Monday, August 4, 2008

Capture the flag

Sports Fest might have been hard, but capture the flag made up for it big time. Capture the flag in Japan is a little bit different from the old favorite. First off, there are no safe zones; if you're tagged anywhere in bounds, you go to jail. Tagging is a bit different too. You tag someone by hitting them with a sock filled with flour. Interesting eh? The jail is three minutes long and then you're off. The flags are similar, we used plastic bottles with glow sticks inside. One on each side of the field was to be protected by the teams and the third flag was hidden somewhere in between. The fighting was fierce on both sides and after the first victory, the other team requested a rematch. The next game was incredible competition and in the final minute, our team captured three of the flags to bring us to total victory. Victory was very sweet, especially after the crushing defeat at sports fest and also because I helped to bring in one of the final flags.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Sports camp!

I'm going to be honest and say this first: Sports Fest was hard for me. If you know me then you might be wondering "But Thomas, don't you like sports?" Why yes, yes I do, however two days of sports when I'm tired, in a foreign country and barely understand the language and my team loses a whole lot makes me irritable. Don't get me wrong, I did have fun (in retrospect) but it was hard to go through each game while losing terribly each time. We played sports in the morning, ate lunch and then played again in the afternoon. The evenings were meeting times for the students in Japanese, so the summer workers had our own Bible study/meeting.

My team was great though, even if some of them didn't speak that much English, they tried their best and were very helpful and tried hard in the sports. We just weren't as good in some of the sports and the rest of the teams. I suppose that just made our victories all the sweeter, as rare as they were. In the end, we came out second to last and got some kind of prize for being the second losers, an energy drink that had bits of snake in it, or something. Looking back, it was a good time and the food was great, but losing was hard. Fun stuff.

A big ol waterfall.

One thing that I like to do is go hiking. Luckily, we got to do just that. After securing the release of Carl the Cockroach in an emtpy lot near Mochizuki, we were on our way to Ume Gashima, the plum waterfall. We endured a beautiful climb over rickety rope ladders and steep slopes and were treated to a beautiful view of a very large thundering waterfall. This is not the waterfall, but a picture of another gorgeous river flowing over a cliff.

Of all night karaoke and giant bugs.

One thing about the Japanese, I don't know if they ever sleep. Maybe that's why they sleep on trains and buses and wherever they can, because they're too busy staying up all night doing karaoke. Oh yeah, that's right I said karaoke. Pronounced kah-rah-oh-keh, they sing songs of all varieties until day break. We joined them and it was awesome. There was a free drink bar and I think that's the only way I was able to keep going, with a constant stream of sugar flowing through me.

We sang a large collection of the classic Disney songs, classic rock and more modern tunes, but by far my favorite was belting out Bon Jovi's Living on a Prayer. The Japanese are amazing singers, obvisously I don't know much about or Japanese, or singing for that matter, but they sounded great. When we finally got done, the sun was just rising and we were exhausted, but spirits were high all around.

A few days later, we were helping Nagai-san (the boss) with some yardwork and a hornet the size of a baseball flew by. He told us not to kill it (like we could) because it would call all it's hive to come and attack us. Dang. Along those lines, all of the bugs over here are huge. The mosquitoes are big and relentless, spiders look like small dogs, the cockroaches are under your bare feet and ants like to find your scraps on the counter. We don't live in a dump by the way, it's a very nice house, it's just full of people and dirty sometimes. Not to mention the fact that we open the windows to let in some breezes. (It's very hot.) Not complaining though, just mentioning.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

As promised, here's my post on the undoo kai:
If you want some reasons that some American kids are so overwieght, I'll give you a couple.
For one, the lunches at Japanese school are very healthy, with lots fish and very few calories.
The kids also spend a large portion of their after school hours at a club, where they play sports from whenever school gets done till about seven(!) at night.
Lastly, the most impressive, they have a festival like day devoted entirely to playing sports. I was very fortunate to be invited by a family of friends to come and watch this, and it was very exciting. Granted, it was a Saturday, so there was no class anyway, but the kids seemed very excited regardless. The classes were divided into two teams, one class on each team from each grade, one to six. The red team and the white team each had their own area to sit. (They brought their desks outside.)
They have this game where there are tires and bamboo poles in the yard. At the start, the teams run and try to gather as many of the poles and tires and deposit them on their side of the grounds. The starter gives another call and the kids then do tug of war with a giant rope. The game is amazing, I saw a group of four kids pulling another from the other team on a tire, because he wouldn't let go.

The cheers that they had were also very impressive. The teams each had a drum and two flags. They did the wave, shouted at each other and shook little rythm cans. The kids who led the cheers had these really long headband that trailed behind them when they ran.
I don't think that this game could be pulled off anywhere but Japan. The game starts with the team divided on each side lined up by fours. One side has a long bamboo(what else) pole. When they start, the do a figure eight around some cones on the ground while running toward the other side. They run straight at the other group, lower the pole and the other side jumps over the pole, in a cascading leap. When they reach the end, the team ducks down and the pole comes back over all their heads. The front four then take the pole and the process then repeats to the other side. I was amazed that the kids were able to do this and words barely convey the wonder of this event.
Lastly, the kids did this arcrobatic dance type thingy where they made pyramids and fans and all sorts of cool balancing acts. They did it in rythm to some cool music and, again, I was very impressed. Speaking of music, there was some interesting music pumping through the loudspeakers. There were some Disney tunes, some cartoon themes and I'm positive that I heard the theme from Back to the Future in there. Well that's it for now.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Safe and Sound in Japan.

Our team.
We have arrrived safe in Japan and after spending several days in Tokyo are in our respective areas. Training went well and it was good to meet everyone and be encouraged by our leaders, who have spent more in Japan and know more about the culture and people.

My team is one of the most interesting groups of people I've ever met. We work together well, even if we do get sidetracked sometimes. I'm surprised that we can get along as well as we do with so many different personalities, but I guess we have no choice but to work together. I really like them even though I don't know them super well yet, but they are a great group to work with.

Our area is Shizuoka. It's a small(for Japan) town southwest of Tokyo. Our team is going to be working with the BEST (Bible English Sports and Travel) club from Shizuoka University for the summer and three of us, myself included are going to be working with the ACE (Adventure Club in English) club, which is a junior high group. Unfortunately, this means we will be missing the sports day on Thursdays, which for me is kinda sad. I do get to hang out with the students, both junior high and college though, so it's been fun so far and I'm looking forward to doing more with the students. That's it for know, next time I'll describe the sports festival I went to.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Starting things off...

Well for starters, if you're reading this, thanks for dropping by and looking. This blog is going to be about me, Thomas, and my trip to Japan that I'll be taking this summer with the Navigators. I'll try to keep this updated from now till when I get back from Japan.
So first off, why am I going?
For starters, I've had an interest in Japanese culture for a while now and I've wanted to go and visit for some time now. I also want to go and share with the Japanese my relationship with Christ. I am a Christian and I'd like to tell others why I choose to be one. The Japanese need hope. Suicide is very prevalent over there, and it's sad that they have lost so much hope that they no longer feel like living.
I suppose next would be when am I going?
I will be leaving on May 31st and getting back on August 8th.
Hey, what will you be doing over there?
Mainly working with the Navigators over there and making friends with people. I'll be working with a junior high group and hopefully a college age group as well.
How are you getting over there, aren't you a poor college student?
Well, yes mysterious question asker, I am a poor college student. I'm trying to raise funds for my trip and anyone who is interested in helping me out is more than welcome to give to God's work.
If you have any questions, feel free to ask them and I will do my best to answer them.