Friday, October 25, 2013

Oyako Eigo (Mommy-Baby English)

Timing is a funny thing. Often when something doesn't work out, it's as much to do with the timing as the idea itself. When I tried to start an English class for moms and babies at our church two years ago it fell flat on its face. I was beyond bummed. I put so much effort into planning and advertising, yet no one came. I didn't have the connections into the mom-community to get it off the ground. In fact, that's why I wanted to start it: to make mom-friends. At the time I was pregnant and trying to find other moms in my neighborhood. (I didn't yet know about the importance of routine in making friends in Japan.)

This year, however, after months and months of slowly building relationships in a variety of contexts, I felt it was time to dust off my curriculum and get back in to the teaching game.

The moms I met through swim class and the neighborhood park were eager to join. I was blown away when at out first class, two weeks ago, 4 mom's showed up with their children: two park moms; two swim moms. Woot Woot!

The lesson for the day was colors. We sang songs, played games, made a craft all using our new English words for the colors of the rainbow.
Practicing our new color words while we draw together

Today was the second Oyako Eigo class. 6 Moms came: 3 park moms; 3 swim moms. The new "park-mom" hadn't yet met the other "park-moms," so I had the pleasure of introducing them. They live less than a block away from each other and they met for the first time at church while singing silly songs. The moms are slowly gelling. You can definitely see the two group from how they sit on different side of the circle. But, as with all relationships in Japan, slowly but surely, they'll get to know each other and soon this new group will be a common connection point. Not only that, but these 6 moms have now been inside of a Christian church. Twice! That's huge!

Today's lesson was body parts. We sang the ubiquitous "Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes" and played Simon Says. The craft for today was making Funny Felt Faces.

For fun, I thought I'd write out instructions for today's craft, incase any of you want to play along at home. :)
For the record: it's not too clear from the picture, but
I used tan felt for the faces, not white,since the kids are Japanese. 
Felt Funny Faces
Felt (various colors)

Cut out large-ish circles for heads out of felt.
Draw and cut out a set of
in different colors. (I made a variety of shapes as well. Ears were a bit of a pain. Mine all looked like kidney beans.)
Seperate parts by kind.

Pass out faces
Let kids/ parents choose one of each for their face. They can mix and match colors or go monochomatic.
The beauty of felt is the kids can reposition and change out the parts as they wish. After a bit it all starts looking like a Picasso, but that's fine. ;)

*** Pro-Tip: to get the felt to stick to itself, scratch it up with your nails. The rougher the felt is, the better.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Operation Old-Faithful

I've had to reevaluate my methods for starting and building relationships since moving to Japan. In the States, as with everything, we use a more direct method to starting friendships. "Hey, we have something in common, let's hang out some time." It's not always quite THAT simple, but at its root, befriending people in the States can be done relatively simply. Not so in Japan. Here it's all about taking it slow, building trust, establishing routine. It's taken me a while to get this new model through my head. It's still hard for me to wrap my mind around the fact that meeting someone once at the mall then asking them to come to English class just doesn't work. My American gut tells me if you want to make friends, just get out there. Go. Do. Win. But like I've said, that just doesn't work here. In fact, trying to make friends that way is more likely to alienate people that endear them to me.

This past summer, during a training session on cross-cultural communication, it clicked for me: consistency and routine. I could meet a lot of people by doing different activities each week, but in order to turn those relationships into friendships, I was going to need to see them on a regular basis.
Enter, Operation Old-Faithful:

Stage one:
Join a mommy-baby swim class at the gym near the mall. See the same moms and babies two to three times, every week.
--Success! Not only have we had a really fun time swimming (splashing and playing with rubber duckies, more like) but I would now consider us officially in the group (Being in the group is HUGE in Japan. Once you're in, you are in! It's when people begin to open up and trust you). Moms from the class have started coming to Oyako Eigo (Parent-Child English) at our church and wanting to spend time with us outside of swimming as well.

Stage two:
Follow up swim class with lunch and grocery shopping Aeon (the mall).  Go to the same shops. Make sure to go the the same Onigiri shop every time.
--Success! We are a fixture at Aeon now. Shop ladies poke their heads out when they hear Jill's squeaky shoes coming down the road. The Onigiri (rice ball) ladies know our order by heart and all come to the register to hand us our lunch.
Bonus: We've befriended a gaggle of Obaachans (Old Grannies) who congregate outside the food court. After we eat, and walk out to do our grocery shopping, they call and wave to "Chiyo-chan" (Jillian) and she shows off the new words she has learned or gives them all high-fives.
Photo: Jill made friends with this group of Obaachans (old grannies) at the mall. Each week she comes to say hi when we walk past. Happy to spread joy while we do our grocery shopping. :)

Stage three:
Same old park, every single day(-ish). The park across the street from our apartment isn't the most exciting park I've every been to. Just a patch of grass with swings and monkey bars. But, it's where the moms gather, so it's where we go.
--Success! We've had a few really interesting conversations with the neighborhood moms. A few have joined the swim class moms at Oyako Eigo.
Bonus: Jillian LOVES  the swings.

The part of me that wants to explore the other shopping centers and parks around town has been slowly quieted by the response we're receiving.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Hope for Hokkaido

Tonight I went with our church to the kick-off event for the 2014 Hokkaido Hope Festival

The event tonight was for participating churches to come together to worship God and pray for the upcoming festival, which takes place on May, 9-11. 

Our church, along with many others on the island of Hokkaido, are working together with Franklin Graham Festival, to put on the first ever "Hope Festival" on Hokkaido. Our pastor is one of the leaders among the participating pastors. I'm so proud to be partnering with a church that understands the importance of cooperating within the larger body of Christ, rather than hunkering down within our 4 church walls. 

Pastor Kaji introducing the other Hokkaido pastors and the roles they will be playing.
We were blessed to be lead in worship by two women with voices as beautiful as their hearts; Lena Maria, and Alfie Silas. The later of whom touched my heart, and I'm sure those of the Japanese as well, when she sang a medley of traditional Japanese songs. The whole auditorium sang along with the songs of their childhood directed towards Jesus. 

I was encouraged that the main purpose of the festival is to build a bridge between the local church and people who don't know Jesus. If you've followed this blog or our newsletters, you'll remember that that is my heart as well. They used the image of an iceberg to drive home the point to the church leaders sitting in the crowd. The 3 day festival itself is only 10% of the focus. The other 90% is the work that is done within local churches before and after May 9-11th. 

Even though the event itself is taking place after our terms ends, I feel like the timing is really good. I'm glad we can take part in the preparation before hand and help this event through our church's partnership. 

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