Tuesday, September 07, 2004

Typhoons, Earthquakes, and Going to Church
The weekend was a bit on the quiet side, as I'm still newly arrived in this town and don't have a lot of friends yet. Saturday night I went to the movie theater by myself. Somewhat pathetic perhaps, but whilst I lived in Ajimu the nearest movie theater was an hour away. Here the movie theater is practically within walking distance, and the movies here are cheaper than they are in Oita Prefecture. So with a movie theater so close, and so cheap, and with nothing else to do, it seemed like a forgone conclusion. I ended up seeing "Harry Potter 3" which I viewed as somewhat research for my job, since so many of my students are avid Harry Potter fans.

On Sunday I found a Church to join. I had started going to a Japanese Church in Oita Prefecture after being invited by a Japanese friend (who just assumed I was Christian because I was an American). I found it to be a positive experience, and was interested in finding a Church in the new area as well.

After getting in the car and driving around, I was able to find a church in the neighboring town of Ogaki. The people there were extremely welcoming and friendly. I had barely even walked in the door and they were encouraging me to join the choir. The invitation was extended again after the service. I thought that it might be a good experience, if for no other reason than to say I had been a member of a Japanese Church choir. We had a brief choir practice after church, and then we had lunch together. After lunch, the church went down to a retirement community (or old people's home) to perform a skit based on "The Prodigal Son" and sing a song for the old people. I was invited to come along. Since I had never been to a retirement community in Japan, I thought it would be interesting to come.

Obviously I had not practiced the skit or the song before, but I was a big hit with the old people there. They all wanted to shake my hand. Actually, it was somewhat similar to my job at the elementary schools.

Funny story actually. And this may well fall under the category of "You just had to be there" but I'm going to give it a go anyway. For the song we sang "Father Abraham." I was familiar with the song from my Sunday School days, and it turns out they have it in Japanese as well. I don't know how many of you know the song. It's pretty simple, but after every verse a new motion is added. First you have to swing your right arm, then your left arm, and then your legs are added, next your head, then you swing your hips, and finally you have to do all the motions while turning around in a circle.

It's a great song for kids. Probably not such a good song for old people. These were really old people at this retirement community. Many of them could barely stand. Most of them were permanently hunched over as a result of working in the rice fields all their lives. So picture this: we're standing in front, and the song leader says to the old people, "Now for this song, everyone stand up. Okay, everyone who can stand, please stand up. Actually, you can sit down if you like." And we go through the song, and try and get the old people to participate, and the whole time I'm just thinking to myself, "Whose idea was this?"

EarthQuakes and Typhoon
I experienced my first earthquake on Sunday. Somehow I managed to make it through three years in Japan with out ever being in an earthquake until know.

That I know of anyway. Apparently some of these earthquakes can be pretty subtle. For instance on Sunday we actually had two earthquakes, one at 7 and one at midnight. I didn't even find out about the one at 7 until the next day.

I was driving my car at around 7 o'clock. I don't know where I was when the earthquake struck, although I do remember at one point being stuck at a traffic light and thinking to myself, "This car sure shakes a lot when it is in park. Maybe I should have it looked at." In retrospect, I'm thinking that may have been the earthquake. And now I'm wondering how many other earthquakes I might have been oblivious to over my time here.

But the earthquake at midnight was unmistakably. I was sleeping at the time, and woke up when my apartment started shaking. I was somewhat stupid from sleep at first, and it took me a while to realize what was going on. But it lasted close to a minute, and finally I realized, "Hey, this is an earthquake. I can't wait to tell everyone back home I experienced my first earthquake." And then I went back to sleep.

There was a lot of talk about earthquakes the next day at school. Apparently geologists are predicting that the area of Japan I'm now in is due for a major earthquake in the near future. The principle told me if there was ever a major earthquake, I should get out of my apartment. He joked, "Keep your shoes ready in case you have to get out quickly." I tried to one up him. "Maybe I should sleep with my shoes on." He became serious. "This is Japan. We don't wear our shoes inside the house."

Today we had a Typhoon, so afternoon classes were cancelled at noon. I know we just had a typhoon last week, but what can I say? (My friend Aaron comments about the many typhoons recently on his weblog here.) Fortunately at least this time around my windows are safely shut.

I was giving my self-introduction to a class today at the Junior High School. The Lights started shaking and the Japanese teacher yelled out, "It's another Earthquake." Turned out of course that the lights were just shaking because of the strong winds, which the students (who were somewhat more aware) corrected him on quickly, but you can imagine it was not a great learning environment in school this morning. Probably just as well the students went home at noon.

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