Finding My Way Through Life

Originally published 19 May 2006. This post is part of a reminiscent series of e-mail letters I wrote to my friends and family during my summer teaching English in Japan.

Hello all! I hope everyone’s having a great week. Let me know what’s going on over in your side of the world. Here’s what’s happening on my side!

Life here is overcast and rainy (it is the rainy season, after all), but it’s pretty. I can see a river and the mountains out my balcony. I can see the city, too, but the mountains are lush and beautiful.

Ise River from the Naiku Shrine

I have to tell y’all, I’ve been having trouble finding my place here, especially the first week or so, but God has definitely shown me how much everything–EVERYTHING–depends on Him. He shows me more and more every day that I can’t do anything alone. He’s kept me safe and provided everything I need (I get sushi whenever I want!). I’m more and more aware of how small and insignificant I am, yet God still spends time taking care of me in my ignorance and naiveté.

And that’s another thing–God’s shown me what actually matters. I can’t tell you how much e-mails from y’all have meant to me. Just seeing that people are thinking about and praying for me is so encouraging, and that’s what I’ve needed.

But anyway, I want to tell you all about some of my experiences! Last Saturday was THE big festival here. Every 20 years, they tear down the most important Shinto shrine in the world, located in Ice City, where I’m living! The whole city comes out to pull a huge tree from a barge on the river to the Naiku shrine, going back and forth and side to side and dancing and all this crazy stuff. I’m not sure what everything symbolizes, but I’m sure it’s got lots of historical significance. We dressed up in traditional Japanese clothes and I got to help pull the tree through the streets, in the pouring rain!

It was pretty chilly, so Mr. and Mrs. Koda took my coworker Anna and me into a little cafe. They ordered a sweet bean and rice desert soup thing for us. The rice was sort of in blob form, and I’m not sure what kind of beans they were exactly. The texture was like black eyed peas, but they were sweet and delightful! It was surprising. Probably not something most Americans would like, but I’m glad I had the experience! The soup part was sort of a watery chocolate flavor, which doesn’t sound all that pleasing, but it was ok.

During one of the breaks in the festival, Anna and I got to meet the Mayor of Ise City! He speaks English very well, and he was really nice. He pulled the rope right across the tree from me!

I’ll write about school next time. For now, this is me in my school uniform:

Thanks again for prayers, thoughts, and e-mails. I love and miss y’all. Have a great night (it’s 10:09 am here!).

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