Tuesday, July 16, 2013

What Do We Do All Day, Anyway?

What do we do on an average day in Japan?

Good question! 

Our first few years here are "re-tooling" years, spent in full-time language study.  Stew and Lissa go to class five days per week, typically 3 hours per day.  They spend another 2-3 hours per day doing homework, reviewing a lesson, or pre-viewing the next day's lesson.  It's an arduous schedule for middle-aged brains.  The mental fatigue hits us around mid-day Thursday, but we press on through Thursday and Friday class. 

Our sensei grades Stew's first essay.
Lissa's first Japanese essay!
We meet three days a week with a sensei (teacher) as we work our way through elementary Japanese, vocabulary, and grammar.  We meet another day with a native speaker to focus on conversational Japanese and listening comprehension.  On the fifth day, we study religious language with a group of our missionary co-workers.  This class meets on the opposite side of Tokyo, which means a two-hour commute, one way.  The 3-hour class nets a full 8-hour day when it's all said and done -- exhausting.  The material is essential to our work here, though, so we don't want to miss out.  Just this month we negotiated a new arrangement, and we no longer have to make that commute.  We are so grateful!  We didn't want to whine too loudly about the travel because the teacher lives near our train stop and he makes that same trip twice per week!

Standing room only during morning rush hour. 

Downtown Tokyo from the Japan Rail train. 

Our sensei is very happy with our progress so far.  It's hard to know how well you are doing learning a new language.  We find ourselves battling against speaking Chinese when we're in the classroom...and when we're out on the street, well, it isn't pretty.  Let's just say that it takes a whole different level of proficiency to "think on your feet" in a new language!  Instead of focusing only on spoken Japanese, though, we are going the extra mile to become literate.  It will be slow progress for sure, but worthwhile.  For one thing, I will figure out how to operate my oven, with its numerous oven/microwave functions and FORTY-EIGHT separate programs for daily use!

Our oven, displaying some patriotic spirit during July.

In gold:  some of the 48 programs.  In white:  oven, microwave, steam, and heretofore "unknown" functions.

The girls are out of school now until late-August.   During their first week off, they attended volleyball camp.  During their second week, they hopped a train with two of their friends to visit an amusement park -- by themselves!  Jenna and Heather spend time each day reviewing Japanese, and Heather is working on some Math review as well.  They spend a lot of time reading.  In fact, just this week we made one final trip to CAJ's library before the school shut down for summer.  Each of them came away with a tidy stack of books for summer reading!


We surprised Heather and Jenna with new bicycles during their last week of school.  They have enjoyed going out to explore our neighborhood on their bikes.  We have discovered several bike trails that go through a local park, plus hilly streets for (careful) biking fun.  One evening we happened upon a baseball game, so we sat there to take in a few innings before moving along.

Jenna in our local park 
It's not the Yankees, but it's baseball!

 Summer came gradually, after a six-week long "rainy season."  Now that summer's here, it's gotten pretty hot!  Room a/c units keep the smaller spaces cooled off, but stairwells and other lesser-used areas get mighty warm.  Though we're hot, Tokyo heat, we've discovered, is more bearable than the heat and humidity combo of southern China!

37.5 Celsius = 99.5 degrees F.!!

In our stairwell...

Our beat-the-heat strategy so far involves making friends with the heat -- as in, Stew grilling outdoors as often as possible!  We also discovered a neighborhood pool, so we plan to make regular trips there to cool off.

Steak Strips for Dinner -- YUM.

Bobbing Heads -- Heather and Jenna

All in all, not a bad life.  We are slowly making friends as our Japanese grows by baby steps.  We enjoy friendships with other Japan missionaries, and gather once a month for an English Sunday service since we all attend Japanese churches for weekly worship.  We enjoy hosting other missionaries, particularly the single guys, at our house for Western food and gaming.  We also serve as foster parents for Hassle, a missionary family's kitty.  We affectionately refer to him as "The Old Man" because of his clockwork routine of sleeping and eating!

Hassle, "The Old Man"