's the boys Japanese?" and is happy to be interrupted by a chatterbox 4 y.o. who is constantly talking about the toys in her special box and asking questions about strange shelves which pop out of examination beds. This is someone worth driving to see! My search is over...now I just have to get my nearly 7 y.o. to have his 4 y.o. injections! We might need to get the heavies in.

26 August, 2009

Brisbane weather Part two

I raved about Brisbane winter the other day. Now I tell you the problem with Brisbane winters - they are too short! This week we've had a heat wave that belongs in summer, not the end of winter. Monday and Tuesday were in the mid 30s (Celsius). Today was nicer, 28, I think. It pretty much spells the end of winter, though. If you can call what they have here as winter. Many people in the world would call it spring. In Japan we found that spring involved a very slow crawl up the scale of temperature. Not here, BANG and you're into summer...for the next five months!

My Japanese groceries

Yah - we found some Japanese groceries on the western side of Brisbane. We found:
  • Tsuyu - the soup with goes with one type of Japanese noodles Udon (it has other uses too, but this is what we've used it for)
  • Seaweed designed for eating with Japanese stirfry (different to sushi seaweed)
  • Japanese curry rice (packet for making this)
  • Instant miso soup mix
  • Green soybeans (edamame) - delicious addition to the vegetable mix on dinner plate
  • Calpis - a cultured milk drink. Ironically pronounced "karupiss". Not a good sound in English.
We also found (but didn't buy):
  • Green tea icecream
  • Rice (can buy this at large supermarkets)
  • various type of Japanese noodles (can also buy most of these at larger supermarkets)
  • Japanese flavoured drinks like "Pocari Sweat" (like a sports drink)
  • disposable Japanese chopsticks (shorter and rounder than Chinese chopsticks)
The store is mostly Korean, but as you can see, we've found plenty of Japanese food too. Big problem, though, if you were trying to live "Japanese style" - it was expensive. Same thing occurred when I went to buy origami paper five years ago here. So cheap in Japan and incredibly expensive here. Similar in reverse, I guess. Many common and cheap groceries here are very expensive in Japan. I guess it makes sense, really. When in Rome, do as the Romans do. I was disappointed not to find Japanese rice crackers. The boys would've been delighted with that find. If you're wondering what I'm going to do with my haul, we're mostly going to use it for "Japanese flavoured" evenings/groups. To give people an experience of different aspects of Japanese cuisine - aside from the famous and rapidly becoming common "sushi".

25 August, 2009

Behind the scenes again

Yesterday when a Pest Control inspector spent some time hitting our walls and wandering around our home, we wondered what he thought we did for a living as we were both at home. We're clear (mostly) on what we do, but it is still not so easy to explain it to others. As soon as we say, "Missionary", we've sabotaged any decent relationship we might hope to have with our new acquaintance as the title comes with all sorts of baggage. I usually fall back on, "My husband teaches at an international school in Tokyo." Asked for my "job" I would usually say, "Household manager". Anyone have any better suggestions? Today we've been doing preparation work. Preparing presentations for a ladies group and for our mission's national conference. We've considered audio visuals, put together a fun game/quiz, brainstormed what to include in our presentations and then narrowed it down and organised them. I've played around with iMovie to see if I can liven up our "10 minute missionary spot" for Sunday mornings. I've also arranged a whole-day babysitter for a mid-week workshop that we both want to attend (about the elephant) in a couple of weeks. Several emails have bounced in and out regarding a short but multiple book review I'm doing at the above mentioned national conference and I've written and emailed a list of prayer points for a prayer update our mission puts out. Yesterday I finalised our prayer/newsletter and sent it to be photocopied and sent out (will email it tomorrow or Thursday). Are you tired of hearing all the background work that a missionary does? How about some background "mum" work? This morning we had a delayed reaction. Monday morning - it seemed - came a day late. That is the morning that our middle son goes as slow as Telstra does when they have to fix a problem :) This morning he had a tantrum even before I got out of bed and eventually got relegated to his bunk bed (which he insisted was inhabited by three mini spiders) until he could regain control. After breakfast I accidentally discovered that he didn't like the toothpaste that he's been "using" for many days now. Actually I wonder if he's been cleaning his teeth at all! This was not a pretty scene. He's our most actively stubborn...and I'll leave the rest to your imagination. Let's just say I can no longer pin him to the ground and do it myself. I've also cleaned the bath and bathroom sinks and mirrors. How's that for a day's work? Very soon now the rest of my responsibilities will be walking in the door and requiring food, homework supervision and hopefully with some kind of inspiration for Book Week. True to form, our middle son keeps changing his mind! And our eldest hasn't yet committed to anything. The costume that my 4 y.o. and I diligently put together last week was carried to PrePrep this morning, but he refused to put it on. I hope he did so later. I've decided not to cook tonight and asked my husband to order pizza (an uncommon experience for our family). So I can go to the gym before dinner. My poor husband might cop a bit of Book Week preparation. Oh well! You know, it is two months today since we boarded a plane to fly to Australia! The time has gone very quickly.

24 August, 2009

Japanese men and housework

This rather shocking piece came to me in an email today from another missionary:
Some time ago, a Japanese government survey revealed that the country's men perform household tasks in only 1 per cent of homes. The alarming statistic has prompted Tokyo to offer middle-aged men a beginner's guide to such household basics as peeling an apple, cooking rice, switching on a washing machine and using a vacuum cleaner and a duster. “But the program will stop at teaching them how to hang out washing or air the bedding on the apartment balconies,” a newspaper reports. “Because it recognizes that being spotted by a neighbour would be considered a loss of face.” It is true that some elderly Japanese men never enter the kitchen area of their houses, unless their wives are seriously ill or away. Then they might consider opening the door of the fridge to get something out to eat or drink."
No wonder my Japanese friends were shocked when I was able to go away periodically and leave my husband in charge of the whole household and our three boys! Imagine the comments he must have generated each Saturday when he hung washing out where the whole street could see his actions.

The joy of coming "home"

We're back home again! It is so nice to say that. All the moving we did in June and July had no return points. We never said, "We're home again" except when we moved into our new house, but it was a new home, not a return home. It was great pulling all that stuff out of suitcases and putting them away again. For 12 days, anyway, then we're off to Sydney. The weekend was packed, as anticipated, but an extrovert's dream. Lots of people to talk to. Catching up with family and friends who we haven't seen for two to four years is fun for people like me. The wedding was beautiful and emotional. My friendship with the bride goes back to growing up together in church. Our families knew each other. Many tears were shed during the day because both the bride's parents have died during the last decade. A bitter-sweet occasion. Lots of sweet, though. It was a long evening and at 10 we received a phone call from our 10 y.o. who was worried that we were too late!!! I reassured him, prayed with him and said, "See you tomorrow." Thankfully he was asleep when we got home 40 minutes later. We spoke at my parent's church yesterday. Apparently we still have some work to do on our visual presentations during our talks. The standards on these have gone up during the last decade. 10 years ago we were using overheads. Now a simple powerpoint accompanying a talk is not too enough, videos and lots of movement (not one photo, but many) is required. More work! I did sell some books, however. A tiny book review at the end of our talk sold us out of that particular book. We have a couple of mission conferences coming up in September. Preparation is going to be a big part of our next four weeks. We have to run or be a part of three different 45 min to hour long presentations. Lotsa joy. If you live in SEQ (sout east Queensland) you should come and join us at Brookfield on the 18th-20th of September. It'll be fun! Let me know if you're interested.

21 August, 2009

Packing again...ugh

We've been unpacked for approximately seven weeks. Now we're going away for the weekend, as I wrote yesterday. All those awful bags are coming out again. Toiletry bags I'd hidden away. Suitcases I'd conveniently forgotten we owned. Plastic bags with little travel conveniences, like little shampoo bottles and spray bottles. I'm dragging medicines out of their spots and putting them into bags. Yuck! I don't think I've recovered from our big move yet. The difficulty is that we have to do this four more times in the next five weeks. Once I'm into the groove it won't matter so much, but just now it is awful. AND procrastination is not helping me, so I'd better go back. Writing about its awfulness is soothing to the soul only to a point. Then it becomes unhelpful and stress-producing, because I'll run out of time to do it all.

Mr Strong

Here are photos of two Book Week costumes. Actually Mr Strong looks even better now that I've put a thick black border around the red rectangle. You'll have to excuse my sons' lack of faces. I decided when I started this blog to leave it public so that more people can read it easily, but not include photos of my kids for their own security. So, there you go. If you want a face-full version, you'd better become my friend on Facebook! Our second son has decided on Steve Irwin - using his khaki shorts and khaki t-shirt with a crocodile on the front. The theme of the week is "Book safari", hence it kind-of fits. Our 10 y.o. hasn't decided and my inkling is that he probably won't. He's at a new school, a little bit shy and not really fitting in yet. The last thing he's inclined to do is chose something that might make him stick out or the butt of someone's joke.

20 August, 2009

Bits and pieces of daily life

Some Telstra (phone company) guys spent a couple of hours going to and away from my house this morning. Result - finally, after seven weeks - we have a home phone! Very happy! We're so used to mobiles (cell phones) that when it rang this afternoon, my husband picked it up and hit the most likely button, and promptly hung up on someone. I hope it was a salesman. After several hours fiddling yesterday and today I've printed a first draft of our prayer/newsletter. The new software is slowly getting easier to use, yay! This morning I helped my 4 y.o. make his Book Week costume. Mr Strong. An inspirational choice last night. Looks pretty good too. We used material we had at home - cardboard, red and green paper, flour and water glue, string and tape (though the string needs better attachment). Now for the other two... Tomorrow afternoon we are headed to Toowoomba (1-1.5hrs from here). It is a multi-functional visit. We will:
  • celebrate Father's Day
  • celebrate my sister's birthday
  • go to Sizzler (my favourite restaurant) and do the above
  • attend a wedding of a long-time friend
  • speak at my parent's church on Sunday
  • sleep at my parent's house for the first time in two years
  • have lunch with the missions committee from my parent's church
How's that for a relaxing weekend? Full of joy. You don't appreciate friends and family as much as you should, until you are apart from them.

19 August, 2009

Behind the scenes work

Today my husband and I have been nutting out planning details for future meetings. The kind of work we do during this year at home is a lot like having your own business. There is a lot of behind-the-scenes work that goes into it. So today we've
  • Planned what we'll say at the church we're going to on Sunday.
  • Created invitations to some small group meetings we're planning in our own home (not as easy as it sounds, particularly when we're talking about inviting people with various restrictions on their time like children, distance, can't come out at night etc).
  • Filled out Blue Card applications (for children's meetings and possibly an SU camp).
  • Selected and sent information and photos for a media presentation at a camp in September.
  • Contacted Medicare to sort out immunisation details (it's still a mess).
  • Written numerous other emails pertaining to various meetings, medical details for our mission, getting together with friends etc.
  • Wrapped presents for the weekend (wedding, birthday and Father's Day - don't panic, we're early).

Drinking yoghurt

For all of you who wondered, we've found drinking yoghurt (not those tiny bottles of bifidus stuff). It is EasiYo and you make it yourself at home. Our son can't get enough of it. He's told me several times, "When this runs out you can get more." I love it that he feels he can give ME permission! Which reminds me, I've got to order some more (we've only found it on-line).

18 August, 2009

New Glasses

Do you like my new glasses?

Covering up the messy?

I just found this on a friend's/colleague's blog: "I have yet to find the story of a fully healthy and functional family in the Word of God (the Bible). So that we wouldn't lose heart or hope, God graciously made sure we'd know that in things pertaining to the sons of the earth, abnormal is more normal than normal. That doesn't mean we should surrender to dysfunction. It means we don't have to hang our heads as we surrender to God and let Him sort out our tangled mess." It is from a Bible Study called "Believing God". Don't know much else, except my family fits well into an abnormal mould, if such a thing exists! I think evangelical Christians spend a lot of time trying to pretend they are normal or trying to project an image of normality. By doing so we put up walls that hinder us from having deep relationships with others. And probably we limit the relationship we can have with God. If we admit the "tangled mess", then we can get on with living, rather than hiding the mess. Last week we watched a weird movie called, "The Talented Mr Ripley". Basically it is about an average kind of guy who gets mistaken for the friend of a son of a wealthy man. Oddly enough the man offers to pay Tom Ripley (the average guy) to go and persuade his son who is fooling around in Italy, to come home to America. It turns out that Tom will do anything to get a leg up in circumstances. He ends up killing the supposed friend, but it is made to look almost like an accident in the movie. He covers up the death, not telling anyone, indeed on occasion, pretending that he is the other guy. He also took money out of his 'friend's' account and wore his rings. He perpetuated the myth for quite a while, including forging letters from his friend. Then kills another who is getting suspicious of the lies and a third right at the end. It is really a strange movie. But what I came away with was the cost of lies. He could be honest with no one - to perpetuate the lie of a wealthy life, he had to kill anyone who got close to discovering the truth that he was a nobody who used to tune pianos. But we do the same. When we cover up the truth of our messy lives. When we try to pretend we are better than we are. We kill relationships. We alienate ourselves from others. Okay, off my soapbox and onto supervising homework.

17 August, 2009


Our car has hardly been in the garage today. Between my husband and I we've been out most of the day doing various errands. First errand I did my weekly grocery shop and work out at the gym. I'm getting faster at Woolies! Even had a pleasant conversation with the Kiwi on the cash register and the Vietnamese lady at the Grocers. Raced home and had an early lunch before embarking on the Second errand Drove 20 minutes to a shopping centre to pick up my new glasses and sun glasses. Almost the first time I've been at a shopping centre on my own. I got to shop - that is, browse and consider purchases other than necessities. I found a Father's Day present and a present for my sister's birthday, which falls on the same day this year. We're going up to Toowoomba on the weekend and will have an early celebration with them, due to not being able to on the designated day. I also got a chance to buy my Christmas present (2008)! My mother-in-law sent me a gift voucher, knowing that we'd be home in time. Another challenge of living away from family is gift giving (and receiving). Postage often doubles the cost. So you're left with several choices, buy a cheap present, buy something over the internet and get it sent to them, send money or just forget about it. Anyway, I bought myself something I probably wouldn't otherwise - a coffee grinder! Now I probably qualify as a learner coffee snob! Third errand Wasn't mine. But effects me. My husband drove a fair way to get another key for our car. It came with only one and is one of those specially programmed ones that doesn't just work if you get it duplicated. It is the second time he's driven out to Toyota. Turns out it is an unusual (even for them) key that they had to order in! He got back just in time for the Fourth (and last) errand Taking our eldest to Basketball. He is basketball crazy and was upset that basketball is not something he can do at his current school (not even during lunch). So, we joined him up with the Western Magic under 12 team and he's loving it, as well as getting good coaching. Hubbie took his Masters reading to do while he waited. While the Third Errand was happening, I went and got the boys from school, provided afternoon tea and supervised homework. Not an easy task. Everyone was headed in their own direction, with their own "must say" conversations. Then our eldest accidently knocked a ceramic jar off the bench. He couldn't see my perspective and complained bitterly about tidying up the mess. At the same time I was supposed to be listening to our 6 y.o. reading his school reader! And our 4 y.o. started cutting up the packaging of my new grinder (packaging is very important to keep if when you live a transitory life like ours). To add to my mental stress, I found out this afternoon that our 4 y.o.'s kindy class is doing "Japan" this week. I'd been planning to offer to do a "Japan" morning in fourth term, but as they're doing it now, spontaneously offered my "expertise" for tomorrow morning. Now I have to figure out what I will take and do...simple origami? And remember how to put on my summer kimono (yukata). Relaxing evening - no chance. It has been an enjoyable day, though.

16 August, 2009


This has been a pleasantly social weekend. We had lunch with friends yesterday and today. And not just lunch, but Aussie BBQs! Yay! Sat around and chatted for hours. We could hardly believe the time had gone so fast. Additionally we are blessed with many friends who have a loose hold on things. A spin off of that attitude is that they are generous. Here is a list of things that we've received just in the last two days.
  • Two adults bikes on lend for a year.
  • A single coffee plunger (for me, the only coffee drinker in the house)
  • A packet of ground coffee
  • Several bags of hand-me-down clothes for the boys.
  • A pair of old, but comfy jeans for me.
  • A pair of new black leather ankle boots for me (I needed to replace mine in the next 18 months).
  • The promise of one or more desk top computers for the boys.
  • A taped video on a topic important to us.
  • Half a dozen second hand books for our eldest to read.
  • Strap on roller skates for our youngest.
  • A dinky magnet thingy to stop me losing my cross-stitch needle.
Amazing, hey! God's blessings are many. Not all are as easy to count as the above. But we continue to be loved by our friends and praise God for their generosity.

14 August, 2009


Someone commented about our 'large' backyard in my previous blog entry. Actually that was our front yard, which was big enough to park bikes in, plant flowers and require weeding and grass cutting (by hand); but not much else! Our backyard was much smaller, just a strip of dirt, really. Here are a couple of pictures. There is not much more to see that what you can see in the first picture. The wooden slatted things were for privacy. Just to the right of the photo was our dining/kitchen and lounge floor-to-ceiling glass sliding doors. Just to the left of the picture was the front door of one of our neighbours. The second photo was taken from our tiny balcony on the second floor, looking straight down. Can you see the fence dividing the neat gravel from the dirt? That was our back fence. At the bottom of the photo is our house. We are LOVING our new backyard. I'll post some photos soon. Big enough to play a bit of cricket and to run around. Someone gave us a small swing set and someone else found a free small trampoline by the roadside and gave it to us. Amazing!!! Not to mention privacy. NO ONE can see us eating or even playing in the backyard. No one can see my washing hanging on the line. Oh, yes, I have a Hill Hoist-type line! Amazing!!! Praise God for Australia and wonderful blessings!

13 August, 2009

Stuff you throw out

Rubbish, trash, garbage, gomi. We have various names for it. We have various ways of disposing of it, depending on where you live. A fellow missionary in Japan has written lots about it on her blog. My husband insisted it needed to be included as an aspect of re-entry shock. In Tokyo we had a complicated system of rubbish sorting and collection and it differs from area to area around the metropolis. The city council even gave out free calendars informing us of the days we got to put out our rubbish. That is because it is easy to get confused. Mondays: Plastic recyclable rubbish (which has "Pura" written on the side of it) in grey semi-clear bags. Tuesdays: Burnable rubbish in blue bags you buy from the local shop. Also the day for batteries, cans, bottles, aerosols and other dangerous items. Wednesdays: Second of the month was unburnable rubbish (not including the above mentioned 'dangerous items') in orange bags from the local shop. First and third weeks were PET bottles (excluding lids). Thursdays: Second and fourth were paper and clothing (except if it was raining and it was surprising how often that happened). Fridays: Burnable rubbish in blue bags. Certain things were not admissible to curb pick-up. They included furniture and things too big to fit in the bags. To have these removed, you had to call a number and pay a fee to have them picked up. Doesn't sound too bad, does it? Until you think about something as simple as changing toothbrushes. The old toothbrush goes into 'unburnable', the new toothbrush is removed from its cardboard and plastic packaging. The cardboard obviously goes into 'paper', but I could never remember whether the plastic was 'plastic' or 'unburnable' - I had to check the packaging. Space is so tight around Tokyo that you have to be careful about where you put your garbage. One of the important things we were told by our real estate agent, when we signed the lease, was exactly where to put our garbage. Our spot was on the very corner of our block as it connected with the road. You can see our car park in the picture, the car in the centre of the picture. The bin went at the front right hand corner of the car. Parking was so tight that if our small bin was out for collection I had to move it to park the car. You would think that it'd be a relief to come to Brisbane and find there was only two different types. But instead we feel like we're breaking rules. How can we put all these different 'types' of garbage into the same bin? Habits are hard to break. At least we can back the car in and out without having to shift the bin!

12 August, 2009

Work - yes, I'm doing it.

I worked today! Yes, got up in front of people and did the speaking bit missionaries are famous for during their home assignments. I don't think I did a spectacular job, but we did communicate and people prayed. Actually it was a great blessing to be at our mission's Ekka Prayer Day (Ekka is Brisbane's annual show and today is the public holiday associated with it). We were almost the youngest ones there and many were twice our age. But can they pray? AND, despite their age they often can remember amazing details from long ago prayer letters. They read them every month and pray over them in detail. I love to spend time with these dear folk. I felt very loved and like I was truly home. A tiny taste of heaven, for sure. We have a lot more speaking to do in the coming months. Inbetween times we're preparing and doing the administration necessary to ensure that other speaking opportunities are properly organised. The hidden work of a public speaker. What other work have I been doing?
  • Writing an article for our denomination's magazine (deadline Saturday).
  • Critiquing devotions for my internet writing group partners.
  • I did some volunteer OT-type work yesterday for a home schooling friend with children who have learning difficulties.
  • Ironing! Yes, more of my clothes have finally arrived from Japan (we posted stuff we couldn't fit into our 100kg-for-the-family limit). Now I have to iron it all again.
  • On Monday I made a little photo album as a farewell gift for our exchange student.
  • Finding photos to print out for our deputation display board.
  • Cooking for the family. Made mousse yesterday - no children liked it. Decided I'll never do it again. If they want to learn to like mousse as an adult, they can buy it themselves. I also made my first meal with the slow cooker. Semi-successful.
Which reminds me, it is time to heat up some left-overs for the hungry hoards tonight...

11 August, 2009

Why are you going to Manilla?

Earlier in the year I looked ahead to what our next few years would be like. Not one to enjoy housework in my spare time, I wondered what good use I could make of my time once all my children were at school.

 I'd been developing an interest in writing and have long had an interest in design. An article of mine was published in Japan Harvest earlier this year. Japan Harvest is a magazine published by the Japan Evangelical Missionary Association (JEMA). It is an organisation comprising of and serving the 2000 or so Evangelical missionaries serving in Japan. The magazine is written by and for those reaching Japanese for Christ. The editor of the magazine asked me last year if I'd be interested in being more involved in JEMA publications in the future.

So, as I thought about the future early this year, I contacted him and asked about how they could use my skills. We had an interesting and lengthy conversation! My easiest job interview ever. Exactly what I'll end up doing is not clear, but certainly something in the editorial line of things.

 Not long after that he told me of Magazine Training International and the training events they hold around the world. Particularly, of the editing and writing conferences they are holding in Manilla this September and October. The conferences are heavily subsidised and therefore affordable for Christian Magazines. The biggest costs are airfares. Our mission supervisors encouraged me to go, so it was sounding exciting.

 This is such a difficult story to tell succinctly! Are you following me? I put it all off, somewhat distracted by our moving (!!!) and last month, after a lot of thinking and praying I was on the verge of applying to go to the editing part of the conference (leaving my husband to look after our boys for two weeks was a bit too mean). At that point my biggest concern was travelling on my own. Contrary to most people's impression of missionaries, we aren't necessarily very familiar with world travel. Going to another country where I don't speak the language is not high on my "enjoyment" list. Perhaps living in a non-English speaking country has taken the excitement out of such adventures.

Anyway, I happened upon an Australian Christian magazine editor who was keen to go to the conference and because she lives in Brisbane was free to travel with me. So, after all that we booked our tickets (amidst significant internet frustrations) and are headed to Manilla on the 28th of September. Can you see how I find this a difficult question to answer on the fly? People ask me about why I'm going to Manilla and it is very hard to explain quickly. I'm planning to write something like this in our next prayer/newsletter and hopefully that will go a long way towards answering people's questions.

10 August, 2009

Masks, Musicals and Manilla

I had some reverse culture shock this morning while shopping. The lady in front of me had a mask on. A common sight in Japan. Not common here. In fact someone told me that they daren't wear a mask because you get shunned like you have the plague. I didn't say a thing to the lady in front of me, but obviously she was feeling pretty self conscious. She volunteered, "Don't worry, I don't have IT." ('IT' being Swine Flu.) She continued, "I've been sick for so long that I'm just trying to avoid picking up any more bugs." I wonder if Swine Flu has been more rampant here just because of the anti-mask culture. On a lighter note. I've just bought my husband's birthday/our anniversary present. Tickets to Les Miserables (how to I put that proper bit over the 'e', I wonder?). I'm happy. I've seen it once before, but he hasn't. It is a marvellous production and I'm so pleased with myself for having figured out a way to celebrate his birthday. I'm leaving for Manilla on his birthday for a week - leaving him in the middle of school holidays with the boys. Pretty bad timing, but not much I could do about it! Why am I going to Manilla? Tune in next time...suffice to say, it is a bit of a career change.

08 August, 2009

Tourism with young boys

Tourism with lively boys is not for the faint hearted! Shopping is out, browsing is out, trying out restaurants and coffee shops is largely out, art galleries and craft shops are out. Historical tours, especially those which require lots of reading and good, quiet behaviour are definitely not on. Long public transport journeys are pretty much out too, at least for our mob. Walking is okay. Forests, playgrounds and large open spaces are good. Kid-friendly museums are not bad. Swimming is great. Zoos, aquariums and caves are definitely worth the effort. We decided that as we had our exchange student for only eight days, we should make a little bit of an effort to show him Brisbane. Our boys also were asking to go on the CityCat as we did two years ago when we visited briefly, so we thought it'd be something fun and manageable. We drove to our Alma Mater, University of Queensland and caught the river ferry up to New Farm Park, where we discovered a wonderful playground for the kids. Ate a home-made picnic lunch and headed back again. Stopping at South Bank for an icecream (and a coffee for me) and short exploration before getting back to UQ and driving home. The whole outing cost less than $50. Ice cream being the biggest expense. The boat trip only $15. The most difficult part was supervising spirited and competitive boys on the boat. Closely supervising four boys on a boat is not the easiest task. It worked fairly well, but there was plenty of pushing and shoving along the side, in order to get the "optimal" position for viewing. Thankfully the side was high and the chance of a dunking was minimal. The 50 minute trip was about 30 minutes too long, however! I even discovered a brochure advertising a local performance of Les Miserables, which will be a good birthday present for the-worst-person-in-the-world-to-buy-a-present-for, my husband. Overall - a good day. I didn't even have to cook dinner. We had left-overs and David assembled it all (while I folded several days of washing). Now I'm looking forward to cross-stitching in front of some great cricket viewing (finally the Aussies have got their act together over in England).

06 August, 2009

Unhelpful doctor and rude receptionist

One of the pains of raising a family between two countries is trying to comply with everyone's view of what immunisation is necessary at what age. One of the jobs on my long list of things-to-do is to sort this out now that we're back in Australia and 'get caught up'. Enter frustration! I dutifully made an appointment with a doctor and took all their records in so the doctor could sort it out. In Australia there is an immunisation register for 0-4 years that regulates the system (with financial rewards for getting it right). A doctor is required to fill out a form and send it to the register for verification and advice on catchups if required. The doctor (for whom English is his second language) took a cursory look at the records, said leave them here, I'll do it tonight. I came back two days later and it hadn't been done. That was yesterday. Today, I went in to pick up the records and copies of the forms he'd presumably filled in. Our middle son was born in Japan, so his "book" is in Japanese, but all the key words are in English too. The receptionist spat out, "He did two of them but the other is in Japanese. He can't read it, so he didn't do it." How rude! I'd made an appointment an offered to sit down and figure this out with the doctor - and then he doesn't do a thing about it? What happened to compassion? Presumably our 6 y.o. is to be left open to whatever disease that comes along which he is not immunised against. The doctor (and his receptionist) obviously don't care. On the converse, when I took my other two sons to the doctor in Japan with their English birth books, the staff and doctor took utmost care in trying to reconcile the two systems! I'm not sure where this leave us, what the next step is. Certainly I'm not planning to go back to that local medical centre, I'm going to drive 15km to the one we went to last time we were in Australia, where at least they care about their patients.

05 August, 2009

Brisbane weather

I just want to take to time to tell you how amazing Brisbane winter weather is. I think it is a little bit of a local secret that even the locals don't know. We've been here nearly four weeks now and every day has been bright and sunny. This photo taken down our street could have been taken any day in the month. Almost no clouds, leaves on trees, birds singing, flowers on bushes. Apart from one day, the daytime temperatures have been around 20 degrees Celcius or higher. Nights are a bit cooler, around 10 degrees, but it's easy to stay warm in bed at those temperatures. There are not many places in the world, I wager, which has as comfortable and liveable a winter as Brisbane. I would take it over a Tokyo or Sapporo winter any day. Sure, Sapporo has beautiful snow, but living in snow week after week for months at a time is very tiresome, not to mention exhausting and pretty painful at times.Tokyo's daytime temperatures average under 20 degrees six months of the year and under 10 degrees two months of the year. That's pretty cold! Japanese revel in their cherry blossoms. They are beautiful but so terribly fleeting. In less than a week they are past their best. To view them, you usually have to weather temperatures around 10 to 15 degrees. Australia has a beauty all of its own, but it is less transient and less seasonal. I think this is one reason that Australians don't appreciate their amazing land as much as they should. Its beauty is almost always present (at least in this part of Australia) and therefore under appreciated. Aside from the warmth, the most noticeable thing about Brisbane this time of year for us is the wide blue skies with few clouds. Japanese weather is frequently cloudy and 122 days of the year it rains. Of course, Australia suffers what seems to be perpetual drought. But the blue skies are truly beautiful. Probably not for the farmer who relies on rain, but for a non-farmer, I feel the freedom to enjoy the clear skies. It is a real pleasure to even hang the washing out in weather like this. And to know that it will certainly be dry when you bring it in. Daily we get to walk the boys to school in warm sunshine, covered by wide blue skies, crunch dried gum leaves underfoot and have our ears entertained by the calls of hundreds of native birds. What a joy!

04 August, 2009

Where did my time go?

To all who were concerned about us finding Mirin (cooking sake), we did. At Coles. Don't usually shop there, but in this case they have it over Woolies. I also found two other Japanese grocery stores, one at Taringa and the other at Indooroopilly. Both are 30 minutes from our place, so I haven't yet gone to check them out. I need to get down to writing an article for a magazine, but my time keeps getting eaten up. Today I had an optometrist's appointment. It took way longer than I expected, but I guess it wasn't too bad considering I haven't had my eyes tested for about five years. Now I'm getting new frames and new sunnies in a week or so. Looking forward to the new frames, they look good. The optometrist is in a large shopping centre. David came with me to do some odd jobs but also to have coffee with me. We've decided to have daytime 'dates' this year because neither of us have an 8-5 job and all the boys are at school much of the week. So after the optometrist, we had coffee. Or at least I did. David doesn't like coffee, but enjoyed his hot chocolate. As we gazed around the food court we observed how Asian the choices were: "Sumosalad", "Sushi Bento" and "Wok888". Once we'd finished that, lunchtime was almost upon us. We raced home and had a toasted sandwhich (oh, the joys of being in Australia). I quickly checked email and raced off over the hill to an open hour at our 4 y.0.'s kindy. Then collected all four boys from different places at the school and came home again. The day was gone. Afternoon tea, homework, dinner preparation, baths, bed time and now I'm blogging. All my good writing time has gone. Maybe tomorrow... By the way, our exchange student is fitting in well. He has been playing well with our boys. Plenty of giggling in the backyard this afternoon. Cars and action figures cut across cultural barriers very effectively for young boys. Right now my husband and 10 y.o. are talking with him. They are finding out a lot despite the language barrier. They are also sharing our Japanese photo album with him. Japan and Korea have more in common than Korea and Australia. We were always jealous of Korean missionaries in Japan - they learned Japanese much faster than Westerners. I still have ironing to do (while watching "Packed to the Rafters") and a shower. Now you know more than you ever wanted to know about my daily life, so I'd better go!

03 August, 2009

Reverse shopping woes

Today I combed Woolworths for a few common Japanese ingredients. I'm planning to make Yakisoba (Stir fried pork and noodles). I needed seaweed, Japanese noodles, bean sprouts, thinly cut pork and cooking sake. Eventually I found all except the last. In Japan this is a cheap meal because all the ingredients are very common. It was the exact opposite to looking for "Australian" ingredients in Japan. Ingredients like icing sugar, chocolate chips, golden syrup, corn flakes, non-'plastic' cheese, zucchini, passionfruit; are common here are more difficult (or impossible) to find and more expensive there. I'll have to go looking for a Japanese food shop. The only one I know of is in Sunnybank, a fair distance from here. I can buy udon (thick Japanese noodles) at Woolies but not the sauce to go with them. Believe it or not, we miss Japanese food when we're gone. When we're in Japan we don't eat Japanese food daily, but we do enjoy it when we do. One of the reasons I wanted to cook this meal this week is because we have a Korean exchange student with us for the next eight days. I thought he might appreciate some Asian cooking. I don't know how to cook anything Korean, but Japanese is probably closer than Australian. And a cultural experience is what he's here for anyway. This poor nine year old boy has been totally bombarded by our intense boys. Our four y.o. particularly has hardly left Lee alone since he came home from school with everyone. It's going to be an interesting week.

02 August, 2009

Are you more at home in Australia or Japan?

Today we went to our local church and progressed on to a Japanese Fellowship's prayer meeting for Japan. The latter involved bring-and-share lunch and afternoon tea as well as a short harp recital! Upping the standard on your usual prayer meeting, that is for sure. As a whole, though, the day raised the question I've posed as the title for this blog entry: Are you more at home in Australia or Japan. One person at church commented that we must feel quite at home in Japan now that we've been there so long (nearly eight years). She did note that we don't have an accent (to my relief!). My answer was along the lines of, "Yes, we've adjusted quite a lot to Japan and feel reasonably at home there. However we are happy to be back in Australia in a culture we understand and where we can communicate more freely." Then we headed off into an expat. community of Christian Japanese. It felt a little like we'd come home, strangely enough! Our middle son grabbed some chopsticks and hoed into a plateful of Japanese rice. I started mixing up my Japanese and English again. We knew it was correct to leave our shoes at the front door. There were Japanese magazines and books lying around. Suddenly we felt we were back in a normal environment. Have we changed that much? As I think about it, I am a little shocked that I cannot say where I most feel comfortable. I guess I've become a "world" citizen. Or perhaps a little closer to understanding that my citizenship is in heaven, not here on earth. As an aside from my subject, I have to say that they were such an encouraging bunch. I cannot wait until we get to go and hang out with them again. Really, however, the people we feel most at home with these days are others who have lived overseas for a significant period of time and old friends. The third major event in the day was a family who practically just dropped in on us at 5pm. I think they felt a bit awkward (even though they came bearing practical gifts), but we loved having them. Again, the years apart didn't really matter. They'd been reading my blog (Mrs Q and Anika, I know you're out there), so they were up with what we'd been doing and didn't ask tricky questions (aside from "What is the difference between thick and thin tea?"), like, "So where've you been all this time?" and "You must love Japan?" The other great thing was that we hadn't spent a lot of emotional energy planning for a visit, it just happened. If anyone else feels like doing this, please try, it worked well. I fed them tea and hot water (really), bread and orange juice! Easy guests. If you're not fussy, come and drop in. I usually have some kind of snack food available (curtesy of a sweet toothed husband and hungry boys), we'd love to see you!

01 August, 2009

Cheap family excursion

Yesterday the local Brisbane newspaper had an article about families not being able to go on an outing under $100. Nonsense, of course. We went on an almost free outing this morning - to the local library (again) and nearby playground. You'll be pleased to know I let myself drool and get out two novels, two cookbooks, two magazines and a software program I've been itching to try out. I'm going to enjoy trying out some new recipes and using the slow cooker that we've been given (or lent - not sure which). I was able to find some books on Australian basketball (not possible at CAJ - all American basketball) for our basketball-mad 10 y.o. We've also managed to find a club where he could possibly train and play. He and his dad are going to check it out on Monday. As I type, my four guys (big and little) are catching up on some culture. They're watching a DVD we found at the library - TMNT. The big guy is marvelling at how much better it looks than when he was a kid. After lunch we all read books (to varying degrees - four y.o. listened to an audio book for a while and six y.o. enjoyed some maze books). All from the library. We've managed to gain more than one day's enjoyment from a free (not including petrol costs) excursion to the library.