31 October 2007


Sunday is Sunday. There's something about it... it's more relaxed, time to chill out a bit, do whatever. Last Sunday was like that.

Had the usual 1 hour adult English class. Met up with some of the kindy teachers for lunch. That was a lot of fun. We each practiced our second languages (English for them, Japanese for us). 1500 yen (AU$15) for all you can eat at a nicely designed Japanese restaurant in the city. Good to get to know the teachers a bit better.

Browsed down-town a little (near Hondori, the main shopping mall in Hiroshima) and then headed off for a bike ride up Ou-gon-zan, the closest tall hill to the city centre. The hill is about 200 m above sea level. Most of the city is not much above sea level. So, the mountain gives good views over the city centre, suburbs, sea, bay, mountains, rivers, islands etc. The suburbs spead out like "star" shapes, pushing up the narrow areas of flat land between the mountains, on either side of rivers. Tall, steep mountains break up the urban sprawl.

We rode past some nice Japanese suburbs and houses. Some of the lanes are soooo small! No wonder the cars are (on average) much smaller here. The houses are very close to the road and each other. Cars are parked just centimeters from walls, houses, roads etc.

The houses near Ou-gonzan have a nice, quiet, neighourhood feel about them--Kids playing, youths chatting, adults relaxing, with the nearby mountain behind. Rode past a cemetry. Cemetries in Japan are different. Graves are about one foot square (not the length of a body) because bodies are burned. They are almost all grey. Ashes from multiple family members are placed under the one grey "pillar", which is less than a metre high.

The city scape of Hiroshima is quite different to Aussie cities. Aussie cities have a well defined area of tall buildings sky scraper towers (40 to 100 stories), usually a few square kilometers in area. It's clear to see where the CBD is. Then, medium height buildings (10 to 20 stories) in the nearby suburbs, and the rest of the city is houses with back yards etc. In Hiroshima, there are only a few buildings of more than 30 stories. Less than 10 buildings, I'd say. These dot the central area. Then, much of rest of the city is made up of apartments and office buildings of between 10 and 20 stories, not just close to the city, but right across it. With about 1 million people in Hiroshima city (largest city this end of Japan's main island), it has a flatter city centre, but "taller" suburbs, than, say, Brisbane or Melbourne. Hiroshima city does feel not so big as Brisbane, even though it's more than half the size.

The visual design of technology in Japan is, what I'd call, "square". The mobile phones are a lot more square looking than the Aussie phones, and the cars are also a lot more square. Not exactly sure why, but square things are more efficient with space and area. Maybe they also look more technologically advanced? Anyhow, I don't mind it. Kind of looks good.

Well, my students have arrived. Must go to teach some more English.

Church is like this

Life's good! Had a great weekend a few days ago. Friday, finally got sorted out (tidy room, organized, clean house, shopping [so there's food to eat!], and attempted a haircut but ran out of time).

Friday night we had vespers. Opened Sabbath, sang some songs, heard a Bible talk and ate some dinner together with friends at the church. A person came who had not been for a long time... that was good! After going home, spent some time reading the "Adventist World", my favourite magazine--excellent news from the world church, inspiring articles, encouraging teachings.

Saturday at church. Everything in Japanese like usual. I don't understand much of it, but at times, someone translates, so that's quite helpful. We sing songs (hymns) that I know in English, but the words are in Japanese. I try to read the hiragana and can sing most of the songs, not understanding what I'm singing... just sounding out the words. But since I know the hymns in English, I know what the songs are about. It's nice to praise God in Japanese! ... while I'm standing in church with my slippers off (usual). It's also good practice reading hiragana (Japanese writing), because the music does not stop for you.

And, there was a baptism at church! I only found out a minutes before it happened. Really nice to see some people decide to follow God and be baptized, signalling their commitment to Jesus. Very nice time. Two ladies were baptized.

I find I'm understanding more of the words at church now... I can understand 2% of it now, rather than 1% :-). Nice lunch afterwards. Had curry and rice with other nice Japanese dishes. Ate with some of the kids and mothers. Caught up with some of the youth and other church members also. Felt a nice sense of warmth from the church members--kids, youth and adults. Did some Bible study with Jehovah's Witnesses in the afternoon/evening. Interesting to study what they believe.

26 October 2007

Good batteries...

The battery in my phone lasts 7 days! good capacitance

21 October 2007

Winter is coming...

7 degrees Celsius this morning

18 October 2007

Mountains, cooler, nicer

Another work-week is almost done. The work week ends for me at 8:30 pm Thursday night after teaching a Bible class and 7 other classes that day. It's the longest day. Fridays and Saturdays there are no classes. One class Sunday morning. All other classes are Monday to Thursday, usually between about 10 or 11 am and 6 or 7 pm. The weekend is just around the corner! [anticipation]

Last weekend was great. Went to the Hiroshima San-iku High School (SDA School), which is connected to the elementary school here (where I teach). The High School is in the mountains about 45 minutes drive out of Hiroshima city. It's in a beautiful setting... quite, clean, fresh and peaceful. Caught up with the other gaijin English teachers there. Made good friends with them. Look forward to more good times. The High School has an awesome 80-voice choir. Heard them practice... made me wish I could join them.

We left Hiroshima Friday afternoon, caught the train to get to the High School. I was too busy on my phone, trying to work out how to use the GPS functionality. After guessing what the Japanese writing meant, I finally worked out how to have a map showing the path we were travelling on the train... zoom in and out, and position updated every 1 or 2 seconds (accuracy to about 50 m). It was great!... until I saw on the GPS map that we had passed the train station we were meant to get off!

So, GPS came in handy after all! (although if I didn't have it, I would not have been distracted, and I would not have missed the stop!) Anyway, we got off at the next station and then wondered how long till the next train... (here's were I use another function on my phone). On the phone, I searched for the nearest train station (GPS determines the nearest stations showing distances from each). Selected the train station we were at, select the train line and direction, then the phone lists the departure times of trains for the rest of the day, showing a countdown timer for the next train.

The countdown timer showed only 50 seconds till the next train! Just as I realised, the music at the station came on (which happens before a train comes), and I saw the trian coming around the corner! We were lucky to have the train come so soon (next one was 30 min later and someone was waiting to pick us up). So, we were driven to San-iku after arriving back at the missed train stop. I checked the countdown timer another time and the train arrived within 5 seconds of the scheduled time. That is soooo Japan! That's the style of schedules here. I like it! And all of this was "out in the country". Time is still kept on time "in the bush".

We spent Friday and Saturday night at San-iku High School, which has about 300 students (east north east of Hiroshima). Sunday morning, caught the train back to Hiroshima. Raced home, freshened up, did a class at the English School, caught another train to Iwakuni (45 min train ride south-west) and met some friends there. Had a great time, they shared a meal with us, and we encouraged each other in our Christian faith. Came home tired late Sunday night after an enjoyable weekend.

Well, the cooler weather has finally come. Minimums of about 12 and max of about 25. Really nice Autumn weather. The skies seem clearer (bluer) and mornings are fresher (and nicer). Got the quilt on my bed now (instead of surviving with just a sheet).

Went to Hiroshima International Centre [actually "Center"] for the first time yesterday. They have many good activites for foreigners. They have free Japanese classes and free one on one Japanese lessons. I signed up for one and waiting for response. It's also a good place to hang out and meet other gaijins (foreigners) and practice English or Japanese or anything else, make friends, learn new cultures etc. I met another Aussie there who went to school in the same town I used to live (Warwick, QLD)! And another Japanese who lived in Melbourne (where I also used to live). So, it's a place I think I'll hang out a bit. Make friends and learn Japanese.

Class begins in 5 minutes... ja mata!

07 October 2007

Castle, Sermon, Birthday, Weather

Today was nice... relaxing. One short English class in the morning.

Went to Hiroshima Castle this afternoon. Taking a step back in time in Japanese history and culture. The castle is on few acres of land which is surrounded by water, close to the centre of Hiroshima city centre. Inside the castle, there was much to see. Historical accounts of the settling of Hiroshima beginning about 8th century AD. Many old writings, armour, living items, samurai swords, photos and other fascinating objects and writings. Even got to try on some of the traditional fighting clothes :-) The view from the top of the castle (about 12 metres up) was nice!

Yesterday I preached for the first time in Japan. The normal Japanese worship program operated as usual, but we had an English service which about 15 to 20 people came to. We sang, prayed, gave thanks to God and then I spoke.

I shared my story of why I believe in God, how I know He is real and how I know the Bible is true. It formed an introductory talk to the 10-part "uncover! Seminar" which will be run at the English school. We'll be looking at some foundational teachings contained within the Bible. There was a summary sheet from the talk I gave. I've also uploaded the full transcript of the talk on the seminar website (bilingual): http://bwis.net/uncover

Also, it was Mum's birthday! Happy Birthday Mum! (yes, I did call her)

Tomorrow is a Sport's Day in Japan (which is a public holiday). The Kindergarten is having some games at the school and I'll be there helping out, running around, having fun!

Next week we hope to go to the Hiroshima SDA Academy (boarding highschool). It's located well out of the city up in the mountains. It's the only Adventist high school in Japan. I'm sure it'll be a nice time... catch up with some of the other foreign English teachers there, meet some of the high school students.

Weather is nicely cooling off! It reminds me of the month of March in Toowoomba a little bit, but here it's more moist and the sky not so clear blue.

03 October 2007

Lost forever?... really?

Yesterday was a very quiet day at school. The gr 6 boys weren't kicking around the soccer ball... no-one was playing baseball... the gr 2 kids weren't running up and down the stairs... no white and navy uniforms... no teachers... no laughing and sounds of play like usual... school was closed... there was a funeral.

One of the gr 3 girls passed away last Sunday.
Another girl, sister of one of the gr 2 boys, also passed away.

Boating accident...

Why? Why does it happen. Why can't you talk to them anymore? Why was it these two girls? Why so young. Why does death have to be a part of life? We know we will all die, but why can't we accept it when it happens?

The girls died on Sunday. I didn't know. I arrived a school Monday. Almost everyone was at school, but it was strangely quiet. Then I found out the news. Monday night, there was a service in a nearby city we went to. Well over 500 people attended. Many year 3 classmates were hit hard. I expressed my sympathy to the father, shook hands, bowed for a few moments...

She was resting in the box at the front... she looked peaceful and calm, unaware of the sorrow around her. Does she, will she ever have knowledge of life again? Where is she now?

"Blessed are they who mourn, for they shall be comforted." You can depend on this promise. The One who gave life, can give life again. An enemy has taken life. Another will give life again.

"And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away."