Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Nato is a Four Letter Word.

Want to know what the worst food in the world is? I introduce you to nato.

Nato is a fermented soybean dish usually served for breakfast in Japan. I had the misfortune to try it my first day here. I was still at the airport hotel, so I picked it up from the buffet line. It was in a cup with a sheet of plastic covering the top. Hmmmm that’s strange I said…. But then I soon figured why it was sealed. It smells like a combination of stinky feet, rotten cheese, and curdled milk. And who’d want that smell filling up the breakfast buffet line?

I tried to be a man about it. I ate about half before I could stand no more. It doesn’t look so bad at first, but when you scoop it to your mouth it starts to become stringy! I then made a vow that I would never eat Nato again.

That same day we met our host family and had a sushi dinner with them. I tried to sample each type. I remember one sushi roll looking a little different then the others. When I ate it I began to feel that sinking feeling, “what did I just put in my mouth”? The familiar taste started to wreak havoc in my mouth. It was a nato sneak attack! It was horrible.

Later that night, and this is absolutely true, I had nightmares about nato. I had dreams were I was being forced to eat it, and I was throwing it back up. I woke up from my dream feeling nauseous. And I have never recovered.

Every time I express my distaste for nato with Japanese people, they always respond with the rote phrase “ Oh, but its really healthy for you”! SO what! I’d rather live a short happy life, then a long life doomed by having to eat nato. Thank you.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Point cards: lessons in Japanese culture

Japan loves point cards. Every store, most products, and even some vending machines have a point system of some sort. Apparently they are really helpful, and useful and what not. But this gaijin has NO IDEA how they work!

The bulk of my wallet is filled with point cards. Since I've been told they are really great, I signed up for the free point cards where I shop most often, where they give you the card with stamps every time you make a purchase so you might as well try to keep all the stamps on one card, and where getting point can get you cool stuff.

But, like I said before, I have no idea how they work.

I have the basics for getting points.
When you make a purchase the clerk asks, "do you have a point card." You respond, "Hai, motte imasu." and plop down your card.
Then you get your card back with your change. for my supermarket, book store, and Mister Donut cards the new point total is printed right on the card so I can know that I am 27 points away from my Mister Donut coffee mug (eep!).

150pt カラフルカップ画像
(only 27 points away from ceramic awesomeness? must. eat. more. donuts.)

Other places, like our convenience store card, don't print our points on the card. In this case, I haven't the slightest idea how many points we have.
Which, I guess is really fine since my real problem is knowing how to redeem my points.

There is some kind of handy phrase you use you points like money (I think). Something like, "I want to use my points." Only, it's in Japanese.
Some places though, I think it involves going to a counter, using the secret phrase, and perhaps filling out a form of some sort.

(And possibly using these coupons the cashier at the supermarket keeps giving me.)

Then there is another beast.

Sticker points.

(I am not even going to bother figuring out this system.)

Yesterday, a student asked if we had point cards in the US like in Japan
Ummm, no. Well at least not like here.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

What can go wrong will, and it will be hilarious!

A lot can go wrong when you invite people over for dinner. Even with the planning things to the last detail, you can always expect SOMETHING to go wrong. When it does, you can choose to let it get you down, or laugh it off. We have chosen to laugh it off.

Last Saturday, we hosted our 3rd ever, 2nd-Saturday Friends dinner party in our small Japanese apartment. As always, it was an open invitation, no RSVP required. So, as always, we had no idea how many people would show up. Somewhere between 2 and 2 hundred. Because of this, we have decided more food is better than not enough, so I made hamburgers and potato salad to feed a small army.
Earlier in the day, I posted on FB that I bought every hamburger bun package at the supermarket near my home (6 4-packs). I didn't realize that the person I had asked to pick up buns from Costco would come through. I thought they had forgotten. When they arrived carrying 3 12 packs of buns I almost fell down laughing. We may not have enough patties or sides to feed that many, but by golly there will be buns!
13 people came, and there was enough food for second (which is the BEST compliment a cook can get!) and enough buns left over to keep our church freezer stocked for the next year.

Since, I'm in charge of the food, Stephen is in charge of the entertainment. This month he planned a multilingual game of pictionary. You may remember that our church represents 4 languages: Japanese, Chinese, Korean, English. Stephen wanted to make sure everyone felt included so he spent the day before using Google Translate to make pictionary cards with 4 languages on each.
Everyone got a kick out of the game and the cards. But when one girl started to draw the picture for the card that read "Tissue," I got really confused. Why is she drawing the world? Who are those people standing on it? Where is the box of tissues?
Turns out Google Translate is not the reliable. When Stephen entered the word tissue, it gave him the word for The World Health Organization in Japanese, Chinese, and Korean.
the more we played, the more reasons to double check the internet showed themselves.

Here's a short clip of the fun.

The final score!

In spite of, and because of the craziness we had a great evening. 13 guest (7 non-church members, 6 church-members) came, and everyone had fun. Many people were talking about coming next time, also. And I'm sure we'll have lots to laugh about then, too.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

A little slice of Heaven

Working in a Japanese church which is half-filled with international college students has it's own unique set of challenges and rewards.

Once we think we have some aspect of the Japanese culture down, we discover that it does not translate for Korean or Chinese students. Or, that what we thought was Japanese culture isn't really, but rather Chinese culture in a Japanese church.

We eat very well each Sunday. There is no chance of getting bored with the same thing every week. Whether it's snacks, dessert, or the meal itself, we are privileged to get to try a wide variety of Asian taste treat sensations. On the flip side: we have also been exposed to some rather strange foods and food combinations.

We often aren't quite sure what language someone is speaking. Now, we usually have a pretty good guess when it's English (although you'd be surprised how many times we weren't sure), but many times I think, is that Korean, or a new word I haven't heard yet?

I often reflect on these thing, but the internationalness of our church struck me again tonight. My group this evening at mid-week prayer consisted of me and two other girls. Not one of us was from the same country. And each of us prayed for the others in our own language. Listening to their prayers, I thought, this will be just like Heaven!

I'm glad that in addition to serving the Japanese in Sapporo, we have also been blessed with many international students. Even if it means Stephen has to eat silk worm pupa.

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