Archive | November, 2011

Origami brings people together. Japan: Day 5

24 Nov

Today we got started with our work right away. We went to a home that had been destroyed by the tsunami in Ishinomaki to do renovations. From 9:30 am to 4:00 pm, we pulled out dry wall, took out screws and nails, tore up the floor, and then shoveled out the sediment which had been swept in there from the water (which was about a foot of dirt). Basically the only thing that we left was the frame of the house. Samaritan’s Purse hooked us up with the job and our project overseer, Jordan, who worked for Samaritan’s Purse “International Relief” actually had grown up in Japan and lived there for 18 years.

We worked hard all day, only stopping for lunch. But it was good work, I love seeing the product of my labor. While I was working, I was reflecting on the people of Japan and how amazing it is that such an advanced country can be so dead spiritually. These people are so relationship-focused, yet they are missing out on the most important relationship of all: a relationship with Jesus Christ. At the same time, there are many things we can learn from the Japanese. Although they may not be Christians, they are some of the nicest people I’ve ever met. They are very aware of other people’s thoughts and feelings and think about how their actions might affect someone else. Doesn’t the bible call for us to put the needs of others before our own?

A missionary in Japan’s journal in the 1600s said that the Japanese people were the “most ready to receive the Gospel”. But In 1603, the Tokugawa shogunate (military dictatorship) ushered in a long period of isolation from foreign influence in order to secure its power. For 250 years this policy enabled Japan to enjoy stability and a flowering of its indigenous culture, yet it was isolated completely from the world- no one allowed in or out. This killed the potential spread of Christianity in Japan.

After doing construction, we came back to the facility to a little party at the home we have been staying. Not all of our team went to do construction, so those who had stayed behind had invited people to a dinner at our house. We had about 20 people show up, so all together there was about 40 people here. At first, it was hard when some of the Japanese people showed up because it was difficult to communicate with them. I would go up, and say my name, and then they would say their names and I’d pronounce it a few times, trying to get it right. And after that, it was difficult to ask much else to some of them without a translator.

There was a group of older women sitting in a circle and talking amongst themselves. Davey, the youngest son of the missionary told me to go mingle with them. I was hesitant because I figured that generation wouldn’t know English. And I was right. When I went up and introduced myself there wasn’t much to say, so one of the translators came over. Luckily, I was able to ask a lot of questions through the translators, but the women would begin talking amongst themselves and I began running out of questions. As I was awkwardly sitting there, I remembered that Julia had gotten some origami paper. So I decided to break out the origami and see if the women waned to do it. Immediately, they all took a piece of paper and it was like riding a bike for some of them, it came so natural. They began teaching Julia and I all different origami things to make.

Origami turned out to be contagious and before you knew it, the whole room had caught on! We were laughing with the older women and already creating inside jokes even though we couldn’t speak each others’ language. When we got dinner, we all sat together and they helped Julia and I hold our chopsticks properly (apparently we had been holding them wrong the whole time) and when they left we were “tomodachis” (friends).


Amazing people. Japan: Day 3 & 4

23 Nov

Day Three

The work crew!

Yesterday I was far too tired to write. But I’m forcing myself to tonight. I want to never forget these emotions I am having and to regularly reflect on these experiences I’ve had. Yesterday, we went to the home of an older man who had a plot of land next to his home that must have been a beautiful garden at one time. It was now overgrown with weeds and had some debris that had been washed into it. We spent the whole morning and afternoon clearing out the land: Weeding, raking, and hoeing the area. We probably filled up about 60 trashbags, not even exaggerating. The work that took us one day with 14 people, and would’ve taken the elderly man weeks or months probably.

When we came back to our temporary “home” where we were staying, Koichi brought over his students to interact with us. Koichi is when of the Japanese people who have been spending a lot of time with us. He is a “cram” teacher. Which means a private school teacher. Junior high students come to him between four to nine for private tutoring.  A lot of pressure for perfectionism is placed on the youth of Japan, as well as a need to excel in their schooling. Many students go to an after school program which consists of private tutoring to help them get into a good junior high school, which will help them get into a good high school, which will then help them get into a good college. We had dinner with Koichi’s students and just sat and talked with them. It was pretty difficult for some of them to speak with us. Noah sat down with Julia and I and two fifteen-year-old girls to help us talk to them. Noah asked them in Japanese, “Would you like to practice your English?” And he told us that one of them replied in Japanese, “Why would I? English is my least favorite subject.” However, they eventually opened up a bit to us and answered our questions a bit after repeating ourselves multiple times. Some of the students believed they would never use English, and therefore didn’t want to practice. They thought they would never use English because in Ishinomaki, they never saw foreigners. Some of the people of the town had never seen an American before.

Day Four

Today John, his wife Chaco, and Koishi were our guides. We went to the Ground Zero of where the tsunami hit. It was so surreal. In front of us was a sea wall that was there for protection from tsunamis, but it couldn’t even compare to the size of the waves. The waves were so large that they were over the trees in the distance. Right near the water was a school house that got completely destroyed by the tsunami. When we entered the school, it held an eery atmosphere. There was about a foot of sediment on the ground which had been washed in by the ocean, the cords and insulation inside the ceiling were completely exposed and hanging down, there was even some dead fish on the ground that had been swept in, but among that, children’s books still sat on a shelf, and drawings from children were still pinned on a board, and mathematics writings on a dry-erase board could still be interpreted. It is strange to think that not even an hour before the tsunami, the children were going through a normal day of schooling, unaware of the disaster ahead of them.

A city destroyed. Japan: Day 2

20 Nov

It is day two and we are definitely feeling the effects of traveling. This morning we woke up and decided to wander outside to explore the area we were staying. As soon as you walk outside, the destruction of Ishinomaki is right in front of you.

To the left, rests a boat that was thrown from the ocean (which is many blocks down) during the tsunami.

Boat found blocks away from the ocean, washed in by the tsunami

We turn to the right and walk down the road, passing plots of land where homes once stood. The homes that do still stand clearly have a great deal of destruction. We see a woman hanging clothes outside on the line to dry, and a tiny man ride by on a bike. Both seem out of place among the devastation.

A good ways down the road to the right is a school. It sits on the shoreline, so it was immediately hit by the tsunami. The gravity of the destruction truly hits me when I see the big clock on the front of the school. The clock is forever stopped with the big hand almost to the four and little hand on the nine. 3:45. The time the tsunami hit the school. And also only fifteen minutes after school ended. It had been an all girls school, and when the powerful waves hit, I’m sure there were still girls walking in the streets. Jim, our missionary, tells us the waves were five stories high.

Stairway to no where

We enter a house that is missing two and a half of its surrounding walls. Random belongings lie in a couple boxes. In one of the rooms, there is a broken chandelier that hangs awkwardly from the ceiling. This used to be a beautiful home.

When we come back from our walk, we have breakfast and then worship and a culture lesson from the Japanese people who are with us. Three are college students in Tokyo: Yoshi, Kaoti, and Yuta. They all tell us multiple times to “Please talk to me”. They all want to practice their English. They tell us that for the most part, Japanese people are shy. So don’t be too overly anything when you first meet them, because they may get intimidated. They tell us to speak slowly to the people, and it will show them that we are putting in an effort for them to understand what we are saying. Kaoti tells us to wait in line patiently, no cutting and to not point at people. A man Koigi joins our group with his two young sons- Hoata and Kata. Kata is eight-years-old, and Hoata is probably six or seven. They are so adorable, I want to put them in my pocket. But I’m not sure how they would feel about that if Noah translated that to them.

We travel more into the town of Ishinomaki and go to a beautiful mountain that overlooks the whole city.

What is left of the city of Ishinomaki

From there, we can see the shoreline and all the destruction. Thousands of homes were destroyed. Far above sea level however, the area is still breathtaking. There is a tree full of small pieces of paper tied to the branches. I ask Koigi what it is for, and he says that when the Japanese receive a fortune, some believe that tying it to the tree will make their fortune come true.

We all spend a good amount of time exploring the area and learning about Ishinomaki, the Japanese culture and the tsunami. Koigi tells us that he had just gotten his two sons from school when the waves hit. Three of their friends were killed.

When we return, we have dinner at the facility that Jim’s wife prepares. That night, Noah-who is Jim’s son- sits down with all of us and explains his heart for Japan and his story.

Tie your fortune to the tree, and maybe it will come true!

Quick Tips about Japan

  • Only 0.5% of Japan know Jesus
  • Japan is one of the largest unreached people groups (according to the Joshua Project, only the Islamic Shaiks of Bangladesh are a larger unreached people group)
  • It is normal for churches here to only have 3 people and for just 1 person to be saved every 5 years.
  • For a period of 250 years, Japan was closed to people coming in and people leaving. This kept Christianity out and from manifesting.

For being such an advanced and influential nation, Japan is the least advanced spiritually. The Japanese are a very relationship-based people. So the key to evangelizing to them is through their trust and relationship building. This week, we are going to be divided into groups to do different ministries. Each will have the element of interaction with the people which I am most excited about!

Ohio! Japan: Day 1

19 Nov

I finally made it to the Tokyo airport!

After 33 hours of travel: pulling an all-nighter, two airplanes, and one van ride. I am finally here in Japan. Our team is staying in Ishinomaki, Japan which is about 8 hours north of Tokyo. Being in Asia right now is so surreal. I still can’t believe I am basically on the other side of the world from my home.

The international plane flight wasn’t too bad. Since traveling to Finland a few years ago, I’ve learned that in order to combat jet lag, I must sleep on the plane following the sleep patterns of the country I’m flying to. The lunch they served us was chicken, rice, and airplane sushi. Yum. I’ve noticed that the airplane food on an international flight will consist of something typical of the place you are traveling. This case being sushi!

The first impression I got of Japan was not too long after we first got off the airplane and my old roommate, Julia, ran up to me and saying “Rachel, you have to come to the bathroom with me!” I followed her into the bathroom and it was pretty much a porcelain hole in the ground. There were instructions nearby that were in Japanese, but going off the pictures you basically had to squat above it. Our whole Japan team probably came off as silly Americans because we all then were in the bathroom being chatty girls about the toilets.

The Japanese toilet in the airport

The Japanese toilet in the airport

After landing, we met up with our missionary contact here, Jim. And then they got three vans for us to travel to Ishinomaki in. I was praying the whole time for safety since some of our guys drove the vans and the steering wheel was on the opposite side of the car. And they drove on the opposite side of the road.

The ride to Ishinomaki was quite a long one! It took us about nine hours to reach our destination. We stopped on the way to get dinner and I was so confused about how to order. Instead of going up to a cash register, you pick from a machine (kind of like a vending machine) what meal you want, then you insert money and they give you a ticket. You then took the ticket up to the counter.

Dinner tonight was miso soup with noodles and fried rice. We went to a food court-type place and authentic Japanese food is better than anything I’ve tried in a Japanese restaurant in an American food court. I was reminded to not blow on my soup (because that is offensive) and to feel free to slurp my soup loudly! While there, I also bought some melon bread which is amazing! Not as good as Finnish dallas-pulla but definitely close!

The theme of the conversations of our team so far have revolved around the interesting toilets. Aside from the one that was a porcelain hole in the ground, the ones that are actual seats have buttons on the side. You can choose to have a heated seat, press a button for a bidet setting, or you can press a button for “music” which is the sound of a toilet flushing (I’m not really sure the point of that one).
When our team finally arrived to our destination, we were greeted by Noah, Yoshi, Yato, Luke, and three others that I can’t recall their name at the moment. All are Japanese except for Luke and they spoke English pretty well.  We had to take off our shoes before entering the facility (custom). For our group of 25, we have two bathrooms, but only one shower! I’m going to wake up early and hopefully beat some people to the shower. Unfortunately, I didn’t bring my camera cord so pictures will come after I get home. But until then, I’ll add the ones I can! Good night!

Part of our Japan team in the facility after a long time of travel!

Rantings of a “workaholic”

19 Nov

Recently, someone close to me called me a “workaholic”. Now, it got me thinking. What exactly does that mean? The dictionary definition for workaholic is “a person who compulsively works hard and long hours”. I guess going off that definition, then yes, I may just be a workaholic. But for good reason! I am very passionate about my work.

by Quinn Dombrowski

Now, along with being a student, I also hold two jobs that are very diverse, but also involve a lot of my time. I am a Student Brand Manager for Red Bull on my campus, and I work as a youth ministries assistant for my local church. These aren’t just jobs, but they are my lifestyle. There is always something to do for both of them, and work to be done.

I don’t really like the negative connotation with the word “workaholic”. I have friends, hobbies, and even as I type this I am in a plane on my way to Japan for a trip over Thanksgiving break. My work isn’t the only thing that defines me, yet it is a huge part of who I am. And since it is something I am passionate about, I want to put a lot of time and energy into it! Isn’t this the kind of career most people want? A career they absolutely love?

Granted, I enjoy my time off, but while I’m working, I prefer to put my all into it. In fact, why don’t other people care more about their work? Being in college, I see too many students who try to always take the “easy way out”. This mentality of constantly trying to take shortcuts is going to hurt them in the end. Is it so bad then that I care? So call me a workaholic again! I actually take it as a compliment.

"Hard Day at the Office" by Tash Lampard

Blogging 101

19 Nov

Starting a blog can seem like a daunting task. But it doesn’t need to be! Here are some things to keep in mind when you are blogging.

Ann, Countess of Chesterfield, Blogger, after Thomas Gainesborough by Mike Licht

1. Use multimedia elements. The use of photographs, video, audio, graphics, etc. all add to the visual appeal as well as interest of your blog.

2. Choose your layout/background wisely. Make your layout unique so it speaks to who you are, yet don’t overdo it. You don’t want to give people a headache with too much of a busy layout.

3. Keep it simple, stupid. Write in short, concise paragraphs. Especially when people are reading something online, their eyes scan for the main advice. Keep one point in each sentence or write in bullet points.

4. Credit your sources. It’s great to use information from other people, because we can learn a lot from others. But be sure to credit their work and link to their site where you found the information. No one likes a copycat!

5. Let your personality shine through. Creating and maintaining voice throughout your blog is vital to reader loyalty. Your reader wants to get to know you. This doesn’t mean you need to write how you speak, but strive for consistency whether you decide to write more formally, or more informally.

 6. Use humor. Ever heard the phrase, “Laughter is the best medicine?” Individuals watch comedic movies and sitcoms because they want to laugh! They will also read your blog if you can get them to chuckle.


Photo credit: Mike Licht

7. Know your audience. Learn who is reading your blog, and keep them in mind while you write. This will help tailor your blog, create voice, and encourage reader loyalty.

8. Post often. The reason people visit Facebook, Twitter, or other popular cites often is because there is always something new to look at! The more you post, the more traffic you will drive to your blog.  

9. Speak your mind. It is okay to be opinionated. This is a blog, you might be surprised that people are actually interested in your opinion on an issue!

10. Edit. Nothing is more painful than terrible grammar or multiple typos in writing. Read over your writing before posting it online. You can always go back and edit, but you never knew who might have read it after you posted.

How to: Perfect Your Portfolio

17 Nov

So you’ve landed a job interview! This is it. The job of your dreams. Of course, you plan on

Your portfolio is what is going to make you "shine" above the rest

winning them over with your stellar personality, charming wit, and dazzling smile. But you can’t just walk in there empty-handed.

Your portfolio is going to be what truly sets you apart during your interview. In an earlier post, I wrote on how to make your resume stand out. The resume is great for getting an interview by showing a snapshot of your work. However, the portfolio gets you the job because it provides examples of your work and is a guide during your interview so you can speak on your accomplishments. This is great when the employee interviewing you asks a question such as, “Do you have any design experience?” And you can say yes, and then flip to some samples of your work.

With your portfolio, you need to realize that employers want to see varied but specific skills. It isn’t the who you’ve worked for, but what have you done how did they benefit. It’s all about results, results, results! If you have an evaluation from the overseer of the event, then you should include that (only if it is a positive one, of course).

It’s important that your portfolio is organized! One way to stay organized, is to use a 3-ring binder with dividers! Remember to include…

  • Resume
  • Tailored cover letter
  • Career summary and professional goals
  • Samples of your work (writing, photography, graphic design, videography)
  • Awards and honors
  • Client feedback and letters of recommendation
  • Transcripts (you don’t have to)
  • Certifications, degrees, licenses
  • Volunteering/community service
  • References

A professional, organized portfolio is a must.

Being able to show your work IN PRINT is best. So try submitting your articles or press releases to local newspapers, and see if they print your submission! Another great idea, is to have an online portfolio. That way, if they ask for your work, you can give them the URL to your website. And remember, always bring copies of your work in case they ask to keep one!

Now get out there and make your portfolio! But seriously, do it. Like right now.