Sunday, December 31, 2006

Motchi Making

Norio and his Dad continue the motchi making process. After it's been cooked it gets smashed by this hammer type thing.

Your Mom likes Motchi

Merry Christmas with the Midtermers. From Sakudaira, Nagano, Japan!!!
Some of the staff got together to celebrate Christmas. It was wonderful to get together with everyone and reflect on the year past and the year coming. I was so encouraged by Ruth Ann. Mary and Aileen. I love learning about life and the Lord from other beautiful women. And seeing Keith was like a little homecoming because Mary, Keith and I went through training together. So having the trio together is always an adventure. It was a wonderful time and made the Holidays seem less lonely.

Ruth Ann (standing) provided us with amazing American type food and an abundance of Christmas goodies. I may have eaten too much.
Mary and I met up with Mark and his sister Melissa for a time in Ueda, Nagano; snowboarding and visiting Norio. Once again, an amazing time. I thoroughly enjoyed snowboarding although I feel like I had lost some of my mad skills. Mark and I tried to time it right so that we were on the last lift up, to be the last ones down. But we accidently got left on top of one of the mountains and we couldn't get back... so the staff took us partially back to another area on SNOWMOBILE. It was SO great.
Perfect Day for snowboarding and the snow was FRESH so the conditions were AMAZING.
Nestled in the mountains, lies a little house where Norio's family lives. We had another amazing weekend with them.
We did motchisuki, which is making motchi. Motchi is mashed up rice that is amazingly delicious. Here is par of the process.
First you boil the rice on top of this litte furnace guy.
Mary takes a whack at the motchi while Norio's Dad looks on.
The rice has to get all mashed up.
Then you can either separate the motchi into little balls and form this dessert type dish,covering the motchi in delicious things like walnut powder, anko, seasame powder or soy (believe me, it's WAY good!!!)

Or you can roll the motchi out and cut it into blocks that can be freezed and either made into dessert or a dinner type dish with nori (seaweed) around it. I am A HUGE fan of Japanese desserts so I absolutely love motchi.
Before we got on the train we took a group shot. (mark's sister) Melissa, Mark, Norio and his sister Musuzu, Jo, and Mary.

Back at home, Yaya was my pal for New Years.

Jin was a little tired of hearing the directions for our game. She just wanted to play. I love this look. She's hilarious.
Happy New Year everyone.

Enjoy 2007 and may God bless you.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Merry Christmas

Christmas in Japan... a quick shout-out to friends and family.


Christmas is here... I celebrated with three parties this year; BEST club, my english kids (below) and the upperclassmen. It's been amazing.
Here is a picture of my little english kdis. They are a joy in my life and SO much fun.
Aren't they adorable?
Earlier in December I saw Todd and Jess Ahrends. They helped form a lot of my convictions on world missions, God's Word and God's heart for all people. It was crazy fun to see them in Tokyo. Todd kept saying, "Duuuuuude you're in Tokyo! This isn't Iowa... tell me about it!" ha ha!
The upperclassmen party was a ton of fun. Mary and I made a ton of yummy food and decorated our house cute. It was a lot of fun.
Mary and I made and gave the upperclassmen matching hats and scarves this Christmas. We wanted to do something special for them since they will be graduating and job hunting soon. We wanted them to know how much we enjoyed them and wanted to always feel at home with us and the BEST club.
Kie and I are sooooo cute.. oh I mean, sooo COLD. (ha ha)
The whole gang
Megu, Na, and Kie spent the night. We slept in till 1PM~ whoa! We were so tired. Mary and I love having the chicas stay the night cause we know it's a way for them to show their trust and comfort in our place. It was SO much fun. I love these girls!
Today, I recieved a package from Mrs. Jamie Kampman. It was amazing. Her little cuties sent me a special message...
This is the "message collage" as Jamie tried over and over to get them to hold their signs. Abigail and Josiah would rather be EATING the signs but Jame is SO GREAT to try.
Jame, thank you SO much. I was so touched by your thoughtfulness.
Can I take two sentences and just tell you all how much Jamie Kampman means to me?
She is probably one of the first Christian women to love me, accept me, and disciple me besides and through all my crap. I was never scared to tell Jame the crappy stuff because I knew she was SO full of grace. Jame would listen to me, ask great questions, and gently encourage me. I would NOT be in Japan without her and her husband. They took me under their wing and really taught me so much about life and the Lord. I would not be who I am without Jamie.
Jamie, seriously, you will never know how much I appreciate you.
I recieved a book from Andy and Jamie, also in the package, "The Hidden Smile of God" by John Piper. It's about the lives of John Bunyan, William Cowper, and David Brainerd. The fruit that resulted from their afflictions, trials, and lives. I am excited to start reading it.
Jame also sent me candy canes (oh yeah baby!! The spree kind) and since I am a fan of healthy stuff via candy (check out my post on my vitamins) she sent me yogurt in fruity dot candy form. Why take yucky taking healthy stuff when kids have it so easy? ha ha! Now, Jamie's kids and my niece and I can take vitamins together. Does this count as childish at heart? Thanks Jame and Andy (and Abigail and Josiah) for my special present. I love you four! Love you Jame!!

Monday, December 18, 2006


Lately I've been labeled by my team as saying, "Booya" when I do things right... or when good things happen. Mark even has this dance that he will promise that I do... but don't listen to him. If you haven't seen me do the "booya dance" then don't believe such falsehoods.

Whether I dance or not is not the topic of interest. Merely I would like to give a "Booya" to some fun things in my life right now... You may be wondering about the weird-o collage next to this text (check out picasa through Google~ it's free and amazing photoshop stuff). That's right LADIES AND GENTLEMEN!!! I got my Japanese driver's license today. I was EXHAUSTED for some reason. But I got in and drove (for my second time) for the Japanese DMV. The first time I failed was because I could have hit a potential bicycle or moped when turning left. It's a technicality that would take much too much time to write about. ANYWAY. So finally today, I passed my test. When I parked the car the guy said, "Iiyo" or "You're good." That was HUGELY pleasing because they are HUGELY picky. Okay, enough about my test. I got it. Hooray! It was SO wonderful to hold that baby in my hands (baby meaning the license) and I even took a good picture. Ha ha! I just sat in the office and prayed and prayed and prayed and at one point I told the Lord, "Just how you got me through college. Please get me through this test." Seriously people! You just never know if you will find favor with these DMV people or not. I was reminded again of Esther and how her King found favor in her and offered her up to half of his kingdom. I feel like God has given me such a sweet gift this morning.

The next thing I would like to give another BOOYA to is my eldest and cuteyest brother Jeremy. I feel bad not leaving his birthday message up longer... so please scroll down and read my "Ode to Jeremy" birthday message. Happy "booya" Birthday Jeremy.
A fun picture of Mary, Mark, Jean, Naoko, and Asako at Tsukiji or the fish market. I just found this on Mary's computer.
Finally, a fun picture of Masashi and I. Seriously people. I require more sleep to function at a normal Joanna level. Otherwise I just turn into this.
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Sunday, December 17, 2006

Jeremy, how do I love thee? Let me count thy ways...

Happy Birthday Jeremy! There are many things I like about you and so many stories I could tell about you. Some of them I am sworn to secrecy (so I will not tell) and some of them I am about tell.
It is NOT a family secret that you were the child "raised by the entire village". Every Aunt, Uncle, Grandparent, and parent loved you the minute you were born. It didn't help the three that followed that you were reciting poetry before you were ONE or that you were the most selfLESS person ever. You definitely set a high standard for the three that would follow.
I've always been a teeny bit jealous that you and Jordan were born and spent your first years in Normal, IL. I was jealous that the relatives had an abundance of stories about you and how cute you were when you were born.
"Doggone it!"
My very first Jeremy story from when I was around, is when I was about six years old and we were living in Sheboygan. You were out skateboarding and you fell... I enter the story as you walk up the driveway with blood dripping down your knee. You looked at me and said, "Wanna lick it? It tastes like Kool Aid." ha ha ha! That's probably my earliest memory of you.
Or any story including the brothers... I was often left out of the games and the things you guys took an interest in. Like video games, fishing, hunting, and other boyish adventures. As much as I tried I could not throw off my girly nature and join you in your games. Even as we got older, I desperatly wanted to be a part of what you guys did...
like the game of eucher we played on the train this past November; I didn't tell you I couldn't play eucher but it only took one or two hands before you found me out. Oops! Well, you took losing nicely.
You are one of the most selfLESS people I know. You have a caring heart, a giving heart, and a leader's heart. Although we never tell you, Jordan, Jonah, and I have followed you through the past years. We've all needed you at one time or another~ to lean on you, to draw on your strength, and to lighten our load with your humor.
You made the best match when you married Alaina... and I know this blog isn't about her but it is hard not to think of how well you married. Alaina is probably one of the most tender, sweet, passionate women I have ever met. She is not only all of this but she is most lucky to have met YOU.
Another one of my favorite stories was when I heard that you had melted your promise ring Mom and Dad had given you to make Alaina and your wedding rings. I was so impressed by your thoughtfulness and romantic side.
Happy Birthday Jeremy! You are one of my favorite people in the whole world. I think you have taught me the most about; humbleness, humor in (and at) life, patience, and faith. Your heart for the Lord and patience with life has strengthened me over and over.
You comforted me so much these past few months with your words of encouragement and hope. (Remember what you said about me coming home? That's what I'm talking about...)
I love you SO much Jeremy.
Happy Birthday!

Friday, December 15, 2006

Merry "early" Christmas

Kie and I met at Tully's to kick off our Christmas celebrating with a live set. We listened to a saxophone and guitar combination and it was amazing. This guy could wail. He played some Christmas music, his own stuff, and some American favorites. He was really good.
The guitar player totally whipped out a ukelele and I almost signed up for lessons right then and there. I had never heard a ukelele live so it was rad. I was sold that it is my new favorite instrument.
Ah, yes...
and then I got home and Mary and I started preparing for the BEST club Christmas party. Our house is an official disastor site. We haven't had any time to clean so we just kept piling on the ingredients, mess, and dishes. This is what it looks like at our apartment to throw a Christmas party.
Apparently at 4AM I thought that using my cookie for a mitten was hilarious. Which I still think is pretty silly but perhaps 4AM is a little too late to be making cookies. They were delicious though.
Mary and the mess... at about 2AM. We called it quits at 4AM and actually doing a lot of it the night before helped us greatly. We were not stressed at all the next day which was great because we made a ton more the next day and got ready ourselves. (I took a leisurely hour and a half to get ready which was AWESOME. Hooray for doing my hair and feeling girly again. ha ha)
At the party...
I love this picture...
Mary~ goregous and dressed up~ elbow deep in mashed potatoes. We didn't have a big spoon. I snapped our wooden one in half trying to stir. So she used the next big thing... her hands.
HEY Kelli, remember at Nicole's wedding when you taught me how to do my hair like this? Well, I totally did it. And I love it. Thanks friend. Also, how do you get the front to look good? I had some difficulty with the front. It wasn't nearly as cute as the back. I also tied ribbon around the rubber bands and pulled them through. You can't see them too well in this picture though.
Then we had the BEST club Christmas party. Mary and Tomo organized the whole thing. It was AMAZING. Merry Christmas BEST CLUB! We had a fun party December 15th with amazing food, three speakers, and some new games. Abby was my helper in the kitchen. While Mary was emceeing I kept sneaking back and forth to the kitchen to get everything ready. It was fun. Although Abby and I did some testing of the dessert while we were alone in the kitchen. :) ha ha
I gave my first speech in Japanese. I wrote it and then Yuri, a student in BEST and my friend, translated it for me. He wrote it out about a month ago and I've been practicing ever since. I was INCREDIBLY nervous~ I do not like to give speeches, even in English, but everyone seemed to understand me, by God's grace alone, I am sure.
Everyone enjoyed talking and eating together.
Mary really wanted to do gingerbread houses and even though graham crackers and frosting are two things NOT easy to find in Japan and they were our main ingredients, she held her ground. We went ahead and got everything and she was AMAZING putting it together.

The gingerbread houses were judged by Abbie and Josiah.
The winners were "Mommy" (Jin) and Kie (picked by Josiah)
Abbie chose Yuri and Dan's gingerbread house.
We had two speeches; the first one was given by Himeji, a Christian student from Utsunomiya BEST club. He talked about his personal story and how he became a Christian.
The second speech was given by Tomo; staff from Utsunomiya BEST club. He talked about Santa Claus's history and how it ties into the gospel. (Saint Nicholas) Sorry if these are a little sketchy on the speech content... they were in Japanese.
Afterwards we moved outside to exchange gifts and say goodbye. Dan, an exchange student from U-Nebraska Lincoln, is leaving this Monday. Everyone is sad as for the past three months he has been able to join our B.E.S.T. events. Dan will graduate this Spring with a degree in international studies and then will serve the United States with the Marines for four years. We are so proud of him and wish him the very BEST at what God has for him next. PLEASE come visit us again, Dan.
Here the students are giving him a farewell gift. Dan bonded with the downtown guys a lot.

BEST club guys (minus Yuri who had to catch his train)

The BEST club girls
My friends from downtown Tokyo.

Mikkun, Ty, Masashi, and Mamoru

Sooo.... Dan's leaving and all the girls are sad. Ha ha!!
It was a great party. THANK YOU MARY who organized the WHOLE thing. Thank you Tomo and Himeji for coming to speak to our BEST club.

It's been one year for me, exactly, here in Japan. Crazy business.
Well, one Christmas party done... two to go. Ha ha!!