Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Four Farewells at Once

It’s so hard to say goodbye to so many good friends, so many awesome men of God all at once. But that’s exactly what I (and the rest of Calvary Chapel Ginowan) had to do on Sunday. Josh Dean joined us for about 6 months, but due to medical reasons, he has moved on to the Tokyo area. Tsukuba City, to be exact. Josh was Pastor Tim’s friend back in Cali, in fact they went to the same high school! Somehow, Josh and I hit it off well from the start, and even though he was just here for a short time, I am going to miss him.

Daniel and Sosimo, well, what can I say about these two guys? They’re both Americans but one has some Canadian blood, and the other looks like a Mexican! Daniel spent over two years here, and has been such an awesome example of what it means to be joyful, encouraging, and warm-hearted. He encouraged many with the Word, and blessed us with his worship-leading skills. I loved making perogies with him that one time, and wish there could have been more moments like that. Sosimo and I used to tease each other non-stop during his first semester here. I called him Mexican, he called me little Bin Laden. But we both grew up a little, and enjoyed a lot of laughs with each other over the past year or so. Sosi is a man of faith, a man of action. I was always encouraged when I saw him and talked to him. Both of these guys are heading to Korea to help at a new Calvary Chapel out there.

Lastly, my dear friend Rob. “Big Red” came to Okinawa back in OH-FIVE! (Well, originally in OH-TWO, but that’s another story.) Rob and I have spent a lot of time together, and had a lot of good talks together. Rob is the ultimate servant, the ultimate humble guy. I could always count of Rob to help me with whatever I needed: a bento fetcher when I was sick, a car mechanic when I was broken down, a shoulder to cry on when I was broken down, a fantasy baseball victory when I was slumping… he’s the friend that never stops giving. I’m going to miss him so much. And where’s he going? He will be in Wakayama Prefecture, playing professional baseball with the Kishu Rangers. I’m so excited for him, and you know what the coolest thing is? He’s more excited about preaching Jesus to these guys than he is to play baseball for money. What a cool guy!

I’m going to miss all four of you guys. Thanks for showing me what it means to serve the Lord, and for helping me grow in many ways. I’m praying for all of you!





First of Many in 09?

Halfway to matching last year’s total. In 2008, I went out for karaoke a grand total of two times. Well, this year I’ve already been once. Mind you, it was just for an hour, and it was just with one other person. But who better to go with than Josh? Our musical tastes match quite well, so almost any song that either of us chose, the other joined in on. Highlights of the night: Stars (Switchfoot), Sound of Melodies (Leeland), The Saints Are Coming (U2 & Green Day) and Homeward Bound (Simon & Garfunkel). I will practice my harmonies more and hopefully we can put on a show for when Josh’s Kristi comes out here next month! I hope to hit up the karaoke joints at least once a month in 2009!

Look Who's Back?

Last Wednesday we had a sweet time of worship… and we even had a special guest on the team! Can you figure out who it is? Yep… that’s right, the Starr on the Chinese flag, the man who plays sweet music on his guitar, photographer extraordinaire, the one who once looked like a Pirate of the Caribbean, the one who is said to look like Tumnus (from Narnia)… MARK! Sorry about that last one, Mark… couldn’t resist. Mark Starr was a Bible college student here for two semesters, but now is a teacher in China. On his winter break, he decided to come back and hang out with us. It’s been such a blessing to talk to him about his adventures in China. I look forward to that dinner together one of these evenings, Mark!

Happy Anniversary, CCG!

Our morning service was a jubilant one, as we celebrated 3 years as a church. Flash back to January 06. Pastor Tom came back from California, and the next Sunday, had the first Calvary Chapel Ginowan service in his living room. Attendance: maybe 10? Our worship was led by Pastor Tom, and included Japanese lyrics written in English lettering, and a “slide show” on their TV. They took pictures of each PowerPoint slide, and then hooked up the camera to the TV! Someone stood off to the side and hit the “right” button on the camera to change the slides. Now THAT’s John Waynin’ it!

Then around Easter, we decided to take a step of faith and rented out a room at city hall. We didn’t come close to filling it, but it didn’t stop God from blessing us… we stayed there for a month or so, and then moved on to… Festone Resort! This resort hotel near Tropical Beach had (somewhat) soundproof walls, but somehow we were almost always asked to turn down our guitars. Well, we stayed there for a month or two, but God led us into our own building. We were there from like July 06 until August 08.

Now, we’re in another building, which has been really cool… God is really moving in our midst. Praise Him for all His provision and guidance!

(Photos courtesy of Pastor Tommy Ruiz)

Monday, January 12, 2009

Boys and their Toys

The widescreen HDTV wasn't enough! Hahaha, just kidding. I needed a new cell phone, as mine was starting to really act up. So I went to Softbank shops and found a cell phone that combined coolness and affordability. This one is pretty inexpensive, so I'm pretty happy with it.

And the iPod (sorry, it's not even out of its package in the picture - I don't want to TOUCH it too much until I get a protective case first!), well I ordered it a few weeks ago, and my buddy Josh brought it back with him from the States for me. See, it's a 32GB, and it cost me less than the 16GB would have cost me if I'd bought it from a Japanese store!

So now I have enough toys to carry me through 2009, and probably 2010 and 2011, too! It had been awhile since I'd bought 'new' stuff, so this was a lot of fun. Praise God for giving me a job that allows me to afford little luxuries!



Last Day in Tokyo

Well, that last night in Tokyo we got in kind of late at our "inn", and we woke up too late to enjoy the breakfast there, too. But I did get to talk to the owner of the place. That may not sound too special, and even after I explain it, it still might not be too exciting to most of you. But anyways, I stayed at the Sawanoya Inn. It's located somewhat near Tokyo University and Ueno Park. What makes it special, you ask?

Well, it's a traditional Japanese-style inn. Once used by businessmen and Japanese travelers, it lost a lot of business when "business hotels" started to mar the landscapes. But in order to stay afloat, and keep this family-run inn in operation, Mr. Isao Sawa decided to try to attract foreigners to stay in his inn. Now, 90% of his customers come from abroad and stay with him while they are in Tokyo. It only has 12 rooms, and only two of these have their own bathrooms. It's cheap compared to most places in Tokyo. It's not 5-star quality, that's for sure, but what the building lacks in amenities, it makes up for in friendliness.

But why would I go out of my way to spend a night there, when I could have stayed at Mike's place for free? Because I am a teacher. And in my school's English textbook, there is a full-length article on "Sawanoya." So could I pass up the chance to actually SEE the pictures in the textbook, confirm whether or not the article was true, and meet the owners? No way! I stayed the night, talked with Mr. Sawa, and he even gave me a book of his experience as the owner of this unique inn over the years. What a great stay it was! And when I go back to Tokyo, I hope to spend another night at Sawanoya! Why don't you consider doing the same?

Saturday, January 10, 2009

The Future is NOW!!!

Toyota has some cool stuff in store for us, people. Mike, Joe and I went to their exhibition hall, where we checked out all their latest cars. We got to sit in them and have pictures taken, too! Well, not in the FUTURISTIC cars, though. But I got pictures of them, nonetheless. Imagine yourself cruising around in one of THESE! Sweet stuff, eh?

The only unfortunate thing was that we missed out on the chance to actually follow a 2-km course in one of the new cars - the lineups were long and we had other things to see. But if I go back to Tokyo, I definitely want to hit up Odaiba and the Toyota Exhibition Hall again!

Friday, January 9, 2009

Odaiba - New Tokyo

Monday morning, Mike had Japanese class, so Joe and I headed out on our own. We hit up Tocho - the Tokyo Municipal Building, or something like that. It has a free observation deck about 45 stories up, so you get a real clear view of Tokyo. WOW, there's a lot of people here! It's such a busy city, I really don't think I could survive the lifestyle there. Well anyways, we went up there and looked around some, as you can see.

Then we went to Excelsior Caffe, at Joe's request. He had a coffee and a sandwich, and I enjoyed a maple latte. Mmmmm, it was good! Eventually we met up with Mike, and would you believe it? Two hours of Japanese class and he was speaking like a native! (I wouldn't believe it if I were you.) Well, we went down to Odaiba, which is a waterfront area, quite newly developed. We had a simple lunch, and then went to the Tokyo Future Museum (?) to check out what all the fuss was. There was this robot called Asimo. I took an 8-minute video of the presentation, and would love to post it here, but that will have to wait for another day. It was cool, though! There was so much to see in that museum, I could have easily spent two days just looking and learning. But we needed to move on, and so we did.

We then went to the mall area, and... what's this? When did Lady Liberty move to Tokyo? Answer: it didn't. But Tokyo's got its own statue, probably not as big as the American one (when do the Japanese ever do anything 'bigger' than the States?) but otherwise quite the same. Interesting, eh?

As we walked around, we came across the Toyota Car Exhibition, at which they put on display their latest vehicles, and had cool driving simulation games and reflex-testers. Check the next post - the future is now!!!

Finally, we had dinner at a cool Hawaiian burger joint. Aleke Kaueke? No, I forget the name. It sounded Hawaiian, though.

And is that where the night ended? Of course not! Joe and I moved on to our next location, and said farewell to Mike. I'll post about the next location, too... anyways, at our next location, we met up with an old pal of mine... the man that became synonymous with me. In fact, the students at Okisho started to call us by one name: Torebaaron. Yep, Aaron "Touss" Toussaint! He's doing his master's degree at Sophia University, but had time for a little Starbucks action with Joe and I! Good times!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Worshipping in Tokyo

Sunday morning marked day 2 of our stay in Tokyo. Joe and I were blessed to stay at Mike's place in Tokorozawa City, Saitama. It's near enough to Tokyo to be convenient, but far enough away to be quiet. I loved it! Well, we woke up and had a traditional breakfast, Mikey-style (Family Mart), and headed off to church. It was great to hear the Word from Pastor Travis... he's a gifted speaker, for sure. We also got to meet some people that have been praying for us in Okinawa, so that was a blessing, too. I got to meet Jiai's dad and brother - they're cool guys!

Next, we were off to Shibuya, to check out Tokyo Baptist's church service. It was awesome to have Yoshi with us on the train ride there, and he stayed with us for service, too! The Yosh - what a great guy! Those of you who know him will be pleased to hear that he's the same guy he always was... so it was awesome to spend the afternoon with him. At Tokyo Baptist, I got to experience a non-Calvary church service for the first time in AGES! Well, at least in Japan!

My dear friend River attends TBC, so she introduced us to people and then we went out for dinner. First, we shopped a bit in Kandaiyama, an upscale part of Tokyo where trendy people buy stuff. Then we went out for Chinese food in Jiyu-gaoka. River knows Tokyo real well, and so she was able to give us a lot of helpful information. It was great to fellowship with her, as it's just the second time I have ever hung out with her! Thanks, River!

That was about it, as we took the train back to Tokorozawa by ourselves, and chatted with Mike until around 1am. I have to say, Mike's a great brother in the Lord, and I hope we can do more trips like this in the future.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Welcome to Tokyo!

Last week from the 3rd to 6th, Joe and I went up to Tokyo. The purpose of the trip was not so much to see the city, but to see the people that we knew. And so, the first day we were met at the airport by our good friend Yumi, and soon were joined by Mike, Jiai, and Aki. So the six of us trekked around the city a little, making stops at: McDonald's to eat (Joe's suggestion, and a good one, since it was the last day of holidays, and all the "real" restaurants were packed), Harajuku, Shibuya, and Ikebukuro. To people who have never been to Tokyo, these names mean very little, so let me explain what the areas are known for, and what we did.

Harajuku is a MAJOR shopping area. (See if you can find Joe in the picture above. Click on it to see it full-sized. Hint: he's wearing an orange cap.) The streets are always packed, and a lot of the 'freaks' (people who dress like their favourite anime characters, etc.) come out even during the day! While we were there, a bunch of people were standing with signs quoting the Bible, and had loudspeakers with a recording playing, urging people to come to the Lord. Cool, but I couldn't help but wonder if anyone was actually listening. You had to be there, I guess, to see what I'm saying.

Shibuya is home of the famous "Hachiko Dog." Follow the link for his story. Anyways, Mike and I took a picture with it, and even though Joe is a big dog lover, he refused to have his picture taken with it! Well anyways, we didn't stay in Shibuya too long.

Then there was Ikebukuro. There's a huge shopping area there called Sunshine City, which has a lot of cool things. The most amazing of these was a place called Namja Mura (I think). Joe describes it as the weird island in the Scooby Doo movie. I haven't seen it, so here's what *I* think. What is the POINT of this place? SO weird... there's a gyoza market, an ice cream market (including Turkish ice cream and all sorts of weird flavours from around Japan - beef tongue ice cream, anyone?), a cat section (no live cats, mind you), a karaoke game (see photo below), a massage area, a haunted house, and all sorts of other things. Talk about weird!

Well, we stopped at Starbucks before heading our separate ways, and since all the seats inside were taken, we "roughed it" outside - the temperature was probably around 5C, so Starbucks supplies blankets for their customers. How sweet of them!

Friday, January 2, 2009

Why have kids?

Why have kids when you can go over to your friends' places and play with theirs, and then leave them with the parents in the end? Haha, I'm so kidding. I want kids someday, but in the meantime, it sure is fun hanging out with friends and "training" for the day when it's my turn! Last night, Joe and I went over to the Pallmann home for some good curry and hot cocoa and games. When we got there, Mika had just woken up but was in decent spirits, and Emi was still mostly asleep. She was kind of afraid when she broke out of her stupor to see more people in the house. So she cried for the better part of 20 minutes, but eventually calmed down and we became best friends. She climbed all over me, sat with me, and even gave me kisses. Awwww... she's a cutie. And when Mika saw her sister having fun, she had to join in on the action! So I was "Uncle Trevor" (well, Trevor Ni-ni) for a few hours last night. Good times.


Merry Christmas to Me!

This Christmas, I decided to treat myself to something real nice. So here's the box:

But what's in the box? It's pretty obvious, but here's a picture of the new centerpiece of my living room. What movie is that on the screen?

And then there's the reject. Get outta my face, I don't need you and your 20th century tubes no more! Hahaha, poor TV... it needs a home. Do you know anyone who needs it?

New Newell

Well he's almost a month old already, can you believe it? This is the first picture I took of Masaki Taylor Newell... with my camera. I think it turned out pretty good, though the expression on his face, awwww who am I kidding, he's a CUTE baby! Must be genetic, he's got good-lookin' parents!


Happy New Year!

Well on Wednesday night we had regular service here at the Koinonia Cafe. But then we stuck around and chatted and ate and played games until midnight. A lot of people stuck around, including some new faces, and we were lively right up until around 1am, when the pastor kicked us out. What a blessed evening it was!