Friday, September 26, 2014

Concert and Church Bazaar announcements, and whining about being too busy

Today’s coffee: El Salvador, roasted by our friend, Tim!

Last week… was very busy, as was the week before, and the week before. I’ve gotten a lot done… put out a lot of fires… but there are still more fires to put out. As stress and work pile up, my Japanese level drops and I make lots of stupid mistakes playing the cello.

Speaking of cello, Mr. Darcy (modern cello) is currently in the shop. My next concert will be played entirely on baroque cello, with baroque, classical, and modern bows. Since we didn’t have time to put together an entirely new program, we chose pieces from our repertoire suitable for a cello with gut strings… but with short fingerboard and gently sloped neck, some of the pieces we chose are pushing things a bit. The Schubert “Arpeggione” sonata goes way off the end of the fingerboard.

For those of you for whom the last paragraph read like Japanese even though it wasn’t, let me summarize: this next concert will be a challenge. It will be a good challenge, I think, but a challenge all the same.

If anyone would like to come, the concert will be Sunday, October 12 at (I think) 1:30 p.m. at Kita Hiroshima church. (Address: 北広島市泉町1丁目2-3) Eventually there will be some sort of chirashi, I think. I’ll be playing Brahms’ e minor sonata (first movement), Schubert’s “Arpeggione” sonata, Mendelssohn’s D Major sonata (first movement), and a few surprises. Keith will be preaching for the worship service that morning.

However, before we get to the October 12 concert, there is also our church bazaar: Saturday, October 4, 11:00-2:00, at Wakaba Church. (Address: 石狩市花畔2条1丁目) Come early for best selection of cakes and cookies. People usually start lining up around 10:30. I will be playing cello outside to entertain people while they wait, weather permitting. After that, I’ll be making coffee and tea for the café corner.

As if that weren’t enough to keep me busy, we also have 2 conferences we’re going to in October… and we’re doing music for both of them. I will be spending the afternoon rewriting a song for the second of the two conferences. And then there’s the farm, which is still going strong…

I thought about writing something else, but my brain is full of… everything. Sorry for being whiny. This is the nature of missionary work: sometimes we get very busy when everything seems to pile up at once. If you are praying for us, please do pray that we will be able to get enough rest, and to complete all the stuff we have to do without worrying about it.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Curiosity, concerts, and too much coffee

Today’s coffees: an espresso and a drip coffee (Kenya) from About Life Coffee Brewers and a latte from The Theatre Coffee. Oh, and there was also a matcha latte from Starbucks before that. I think I’m going to have the shakes.

Sharon, and espresso shots
Gorgeous espresso shot...
This was the Kenyan drip coffee. It kind of looks like I'm drinking coffee in the shower.
Latte with pretty art
So… it has been a crazy week. For the last week, I've not slept in the same bed twice in a row. I’ve been at home, in Nayoro, in Jozankei, and in Tokyo… I really wish all of these trips had been more spread out, but… this is just how it happened. Having taken care of various business this morning and then having had coffee with Sharon (yay!), I’m now killing time until it’s time to take the train to the airport. The weather is bad throughout Japan, so I’m hoping my flight is not too terribly delayed. I’m ready to park myself at home for a few weeks and sleep in my own bed…

The concert went well. I think we played well, and our colleagues, Tim and Miho and three church members did a great job of welcoming the guests. It was an honor to be a part of Nayoro Grace Church’s first outreach concert.

Playing Debussy with Shino
After the concert, with one of the church members and one of Tim and Miho's kids. Somehow we didn't get a picture with Tim and Miho...
Which brings me to the book I’ve been referring to for the last few weeks: I Once Was Lost. The second chapter is about encouraging curiosity about Jesus in those with whom we already have trust relationships. I realized that this is the stage into which most of my concerts will fall: church members bring friends, neighbors, and family members, who may or not have any interest in Christianity, and who might feel weird if they think they are coming to a concert and they get a sermon. In the past, when I was stressed out about preparing for concerts (especially the “testimony” or “message” bit), I felt like God was urging me simply to tell stories that point to him. As I think about it, that’s one way of encouraging people to be curious.

This time I played a favorite hymn (How Firm a Foundation) on Shamisen; before I played, I read Isaiah 41:10 and 43:1-2, the passages on which the lyrics are based, and told a story of how the song had encouraged me. I hope that through this simple testimony I was able to encourage an attitude of curiosity in members of the audience.

Well, time to go to the airport!

p.s. I actually wrote this yesterday, since I had time to kill. I made it home safely and on time, and yes, I got the shakes from too much coffee. Oops.

The sunset from the plane was beautiful... much more beautiful than this picture.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

温泉卵・Onsen eggs

This week on Monday and Tuesday, I went to Jozankei Onsen for a retreat with some of my colleagues. During Monday's free time, we happened to observe a man cooking eggs in onsen water--a special hot spring for eggs! We decided that we had to try it.

Here's what you do: put eggs in a basket or mesh bag, dunk in hot spring (70 degrees Celsius), wait 15-20 minutes. Easy! (If you are at Jozankei, we recommend spending the waiting time with your feet in the neighboring 足湯--foot bath.) 

My friend, Shirley eagerly waits to see how they will turn out. 

Done! (Heh heh... We cooked our eggs in an onion bag...)

Cello calluses make handling hot eggs easier.

15 minutes gives you quite a soft egg; we did ours for 18 minutes, and they were on the soft side of hard boiled. I imagine 20 minutes would be completely hard boiled.

I ate my eggs with ume-flavored dashi and soy sauce.

Keith preferred to eat his egg right out of the shell, topped with a little soy sauce.

Of course, some of you don't have access to special hot springs for cooking eggs, but you can get a similar result from cooking you eggs in 70 degree water on the stove, although I imagine the temperature would be hard to control.

And if you're worried about food poisoning because of low temperature, guess what? Japanese eggs are pasteurized. I assume you can get pasteurized eggs in some other countries too. But be careful, okay?

Friday, September 05, 2014


Today’s coffee: Dominican Republic

Here are a few stories from this week.

Our farm continues to provide us with more food than we can eat. We’ve more or less decided not to eat out until things slow down a bit. Since tomatoes are quite expensive in Japan, Keith, who loves tomatoes, planted 24 tomato plants, each of which produced 15+ large tomatoes. Keith also likes to eat pasta with tomato sauce. Last Saturday was a movie night for the youth group; we made a big pot of spaghetti sauce with sausage and eggplant. (I continue to be amazed at how much these skinny middle-school kids can eat.) Sunday night, we had leftover spaghetti. On Monday, we realized some of the tomatoes were starting to go bad (and we have no freezer space), so guess what? More spaghetti. Tuesday we had no time to cook… so, spaghetti. Wednesday and Thursday? You guessed it; spaghetti. Tonight I’m making soup.

Soup made from my mom's Italian tortellini soup recipe! Except you can't get tortellini here, so I stuffed wonton wrappers with ground chicken, basil, cheese and garlic. I made too many, so we deep fried the leftovers.
For our day off on Monday, we went hiking. Since we were pretty tired, we chose a hike close to home—手稲山 (Teine-yama), which we can see from in front of our house. We’ve not had a single day off with good weather since July; although we were both tired, we knew that we would regret it if we didn’t take advantage of the perfect hiking weather. The hike followed a stream with waterfalls for a lot of the way; then the final climb had us scrambling over boulders. From the top, we could see all of Ishikari and Sapporo… although it was a little weird to walk through a forest of TV and radio towers as we neared the peak.

This part of the hike went on for a bit longer than I would have liked... but it looks cool, anyway.
This is Ishikari, our city. We live on the far right side, in the center, just above a patch of trees. As you can see, we're close to the beach.

Tuesday was our first tea ceremony lesson after our teacher’s summer break in August. Over the past couple of weeks lots of stuff happened and we suddenly got very busy; thinking about the lovely two hours of peaceful tea ceremony class gave me motivation to keep plowing through task after task. By Tuesday afternoon, I was so tired that I was slurring my speech and making all kinds of stupid mistakes during rehearsal with Shino. Still, after taking a break of over a month, I managed surprisingly well at the tea ceremony lesson. Sitting in front of the pot of gently simmering water, I had a space to rest, even as I played the part of the host and prepared tea for Keith and Noriko.

On Wednesday, we had our muffler fixed. My friends here used to call our car ヤンキー車, literally “Yankee car,” since somehow “Yankee” came to mean gangster or delinquent in Japanese. (Take that, New York.) But no more. Our car no longer rumbles; we don’t have to be embarrassed coming home late at night. While driving home from rehearsal today, I kept trying to clear my ears, only to be surprised that they weren’t plugged.

It’s a concert weekend! We’re off to Nayoro, about 3 hours north of here, tomorrow morning. This time I’m going to try to take seriously what my teacher always told me: short practice session the day before (everything should already be perfect, right?) and only warm-up the day of the concert. I think I might have convinced Shino to do the same. After all, playing cello and speaking Japanese seem to require the same sort of brain-power, so I often find that while I had plenty of energy to get through an entire concert in the US, I tend to lose focus toward the end of concerts I play here. Tomorrow’s final piece is probably the most difficult piece I’ve ever played. So, I’ll try to go to bed early.