... and Christmas Concerts!
Well, a lot has happened. Let's work backwards from today :-)
Got up nice and late, but got to church ready for leading out in English Sabbath School where we sing, pray and study the Bible. Saw some of the young people from church, and then saw a baptism at church. That was really nice. Good lunch afterwards followed by Japanese choir practice for Christmas program on 24 Dec at church. I can sing it, but don't understand the meaning of it! Relaxed at home the rest of the afternoon and evening.
Yesterday, George and I ventured out a bit more to the sports centre (Green Arena), found out what sports we can do there and tried out the swimming pool for 600 yen. Met some nice people.
Headed to the world headquaters of Mazda Corporation (they make cars) located in Hiroshima, Japan, only a 20 minute bike ride from our apartment. We booked a free English tour of Mazda Museum. Saw the history of Mazda, how they make cars, saw them actually making cars in the factory (no photo's allowed, hehe). Well worth the visit, especially since it was free. I found it interesting, even though I'm not a real car freak. They make about 4000 cars each day in the Mazda plant in Hiroshima. One car takes about 15 hours to get assembled. Most Mazda cars in Australia are probably made in this plant that we saw, which means my lovely little blue Mazda 323 (1983 model) which I sold a few months ago (and was my first and only car so far) was probably made right in the factory we saw! Anyway, we could take pictures in the museum (not factory) and the showroom... got some good shots... of me in some of the nice new models :-) They also gave us a little car with red lights and pull-back action... bonus! So, that was the bee's knees of Mazda... and used one of the computers in the showroom in their head office building to update my blog :-) Don't tell them. By the way, they had a racing car simulation you could test out for free in the showroom. The steering wheel wobbled according to the ground (eg. if you went off the road, the wheel would shudder etc). George and I had a stack of fun!
Last night we invited one of the youth from church over for dinner. Although he didn't speak much English and we didn't speak much Japanese, we had a lot of fun! We ate, shared, talked, and used Google Translate to communicate :-)
Last Wednesday was also a great day... had the usual afternoon English school classes to teach. The evening class was shifted an hour earlier because the lady and daughter who come wanted to go to a concert I wanted to go to as well! The SDA High School near Hiroshima has an outstanding choir and handbell group. The junior and senior high school choirs and handbell choirs performed the best high school concert I'd heard. The sang and played a range of Christmas and Christian songs ranging from choral, classical, contemporary works. And, it was free! (to raise funds for ADRA). Then, my English students kindly took me out for dinner afterwards. A very nice evening. Nice people, nice music, nice food.
Also attended the Hiroshima SDA Primary School Christmas Pageant two weeks ago. Saw the kids I teach up the front doing their Japanese Christmas songs, acting out the Christmas story, and singing "Away In A Manger" in English (which we taught them). It was really nice to see. I felt proud of the kids.
As Christmas comes and end of year draws near, many gifts are exchanged. Japan is a gift-giving culture. At times, offence can be made if a gift is not given at the appropriate occasion. But, many parents of the kids, kids them selves (which I teach English to), and different people have been very kind to me. I really do feel welcome here, and accepted by the people. I appreciate their love and care. Many from church or school bring food or other things for us. I'm very thankful.
And, the flu has hit hard at school. Two weeks ago, almost half the students were gone. Thankful I've escaped so far. The worst is over for now. Many "mikan's" (mandarines, oranges etc) are in season now. These help with avoiding a cold. Weather is colder. Zero degrees is coldest morning so far, with average max of 15 and average min of about 6 celcius. Next month is coldest.
I really want the best for the children I teach. I hope they grow to be good citizens, and come to know God and experience the love and peace He gives. I don't know where they will all be in 10 or 20 years time, but I hope they have happy lives. They are so accepting, so innocent... The often run up and give me hug, show me the things they make, the places they hurt themselves (sore elbow etc), practice their English. I enjoy sharing time with them both in class and out of class.
We've pretty much settled into our new apartment. Bit noisy, but very comfortable, with a few people saying it's quite spacious. I'm very thankful to God. We prayed for a good place, and He has allowed us to have this place. The Internet is on now (wireless 8 Mbit/s unlimited download for about AU$25/month), aircon installed, everything you need to live.
For the future... primary school classes have finished already (so my mornings are free), but English school classes continue until this Thursday, then we have break until Sunday 6 January. During the break, I'll relax a little. Visit a few more places around Hiroshima (ice skating maybe, onsens, might leave the skiing for January when there's more snow). Try catch up with a few friends from church and work. Go to Christmas program at the SDA Church on 24 December (playing piano and singing in the choir).
Not sure what I'll do for Christmas day yet, but will surely miss our typical Aussie family Christmas with all the relatives, opening presents, stinking hot day, play a bit of cricket or go to the beach, eat lots of food and have a nice time together. I'll miss my brothers and Mum and Dad, but should be able to phone them up.
26 Dec I'll head off to Kyushu for just over a week. Plan to stay at Nagasaki for 2 nights, and Hayato, Kagoshima, for nearly a week. Hope to see Sakurajima (the big volcano) in Kagoshima and try out the onsens, and see what else there is down there. Come back on 2 January. I'm using the special "Seishun 18 Kippu" ticket making trian travel super slow, but super cheap. If you have time, you should use it (if you don't mind stopping at nearly every train station on the way to your destination).
Some handy sites I use for Travel in Japan are these:
English Train Timetables: http://grace.hyperdia.com/cgi-english/hyperWeb.cgi
Japan Travel (attractions, info): Japan Guide
Japanese / English converter: Google Translate
Christmas in Japan is a big thing, but only commercially and for some smaller groups or communities. Januray 1 is the big annual day. It's the big family day in Japan (the equivalent of the Aussie Christmas where everyone gets together). Christmas is very well done in the shops here (can't miss the Christmas advertising), and the Peace Avenue here in Hiroshima is very well lit up with what they call "illumination". Stacks of Christmas lights and very nicely done too. But, most Japanese go to work on Christmas Day. Thankfully, I have the day off. But, almost everything shuts for a few days over New Years. This is the big time to start new things, have a clean house, meet family, give gifts, etc.
Enough raving on, and if you're still reading, it's probably time you went to bed (like I should do now).
Peace to you.