Thursday, August 11, 2011

Severe Beauty

We're in the city of Miyako, Iwate prefecture, on the east coast of Japan, doing relief work among the people affected by the March 11 tsunami. Here's a quick update now that we're finished with our first week here.

One thing that especially strikes me about being here is just how incredibly beautiful it is: the rugged, rocky coastline with fjord-like inlets, the tree-covered hills, the clear skies, and the birds. The areas where tsunami came are relatively small, but unfortunately, the tsunami came to the flat areas right on the coast, where most of the people are living--right up the inlets and into the villages.

Jodogahama beach

Yesterday I was sitting under a cherry tree, playing my cello for the outdoor café we set up at one of the temporary housing facilities. I admired the trees on the mountain, and watched a couple of large birds soaring against the backdrop of the clear blue sky. If I turned around, I could see the ocean, calm and sparkling in the sunlight--behind a swath of destroyed houses and a huge mound of trash. In other places we visited, a completely undamaged house could be right next to an empty foundation of another house. Some places sunflowers are growing out of the wrecks of houses.

Also Yamada: surviving house next to destroyed houses
Akamae: trash heaps being sorted. The picture just doesn't do justice to the magnitude of the trash pile...
Akamae: destroyed houses, green hills
This place is full of these kinds of contrasts. As I watched the café guests talking happily and sipping their drinks, I feel a deep sense of peace and contentment. Yet we also hear stories of people reliving the day of the tsunami every night in their dreams.

First café location: Taro
Playing for other relief workers after delivering children's tables and chairs to a shelter in Yamada. The chairs are very sturdy. :)
This café location was in Miyako, only a couple of blocks from where we're staying.
Some people listened from inside their apartments. One such person came out at the end and gave us a melon to thank us for the music.
This mother and daughter stayed for the whole afternoon.
At this café, I talked about music with some of the children. They even chose a piece for me to play. :)
The aforementioned location with the cherry tree, Akamae
This place is a gift from God. I pray that the people here see God's face through the beauty of the land and through the acts of service of God's people who have come to be here with them.

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good--his steadfast love endures forever.

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Eating in Singapore

We're in Japan now. (YAAAAAYYYYYYY!!!) But before we give a Japan update, let's talk about what we ate in Singapore. One of the things I was most hoping to do while we were there was to eat well. :)

We had many food suggestions before we got to Singapore. One of them was high tea at the Raffles Hotel. We went there for our anniversary. In addition to the delicious spread of sweets and tea sandwiches, there were tropical fruits and Chinese dumplings.

We went out for lunch on three consecutive Sundays with our friends, Mei and Francis, whom we met in Boston through our IVCF group. Mei and I used to play in the band for the student worship events. We ate Chinese dumplings, Malay food, and Turkish food. They also got us hooked on Cendol... so delicious and refreshing!

In Chinatown with Mei and Francis
Some things we ate at the Turkish restaurant.
Classic cendol: shaved ice with palm sugar, condensed milk, green rice noodles... and kidney beans.
A slightly less traditional cendol. This one had corn and bits of jello-like substance.

Mei and Francis made one more suggestion before we said goodbye to them: chili crab, a Singaporean specialty. We got some at a hawker stall in Chinatown. We also got "carrot cake," a savory "cake" made with daikon radish and egg. Both were delicious. The crab was extremely messy.

Keith enjoys food. I enjoy watching him enjoy his food. Here he is eating chili crab.
"Carrot" cake

But there was one delicacy which we preferred not to try...