Thursday, January 23, 2014


Today’s coffee: Tokumitsu Valentine’s blend、Kenya

It’s another concert weekend! I’m playing tomorrow at Sapporo Sun Plaza. This time, I don’t have to give a talk; I show up with my cello, other people move chairs and stands around for me, then I walk on stage, play, and when I’m finished, I take a bow and go back off the stage. Easy! Have I mentioned before that public speaking is the most stressful aspect of concerts for me? :)

Concert tomorrow! Please come!
After tomorrow's concert is over, we don’t have any concerts scheduled for awhile… time to rest, catch up on some other things, and maybe I’ll finally get around to learning the Bach 4th suite!

It’s been almost a year since we graduated for language school. Although we still have a long way to go, I think our biggest accomplishment in the last year in terms of progress in Japanese language has been endurance. Last March, simply listening attentively to the sermon could leave me exhausted and glassy-eyed; now I can participate in high school Sunday school, sing songs, listen to and comprehend most of the sermon, chat with people after church, attend a meeting, and still have a bit of energy to spare. Just a bit.

One piece of advice we heard from other missionaries when we first arrived was to start “playing” in Japanese as soon as possible: spending time with Japanese friends, watching Japanese movies and TV without subtitles (although Japanese captions are helpful), and reading Japanese books. Speaking, hearing, and reading Japanese takes more energy than English, but operating in Japanese language does not necessarily mean we are “working.” Even while we rest, we are gaining endurance and learning about Japanese language and culture.

Still, there’s a limit. During December, we had six Christmas events at church; I gave a talk at the women’s Christmas event, planned and led a Christmas-party-worship-service for the youth group, and planned, rehearsed, and performed a Christmas concert. In the middle of all this, I made a very important realization: playing the cello and speaking Japanese use the same part of my brain.

At the Christmas concert, although the viola da gamba consort pieces went really well, somewhere in the middle of the Mendelssohn sonata, my brain fizzled out. Unable to concentrate, I made a lot of stupid mistakes. (However, either everyone was very kind, or they really didn’t notice. I’m not sure which.) When I tried to introduce the next piece, a jumble of vaguely Japanese-like sounds escaped from my mouth. I’m not sure if I said anything anyone understood.

Wakaba Church Christmas concert
It was this sort of concert: everyone was relaxing after a delicious lunch. This time, my friends, Kumiko and Shoko played 3-part consorts with me, and accompanied Christmas carols.
That night I went home, I crawled into the kotatsu (all the way up to my neck) and stayed there until it was time to go to bed.

Last weekend we had another test of endurance: we spent the weekend in Obihiro, playing two concerts. Since Shino was with us, we mostly spoke Japanese even in our “down time.” Also, there were the usual challenges of traveling for concerts: unfamiliar rooms, unfamiliar pianos, sleeping in an unfamiliar bed. I think we peaked in the first half of the second concert: we pulled off a fabulous performance of the Mendelssohn sonata. Well, it felt good at the time… I’m a little scared to listen to the recording.

In the second half, I could feel my concentration slipping. The Chopin sonata wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t the best either. I found out afterwards that I wasn’t the only one who was tired: Shino confessed to daydreaming about her favourite foods during the Chopin sonata.

Otofuke concert: this time we used Keith's electric piano (this thing weighs 60 kg. Ugh.)
After the Obihiro Eikou Church concert, we took a group picture.
There are some definite perks to playing in Obihiro: the food is amazing. We highly recommend the butadon (grilled pork over a bed of rice). After the concert, we visited the flagship store of Rokkatei, a famous brand of sweets in Hokkaido. Mr. Darcy stole my coffee.
This week we’ve had some time to rest; hopefully that will result in a great performance tomorrow!

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