Rambling Notes from Japan
Here are some blog posts that we hope will make you feel a part of things, and help you understand how to pray better for us and Japan. Please see our external blog in Blogger, if this page does not display correctly.
Chicago Forecast: Snowy with a Chance of Re-entry Shock
We scooted into Chicago on Monday just ahead of the big snowfall on Tuesday. Okay, just a couple inches or so. But coming from comparatively warm Tokyo, it's been awhile since we saw this kind of snow! Justen enjoyed sledding with a home church member -- what a rare and wonderful treat for him!
Re-entry shock is something we always struggle with when out of the States for a long period of time like this. We've written about this experience here and here and here on this blog. In essence, the values, dreams, ideals of our host culture of Japan become the ingrained norm for us. We become surprised by how far apart they are from folks in our own homeland. Although we want to find belonging and yearn to identify ourselves completely with our home culture, we have been changed significantly in ways while we were gone.
And people, places and things have also changed significantly. Absorbing the many changes all at once is quite overwhelming. It all brings about a sense of alienation, confusion, and frustration. The strongest feeling is that I have simply missed out on being a part of the journey and lives of friends and family...as if I've been asleep while they've all moved on. This is part of the missionary complexities that we are learning to deal with as best as possible for our mental health.
Here Comes the Real Winter
So, we've been blessed up until now. But here comes the real taste of winter. Tomorrow we head to Narita airport and board a plane for Chicago. The forecast there calls for snow, cold, wind...the real winter. And we get to spend two whole weeks in this glorious winter wonderland of Schererville, Indiana.
Strangely enough, I'm looking forward to the change of pace with the weather. So much green year round just doesn't feel natural to one born and bred in suburban Chicago. I feel a sense of shame (very infrequently, mind you) from enjoying such a balmy mission field. One day back in the frosty temperatures might change my opinion, but for now I look forward to embracing the real winter again! Chicago here we come.
The Gulliver Complex
The first sign was bumping my head in the shuttle bus from the airport. By habit, I normally duck my head through any doorway in Japan. Three weeks in the States eased the need for ducking, but now it looks like it is time to restart.
The second doubletake was the size of the streets. I found myself holding my breath as the shuttle bus wove WITHIN INCHES through pedestrians, motorcycles, and oncoming traffic. A few days later I'd no doubt find myself thinking nothing of if -- doing it myself, in fact, down our tiny-street neighborhood -- but right now it still shocks me.
The third reminder was at the hotel. The room was, well, large enough to turn around in. The bathroom shower required me to slouch in order to wash my hair. And the bathroom mirror gave me a great reflection...of my upper chest and neck. Gulliver complex.
But the final bit of convincing came the next morning. At the Denny's near the airport hotel we ordered breakfast. Pancakes served were each the size of a silver dollar, cutely piled on top of each other. The coffee was poured into mugs the size of an expresso cups. And the table came all the way up to just slightly above my knee level. Yes, I'm a giant again. But the great thing about eating in Lilliputan restaurant is that the giants don't need to leave tips -- actually even "average" size people don't need to leave tips in Japan!
So as I walked out of the restaurant smiling to myself about the money saved (spent many times over on the price of food), I forgot where I was, and bumped my head again. Good show, Gulliver!
Reverse Culture Shock?
* Being able to get out of either side when parked
* Understanding 100% of a radio or TV program
* Grass (lots of it, in front of almost every house!)
* Trees (with beautiful colored leaves to boot)
* Banana cream pie
* Clothing sizes that fit
* Parking in front of a store, instead of on top
* Self-checkout at the grocery store (when did that start?)
* Machines are strangely quiet (nearly everything from the gas pump to the escalator talks to you in Japan)
* Drink sizes, serving sizes and people are strangely large (possible correlation here)
* Foods are incredibly sweet, salty or fatty (much more so than I seem to remember)
* No bicycles or motopeds on the streets!
* Television programming increasingly unfit for most human life
* Thousands of choices for just about everything
Caught myself doing:
* Saying sorry to someone I bumped into...in Japanese by mistake (that got me an odd look)
* Standing in front of a store waiting for the door to open (Japan is the land of automatic doors)
* Getting in the front passenger seat and preparing to drive...and wondering why the steering wheel was gone (its on the right in Japan)
* Driving on the wrong side of the road (just briefly, mind you)
* Gaping at the aisles of cereal and snacks
* Wondering why US currency suddenly looks like monopoly money