Japan

Week 12: 86 Days Later

86 Days ago I was sitting in Narita airport writing my first Japan blog post. I was a little nervous, pretty excited, and a little lost since I knew no Japanese. 86 Days later and I think I have more questions than when I started. I believe transitioning to Japan for three months went way smoother than I expected it to (thanks for praying!). But in the process of transitioning in and now transitioning out I am discovering more and more about myself. I am rediscovering the unhealthy way I have of saying goodbye as well as having more questions about the possibilities for my future. So many of my thoughts are only half formed I am struggling to say what is rolling around my head.

I stumbled on a blog by an MK named Taylor, living in Hiroshima, Japan (link at the bottom). Even though I am 21, graduated from college, and slowly moving on with life, her writing reminded me so much of who I am, something I think I had started to lose while in the US. I am a Third Culture Kid and I cannot lose sight of how important that is to me. Sometimes, ok, most of the time, I try really hard to fit in and be a part of the group. Often that means being careful of how I present myself and only allowing certain parts of me to be visible. But thanks to Taylor I was once again reminded that I need to be aware of myself and realize that I can have meaningful relationships even over a short period of time.

I am very thankful for my time at NORTHSTAR. I might be just as confused as when I first landed but It has been a worthwhile experience.

Thank you all so much for sticking with me during this incredible journey. This is my last blog post while in Japan, but I am sure it will not be my last about Japan. I pray God blesses each of you who prayed or gave for me to be here!

Taylor Joy Murray Blog

Week 11: Red, Yellow, Orange, Green... Blue, White?

In October Japanese tourists travel to the mountains to witness the spectacular fall show: the turning of the leaves. While summer is relatively short, fall is prolonged, like it has a patient plan to woo us to its side. The colors start changing higher up in the mountains first, shedding its green coat. As the month passes the lower altitudes get to have some of the color until the whole mountain is colored in. Then, it snows on the peaks. Not a lot, but enough for the peak to glow in contrast to the warmth of the world around it. This is called Sandankoyou, the Blue Sky, White Snow, and Fall Colors. The Japanese have words for everything!

Fall is a season, and signifies the ending of the year. I feel like I am in a small fall right now. I have had a wonderful season in Japan at NORTHSTAR. But that season is about to end and bring to a close the college years. Now I get to look forward to the next season, the next years of life. The years where friendships are solidified and I continue seeking Father’s direction in my life. Please pray for me in my last week and a half here that it would be a growing time, and as I leave. I so appreciate your support!

Now please enjoy the fall colors of Japan!

Week 10: Camps, Camps, and more Camps

I checked my calendar today and wow, I have under three weeks left. My time in Japan has been incredible, but it is not over yet! We just finished our first of five camps in October alone. This means we go from 8:30 AM at the latest to 8:30 PM at night, from helping serve meals to doing programs with the kids. I am not really a “kid person” but this past camp was very interesting. It was an international school, with kids from all over Asia, Europe, and the Americas. It was an all girls, 7th grade, camp so we expected some craziness. Yes, they were crazy, but it was so cool to be among my own kind again, the elusive TCK, Third Culture Kid. I felt like I could understand them, even if they did not fully understand themselves yet.

Even though I am technically here as an art intern, I knew I would b expected to help out with some of the camps, especially now that we are a little short staffed. And you would never guess, but I enjoyed hanging out with the kids. The first night they were here we did a campfire with all 45 girls and it was a blast. The following day I assisted leading indoor wall climbing for two groups of 10 girls. Though I have only climbed a few times it was really neat to see the girls challenge themselves and encourage each other.

Please pray for us as we continue to guide each camp that comes this month. And especially pray for energy for all us; back to back camps are exhausting! But always our focus is to touch the lives of the campers and hopefully bring them a step or two closer to Christ. 

Week 9.5: Photo Essay - Summiting Yarigatake

Welcome to the second installation of the XX.5 Series! This series is dedicated to photo essays that will not fit on my Instagram. As always my slogan is more pictures, fewer words.

Our kind full time staff gave us two days off at the beginning of this week. We knew this ahead of time so Andy, who loves hiking, organized a hiking expedition. Eventually we settled on how many of us were going, three (Andy, Tyler, and me), and where we were going, Yarigatake. The peak of Mt. Yari is the 5th highest in Japan and very popular with Japanese hikers. We left NORTHSTAR early, around 4 AM, arrived at 5 AM, and were on our way by 5:30 AM.

The first four hours were relatively easy hiking, and we went quickly. The last three hours were very steep and we slowed down considerably. Up until the last 20 minutes we had not been treated to a view of the peak, only to a view of the Lodge, mocking us as we struggled higher.

It had been warm most of the way up, but as soon as we crossed over the ridge and saw the peak the wind almost knocked us over and the temperature plummeted. We had a quick lunch and began to set up camp. We changed and decided to give the peak a try.

It was a quick clamber to the top, though there were some spots where basic rock climbing came in handy. The view from the top was awesome. It was a fantastically clear day and it was even possible to see Mt. Fuji.

Coming down took a little more time as it was rather steep. Then we had dinner, which we had to be inventive about. One of our party forgot the gas for the stove, so we ended up eating lukewarm rice and curry. We were all too ready to set up our sleeping bags and prepare for the night. However, we had to see the sunset first.

The night was very windy and rather cold, but our layers and sleeping bags kept us warm. We planned on going to the peak for sunrise, but when we woke up at 5 AM it was still windy, cold, and now, cloudy. So we had oatmeal for breakfast and called it good.

Hiking down the mountain we got to see more beautiful views. We were tired at the end but we all firmly believed it had been worth it. 

Week 4: Complexities of being a Millennial Traveler

I skyped with my family the other night for almost two hours. It was perfect timing, right before my brother went back to college and my parents started their trip back home to Mexico. It was really nice to be “all together” again after three weeks without talking. What struck me during that time was that I have never really been homesick for everywhere. Part of it is, of course, that I have had several different homes in the past few years so pinning one down as “home” is difficult. The more I thought about it though, the more I realized what an impact technology has on my life. We have wifi here at NORTHSTAR, as does much of Japan. So at any moment during the day I can slip out my phone and check my Instagram feed, tap Facebook and see what my friends all over the world are doing. When it comes down to my use of technology, nothing changed since I left Indiana. I am physically present in Japan, yet I can mentally take myself back to Grace just be scrolling through my friends’ social media posts.

My friend Emily travelled all over Europe this summer, eventually ending up in South Korea for a semester of study abroad. It was so cool to keep up with her through her photography. She captures special moments which help you feel like you are there. And with real-time updates in any social media, you can partake of that moment almost as soon as the pictures is posted. I can mentally transport myself to any number of the places she visited, like the picture, and move on. In an instant I am back in Japan.

As a millennial traveler sometimes it is really hard to stop experiencing other’s experiences and get outside and make my own experiences. Japan has wifi everywhere which is very convenient. It also means during a meal at a restaurant you can get out your phone and stop experiencing Japan and experience Vienna or Indiana instantly. There is a beauty to our teleportation, but it makes me a little sick too. I firmly believe in experiencing the now as often as possible. Yet too many afternoons I sat in front of my computer instead of taking advantage of this wonderful opportunity I was blessed with. I encourage you to interact with others online, and open your eyes and mind to other vistas and ways of doing things. But do not get so caught up you forget to leave the house all day. Scroll through Emily’s Instagram for a few minutes, then go outside.

Emily Musser - @ejmuss12