First week thoughts


So, I've been attempting to write this post for the past two days (It's Tuesday here in Japan). It hasn't really been the easiest thing in all honesty. But I'll try to explain it the best I can. My time in Japan so far has been pretty interesting. The Asian Rural Institute is a pretty busy place, and it's been awesome to be a part of it so far. I've only been here a week, and in that time a lot has happened.

First off, to everyone that has heard about the recent earthquake here in Japan, I want you to know that I'm okay. The earthquake happened off of the coast of Fukushima. I'm is located in Tochigi prefecture, which is directly south of Fukushima, but further inland. So in terms of the tsunami, there is nothing to worry about in my case. As for the earthquake, there wasn't really any damage here at the ARI. If anything, the earthquake was a really startling alarm clock. But again, thank you for your messages and prayers. It means the world to me.

To make things simpler, I'm just going to highlight the most interesting parts of each day. Trust me, if told you all everything, it would probably take all day and then some.

Monday, November 14th
  • I arrived at the ARI around 8:30 pm on Monday evening. All of the institute's participants were out on a tour around Japan, so only the volunteers were there. The volunteers were hanging out in the Koinonia House (our main gathering place at the ARI) watching movies. The majority of the volunteers were Japanese, and all between their early 20s or mid 30s. I hung out with them for a bit, and went to bed.
Tuesday, November 15th 
  • I tried breakfast for the first time here, which was interesting because the food was not at all what I'm used to in terms of breakfast. There were eggs, rice, salad, soup with tofu, and another vegetable mix that included some beef.  They also had tea and coffee.
  • I was given a grand tour of the ARI. I got to see the main office, the Koinonia House (the main gathering place, if you will), the chapel, the kitchen, the farm shop, animal pens(chicken, pig, goat, as well as a fish pond), and the many vegetable fields that the ARI has. This is a pretty busy place. I'll have to post pictures in a later post.
Wednesday, November 16th
  • I had my orientation that morning. Kathy, who's in charge of Ecumenical relations here, told me about the rules and regulations that I would have to follow here as a volunteer at the ARI. She also gave me my first jobs as a volunteer, which are helping to cook breakfast and dinner and helping out with farm work. (If you know me, this is hilarious because, one, I can't cook, and two,  I have NEVER worked on a farm in my life. Lord help)
  • I did my first farm job, which was harvesting kang kong (a plant I have never heard of). It actually wasn't all that bad. We used scythes to cut them out of the ground and I got really dirty.
  • I cooked dinner for the first time. Each person had to cook something, and my thing was a side dish. Unfortunately for me, they didn't have a set dish for me to cook, or instructions, so I had to make it up on the fly. Luckily for me, one of the other volunteers was cooking some potatoes and had some left over, so I decided that I would make mashed potatoes. After peeling the potatoes, I started mashing them, and that's when I realized that they weren't cooked all the way. So, with more than a little elbow grease, I started pounding them as much as I could, until they were as close as I could get them to looking as "mashed" as possible. I threw in some butter, salt, and oil, and it started looking a little better. Another volunteer had some leftover carrots, and threw them in the bowl with the rest of the mashed potatoes. I'd never had carrots with mashed potatoes, but apparently I was today. After adding some more salt and butter, I'd finally made my first meal.
Thursday, November 17th
  • Our farm work that day was helping to thin mustard plants, which required us to uproot mustard plants that were growing too close together, and replant some of them in another row. It took a LONG time.
Friday, November 18th
  • Farm work that day was tearing down an old greenhouse so we could sell the iron for parts. The most fun part for me was using the scythes we had to cut down vines and branches that were in the way of the greenhouse.
  • I and some of the other volunteers went out for dinner. We went to this place in town that sells okonomiyaki, or Japanese pancakes, and it was awesome. Here’s how it worked. The tables at the restaurant had a stove built into them, directly in the center, and each table had 4 spatulas to use. When we were ready to eat, the servers would bring out small bowls filled with various ingredients. They’d be filled with bacon, eggs, vegetables… you name it! Then we would empty the contents of the bowls on the table, and use spatulas to flip them over until we had our “pancakes”! We ended up ordering the buffet, so I basically ate until I was stuffed! It was a great time.
Saturday, November 19th 
  • Some volunteers and I went to a park. It was absolutely gorgeous! There were several stone ponds and wooden walkways that were very nicely arranged, but I think the most beautiful part about it was the trees! The contrast of the red leaves with the green leaves on the trees was what I think made it pretty striking. I took so many pictures! While I was there I also had an embarrassing moment where I ended up slipping while trying to ask a photographer to take a picture of me and my friends. The cool thing about it was that I got to practice my Japanese, the not so cool part was that I messed up my pants.
  • We went to an onsen, or bathhouse. It was very relaxing. There were a lot of naked people there but that’s just part of the experience. There were two parts to the bathhouse, and indoor bathhouse and an outdoor one. The indoor one was really warm. It took some time for me to get used to, but I eventually began feeling comfortable. The outdoor one was a little cooler and I felt comfortable right away. While I was there, an older Japanese gentleman complimented me on how "strong" my body looks and how natural I sound when I speak Japanese. I had a pretty fun time. 
Sunday, November 20th
  • At breakfast, I tried white rice with a raw egg for the first time. I'd seen several of the Japanese volunteers try it, and I was curious, so I gave it a go. It tasted pretty gross and slimy (as one would assume), but after I added some soy sauce, it actually tasted better. (If I die of salmonella later, you now know why.)
  • Me and some of the other volunteers went around the city to do some shopping, and we found this really great gyoza (dumpling) place in the city. It was amazing. I got a whole bowl of ramen, 6 dumplings, a bowl of rice, some vegetables, and pudding, all for less than 1000 yen (about 10 USD).
Monday, November 21st  
  • I had another meeting with Kathy, and she gave me my newest job at the ARI, which would be working in the office of Ecumenical Relations. I'm going to be contacting organizations that donate to the ARI, and also helping out with writing articles for their annual newsletter, which talks about the participants here at the program, and all of the awesome things we're doing here at the ARI. I also will be helping them with their social media pages. This should be really fun!
  • The program participants returned from their trip and we had a welcome back party for them. Some of us decorated the Koinonia house, and others of us prepared a big dinner for them. I helped with the dinner. One of the staff and I made pork adobo, which is a Filipino dish that includes garlic, spices, onions, and potatoes. It was delicious. Me and two of the staff members also played a song for the particpants to welcome them when they came in. I played my trumpet, while one of them played guitar, and the other, banjo. We sounded pretty awesome, especially for only having practiced 15 minutes before they came in. It was a really awesome time though 
That's pretty much my first week here at the ARI. It's been pretty eventful, and sometimes challenging, and I know there's more to come, but I really can't wait to see how much I can grow with these awesome people here. Thank you to everyone who has prayed for me or donated to helping me get here. I am truly appreciative of all of you. God Bless.

Comments

  1. Thank you for sharing this. I am delighted that you have this great opportunity to serve mankind.

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