23 July, 2015

Another camping adventure

We're off on another camping trip tomorrow (Friday). I'm excited. It's been 20 months since we last went camping in Japan! 

Just before we left for Australia last June a colleague of my husband offered to sell us some of their gear that his family had barely used. So I'm looking forward to seeing how it fits with what we already have (especially the Coleman camp kitchen bench).

We're also going to an area of Japan we've never been to: Niigata prefecture. 

It's an adventure! A four night adventure, it's been over two years since we camped longer than three nights.

And we get to see some fireworks on Sunday night, while sitting on a beach, with friends!

Ah, I can't wait to get back and tell you all about it.

Internet is going to be an issue when we get back, unfortunately. We won't have it at home until early August (much faster than we got it in Australia, though).  Thankfully I can post from my phone, but the posts might be a bit basic on the formatting side of things.

22 July, 2015

Stories provide roots

Day by day we're getting more settled. I was looking through recipes that I've collected over the last 15 years this afternoon and exclaimed, 

 A memory from our lounge room: smaller boys wrestling
at a sleepover.
"This is where we've lived our lives, this is where we have the memories, the routines, and the stuff that our Australian friends and relatives have in Australia."

Yes, it is a little bit about stuff. But many of the things we have have memories and stories.

Of the things we have and use in Australia, much of the last 15 years is missing. We have a lot of things that have been given to us and we've used over the last three home assignments. We have some things that we've bought each time too. We also have things that have sentimental value, but they were given to us for our 21st, engagement and wedding: all of which were over 17 years ago. Some of the things we have we bought as new graduates when we were just starting to live independently as adults, but have hardly used since we left in 2000.

Our house and car (it goes from the
telephone pole to the car).
In Japan where we've lived for 12 of the last 15 years, we have all the issues that Australians in Australia have. Stuff that we've grown out of, things that we've worn out (this rarely happens to our stuff in Australia, that is why we're still using 20 year old crystal that looks almost brand new), and many things that have become a part of our family's story.

I think it is the last that is the most telling. Our story. Our story in Australia is missing significant chunks of time. And as humans, much of our story can be told in the things that surround us. 

The desk I'm working at, for example, we've squeezed into various Japanese houses over the last 15 years, in our second apartment it was in our bedroom. I've written thousands of emails and managed a magazine from this desk. I've written teary emails to friends, and celebrated the joy of many Christmas Days while talking to my family over Skype.

My desk and our dining room table.
The dining room table behind me has seen many a meal. Good conversations and meals that have ended in silence and tears. It has a story too, it was given to us by friends when they moved house. At the time they didn't know (or forgot to mention) that it was an extendable table. We were overjoyed to realise that expanded, we could host eight or more people round our beautiful wooden table.

The giant, ancient American oven in my kitchen has only been a part of our story for the last four years. But I've baked a lot of things in it that have been enjoyed by many people. Producing many stories!

So perhaps you can understand that there is a little something missing for us when we spend time in Australia. A rootedness, perhaps. And lot of our story that loses its context when we hopped on an aeroplane.

I can understand how people feel sad when their family home is sold, or when they have to downsize to move into a small unit as older age approaches. Much of what we have isn't valuable. But it has stories.

I'm glad to be back in the place where many of my more recent stories are more easily told and remembered.

19 July, 2015


Some were concerned that we left Australia exhausted. It was a concern because we were very tired, but the bigger picture was better. 

We landed in Japan in the middle of the school's summer holidays. We were in our house for less than a week before my parents arrived and we whisked them off to a holiday next to Mt Fuji.

Below is the view that greeted us on our first morning. We were gobsmacked. We had no idea Mt Fuji was so close to where we were staying (the summit was only 14 km away).

This is a view out of the lounge window. The house is on a property with six other cabins/chalets owned by a mission. Missionaries frequently stay here for a break.

On the first day four of us rode around the lake the chalets face onto. It was about 13 km around, a very pleasant ride. The lake is about 900m above sea level and hence the temperature was moderate (Tokyo was hot and humid before we left).
What I love about this photo is the huge bike park. No cars could get in here, and they'd painted bike-sized parks.

A couple of days later we drove south to Hakone, renowned for amazing marquetry, inlaid wood designs on products. It is a place we've been hoping to visit for a few years now, after our eldest son discovered the clever Trick Boxes that they also create. 

This is the view out of our bedroom window. If the temperatures were mild, they were even better under the trees. I even wore my tracky dacks (US = sweat pants) for some of the time. We slept long and hard in the peace we found here. It was restorative and desperately needed. Last Sunday morning we went to church in Tokyo and I struggled. I came home with a pounding headache and exhausted. Clearly a holiday was necessary. I'm please to say I'm feeling much more stable now with fewer headaches.

This was on our trip home. The day after our road trip to Hakone it rained continually all day. We all stayed inside and played hours of board games. It was a restorative day too. The next day we headed home, amidst grey skies and some showers. We were thankful for the grey skies as they kept the temperatures down in Tokyo for a couple more days.

Our away-from-home holidays aren't quite over yet. Next Friday we head away for four nights on our first camping trip in Japan this term. We're going to another new destination, a completely different part of Japan. I'm looking forward to telling you about it. I'm also looking forward to getting out of Tokyo's oppressive heat for another few days before we knuckle down and bear with it for the rest of the summer.

11 July, 2015

Settling into Tokyo again

I've started a few blog posts in the last few days, but never got past the first couple of lines. It's been busy, I've been sick, and now we have visitors.
Some boxes of books yet to be unpacked.
We didn't move out but we did pack up
our personal stuff so the ladies sub-letting
our house had room for their own stuff.

We arrived back in the country early Tuesday morning and caught a bus to a train station three stops from our place. We were "home" by 10.30am. 

I was sick, somehow I ended up with the runs (sorry for the TMI). No idea how or why, but it wasn't painful, just inconvenient. So I spent the first day and a half of being back in the country lying down and not eating.

While I was incapacitated David juggled our house into functional shape. We'd had all our personal stuff in one bedroom and the other two bedrooms set up for two single ladies. But by Tuesday night we were able to sleep in our own beds in our own rooms. He also got some food into the house so we could eat (even if it was just grilled cheese on white toast).

On Wednesday I was still horizontal most of the day while David sorted out some bureaucratic details at immigration and the city office (actually he might have done the latter on Tuesday afternoon). He also made his first attempt at getting us Japanese mobiles. We had the lovely treat of going out to dinner at one of our favourite Italian restaurants with friends who were just about to leave for home assignment themselves.

By Thursday I was vertical, though still a little shaky. We did a family trip to Costco to stock up the larder. And in the afternoon David tried a second time to get us mobiles. I baked some packet-brownies and put the Costco stuff away.

On Friday David got up early and drove a couple of hrs across Tokyo to pick up my parents who are visiting for 10 days. I did some more grocery shopping and some bike maintenance and carport sweeping. David arrived with my parents late morning. After lunch he went for his third try at getting us mobiles, and this time succeeded.

That's the bare bones of the last few days. These days were punctuated by lots of laundry, sleep, finding places to put everything, and the excited discovery of things forgotten. The boys have, by and large, been playing with Lego and other toys they've missed for the last year.

Tomorrow after church in the morning we're heading off with Mum and Dad for some much needed holidays near Mt Fuji. One reason we've crammed so much into this week is so that we can go away and relax next week. I'm very much looking forward to it, even though it means packing again!

It's been a good start to our re-entry. Smoother than you might think, as it doesn't feel like we've been away long. Boys are already starting to catch up with friends and we're slotting back into the easy rhythms of life that we knew.

06 July, 2015

Checking in from Asia

Our missions conference has ended, with many wonderful memories. This morning we're preparing to hop on aeroplanes again, this time we're headed "home" to Tokyo. This time we'll be able to unpack our suitcases and put stuff away. After the next 24 hrs, the only overnight travel we're doing in the next few months is for holidays: six nights next week and four nights camping at the end of July.

The last few weeks have been hectic and I'm paying for it now. I've had diarrhoea for the last 24 hrs (but not painful) and have struggled with headaches on and off over the last week too. The rest of the family is exhausted too. David's had a cold and the boys are also tired (making for some "messy" behaviour moments).

But it has been an amazing time of meeting with people from different parts of the world, some of whom we had no idea we would meet. I had lunch with an Asian lady we met in Indonesia in the early '90s. She had no idea David and I were married, let alone doing the work we do. She's also been on an amazing life journey.

Yesterday I met someone I last also knew in the early '90s, at my church when I was at uni. Except he was a little boy back then. He's now also working in Asia. He's the sixth young person I now know of from that church and era working in full-time cross-cultural ministry.

This is the largest missions conference we've ever been a part of. The kids programme alone included 100 teens and 260 younger children. The singing has been amazing. We know that we're not alone in the mission-work, but so often we work alone or in small groups. Indeed in the last year we've been the sole representatives of mission in most churches or groups we've visited, that can be discouraging. It's been exciting to be a part of an event this last week full of people who have a similar life experience as us, even if they're from different home countries to us and are working in hugely different situations and countries.

One special memory we'll take with us is the free-time activity we did on Saturday. We went up into the hills and did a 32 zip-line course. It was an amazing experience. Certainly an exercise in trust as we were totally reliant on our tour guides' and our harnesses as we glided among the tree-tops many metres above the ground. At times not even able to see the end of the cable we were flying along (one was 400m and the longest 600m).

But I have to admit I'm over this travel business. I want to settle in my own place and not see another airport for a good long time. Exciting adventures are nice in their place, but they are exhausting. So are goodbyes. I'm ready to say some hellos in Tokyo (although I'm not looking forward to the Tokyo heat).