Blog Archive

Sunday

JANUARY

ARI

Summary of Winter Time
Cold Weather: It’s cold.
Construction: Loud noises & beautiful new buildings after the earthquake damage.
Kitties: Every farm needs cats. I love the peaceful time I spend petting them.
School Milk with Movies: Most nights are spent watching movies and drinking donated milk from a local school with my roommate.
 

“They All Are My Children”
Mama Miata, from Liberia, has told me many stories. I love her stories. She tells me very funny ones and makes me laugh, as well as when she gives advice to people in movies, and she tells me very deep ones, like her memories from wartime when she went without food for many days. This woman has been through so many hardships but she never lets a chance pass her by to help others.

Mama has accepted many children into her home in Liberia. Children whose parents abandoned them, children who just need some food to eat and a good roof over their head. She did not birth these children, they are no way related to her, but Mama insists, “They all are my children.”

The other day Mama shared one of her biggest dreams with me. She started with a simple idea of retiring, because many of the programs that the participants of ARI are apart of don’t offer retirement. Also, adding an annex to her house to the description of the ceramic tile she wanted. Mama then went on about the land that she lives on and how it has been passed down in her family. The papers stating that she owns the land were destroyed during wartime in Liberia, but because of the protection from her tribal community, her land is safe from the government.

Mama described the stretch of land so vividly from her chicken coops to a beautiful river that sits behind the house. She then described her hopes for the space. She has hopes for a park and chapel by the beautiful river where children can play and release their prayers. She hopes for a classroom environment where she can educate. She hopes for an outdoor kitchen with a large brick stove, and she finished with hope for an organic peanut garden where income will support her to build and grow her ultimate goal: To provide a space for the less fortunate children in her area for learning, spiritual growth, and to put them in a loving and caring community.

She believes, and knows from experience, that if you provide an education and teach trades to make a living from, even a simple thing as soap making, that children that are less fortunate in their early years will be less prone to violence and as Mama called it ‘gangster living’. They will have a backbone structure to work from and they will have a supportive community, and best of all, they will have Mama and they will all be her children.

Maybe that last part was a bit cheesy, but I feel extremely lucky to hear these stories from all of my fellow community members, and it is a real inspiration to me. It makes me strive and yearn for something in life. It makes me hope that one day I could have a part in something so wonderful. But I can only pray that one day I will be next to Mama helping her design and build this space.

“Where you are, you make it what you want it to be.”
-Mama Miata

Mama(Right) Fatamata and me.



Pounding Mochi
Mochi is rice beaten to the point of delicious gooeyness. But be careful, one of the leading causes in deaths, usually elder or younger folks, is due to chocking on mochi.





 

More Soybeans
Planting, growing, weeding, and harvesting are finally finished. Now comes the husking and sorting! To husk we use this old fashioned machine that looks like it’s from the early 1900’s, which it might be. A windmill piece is spun by the user creating a current that pushes the heavy soybeans to be sorted and the light husks to be discarded. It’s simple and cheap to make as well as a good arm workout!


After we finish with the sorting we are sending our soybeans to a local center where they are being turned into oil. The beans have been exposed to radiation but the oil remains untouched.


Out & About

Sledding & Kamakura
One of the American staff members likes to take us volunteers with his family to play in snow. We have been both to an eventful day of sledding and to a Kamakura, or igloo, festival in the nearby mountains. It is a nice time to get away and to get to be a kid while playing with kids. The Kamakura Festival was especially nice because there is a since of being in this isolated place with almost all people you cannot communicate with while building these small sculptures together. At the end of the day as the sun sets, we light them all together with candles and walk around to see the hundreds of kamakuras that we have made in the beautiful mountain scenery.




































January Vacation
It's been a long journey, but a wonderful one. I can tell I needed to get out by the excitement I have tonight being alone and wanting to talk to everyone. I can practice my little bit of Japanese and meet so many people from all over in the hostel I'm staying at.

This week was a bit of a train wreck including things breaking, things going missing, lack of funding, lack of sleep, and about 20 hours on local trains. Im sure I left something out, but despite the troubles my two fellow YASCers and I shared many laughs and great moments.

Nagoya
We started out in Nagoya, where one of them lives, and spent a day and a half sightseeing, shopping, and visiting a temple for new years. I took the long hall train trip of eight hours from Tochigi with many people sleeping on me along the way.

Nagoya is an awesome and very large city with a very quiet and calm atmosphere. It is New Years tradition to visit a temple and get your fortune, to eat soba noodles the night of and to eat traditional food including fish, that I wasn't able to eat unfortunately, and veggies. It was so awesome to experience such an important holiday to the Japanese culture here, and to get to do some things I don't get to do on the farm like shopping and eating kabobs. It was also awesome to catch up on each other's lives because it can be hard to keep in touch when your in your work zone, and to joke on each other's new accents. Somehow we had picked up a bit of a British accent, very strange.


 
Hiroshima
Next stop was Hiroshima. We got there around dinner. We found our hostel, ate some traditional Hiroshima food called otaniyaki, one of the most delicious things I've had here and ended the night with some awesome light show powered all by solar energy and talking with one of the girls about our experiences and thoughts on life as it is now.

It was a long journey but it is a trip that I wish everyone could make. The things that I express on my blog are fully my opinions and thoughts on the World and how I see God working in it, I hope that no offense or troubles are caused by it. I am not a person that likes to talk of politics or war as I've mentioned before but I feel that it is immensely important to educate yourself about the effects of war and especially that of weapons of mass destruction. I wish we could have stayed longer but our short journey through the peace museum was enough to realize how terrible and unnecessary nuclear weapons are. After the effects of the nuclear power plant accident that leaves me breathing in radiation everyday the word 'nuclear' already makes me twinge, but to see firsthand the destruction that this energy source can cause to the health and well being of man kind makes me dispose this word and object to no end. I cannot be so hypercritical as to say that I don't use nuclear energy everyday in the electricity that I use, but I am happy to say that I live in a community that feels the same and is staring the move toward new energy sources.

The effects that the museum had on more were so much larger due to the firsthand experience and education that I have on this word 'nuclear'. The lives that were lost and forever scarred with sickness, the children left skinless and as orphans. The innocent people and the hurting that was caused and never apologized for in an already suffering and poor country.

It is not to say that Japan didn't strike first on the U.S. and other Asian countries. It is simply as the petition I signed says: "Cities Are Not Targets" and by no means should the innocent be put through such a horrid thing. It opens my eyes up to God in that all humans are humans. There will be war, but we must see that others are flesh and blood and the same as us. I encourage you to take this into your mind. To put yourself in this and to do your own research. As one of my fellow YASCers said, to create world peace you just must get everyone to travel. To see foreigners as one in the same, as flesh and blood, as someone with tears and smiles.

Miyagima
Our next stop was Miyagima island. You get there by a beautiful ferry ride on the sea surrounded by Japans beautiful mountains and shore city line. Once exiting the ferry you are greeted with many exciting shops and food venders and these wild but extremely cute and friendly deer. The shine appearing to float in the sea was absolutely breathtaking but the deer were probably my favorite part. I hadn't been that close and personal with a deer unless it had been part of my dinner after my stepdad went hunting. They were of coarse tamed by the tourists but the peace and calmness they eluted was contagious, and I'm a sucker for animals.






 
Kyoto
Our last stop was Kyoto. We stayed in the same branch of hostel and I will be staying again tonight. We spent the day today in two of most famous temples in Japan, Kinkaku-ji and Ryoan-ji. The temples were a bit crowded and filled with foreigners, but peaceful as well. We sat at the rock meditation garden in Ryoan-ji temple and it started to snow as we walked around the Kinkaku-ji temple surrounded by the peaceful forrest and water.


We then met up with a couple that spent time at ARI eating some ramen and venturing into one of Kyoto’s oldest towns, Gion, where the geishas preside. We were just in luck as a geisha passed by when we first got there in the heavy snow. The rustic and cultural look of this town with the big snow flurries coming down left me a speechless architecture nerd.

We then journeyed through a shopping arcade and after a couple other stops I was dropped off at the hostel and said goodbye to my travel sisters.

I am now sitting at a McDonald's down the road from the hostel, don't tell, reminiscing on what a great experience this has been. Sharing these moments with people that share this deep understanding of the World and all of its people, with people that understand the deep love of God and how it has everything to do with this peaceful understanding, I become so much empowered and understanding of my purpose here.

May the Lords peace and love be with you always,

Nicole



Women’s Conference
Every Year there is a gathering of women, mainly missionaries, to a remote place in Japan. It is only for a couple of days, but the conference consists of speakers, workshops, food, public bath time, and talking with many amazing women. A time to replenish.

The guest speaker this year was Mrs. Koko Kondo, a Hiroshima bomb survivor. When participants went on the annual Western Japan Study Tour I was so jealous of everything that they got to experience, but especially that they got to meet and talk with a Hiroshima bomb survivor. It felt like a true blessing.

Koko holding the shirt she was wearing during the bombing at eight months old.

Koko stands about 4’ something, needing a stool to reach the podium, but she filled the room up with remarkable energy that made everyone cry one second and laugh the next. It would take me about 10 blog pages to tell all of her stories, but they are all incredible. Of coarse she told stories of the atomic bomb including stories about her father sending the Hiroshima maidens to the U.S., meeting the Co. Pilot of the Enola Gay, and personal stories of the radiation effects on her life. What amazed me most, though, was the emphasis Koko put on how the World is so small and beautiful in her stories. ARI has taught me the importance of realizing that there are people connected to the names of the countries that we learn and hear about. These are people that live just like you and me. These are people that have wishes, love, smiles, and tears.

When Koko worked with the ‘Children of the World’ foundation the children would go up to World leaders, hand them a small crystal Earth, and say:
“This is a symbol of our World, it is fragile.”

Our World is fragile. People are fragile. It is a small Earth and all of us need to do our part in protecting and loving it. We also need to do the same for ourselves and this weekend really gave me the opportunity to do that. I had a chance to draw for the first time in a while, a time to share with new and old friends, a time to eat yummy food, a time to laugh, and a time to focus on my spiritual well being. Because when it comes down to it, I wouldn’t have attended this conference or even be in Japan if it weren’t for God. God always provides and this time of relaxation and revival is just what I needed.

Thank you for reading!
With peace & love,

Nicole