Saturday, February 27, 2010

Take Me Out!

We are the 'Florida' of Japan - that is, the prefecture that hosts most of the professional baseball teams for their spring training. Today it was a balmy 24C (76F) in Okinawa, a perfect day for a ball game. It is, of course, February 27, and even though I have been here for most of my past 12 years, I still can't get over the fact that I can walk around in shorts in February! (And not get funny looks or pneumonia.)

So a bunch of us went out to the second-last baseball game of spring training before the teams head up to their respective home cities and continue training there. The weather across Japan is slowly warming up, so really, why stay down in beautiful Okinawa, right?

Anyhow, the Yokohama Bay Stars, who train in our very own Ginowan City, hosted the Yakult Swallows. I will be honest with you - the game was hugely disappointing. Neither offense even managed consecutive hits, to the best of my recollection. The most excitement was when Yokohama had runners on 1st and 2nd, but the next guy grounded out and the inning was over. The final score was 1-0, and the lone run (for Yakult) came on a solo home run. Only one other hit resulted in multiple bases, that being hit by the same guy that hit the HR.

But on the bright side, I got to spend the day outside watching a baseball game instead of being cooped up inside in front of my computer, either studying for grad school or watching a 'live blog' (the best I can do here, sadly) of the Canada-Slovakia hockey game.

Thank the Lord for beautiful weather and great friends! Thanks, Aaron and Lea, Jesse and Stacy, Chuck and Yumi, and Rob! I always enjoy fellowshipping with you guys!

I'm OK, you're OK

This morning I, along with the rest of Okinawa, was treated to a sudden awakening at 5:31am. The earth trembled and so did everything resting on it, including our beds. My first thoughts were, "You're in control, Lord, let Your will be done. Please protect us!"

Well, it measured 7.0 but it was also about 80km off the coast of Okinawa, so there was no damage reported anywhere, and although there were tsunami warnings at first, those were soon taken back when the 7-foot waves materialized as 1.7-foot waves. (Note: you can't "click to play" on the pic above, but if you click on the link above, you can see the video. It presents some interesting facts about earthquakes and how this one differs from the one that hit Haiti.)

So don't you all worry about Okinawa - not today, anyways! We're OK!

Monday, February 22, 2010


Mr. and Mrs. Andrew & Kayo Neely! On Saturday, these two young love birds took the plunge! They are no longer walking this earth as individuals, but as a team, a pair, according to God's will and following in His ways!

The wedding took place at Calvary Chapel Okinawa (see video below) on Saturday, February 20 @ 1pm. Kayo looked dazzling in her wedding dress, and Andrew looked dapper in his suit. Dapper and giddy. Pastor Tom performed the wedding in English while Pastor Tim translated into Japanese. Pastor Rick gave a special message. Emi played piano, and siblings Natsuki & Kazuki Iha led worship before the ceremony and during communion.

The highlight of the ceremony came when Pastor Tom said, "You may kiss your bride," and Andrew lunged at Kayo, so she backed away (a little startled). Imagine that! Really, imagine it, because I missed capturing it on video by about 2 seconds. Sorry!

The reception was fairly short and sweet - hosted by Pastor Tim and yours truly. Most of it involved just calling people up for speeches and then translating. It was a lot of fun, though, as I got to try to make tender moments tender, and funny moments funnier. Then there was the first dance, followed by the money dance, and lastly, the grand exit. (Sorry for being in the final frames of video - I tried to film into the car, but the tinted windows prevented me!)

I know God is behind this marriage, and that they will do great things in Okinawa together! Congratulations, Andrew and Kayo! お幸せに!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Last Night Out

Last Monday night, the men of BOB (Brothers of Boaz) gathered to wish Andrew Neely well in his new life (which begins this Saturday). As many of you know, he and Kayo will be spending the rest of their lives together! Yep, life sentence for Andrew in the Yamauchi Prison! (If you think that's mean, it's not my fault - his jump-suit on Monday actually said that!)

So we gathered at the Cafe for pizza and snacks, put the jump-suit on him, wrote all kinds of messages all over him, and brought him up for Kayo and the ladies to see him. Of course he was blindfolded so that he wouldn't know where we were taking him next.

So off to Mihama we went, where Andrew had to complete 5 tasks before receiving his gift from us. We're an evil bunch, aren't we? First on the list was that he had to stand on a street corner and sing a love song about Kayo in front of several people. Two of those in attendance were a Hong Kongese couple who are also engaged to be married. The song was to the tune of Elvis Presley's "Love Me Tender" and it begged Kayo to love him even though he's going bald and they're going to live the poor life on Tonaki Island. (Just kidding, Andrew - I know you'll be a great husband to Kayo!)

Then he had to walk around Jusco and ask at least 10 people if they had seen his fiancee - that they had lost each other and now he was looking for her. He had pictures handy to help people get an idea of who he was looking for. The catch - one picture had Kayo in the background and another girl in the forefront, and the other picture had Kayo's gramma as the focal point of the picture. The people he asked got a good chuckle out of the pictures.

Third up was a corn-eating contest. Andrew had to find 3 people against whom to compete for the title of "Fastest Corn Eater." Being an Iowan, Andrew had an unfair advantage and so he gave them a 5-second head-start. His competition included a high school girl, a college boy and a regular Joe (or Takuya or something). Well, the college boy actually beat Andrew. Said Neely: "Without the head-start, I would have beaten him for sure! I was almost there!" I guess the college guy was just really hungry and couldn't say no to free corn!

The last two events kind of fizzled, but they were still worth trying. One was that Andrew had to get five people to say "I love you, Kayo" in unison for the video camera. He got a couple of guys as far as "standby mode" but they backed down.

Then there was the re-enactment of his proposal scene. Kayo was played by Tokito. The whole thing went alright, I suppose, but Andrew kinda forgot some of the details that I somehow knew (I asked Kayo and she told me everything!), and that our group of guys was half Japanese-speakers and half English-speakers, and I felt the need to translate it, which made it really long and drawn out.

Well, a good time was had by all, I think! Neely, we're all praying for you, man! But Kayo, we're praying even more for YOU, girl! Just kidding... I love you both and look forward to seeing God do amazing things in your lives!


Remember back in the day when we used to write letters? Oh where have the days gone? My most memorable penpals were from my school days. I remember writing letters to kids in Portage La Prairie (just an hour or so away, but still exciting for an 8-year old). My penpal's name was Dustin. We spent a day with them in their hometown, and they spent a day in ours. I still remember being made fun of by one of the kids for having a "funny sounding voice" - I honestly had a complex about my voice because of that!

Then in middle school we had French-speaking penpals in Togo, Africa. That one didn't go as well as the one in elementary school, but just thinking that people in Africa were reading my letters and that I was able to read theirs was exciting!

Anyways, Teppei (my colleague) arranged for some of the Okisho students to write letters to some students in Spain! So last week the "final batch" of letters (and snacks) arrived in the mail. From here on in, the students have to write on their own, because they have graduated from Okisho! Anyhow, Teppei took a picture of Miyu with her letter, and I just HAD to know what it said! Check the pic below.

Happy Birthday and Birth Day!

Kenney sits next to me in our staff room. He's one of the most hardworking guys I know. Strict, yes. Stressed (at times), yes. Sweaty, yes. Funny, oh yes!

Well, Kenney (real name "Ken" - named after Constitution Day - Kenpo no Hi) had a birthday on Thursday of last week. As is the case every year, his birthday is a day off of work, so on Friday we ordered milk tea from Sasoriza (still a vice I just can't "shake") and gave him a little birthday card.

Also, about 17 days before his birthday, Kenney's family got a little bigger. No, he didn't gain a lot of weight... his wife gave birth to their third child - a baby girl named Sachi. So we also contributed by giving him a little gift certificate for the baby's needs. It was a month of milestones for the Suzuki family. Congratulations Kenney & Ryoko, big brother Taro, and big sister Ai!

Sotsupa! 卒パ!



February 7, 2010 was the last day for some of Okisho's students to wear their school uniform. It was also (for some) the first day that they ever dyed their hair and dressed up. Yep, graduation party, the night when the students go wild and dress up as fancy as they want! I have to admit, the students dressed more conservatively than in years past, but also they looked more distinguished than in years past, too!

Graduation party features food, speeches, entertainment, door prizes and more, but the most important thing going on all night is photo taking. Every student has their camera with them, and they all want to take photos with everyone else there! The guys looked cool and the girls looked beautiful! I took quite a few pictures (not many compared with the students of course) and here are a few of them! It was a fun night!

Congrats, Part 25

Okisho had its graduation ceremony early, as it always does, to accommodate students who need to travel up to mainland for interviews and secondary entrance exams. So on February 7th, 371 (?) lovely young men and women finished their high school careers.

As always, the ceremony was... long. But it was awesome, because they give each student their diploma one by one, and recognize all students who had perfect attendance, near-perfect attendance, and anyone who received a special award during their high school careers. And as you can imagine, at a school like Okisho, a LOT of students have received awards!

For the third straight year, I recorded the traditional "blazer toss" that the students do at the end of the ceremony. Unfortunately, I do not know how to remove audio data from my digital camera... it was easy on PCs but for some reason it's not so simple on Macs. So once I figure out how to get the audio onto my computer, and how to "make videos" on Macs, I will have the third rendition of the Okisho blazer toss up for all you people who love Okisho! (I know you're out there... there are a lot of reasons to love Okisho!)





今回の卒業生は必ず立派な大人になって、日本の社会に大いに貢献する事を信じて期待してます!25期生、卒業おめでとうございます!トレバー ラブズ ユー!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Cleaning House

Cleaning office, actually. As the school year winds down and (believe it or not) the workload gets lighter, I have taken it upon myself to clean up the office space a little. I share a staff room with 13 other teachers. The office includes a fridge (broken for longer than I have worked there), three archaic Japanese word processors, several bookcases filled with books published back when I was in high school (OK, some are as recent as 2-3 years ago), and just WAY too much clutter for it to be a friendly place to work in.

The cost of getting the fridge out of there is somewhere in the neighborhood of $50, and the word processors might cost $10 each to get rid of, but it'll be worth it! Less clutter = a happier atmosphere! Anyways, Teppei and I took action yesterday and today, getting rid of probably 150 pounds of books! We brought them to Book Off (a secondhand book store), hoping to get a bit of money so we could go out for yakiniku with Kenney and Yukky for lunch.

The result of all that hard work was... a whopping 330 yen! (If you're not familiar with the exchange rate, let's just say it's enough to buy 3 sodas from a vending machine.) So we couldn't exactly cover lunch, but we went anyways... Kitaya is an inCREDible place to enjoy meat... and meat... and kimchi, curry, and meat! I didn't get any pics of the inside, because I was too focused on eating... but check the last pic - Teppei smirking at their careless English on the sign outside. "Well Come" and "Diner time" along with a somewhat scary looking lady! Anyways, good thing I ran 7km this morning - I run hard so I can eat hard! And eat hard I did!!!