Monday, December 25, 2006

how can i not thank Him

Blogging from Gene's computer. Had already planned my train schedules for these few days and to catch the fastest connecting train, woke up early Sunday morning and dragged Goh to the station with me. Since I only had 3 hours of sleep the night before, I thought I could take a nap at Gene's before going for the evening service.

But Saiful caught up with me from the gym and came over, and we went out traipsing around Ikarashi. Ended up shopping a bit and had lunch at Paku Sushi. Church service was short but eventful. They combined some sketch with Christmas songs and message. We had yummilicious pizza and great fellowship, and an attempt at singing "Better Is One Day" and "Noel" simultaneously, that was fun.

After service, I was supposed to join the international students at their Christmas party but prolonged my delayed nap instead and went late. Around midnight, the Filipinos invited me to join them for Noche Buena, a simple meal to usher in Christmas. We thanked God for the birth of His son and the gift of salvation. Done over white wine and cheese, it felt good to be in a prayerful attitude with fellow brothers in Christ.

Then I remembered I had promised Alexis the Chilean-Japanese that I'd meet him for supper. As usual, his place was packed to the brim with all the things that he had managed to salvage but I noticed that he had cleared it up a bit since the last time I met him. His Korean friend, Shiggi, was there for the holidays and we caught up over spaghetti and home-made kimchi.

The next day, I had lunch at the NiigataDaigaku shokudo with Au, my Vietnamese friend who also came down from IUJ. I showed her where I used to study and all the conveniences of living in Niigata. It was good being back, this was where my "home" used to be, and in this weather I am reminded of my initial days in Japan. Cold and miserable but filled with much good memories.

As I look forward to my trip down Korea, I thank God for His provisions thus far, and much sustenance throughout my stay here in Japan. The long train ride from Urasa gave me some time to ponder about this phase in my life journey. I still wonder from time to time if I prayed the right prayer, and if my purpose here is being fulfilled. There really is so much more to discover. I can't wait.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

sayonara 2006

This will probably be my last post before I bid goodbye to 2006. Some recent events in no particular order :

I got hit by this stomach flu virus which was going around Japan recently. I wanted to blame it on the cafeteria food because some people have been complaining about feeling quesy after eating it. Then I thought it could have been the stress and lack of proper sleep over the last project. Because of this I threw up everything I ate and had to cancel my trip down the south to Hiroshima & Nagasaki. And I was the one who organised and even booked the hotels!

Hiroshima & Nagasaki
Since I had already done the northern island during summer, I thought I should escape the bitter cold by venturing south instead. But alas, I had to stay in my room for at least 2 whole days and hv porridge cooked by darling friends. The great plan was to use the Ju Hachi Kippu to travel all the way south on a really small budget and be able to spend on food and souvenirs.

This ticket is recommended by those on a shoestring budget but want to cover as many places as possible, but only if you're game for unluxurious train travel and intermittent changes at various stations along the way. There goes my quest to cover the southern part, so will have to make some changes for next year's break.

Christmas in Japan
At first I thought I'd end up having a dreary Christmas over here. Even though on the outside the Japs seem to be celebrating whatwith all the decors and commercialism, but it's just that. Parties and presents. No religious significance attached, and therefore, it wouldn't be meaningful for the average Japanese. It's not even a holiday here.

Even while I was down with the virus, I made myself get better so that I could join the Christmas party some Filipino friends were throwing at one of the dorm lounges. We had great food, games, some singing and gift exchange. It was interesting to see how they celebrate Christmas, and I got myself a bottle of red wine from the exchange. Just what I need for winter!

The last weekend, I was at the Urasa church for their Christmas celebrations. Some of the students were still around, I even managed to get Bryan to join me. We were all pleasantly delighted by the lavishness of the celebrations given the size of the church. The only thing that I could've done better was my playing of the Christmas songs. I really need to get my fingers in shape again!

Little breakaway
This weekend starts the beginning of my own break, even with more than half the student population all gone for theirs. I return to Niigata to meet up with my darling friends from Grace Chapel, as there will be a Christmas service this Sunday evening. I managed to talk to Akiko yesterday and she said she might throw a party for us at her home. Yum!

After 2 days, I'll be down in Tokyo, staying at Harold's friend's apartment near Roppongi. If not for his kindness, I'd be bunking in one of the youth hostels dotting the old town of Asakusa. Hope to meet up with Nobu whom I haven't seen since I came to Japan!

My flight to Korea's on the 27th. Really looking forward to spending the New Year's there, away from all this madness. Will be meeting Cindy in Jeju island, hopefully all goes well. Japan is the furthest I've been to so far, Korea will top that for sure. Must arm myself with some basic Korean while on the plane, get my Yen changed at the airport and along the way act like a Japanese tourist.

In any case, I apologise for the lack updates of late, and for those I haven't been able to catch up much over msn/ym/skype. I thank God for each and everyone one of you, for your concern and love, you have no idea how much those calls and emails mean to me. Despite the highs and lows, this has been a pretty good year. Filled with unexpected blessings and abundance.

My cup runneth over. :)

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

the beginning of the winter break

Life after the finals is the opposite of what it was before. During much of the term, I had little sleep and a whole lot to do. Now that everything (well, almost) is over, and I have cancelled my trip down to Hiroshima & Nagasaki, I feel like I have the whole day to myself and nothing to do.

It feels really weird, not to have that much to do after 2 months of crazy homework+assignments+projects+papers+tests and surviving on 4 hours of sleep on most days. I thought that was crazy, that postgraduate studies is even more exhausting than working life. Most of my peers came to the same conclusion as well.

Since it's winter break and most of the students are away in other parts of the country or traipsing around the world, I take my time in waking up. And end up having breakfast when it's supposed to be lunch time, and eat my lunch when everyone else is cooking their dinner. It's unhealthy I know, and I'm supposed to decide on a thesis topic before the year ends, but so far I've been doing nothing much.

Maybe I feel like I need to pamper myself after all the hard work. Speaking of hard work, I just went to see my Japanese sensei yesterday to get my results. I was given a preview of my position by my senior who's also in the same class, but I didn't dare expect too much as everyone was complaining about how hard the final paper was.

I was so happy that I'm on the 9th position, just after JC, this American guy who's so good he's supposed to be in the Advanced class. No matter that I didn't get the best grade, nor that my scores looked kinda average seen first glance. But the fact that all my hard work finally paid off was good enough a reward for me.

I actually put in more hours into Japanese compared to any the other subjects just because I have to work doubly hard compared to the rest who are much better than me. Much of the 4-hour-sleep-per-day was attributed to this. It's really quite ironic considering Japanese, even with daily classes only get 1 credit per term, and doesn't really count towards the whole.

My sensei gave me some constructive criticisms and comments when he showed me my paper. I was good at guessing kanji meanings but poor at the reading. Not surprising since I barely finished learning the kanji list meant for Intermediate level (and still passed the qualifying test! PTL) and Japanese kanji has its own quirks! Yes, a kanji is read differently on its own, and another way when it's combined with other kanji's.

Perhaps because of that, I got a little motivated and decided to get myself a Bilingual Bible. I had earlier wanted to get one for myself so that I could brush up on the language and also (hopefully) memorise verses in Japanese. I was just mentioning to the pastor's wife the other day about it. She kinda misunderstood and had actually ordered one for me through a local Christian catalogue.

I saw it on the reception table last Sunday and asked if she was selling it. Turned out, she thought I had placed an order through her, and so she purchased it on my behalf. So to cut the story abit shorter, I bought the Bible and went home with something that I've (quite) always wanted but didn't know how to get. And this is my first verse : 主は私の羊飼い。私は、乏しいことがありません。 It's from Psalm 23:1 :)

Saturday, December 09, 2006

first snow 初雪

Thought I'd share some pictures of my first snow here. I know, I'm such a big grrl already and I haven't seen snow fall before! But still, it was so magical, the first few times, that is.

It started last Saturday, if I'm not mistaken. Everyone was just tired preparing for the finals. I had just gotten back with my friends after a fun day shopping for good winter clothes and some hot steaming bowl of ramen.

On our way back, it rained and since everyone was talking about snow, we also thought that was snow. But it was too pale and "dilute" to look like snow. Later in the night as we got busy with our presentation rehearsals and whatnots, the flakes came afalling down.

So beautiful! I couldn't take much pictures in the dark, but the place looked really lovely the next morning. A layer of snow had covered the campus and everyone was out either taking pictures or trying to whitewash each other.

Friday, December 01, 2006

welcome december

The Japanese were all telling us that it would snow this weekend. I know it's already December but I didn't want it to happen so soon. But they also said that it was considered late already. So I decided to check out the weather forecast, and it says it's gonna snow tomorrow and the day after!

To prep myself for the impending doom winter bliss, I bought myself these window stickers at the 100Yen store. They're restickable and look so delightful in red and gold dust. So other than the white fluff falling from the sky, I also have something else to look at.

Oh, and I also have to go get snow tires, shovel, window brush and maybe a car cover. They've already started the sprinklers on the sides of the road. I cannot imagine when this whole place will be submerged in snow. They say when you drive at night, it will seem like daytime coz the lights from your car will be reflected off the walls of snow!