Saturday, June 13, 2009

For Realz this time, Part 2

Ok, I know its been a while, but here is part two!

So, I believe I explained this before, but our "beds" consist of a futon mat, which we lay out on the floor, we then place the sheet on top of that and then the blanket, complete with pillows. There are two rooms that could be used for sleeping, the tatami mat, which I have pictures of on my flickr account (which I WILL update soon). It is a tightly woven straw mat that is actually quite comfortable. The other room is just a room with a hard wood floor. We decided (since it was recommended) to all sleep in the tatami room and leave the other room as a hang out area (which has quickly degenerated into the "throw all your crap into" room. Admittedly, the tatami room is much more fun to hang out in) We then fold up all our bedding each morning (most mornings) and place it into the cabenet for the day.

Ok, now HERE'S the problem. Despite the tatami mat being much more comfortable than hard wood floors, its STILL the floor. And I roll around a lot in my sleep. In addition to that, I have a bad shoulder.

For those of you who don't know (which I imagine to be not too many of you, but I think I should explain for the few who do not), but I have a bad shoulder. It was a wrestling injury I recieved in high school, but did not get fixed until much later. Due to the injury, I had very limited mobility in my left arm where even basic movements, like shrugging, became quite painful. To this day, I usually only shrug with my right shoulder, out of habit.

About a year after the injury, I injured it further. At this point, what limited mobility I had enjoyed up until that point had been lost. I could not move my arm without my shoulder in a decent amount of pain....and I STILL waited until the wrestling season was over to get my surgery. Imagine this in your mind. Me wrestling, with my left arm hanging completely limp at my side...and I still place 3rd in state.

Out of 3

ANY WHOoooo. So, take my bad shoulder, add sleeping on the floor, plus my tendancy of rolling around while I sleep and you get a recipe that makes my left shoulder in pretty much constant (however slight) pain. So, theres that.

So, my first morning. I awoke to find blood on my pillow. I was confused. Did I suffer a random concussion while I slept. Nope, its not coming from the ears. Did my nose start to bleed? Nope, doesn't seem to be coming from my nose? WHERE THE CRAP DID THIS BLOOD COME FROM?

Well, some mysteries are best solved after breakfast. I began to meet when Kylan told me that I had a HUGE gash across my forehead. I rushed to the bathroom to notice there was a fairly big line of dried blood on my forehead, about two inches in lenght. I was lucky enough to notice that it was NOT a huge gash, but a line of blood that ran down my forehead and onto my pillow. The actual cut was very, very small. Which is suprising, due to the amount of blood. So, from now on we know which bedding is mine.

Mines the one with the blood on it.

Typing this has led me to a question that is probably on all your minds, but has not crossed mine until this very second. WHY THE CRAP HAVE I NOT WASHED THE PILLOWCASE YET! I have NO idea, I think I will do that later today.

Anyway, the first couple of days consisted of little activity so that we had time to get over jet lag. We were constantly told that the next few days would look NOTHING like the rest of the trip (boy, they were RIGHT). We had a couple of meetings in the girls room (the rooms consist of 4 guys in 204, three guys in 201, me and my 3 roommates in 305 and all 6 girls in 408, needless to say, their room is the biggest) talking about how the rest of the trip would look like.

But that was probably boring and I do not rememeber it, so lets move onto the fun stuff.

At some point, we all went to MOS burger. The only Non-American based hamburger place in (I could have said Non-McDonalds place, but that would have been easier and consisting of less words) Koenji. (Or in Japan, I think) We all went there because the hamburgers ARE distinctly Japanese (they are small, and they are donut shaped and the condiments are place in the whole, its kinda cool) and because it was one of the few places in Japan that is large enough to seat a party of 17. I felt so bad for the people taking the order. Most of us speak no Japanese, and many of us are particular when it comes to food (no onions, no, no, NO onions.....NO ONIONS! FINE! I guess I'l just scrape them off!...No pickles please)

It also did not help that Sammy and I decided that we would just point at the menu behind them and say "I want THAT!" and let THEM figure out what we wanted. We thought we were adventurous, they probably thought we were jerks.

Also, I had melon soda, it was good.

Some time later (I have little to no recollection with what days this stuff happened, so please bare with me.) We went to Student Impact. Student Impact is Campus Crusade, but they call it something different in Japan, something about it "Campus Crusade" being difficult to say in Japanese. It was great, we got to meet with the Japanese christians as well as the staff that we would be helping out. We introduced ourselves and got fed. It was yummy. We also discovered many awesome Japanese resources, such as the New Testament in english and japanese, as well as manga versions of the New Testament. Many people got a kick out of that. I also got to meet Nosuke, who has been since become one of my good friends.

After the meeting, we went on a scavenger hunt. We were told to go to Shibuya (a prefecture known for shopping, slightly less crowded than Shinjuku), we were in Mitaka at the time, so none of us had ANY idea on how to get to Shibuya, I personally had no idea where I was (we had never been to Mitaka before) so it seemed pretty freaky at first. So, we were put into teams and basically given a crash course of the train system.

My team consisted of Matt, Tracy and my roommate Tim. We went to the trainstation and attempted to figure out how much we had to pay in order to get to Shibuya (we were given some money for the hunt). We found an older lady that speaks english, but did not know Tokyo very well. She told us a way that meant we had to get onto one train and transfer to another train.

Meanwhile, I had found a student from Michigan, that had been living in Shibuya for 2 years and gave me COMPLETELY different directions. He told me of a train that went directly to Shibuya, unfortunately, none of my team saw me talking to him, so we went with the directions that he woman told us, which was wrong and we spent more money than we needed to to fix the problem. I am not bitter, its just that I WAS RIGHT. BOOYA! (Shi-BOOYA! chuckle [if you do not get that joke, I will explain, that is how you pronounce Shibuya])

So we got to Shibuya, where we began to go over the list of items we were meant to find. We were supposed to find Hachiko and we got bonus points for finding out the story behind it. As a side note, this hunt pretty much required us to ask people for help, which was a great into the interacting with Japanese people. (No, I'm not being sarcastic, I'm being serious, I thought it was great) We found Hachiko was a statue of a dog, and we got a picture with it, which then convinced every Japanese person in the facinity that it meant that WE could take pictures of them for them. I don't necessarily mind this, but we were on a tight schedule.

"Ok, heres your camera back, can you tell me what...oh, I see, you are walking away. Thanks for the help...yeah"

Well, we found out later (after the contest was over, sadly), that Hachiko was the name of a dog that lived in Shibuya. His master was an old man that would go to work every day, and Hachiko would wait at the trainstation for them to return home together. Well, one day, the master died on his way back from work. So Hachiko waited for his master every day at the trainstation at the same time for his master to return, until Hachiko himself eventually died. Its a sad story, but the statue was put up to honor the dog, the most loyal dog in Shibuya.

After getting a picture at the Hachiko statue, we went looking for a store called The Loft, since we were supposed to find a pen there. We eventually found it, and The Loft was SO COOL. The place was HUGE! And there were Gundam and Dragonball Z stuff! YaY!

Then we had to find out what a "puricura" booth was, and we had to "bring back a suvenier" We had NO idea what that was or what it meant. So we started asking around, I asked a man working in a clothing store (most of the stores have no real front wall and you basically can walk in and out freely, its shaped like this l_l...kinda). and asked him what one was. He got so excited he walked us out of the store, down the street and in front of an arcade. All the while, I'm thinking "this dude totally just ditched his work to show us this thing".

It turns out that a "Puricura" booth is one of those photo booths that are so popular here in Japan. Friends and couples will go in there and get several pictures of them taken and they can customize the background and the stuff in the picture. Luckily, the man in charge of the puricura booths was very nice and helped us through the whole process, despite him not knowing too much english. After that, we went to the apple store, not too much excitement.

We then had to find a store called Shibuya 109 and go up all the floors on the escalator. We asked around until we found the largest building in the area with the words "Shibuya 109" in large letters on it ("How the crap did we miss that?" was my responce) Luckily, the place was only 8 floors and 1 basement. But it had so many clothing stores, there were SO many clothing stores for women it was rediculous. The ONLY guys there were ones with women. I don't think I even saw any male employees. There was ONE store for guys, on the top floor, and it was "coming soon". We were also tasked to eat as much new food as possible. So we went to a french bakery on one of the floors. (they said NEW not NEW JAPANESE, yay loopholes! [hey, we weren;t the only ones to take advantage of that, one group went to McDonalds]) and got some cool pastries.

After that, we got to together and swapped stories. We then returned to Mitaka and discovered that there would be no actual winner (awww, but I wanted to win) and that your team members would also be on your campus teams.

You see, the primary goal of this trip is to go to Japanese college campuses, meet college students and become friends with them. Once you become friends, use that friendship as an oprotunity to share the gospel with them and introduce them to christians that are fellow Japanese students. But, we are too large of a group to all go on one campus at a time, also, there are too many campuses to have us go to all of them each day and be effective. So, the whole team was devided in half and each campus team had two college campuses that they would focus on during the week. My team has GaiDai (the Tokyo Univeristy of Foriegn Studies) on Monday and Wednesday and ICU (International Christian University) on Tuesday, Thursday and Friday.

So, with that being known, we prepared to begin going to campus, since we started the day after the scavenger hunt.

We began going to campus on Tuesday, so my team had ICU that day. We had to take a train to Mitaka and then a bus to the school. Despite being known as International Christian University, most of the students are not Christian. Its only called that becasue the university was founded by a Christian. There are Christian classes and a church on campus, but the classes sound more like bible history and the church does not seem to perform services, but is merely a classroom for said Christianily classes. In addition, from what we have heard about what is taught at the classes, it is not entirely correct.

We spent most of that day prayer-walking and getting to know the campus. Matt and I talked to two people, one of them lived in America for a while, and the other was a foriegn exchange student. We quickly discovered that the campus was BEAUTIFUL! There were so many trees on campus, and the whole thing is surrounded in forrest. At some point, Matt and I found a traditional tea house in the forrest near campus. It was the summer home for some big-wig samurai that was torn down, transported to campus, and rebuilt some time in the 60s, but the structure was originally built in the 1600s, i believe. I so wanted to go in, but I know that tea ceremonies are very strict, so I did not want to go in and do something that would anger someone, so I merely admired from a distance. We met some of the SI (student impact, I will probably call it SI from now on) staff that work at ICU, and it was cool meeting them.

The next day, we went to GaiDai. I just felt SO confident there. I did not feel uneasy or anything, which is odd, because we were warned to be very careful on this campus because SI teams have been kicked off before. We had to go into the campus in groups of two and never all at once, since we might be considered suspicision and banned from the campus.

Well, Tracy and I spent some time prayer walking, we were trying to find the club house. Japanese clubs are after school clubs that students join based on their interests (anime club, archery club, tennis club, etc) We eventually asked someone named Kazuki where the club house was, only to find that we were standing beside it. We eventually got into a long conversation with him and he wanted to meet and talk again, so we swapped emails and planned on meeting the following week.

Thursday and Friday rolled around with not too much that I can remember happening at ICU, except Tim and I talked with a group of three students that wanted to meet again the following Thursday. I DID find out that my group would be further split into two sub-teams. One team would go to ICU on tuesdays and the other would go to the nearby ICU high school. This team would talk in front of 1 freshman class on the following thursday and 2 classes the next day. They would share about their life as a Christian and then break the class into discussion groups where they would lead a Q/A session for the remainder of the class. Then, they would host an english lunch (where students could meet with native english speakers and practice their english, apparently its very common) that friday, as well as every tuesday for the next 3 weeks.

I was assigned a part of the ICU high school team.

First of all, that meant I had to cancel the meeting with the 3 students that I mentioned earlier, and second, I was totally freaking out. Each class had 4o students, thats a lot. But, I will speak more on this later.

That Saturday, I was told that some people would go to Asasksa (a place with a large Japanese temple) and that it was optional. I wanted to go to Akihabara, a place well known for anime and electronics (RIGHT up my ally), so i figured I would wait around until they left and find someone who wanted to go with me among the straglers. Well, that morning I found out that pretty much EVERYONE went there. The only people left behind were myself, and my two roomates, Kylan and Josh, who had planned on spending the day at a soccer game that a friend they had met on campus was playing in. So my choices were, go with them to the soccer game, or be stuck in Koenji by myself.

Despite what most of you are probably assuming, I went to the soccer game.

It was a lot of fun. We took the long way there (AKA, got to the town where the game was taking place and then walked for over an hour on foot after deciding we didn't want to take the bus....for some reason) but it was so fun when we got there. Not necessarily for the soccer game, as most of you know, I really don't like soccer. It was fun to hang out with my roommates, and it was fun for reasons I promised not to tell. But it was really funny. I might share it later if Josh gives me permission.

The next day, we went to church and I had to dress up, I hate dressing up, I always feel so awkward.

On that note, that finished the first full week. I would like to type more, but this is long enough as it is and I'm hungry. I will talk about the next week later. Until next time

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Ok! For realz this time!

Yeah, like I said earlier, I owe you all a REAL blog post, so I will do my best to make this it. Here we go

When we arrived in California, I got to meet all the people I would meet the next 5 or so weeks with. We all bonded really well really fast, and I am not saying that due to the fact that some of them probably read this. I honestly mean it. I roomed with Joe during this time. He was a pretty awesome guy, but I would have no idea HOW awesome until I got here in Japan. I think he REALLY got out of his shell once we got here and he is a blast to be around. If you have access to my facebook account, he is the one that I am fighting in my new profile picture.

So yeah, but we quickly discovered once we got there that collectively, we still owed $19,000 for us all to go on the trip....yeah, and only a couple of days to raise it. Yeah, we were in deep trouble. So we were getting to know each other, knowing full well that the possibility that any one of us could not end up going was looming over all our heads. But, we were rapidly calling EVERYONE we know in order to raise that money. Luckily, God was on our side the entire time (PRAISE GOD!) and we were able to raise ALL of it (well, pretty much) within only a couple of days. People who already raised all their support will calling in for more, and people were calling friends that had already given and asked for more and people they had already asked before and figured they would give it another try. So, if you are one of the people I or anyone else called those few days, THANK YOU SO MUCH!

Anyway, we went through several "getting to know each other" exercises, both on a spiritual level and a fun/cultural level. We got into teams and played trivia against each other. If one person lost the other would have to try a random Japanese snack of the winners choice, like Almond Fish (it contains EXACTLY what you think it does, almonds and little dehydrated fish...eyes included) My team was called Dynamic Awesome McFusion, guess who came up with that name (it was me, how did you know?)

In addition, me losing my passport brought the whole team together in prayer for me as well as my passport. Once it was found, we got on the plane. Now, I had been on international flights before, but this was different than any I had been on (all two of them). For some reason, it did not feel as long, mostly since I had a lot of fun talking with the other people, and there were televisions in the headrests, so we could play games, for free, against one another. I watched several Clint Eastwood films, including Gran Torino, which I really enjoyed and am thinking about buying on DVD when I return. Yes Clint Eastwood was REALLY racist, but I believe that it accurately depicts the racism that unfortunately exists heavily in the elderly generation, and was necessary for the evolution of his character since he was able to get overcome decades of his own racism and find peace with himself, as well as make the first true friend he probably has had in a very long time.

But that is not the issue right now. (Sorry, I am a film major, I do this a lot. You can only imagine the kill joy I was after the team watched Star Trek)

Anyway, after we arrived in Tokyo, we still had several long trainrides in order to finally get to Koenji. It had been a long day (we left friday and arrived was a long day) and we were getting TIRED. Several of us were dozing off on the train, but the rest of us kept us awake with word games and stuff like that because if we fell asleep, jet lag would be really hard to overcome. It was REALLY fun to carry our large luggage on several trains, most of which we had to stand up the whole time.

Once we arrived at the apartment (Rain Palace) we met Scott, one of the people we would be working with while on this trip. He gave us our apartment keys and got us all beef bowls while we had a final briefing before finally going to bed. I found out that Tim, Kylan and Josh were to be my roommates (yes Josh, I typed your name, YaY!) (He is sitting next to me currently, so, yeah) and we figured out our sleeping situation (where specifically on the tatami mat we are sleeping) and which set of bedding are ours, I quickly secured which bedding was mine by bleeding all over the pillow (I will get to that later). And then we got a well deserved rest.

Ok, I had hoped to cover more ground in this blog, but I actually had a really long conversation during the making of this, and now it is late. So, since I have an early day tomorrow, I will wish you all good night, and will continue with the rest of the first week once I return.

Also, as a side note, I realized that the time I need to be up tomorrow Japanese time, is the time that the blog is being posted in America (only one day in the future [insert ghostly noise here!])

Here is an explaination of the "future thing" right now, Japanese time, it is 12:08 wednesday morning. In Arizona (according to my computer clock) it is 8:08 in the morning tuesday morning. Yeah, I said too much and I am tired, Laterz!

Saturday, June 6, 2009

A whole new journey!

So, this post will be short. I owe you all a real post, so I will post one shortly. This post is about a NEW blog I am a part of making.

As a part of this project, we each have been assigned a team that we are leading. Tim and I are a part of the journalism team. We are to chronicle the adventures of these young crusaders (CAMPUS crusaders, hyuk hyuk!), like the bards of old. So, we were tasked to created a blog for the entire team...

Well, we figured, forget that! We will do something BETTER! So, BEHOLD!

Epic tales of our grand adventures await you in this...well, you will have to click on the link to find out what it actually is. (And because we are still figuring it out ourselves)

Thursday, June 4, 2009

So, I could really use your prayers

The short version is, I had a pretty bad panic attack yesterday at the train station and I could really use your prayers since now I am now pretty afraid of trains.

Allow me a moment to explain.

I do not generally like being touched. This usually includes being poked, prodded, having my neck touched and holding hands. I also do not like it when I do not have a decent amount of elbow room. If under these conditions, I generally feel mildly uncomfortable when placed under these conditions, but it was never anything serious. I was told that certain characteristics become much greater when in a foreign country. For example, if you are normally outgoing, you may become REALLY outgoing, or if you are shy, you may feel really shy in a foreign country.

For me, my dislike of being touched was greatly exaggerated. I was slowly becoming claustrophobic.

This is a problem, since the train is the general vehicle of transportation in Japan. And they can get VERY crowded in rush hour. So I was very afraid of the possibility (or inevitability) of having to get on a really crowded train. Before yesterday, I began to noticed that I was beginning to HATE being touched at all. even brushing elbows with people on the bus. There were a couple of times where I would refuse to sit with my teammates on the bus, since (although I did not admit this to them) I was too afraid to share a seat with them. This had never happened before, and I was VERY afraid of how I would react if forced to get on a really crowded train.

I need to tell a short story in order to fully explain my fear of this eventuality.

I have a bizarre thing where I need to wash my hands moderately often. Not because of germs or anything, I am not a germaphobe . I just do not like getting my hands dirty. An example being that, when I am eating ribs, I have to wash my hands after every rib, because I cannot stand having my hands sticky and napkins simply do not complete the job. Well, one day in class. I noticed that the crook of my hand (is that what it is called? I am talking about that part of the hand between your thumb and your pointer finger) was dirtier than normal. But class was not yet over, so I decided to wait. As time went on, I could not think about anything else but my feeling that I NEEDED to wash my hands. Eventually, I began to panic. I eventually RAN out of the classroom to wash my hands. When I got to the bathroom, not even having my hands finally clean could calm my panic. I eventually washed my wrists, then forearms, then biceps until I finally calmed down.

I must have been a sight, first I run out of class (I was sitting in the front row of all places, but luckily I was on the end of the row) and then I return with wet sleeves.

So, since I have had a panic attack before, I was afraid of how I would react on a crowded train where I could not run away. I was seriously afraid I would start yelling (a BIG no-no in Japan) and start striking fellow traingoers.

Well, yesterday the team went to Shinjuku to see a movie (Star Trek, I had already seen it, but it was still fun) I was told earlier that getting back would be crowded, so I was trying to mentally prepare myself of this event.

I did NOT do a good job.

So, after the movie, we went back to the trainstation, and I noticed there were significantly less people out front of the station than there were on the way to the theatre (the way there was PACKED, it was crazy), so I figured I had gotten a lucky break. Well, inside the station was more crowded. We took the train to Nakano (the town next to Koenji, where we are living), the ride was not the most pleasant, but I figured I had gotten through the worst of it. I was dead wrong.

There were LINES of people waiting to get on the train. It had not arived yet, but if all those people were getting onto the train, I could only imagine the combination of these lines with the people already on the train. I was a little freaked out, but I was able to calm myself down. Then, right before the train was scheduled to get there, someone was on the tracks.

I do not know HOW this man got on the tracks. He either tried to jump out in front of the train, but had terrible timing, or he fell (I am leaning towards he fell). There was a loud alarm going off the whole time, and the train was stopped to get the man off the tracks. This gave me too much time to think about the crampedness of the car. In addition, it gave time for more people to get to the platform, people who were trying to get on the train that WOULD have arrived after we left, but were now going to get on our train. What was once organized lines of people had become a large, unorganized mass, all awaiting to cram onto the same train as me. Something about the mix of too much time to think about the train, the loud alarm, and the panicked staff trying to get the man off the tracks all mixed into me starting to feel nauseous and that it for me.

I began to try and breath deeply in order to calm my stomach's desire to vomit. Only, I quickly discovered that I had lost complete and total control of my breathing and was breathing very heavily, which caused me to become very light headed. At this point, my nearby team mates noticed and asked if I was ok, since they all knew that I am clausterphobic. I told them (although it was very difficult to speak through my heavy breathing) that I was light headed. I knew that I was light headed, but hearing myself SAY that I was lightheaded was too much for me. My panic attack had begun.

I do not remember much after that. I do remember being told to place my hands on my knees. It was shortly after this that I realized that I could no longer feel my hands. It was like they had both fallen asleep. I was told after the event that I was getting too much oxygen and my body was starting to shut itself down, starting with the hands and feet. I vaguely remember being given a bag to breath into, and I also remember the other people on the platform beginning to notice me and come in to ask if I was ok.

Ok, now, I KNOW they meant well, but seriously! Do you think that it is a smart idea to crowded around something that is having a clausterphobia induced panic attack? I know that there was no way for them to have know why I was freaking out, but still.

Luckily, Kylan was there to convince the Japanese citizens that I was ok and they had to step back. After a while, Tim was able to help talk me down from it, I do not remember what he said, but I DO remember it was helpful. At this time, the train had finally come and I was able to speak enough to convince my team mates that I was getting better and would be ok and they should get on the train. Gen was going to stay with me until I was fully better. They left and then I saw a sight that almost caused another panic attack. A man was trying to force his way onto the train.

Ok, now in order to fully understand what I mean, imagine a very large rock. Probably about the size of a house. Now imagine a man trying to move that rock by placing his back against the rock and pushing with his legs. Got an image in your head? THAT is what this man was doing to this crowd. He was not forcing his way INTO the crowd by pushing past people, the train was so jam packed with people that forcing his way in was impossible. This man was trying to COMPACT the crowd enough for him to get on. It was THAT crowded.

And I was almost ON that train!

After seeing that sight, I quickly turned away from the train. I almost threw up right there. I then was brought over to a bench where Gen and I could sit until I was feeling up to moving again. He prayed for me until I was fully came back to my senses.

We ended up taking a taxi back because this was the only train going to Koenji and the next three were just as crowded as the last. Luckily, with the exception of feeling a little disoriented and a light chest pain, I was able to recover.

The only problem is, this will most likely not be the last time I will have to face a crowded train. On top of that, my experience has left me with a slight fear of getting onto trains. Which is really bad since (like I said earlier) the train is THE form of transportation in Japan and I have 3 and a half more weeks of Japanese trains.

So please, pray that I will be able to overcome this fear of trains and that this will only be a temporary thing. I love being here and I do not want something like this to tarnish the amazing experience that I am having. God had proven that He has been with this project since before we even left for Tokyo, so I know that He is with me now, but the augment of your prayers will be greatly appreciated.

So yeah, hopefully a much more upbeat post next time.

Monday, June 1, 2009

I had Shaka Shaka Chicken for the first time yesterday

Just a thought, but I feel as though the title to this post deserves some explanation.

I believe that some of you may be aware of a little restaurant called McDonalds. Although some of you may know it by its nickname. Micky Ds. Well, these restaurants are everywhere. Including Tokyo. Well, I told myself that I would not go there. Its too American, why go to McDonalds when I can just as easily go there when I get back, when I can experience stinky beans covered in raw eggs (I will hopefully get to Natto later). This claim is difficult, since one of my roommates WON"T stop talking about how badly he wants to go there. He claims its for the fries...sure it is...

Anyway, I was holding fast to my desire to avoid McDonalds, until last night (Sunday night). We had just finished a team meeting and were given our weekly food allowance (which is a whopping 14,000 yen a week. I really like food, but last week I only spent 10.000) We had gotten back to Koenji (the meeting was in Mitaka, which is about 5 trainstations away), when Andrew turned to me and said only two words, "Dollar Menu?"

Now, most food places had closed by this time (it was about 10 at night) and I had not eaten really at all today (I figured that if I didn't spend any more money and waited until we recieved our new allowance, I could keep the left over money and recover the costs for the watch I bought) and rice takes about an hour to make. So "Dollar Menu" was very inticing. Especially since it was a true dollar menu, the foods cost only 100 yen (1 yen equals 1 cent) and there is no added tax afterwards. So it says its costs 1oo yen, it actually costs 100 yen. That was when I discovered how different a Japanese dollar menu is.

The Japanese McDonalds has the regular McDonalds fare, such as big macs and fries, but they also have differnt items. Such as the McPork, the McHotdog (which actually looks kind of gross, the hotdog looks disgusting and there seems to be ketchup and egg salad on it), the McBacon and Potato Pie (ok, there was no "Mc" in the last one, but the item is real) Two of these items were on the dollar menu. So, I bought a McPork and a Shaka Shaka Chicken. The McPork I thought was going to be like a McRib. I section of meet covered in Barbeque sauce. I was wrong, the meet tasted like nothing I remember tasting (that is not necessarily a good thing. Actually, now that I think about it, its kinda creepy) and it was covered in teriyaki sauce, and a few flimsy pieces of lettuce. Actually, this discription makes it sounds really gross, but it was actually quite decent.

Then there was a Shaka Shaka chicken. This is an amazing concept that I think should come to America. It is a piece of delicious piece of chicken in a paper bag. This is not what makes the chicken "Shaka Shaka". Alongside the chicken in your choice of sauce. There was garlic, cheese, and another that I forget. I choose cheese. Think of the cheese powder sauce in Kraft macoroni and cheese. Now pour that into the paper bag , close he paper bag and SHAKA SHAKA! Shake up the bag and you got chicken covered in cheese powder. This is how Japanese view American food. Chicken covered in cheese powder. It was actually quite good.

Then, it was my turn to buy breakfast for the apartment. The nearby grocery store was closed, so I went to the 24 hour grocery store near the train station. It was larger, but more expensive than the normal store, but I usually wake up last, so if I did not buy breakfast, I would not have any the following morning.

So, off to the supermarket. I gathered all the things I needed for breakfast: Cereal, bread, milk, apple juice, and orange juice. Right before I got the milk and juices, I realized that I did not have enough room in my arms to carry everything. So I looked for a basket, except all of them are kept I had to place all my items back so I could get a basket w/o being accused of stealing. So, once I gathered my foods a second time (as well as my favorite item, a liter of CC Lemon). Then, I went to the pastry counter. One of my favorite pastries is this really tasty with break with various things inside of it. These range from peanut butter, chocolate, meat and bean paste. There was only 1 kind of this pasty, and I had no idea which one it was. So I decided to ask a man what was in this pastry. He could not understand what I meant by "in the middle", so I abandoned asking what was IN he pastry and asked what the characters on the package was.

Now, remember last post when I said that you need to approach a Japanese citizen like one would a cat. Here is what happens when you DON'T follow that rule.

He told me what the characters said on the Japanese, which I do not understand. So, I told him that I do not speak Japanese, and the gentlemen ran away. This was not some awkward teen working at a supermarket, it was an adult male, older than me. When I told him that I did not speak Japanese, he turned tail and ran away from me. I felt so awkward. I had no idea what to do, so I just stood there with absolutely no idea what to do.

Eventually, he came back. But this time with a packet of something and handed it to me. However, it was still a mystery what was in this packet, I knew it was mushy. I had limited my quess to either chocolate or bean paste. I asked what was in it, he pointed at the ingrediants, still in Japanese. In hindsight, how the crap did he answer all my questions, but still be so INCREDIBLY unhelpful? I mean, how was he able to understand my questions, but still not be able to answer them?

He then pulled out his phone and translated the ingrediants, which turned out to be bean paste. Which is as gross as it sounds, but its the staple Japanese sweet. So I did not buy it.

That ended activities for Sunday, but I guess I should mention what happened before I went to McDonalds. Sunday began with us all going to church. It was a lot of fun, but I had to dress up, I hate dressing up. I always feel so stupid. But I did it anyway and made it over to the church with the rest of the group. The service was very good, even though the pastor was speaking Japanese, luckily there was a translator. The church seemed to have a strong Hawaiian influence. The word "Alloha" was everywhere, including at the begining of the service. After the service, we had to make our way back to the train, in the rain.

Now, forgive me a small rant. But like I said earier, its the rainy season here in Japan. So it rains alot. EXCEPT whenever I leave the house with an umbrella. If I ever grab an umbrella, it instantly stops raining. Me and Sammy both beleive that we control the weather. We both had the argument that whenever we carry umbrellas, it doesn't rain and it only rains when we forget, one day I left w/o an umbrella and he left with one, so only one of us could be right. I won. It began to rain.

Well, that pretty much describes my Sunday. Today was an interesting day. We went to GaiDai today, talking to students. Me and Matt talked to Minoru. His father is an American and he was interested in meeting again on Monday. We hope to go deeper into sharing our faith upon the next meeting. We later regrouped and this time I teamed up with Tim. We sat and talked to this guy. We small talked for a bit before we told him we were with Student Impact (the Japanese version of Campus Crusade for Christ) an internation Christian circle. He responds that he is Buddhist, and his family does not allow him to interact with Christian makes eventually sharing our faith VERY DIFFICULT. I asked him about Buddhism, so I could find a point to link in my beliefs. I did not find one, but I continued to ask him about his faith. I don't know if it was a limited understanding of his own faith (an example of "I believe because it sounds peachy" or "I believe because my parents tell me to") or if it was the large language barrier (his english was ok, but it was really hard for him to share finer points like religious faith) but it was really hard to get anything across. So I gave him my contact information and hope that the questions I asked would make him more question his faith and want to ask more questions of me next time. Please pray that our words softened his heart for next time.

See you next time. Shaka Shaka!

Saturday, May 30, 2009

So, today's Sunday, so today's the first day of regular blog. But I overslept so it will be short. Koenji is really growing on me. I am really beginning to get a hang of where everything is. I recently found the outdoor mall thing. Its pretty much a normal line of clothing stores, but with a cover over it. Which is very useful since its in the middle of the rainy season in Japan. So its been raining a lot.

I hvae been lucky enough to try many new foods. I have really enjoyed Japanese curry, which is not nearly as spicy as Indian curry, which is a mild disappointment, but its really good none the less. Last night I went to a tempura place. I know tempura is not something that is new to me, but there were stuff that was tempuraed (is that even a word? I don't think so, but you should know what it means) like green beens, squid, and the oddest (but surprisingly the most delicious) pumpkin. I have also tried taiyaki, which I have heard great things about. It is a pastry (the outside of which that tastes kind of like pancakes) that is filled with various things, from bacon and eggs to chocolate. The thing that makes it interesting is that taiyaki is shaped like a fish. And not like a goldfish cracker, but it looks like real fish. I will upload pictures of it later. I have also tried epiyaki and takoyaki. Both of which are fried balls filled with some kind of creamy substance and a kind of seafood. Epiyaki has shrimp inside and takoyaki has octopus. I personally liked Epiyaki more. I also tried Natto, and I liked it. Most people don't because it smells...really bad, but I personally liked it. Which reminds me, I have some Natto in the refrigerator that I need to eat later.

Considering how sprawled out and large Tokyo is, I think I have quickly gotten use to making my way around the city. Most of the city is covered in train tracks. so the train is a very common mode of transportation. I have gotten very used to getting around on the train. When I first came to the city, I was kind of overwhelmed at the size of Koenji, let alone Tokyo itself. I remember passing a store covered in Evangelion (a japanese anime I watch) pictures, I was at first very glad, since I assumed it was an anime store. Turns out it was a pachinko parlor. Pachinko is a very popular place where people can get around the fact that it is illegal to gamble in Japan. People play games, and instead of getting money, they get little stuffed animals. Near the parlor, there is a man that will trade your stuffed animal for cash. So, I was disappointed. I also realized that Pachinko parlors are very popular and are the loudest store in Tokyo. Which actually tells you how quite Tokyo is. You see, when I imaged Tokyo, I assumed it was a large city like New York. Large skyscapers, too many cars, and very noisy from cars and people talking. NOT the case, there are few cars and even the ones that exist are VERY quiet. NOBODY talks, and even when they do, its very quiet, so you never hear people. So when I say that the Pachinko parlor is the loudest building in Tokyo, if an average loud American is a 5 on the loudness scale, then Pachinko is a 2.

Also, I have begun to go to Japanese Universities to meet fellow Japanese college students. My group goes to ICU (International Christian University) and GaiDai (Tokyo University of Foriegn Studies) luckily both universities require intensive english courses, so most people have a really good grasp of english. Many of the students of ICU are students that have spent several years in America. AT ICU, I met three Japanese students, Wataru, Yuta, and Taichi. The three of them were very interested in meeting us. They really want to meet us again and want to become friends. I am very glad, since one of the goals of this trip is to get to know Japanese students and become friends with them, so once they get to know us, we can share the gospel with them. This is a required process, since if we start BEFORE becoming friends, you can scare them off (yes, like cats and other small animals. You need to get to trust you or else you can scare them off, Japanese culture has made people really shy).

Yesterday, I had an amazing adventure. Most of the group when out together, but I spent the day with my roommates Kylan and Josh. We went to a soccer game that two people that Kylan and Josh knew were playing in. It took a long time to get there, but it was more than worth it once we arrived.

Well, I have to go, see you next time.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Ok, so posting pictures the way I was before was a HUGE pain in the butt. So I came up with a new way. I made a Flickr account (thanks SO much to Uncle Richie, who told me about the site)

So, here is a link to all the pictures I have so far. I will most here when more pictures are on the flickr account. Laterz!