Sunday, May 28, 2006

Cloudy with a High Probability of Wet Clothes...

When we first came to Japan I was surprised to see a little visual on the weather report that would show how dry clothing could get during the day. You see, solar power is the primary method of drying clothes here.

We have had two electric clothes dryers in our 20+ years here in Japan--neither of which was overly efficient, but would provide somewhat adequate drying for a limited amount of clothing over an extended period of time. When we moved back from the States last fall, we wanted to replace our 10-year old dryer which had stopped working with a gas dryer--but our apartment doesn't have a gas outlet in the washroom. So, I am back to watching the weather report in order to get our clothing dry.

Unlike the old "clothes line" of my childhood, we use the veranda (balcony) as our drying place. And since there is limited space, the Japanese have devised a number of clever devices to maximize drying. We have poles that go between stands that are sturdy enough to support the Japanese bedding--futons--and can also bear a lot of weight with multiple clothes hanging devices.

The most useful, in my opinion, is a rectangular rack with clothes pins suspended. The width of the rack is "perfect" for hanging jeans and pants, and the ends, with multiple pins, work for socks, and other personal items. Towels end up having to be laced back and forth between two rows of pins.

There are racks of a similar dimension that have clothes hangers on them, but when we bought poles for this apartment, we got some that have a zig-zag shaped piece attached to the bottom, where we can anchor clothes hangers.

The best days are somewhat breezy, though if it gets too windy, we may have to go fish our clothes off the ground four floors down. I would hate to have our shirts fly through the park next door! We are heading into rainy season, where after waiting for days for the weather to cooperate, we just HAVE to wash the clothes. If we really need them to dry quickly, we have two options. The coin laundry about 1 mile away, where it costs a buck for 6-10 minutes, or we hang one of these racks on the curtain runner in our living room with a fan blowing on it for the entire night.

I have to be honest and say I would much prefer throwing them into an efficient dryer, taking them out 20-40 minutes later nicely dried and with the wrinkles gone. I spend a lot of time on this one task and there are moments when I feel tired and resentful. But I am thankful I'm not washing the clothes by hand--I did that for a short time in Russia! Is this one of the costs of being a missionary? Perhaps. It is often in the mundane that I feel the greatest tugs of dissatisfaction. A woman once encouraged me when she said that she uses the time hanging clothes to pray for the people represented by those clothes. Its a good practice.

The clothes pictured here will probably come off the line tomorrow--we had a bit of sun finally break through late today, and tomorrow looks like it will be good. Actually, the weather looks hopeful for the whole week, so I should get started washing tonight!

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Idols and an American (club) Idol

A few weeks ago we heard the sound of whistles and shouting outside. After ignoring it for a while, we decided to investigate--and discovered that the shrine about 5 blocks away from us was having their mikoshi or portable shrine brought through the streets. Kids and adults were helping to pull it, with a regular chant of "washoi" something akin to "heave ho". Following the shrine was a parade car with the traditional flute and taiko drums. What is pictured here is a very small one (as is the local shrine) but in some festivals the mikoshi are quite large and the parade cars can be nearly 2 stories tall. This is a sight that occurs most often in the summer throughout Japan, but anytime there is a shrine-related festival these are seen.

I think our hearts are most saddened to see children being taught to follow the false teaching of their fathers. It reminds me of the change that takes place in peoples' lives when they turn to follow Christ. 1 Peter 1:18-21 "For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver and gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake. Through Him you believe in God, who raised Him from the dead and glorified Him, and so your faith and hope are in God."

Our daughter participated in a totally different "idol" experience this weekend, as the Tokyo American Club sponsored a talent contest loosely connected with FOX TV Japan. Kids from the different international schools were requested to submit audition CD's to the sponsors, and from that 9 female, 3 male, and 4 groups were chosen to participate in the finals last night. Anna did a great job. She had a rough position as she opened the show--but she did so with poise and managed to remember almost all the words!

From pop music to classical--tonight is her spring recital, doing "Oh Had I Jubal's Lyre" by Handel. On Wednesday and Thursday are the auditions for the Chamber Singers at her school, and she is hoping to fill one of the first soprano openings.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Free ice cream night!

One of our fellow missionaries alerted us to the fact that Baskin Robbins was having a free ice cream night this past Tuesday. For two hours they would give one scoop of ice cream free for donations to Unicef. We decided to surprise the family and go after supper...
The closest Baskin Robbins is in the department store basement across the street from our apartment complex. Anna had already spotted the special when she went through, so she guessed before we even left the apartment. We approached the counter from our usual direction, only to find that a line snaked up the stairs and down the street! The boys, not one for adventure, wanted to leave. But the rest of us thought this was too good to pass up.
We stood in line between a group of high school girls, the same age as our daughter, and a group of upper middle school boys. [Anna is the single profile standing against the window of a shop called JayRo which we think is an attempt to capitalize on Jennifer Lopez' nickname.] We spoke English to one another and listened to those around us practicing English sentences while they were working up courage to speak to us. This is a common occurrence. People will create an entire dialogue, but never say it directly to us.
The line moved fairly quickly, but we decided to strike up conversations with both groups of kids. Its been a long time since we've been able to interact with Japanese high school kids, and we had a lot of fun. Anna is going to go on a summer evangelistic outreach inviting Japanese high school students to evangelistic rallies, and this was a touch of what that will be like. Her blond hair and friendly attitude will be a natural draw. The Holy Spirit will provide the supernatural draw!

Oh, we got our ice cream, too. We stood in the bike parking garage below the department store to eat it, and chatted a little more with the high school girls. We saw the guy who cuts my hair walking out another entrance...but that's a whole different story! Its nice to be a part of a community!

Monday, May 08, 2006

Sharing the Bounty

Stan and several others from our church went to the Central Park in the shadow of the Tokyo Metropolitan Building (in the background of this picture) to bring the clothes that were collected (see the post below) for the homeless two Saturdays ago. The city has been trying to discourage the homeless from settling in the park--though there are these blue tarp villages in parks throughout the major cities in Japan.

In an effort to discourage the homeless the city has also tried to discourage the ministries that serve the homeless. The group that brings food from the Yokota US Airforce Base on Saturday mornings has moved to a street-corner plaza of the park and tried to keep a lower profile. Even so, they served around 300 people that day.

The clothing was put out on tarps in an orderly fashion, people were given numbers and allowed to go through a line to choose one item at a time. The clothing was completely taken, and only a few blankets were left (we're coming toward the end of cold weather). The people also eagerly received the soaps, hand towels and shavers.

One of those who came from our church is working at Tokyo Disneyland--and wants to bring more of her friends in the future to participate in this kind of ministry. Others who came along included a high school student working on the topic of feeding homeless as part of his senior orals project, and a youth pastor from another international church in the area. Stan enjoys participating in these kinds of service ministries and is an example to our congregation of caring for the needy, the poor, the oppressed.

On Monday afternoons another group holds evangelistic meetings in the same location. They have seen people come to Christ and even have had baptisms in the park. One of our Japanese believers, Ken, was first introduced to the homeless ministry through the Saturday morning feeding, but is now actively involved in the Monday outreach. He is an evangelist, and has bee blessed to share in men coming to Jesus during his visits. We are grateful that there are several ministries working to meet both the physical and spiritual needs of these many men and (a few) women.