Saturday, October 31, 2009

The challenge of dieting while traveling

We've been through the usual round of medical tests since returning to the US (and a few unusual ones, too). The major recommendation so far is that we have to lose weight...which our Japanese doctor has been saying as well, but in a much kinder and less forceful way than our American doctors. So nearly two weeks ago we started on the South Beach Diet, Phase 1 (no carbs, and no sugar including fruit). We've been doing this with another couple which has made it much more of a do-able challenge.

So, now I am in Japan, and I am having a really hard time eating "legal" on the road and at the hotels where my meetings are held. My first night I picked up a salad to go for lunch on the train the second day--but it was small, and by the time of my last train transfer I was feeling shaky. The kiosks had all kinds of chocolates, cookies, crackers, etc. Nothing that fit "phase 1". I chose a meal bar that had a lower amount of calories. That worked for my hunger, and would have been considered a bit more "phase 2".

Our first meal at the hotel Friday night was ginger pork--slivers of pork grilled in a ginger sauce, and by avoiding the rice I think I stayed fairly legal. But yesterday was rough. In addition to fish for breakfast (not my favorite), we were served kara-age (a fried chicken dish) for lunch and tonkatsu (fried pork cutlet) for dinner. I felt so "weighed down" afterward! Today's breakfast was a different kind of fish...

The next place I go to has a breakfast buffet, so for at least one meal I'll be able to pick and choose.

I had made some progress on that initial weight loss, so I have to say this is a little disappointing...and it means that I'll probably have to go back to phase 1 while Stan and our friends are enjoying their weight losses and added healthy carbs...

Friday, October 30, 2009

Riding the trains

Today I took the Narita Express from the airport to Shinagawa, where I picked up the shinkansen (Bullet Train) to Osaka. I left around 10:45 and got to my final destination at 4:30.

As soon as I got on the Narita Express, I had to chuckle...

It seems that whenever seats are assigned, they are next to each other. There were five of us on this car. The four seats in the middle were the ones we were put in... This happens in movie theatres, too, where you are given an assigned seat--and even though there may be only a few people at that showing, the seats are grouped near one another.

It reminded me the lunch Stan and I had at the "Historic Route 66" diner called "Legends" not too far from us. We found a nice secluded booth one day, when a group came in, cased out tables right next to us (the remainder of the hall was open) and sat down. Almost simultaneously, we looked at each other and wondered if we were back in Japan!

The sites are so familiar to me--

The tight urban areas...

The fields recently harvested...

Outskirts of cities with small farms....

And me--so far managing to survive the change in time.

Today our group gathered together for an informal connecting time. Two families are gone because of flu--the H1N1 flu has gone through the area, as well as seasonal flu. A number of our people have returned to the States this year, either at the end of their term or for home we seem like a very small gathering. But there are still enthusiastic little children, which is always a good sign.

Night 2 in another bed. Tomorrow we pack up and go to another hotel because this one had overbooked... They'll move us back on Sunday... "Be Flexible!"

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Back in Japan...

I (Faith) arrived back in Japan today on the beginning of a 12 day trip to participate in a couple of conferences. I'll be posting information on these over the extent of the trip, but wanted to share a few reflections at the end of this long day.

Sitting in the waiting room in Los Angeles, I was next to a group of Brazilians and enjoyed listening to their musical language as I made my final calls. Once I landed in Narita, I breezed through the Re-entry permit line, got my luggage, sent one bag through a baggage delivery service to the hotel where my first conference starts tomorrow, and got myself into the shuttle line for the Holiday Inn. While waiting for that bus, I was again listening to Portuguese with an older group of people! After hearing that the Brazilian church that meets in our facility is continuing to grow, I DO wonder if I shouldn't revisit that language!

The hotel is just off the airport, and also has a shuttle bus to a local shopping mall, so I left here at 5:10 pm and got back at 8 pm--it takes 30 minutes to get there 15 to get back because of the route they take. Everything seems so -- home. Vehicles on the left side of the street, the neon signs, the multitude of eating places, seeing a funeral hall with the big floral arrangements outside. And gasoline is 119 yen per liter (nearly $5 per gallon). In the mall the sound of J-pop (Japanese popular music) with its upbeat melodies and the amusement centers with the LOUD noises of the games fill the air. Of course since this is the mall off the airport, it is more like the United Nations than total embedding in Japan. I realize I'm no longer in the land where I feel average size, but am again huge as I look at the young women who appear to be part of a national eating disorder epidemic. I spent about 30 minutes in Daiso (100 yen shop) just wandering the isles. I've picked up my favorite Japanese cold medicine, so I'm ready for a week of conferences! I finished my little shopping trip with a hot cocoa from Starbucks--and remembered that Small here, really is small--a size not offered in the States!

Back at the hotel there is only green tea to make up in the morning ... though I have a few packages of Via Ready Brew coffee that Stan gave me from Starbucks, and I've got the morning breakfast buffet as part of my room rate. So I'm showered and ready to sleep. I head off around 9 or 9:30 to begin making my treck to the Kansai area. I will be in a different bed every night until Monday. Pray for good rest in spite of the constant change.

Finally, the ultimate reminder I'm back in Japan--strangely translated English--this one on the bathtub here at the Holiday Inn...

I'm still trying to figure out how I would lean on this mirror, and where the thick staff is I shouldn't "throw to it."

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Japan takes hand washing to new level

By Catherine Makino
Reporting from Tokyo -
October 16, 2009

In Japan, every day is hand-scrubbing, mask-wearing day. But the nation got into the spirit of Global Hand Washing Day anyway with a special dance, DVDs, posters and pamphlets.

Subway passengers in Tokyo wear masks as part of nationwide measures to prevent the spread of H1N1 influenza, commonly known as swine flu. Japan has even launched a "cough etiquette" campaign.

(Franck Robichon / European Pressphoto Agency / May 21, 2009)

There was a special dance created by a well-known choreographer, as well as DVDs, special posters and pamphlets. Masks and a "cough etiquette" campaign are already ubiquitous. As is lots and lots of soap.

Thursday was proclaimed the second annual Global Hand Washing Day, and the U.N. agency that promotes child welfare sought to deliver the message that this simple measure is the most effective way to prevent many deadly diseases, including H1N1 influenza, commonly known as swine flu. Every year, 8.8 million children younger than 5 die of preventable illnesses worldwide.

Making that point in Japan, in the words of one expert, is like shipping coal to Newcastle.

The United Nations says more than 80 countries held events to promote the importance of hand washing. None probably needed the reminder less than Japan, where every day is hand-scrubbing, mask-wearing day. But many Japanese got into the spirit anyway.

Well-known choreographer Kaiji Moriyama composed a hand-washing dance especially for the day and performed it in an oversized sky-blue shirt adorned with white droplets, presumably of soapy water. Hiro Masa of Japan's U.N. Children's Fund committee said Moriyama went to a kindergarten and performed the dance with children.

"We posted the hand-washing dance movie on our Web, YouTube, handed out DVDs, posters and pamphlets to schools, kindergartens and people across the country," Masa said.

"Many children in the world do not have access to safe water or the habit or means to wash their hands properly," he said. "We want to tell the Japanese public, and in particular children, about the situation."

With the current flu concerns, cleanliness has become an even more serious issue here. The H1N1 virus is spreading in Japan, and many schools have closed. There were at least 240,000 cases in the country from Sept. 22 to Sept. 27, according to the Infectious Disease Surveillance Center.

Hiroshi Shoji, an English-language instructor in Saitama prefecture near Tokyo, said children usually wash their hands and gargle in the winter, but now it is many times a day -- and after every activity.

"Students in this area must wash their hands, gargle and spray hands with alcohol upon entering school," he said. "Any time of the day, students are free to gargle, wash their hands and spray their hands with alcohol. They are allowed to wear masks if they want to.

"Yushi Yamada, a Tokyo fourth-grader, is learning the Japanese way early in life. He said he washes his hands four times a day, excluding the times after using the toilet.

"I know it's very important," he said.

But one mother at an elementary school said the school had alcohol hand gel. Some children licked it off their hands and became drunk.

Shoji's wife, Sandra, an instructor at Tokyo International University, complained that restrooms at many universities have only cold water because of a lack of money, and students don't seem particularly focused on washing.

"But teachers have become cautious and are like 'Monk,' " she said, referring to the TV show about an obsessive-compulsive investigator. "We use handkerchiefs to open doors. We use wipes after touching computers or students' papers. More teachers are having students send homework by e-mail or a university e-group. That way, teachers don't have to touch lots of germy papers."

The caution has applied to Japanese workers as well. Notices about H1N1 prevention -- washing your hands and wearing a mask if you are sick -- are displayed in many office buildings.

The government even launched a "cough etiquette" campaign telling people to cover their mouths with a tissue and turn away from others. Used tissues must be thrown away as soon as possible.

The problem is, Japan is so tidy that public trash cans can be hard to find. Copyright © 2009, The Los Angeles Times

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Last Sunday afternoon...

We have a friend who took our sons bike riding on trails around a lake in the area last Sunday, so Stan and I were going to go out to get some coffee. We turned the corner to get our van out of the garage, and a moving truck was blocking the way. So, we decided to go for a walk.

We headed into a park that is part of a wilderness area behind our apartment, thinking we'd walk "so far" and turn around. But instead, we kept climbing up. At one point we were able to look over the hills facing south.

Things were so dry. There hasn't been rain in months, and I believe that we're in the third of fourth year of a drought here in Southern California.

As we turned another corner, we started seeing the part of Glendora where we spend most of our time. These all used to be citrus orchards many, many years ago.

Another turn and we were looking at the 210 freeway heading toward Los Angeles.

Finally we got to a place where we had to make a decision--head down several roads (which would have put us on the wrong side of the city), or take a "risk" on a path that we guessed was heading our way. The pathways were well packed and clean. We eventually ended up at a small park at the base of the wilderness area.

We walked past this bunch of cactus on our way back along a path that headed to the place we entered the park.

Finally, when we got near to the entrance, we saw our own apartment complex (the white buildings) across the rain drain.

Our walk turned into a 2-hour hike! We enjoyed the time together, and we were grateful the moving truck blocked our "easy" get-away. We got back a few minutes before our boys, and headed out for pizza to wrap up the evening.

Since then, we've had two days of rain. The hills don't look green, yet, but they look like the dirt/dust has been washed off!

Sunday, October 04, 2009

A Birthday Celebration on the same side of the Pacific

Tonight we took our daughter to dinner at BJ's on Balboa. It was to celebrate her 20th birthday coming up next week. Before dinner we took in a performance of the current musical, The Fantasticks, at Vanguard. Our daughter isn't performing in this show, but we enjoyed sitting front row in their small box theatre watching some of her classmates in a delightful performance. A, who works in the costume shop, let us know who was wearing her creations as the show progressed.

Its hard to describe the joy in being with this girl for her birthday. Its one of those special gifts of being on home assignment this year. Stopping by school, we could see that she is well liked by her classmates, roommates and fellow theatre majors. She's very giving and thoughtful, concerned for others.

Last year we were on the other side of the world, and my sister took her to Ruby's Diner at the end of Balboa Pier. Recreating the spot, Aunt and Niece took the birthday photo last year, we remembered the call we got from A at the end of the pier, saying she was as close to us as she could possibly get.

This year we were able to be all together. I had a new experience--we had pizookies at BJ's...tasty cookies about the size of a mini pizza, topped with ice cream. I was glad to share a triple chocolate with Joyce.

Happy Birthday dear daughter!

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Friday, October 02, 2009

Planning on a trip back to Japan

Four weeks from today I (Faith) should be landing at Narita Airport outside Tokyo. I'm preparing to return for two weeks to participate in two conferences--one for Asian Access, and another for missionaries and pastors from multiple missions and denominations from around Japan.

The second conference is the reason I'm returning--I am coordinating a Personal Discover and Consulting Center for the attendees at the 2009 Church Planting Institute National Gathering. Already there are over 250 enrolled and they expect the numbers to be considerably higher as they get closer to the start date (November 3).

We have consultants, primarily psychologists and therapists from two practices in the US that work with cross cultural and missionary personnel. We also have a missionary couple who have recently received Biblical counseling degrees, an English speaking Japanese therapist who has attended several years in a row, and a specialist in Missionary Kids. One of the psychologists is coming from Malaysia. Its really very exciting to see how God is putting this team together.

Please pray for all the details that will have to be completed, many of them from across the ocean. And pray that God will use these committed specialists, who are donating their time and paying their way, to encourage the missionaries and pastors who make the time to visit with them.

At the end of the trip, I look forward to a few days with our church in Tokorozawa, ICCS, and with the office staff of Asian Access in Tokorozawa. It will be good to get back "home" for a little while!