1. Lift Where You Stand
This awesome painting my sister Stephanie made for me has been on my mind a lot as I have been transitioning back into life in the U.S.  In Japan I felt a strong sense of purpose for being there. I was constantly learning because of the unique situation I was in and all of the incredible people I was able to meet. It was nice being able to share my culture and beliefs with other people, as well as challenge those things within myself as I tried to incorporate the various experiences I was having into my views of the world.
Because the past year in Japan has had such a strong impact on me, I was worried that coming home and adjusting to my old life would feel monotonous and mundane in comparison. Please don’t take that to mean that I wasn’t excited to see everyone here, I most definitely was and still am, but I knew it would be easy to fall back into what was familiar to me and not challenge myself the way I was forced to in Japan. But that’s where the painting comes in. My goal in coming home and throughout my life is to “lift where I stand” whether I am standing in Japan, Hillsboro, Utah, or anywhere else in the world. I love this painting because it depicts that theme in such a happy way. The dancing figures demonstrate that we can have joy in our hearts as we serve other people, and that by doing service we will feel even more joy.
This is what makes life beautiful and exciting: challenging yourself, serving others, and seeing yourself and the people around you get closer to reaching their full potential. So let’s dance.

    Lift Where You Stand

    This awesome painting my sister Stephanie made for me has been on my mind a lot as I have been transitioning back into life in the U.S.  In Japan I felt a strong sense of purpose for being there. I was constantly learning because of the unique situation I was in and all of the incredible people I was able to meet. It was nice being able to share my culture and beliefs with other people, as well as challenge those things within myself as I tried to incorporate the various experiences I was having into my views of the world.

    Because the past year in Japan has had such a strong impact on me, I was worried that coming home and adjusting to my old life would feel monotonous and mundane in comparison. Please don’t take that to mean that I wasn’t excited to see everyone here, I most definitely was and still am, but I knew it would be easy to fall back into what was familiar to me and not challenge myself the way I was forced to in Japan. But that’s where the painting comes in. My goal in coming home and throughout my life is to “lift where I stand” whether I am standing in Japan, Hillsboro, Utah, or anywhere else in the world. I love this painting because it depicts that theme in such a happy way. The dancing figures demonstrate that we can have joy in our hearts as we serve other people, and that by doing service we will feel even more joy.

    This is what makes life beautiful and exciting: challenging yourself, serving others, and seeing yourself and the people around you get closer to reaching their full potential. So let’s dance.

  2. 私の学生のためのプレゼント

    A present for my students at Ojiya Chuu Gakkou…

    During my last couple weeks in Japan, one of my middle schools did a project to collect hygiene care items to help homeless people in Ethiopia.  As an incentive for the students to bring in more items, I promised that if they could reach our goal of 300 items, I would sing the school song at my farewell assembly…bask in the awkwardness as you watch this terrible quality video of me struggling through the school song in Japanese.

    I was SO HAPPY they started clapping after the first verse so I was let off the hook of singing the second verse as well…

  3. After a couple weeks of heart wrenching goodbyes I have finally made it home. Thankfully, to balance out the sad farewells there are many exciting and comforting reunions. I have missed these people an unbelievable amount this year and it feels so nice to be back together.
After picking me up from the airport we went out to “brunchin” (as Jaden calls it). I came home and took a nap for a while…to wake up just in time for dinner. My mom made my favorite dinner and dessert: Hawaiian chicken and brownie pudding. Heaven.
The rest of the night I spent chatting with Jaden as I unpacked. It is crazy how much she and the other kids have grown in just one year. After she went to bed I hung out with my parents for a few hours. They are still their wonderfully dorky selves and it was so nice to just lounge on the couch and spend time with them.
My family is the greatest. My parents are the most selfless hardworking people you could ever meet. Alan, Corey, and Neal are all growing up to be such studs. I’m so proud of the people they are becoming. And Jaden and Brianna are progressing so much and are as sweet and cuddly as ever. I miss all my other brothers, sisters, nieces, and nephews, but am looking forward to seeing them soon!
I am SO blessed.

    After a couple weeks of heart wrenching goodbyes I have finally made it home. Thankfully, to balance out the sad farewells there are many exciting and comforting reunions. I have missed these people an unbelievable amount this year and it feels so nice to be back together.

    After picking me up from the airport we went out to “brunchin” (as Jaden calls it). I came home and took a nap for a while…to wake up just in time for dinner. My mom made my favorite dinner and dessert: Hawaiian chicken and brownie pudding. Heaven.

    The rest of the night I spent chatting with Jaden as I unpacked. It is crazy how much she and the other kids have grown in just one year. After she went to bed I hung out with my parents for a few hours. They are still their wonderfully dorky selves and it was so nice to just lounge on the couch and spend time with them.

    My family is the greatest. My parents are the most selfless hardworking people you could ever meet. Alan, Corey, and Neal are all growing up to be such studs. I’m so proud of the people they are becoming. And Jaden and Brianna are progressing so much and are as sweet and cuddly as ever. I miss all my other brothers, sisters, nieces, and nephews, but am looking forward to seeing them soon!

    I am SO blessed.

  4. I had such a lovely group of people to see me off this morning. Lee san and Yamagishi san both got up early to say goodbye to me at my “apartment house.” It was so nice seeing them both once more. Yamagishi san is the adventurous mountain climber who took me to Mt. Fuji last week. He has such a great heart and is always so kind. I enjoyed spending time hiking with him this year and going to his house for BBQs. And Lee. Even though I wrote about him in my last post, I can’t say enough how much I love this boy. He and Jackie made Ojiya so much fun and were by my side through this whole adventure.

After saying goodbye at the apartment, my awesome supervisor, Washio san, drove me to Nagaoka station to get the shinkansen to the airport. At the station, Miyanaga shimai and the Nozakis met us to say goodbye. My gosh. I love them all so much. Washio san was the person to greet me when I arrived in Ojiya and has been like a dad throughout this year. Whenever I missed my bus, needed someone to take me to the doctor, or had creepy bugs in my apartment, he was the person I called. Miyanaga shimai is the goofiest angel I have ever met. She translated for me every week at church, took me to Tokyo temple a couple times, and always did small things to show me she was thinking about me throughout the week. I will never forget the couple days she spent with me and Mal in Tokyo and all the silly adorable things she did. The Nozakis are the sweetest couple you could ever meet. Every week they would pick me up from Miyauchi station to drive me to church. Nozaki shimai taught my class at church, and even though she doesn’t speak English, she always found a way to make sure I was included in the discussions. Nozaki kyodai speaks English very well and would always be so friendly and helpful to me. All of these people made me feel so incredibly loved this year. I can’t thank them enough for their kindness and for everything they taught me through their friendship towards me.

I am so blessed.

    I had such a lovely group of people to see me off this morning. Lee san and Yamagishi san both got up early to say goodbye to me at my “apartment house.” It was so nice seeing them both once more. Yamagishi san is the adventurous mountain climber who took me to Mt. Fuji last week. He has such a great heart and is always so kind. I enjoyed spending time hiking with him this year and going to his house for BBQs. And Lee. Even though I wrote about him in my last post, I can’t say enough how much I love this boy. He and Jackie made Ojiya so much fun and were by my side through this whole adventure.

    After saying goodbye at the apartment, my awesome supervisor, Washio san, drove me to Nagaoka station to get the shinkansen to the airport. At the station, Miyanaga shimai and the Nozakis met us to say goodbye. My gosh. I love them all so much. Washio san was the person to greet me when I arrived in Ojiya and has been like a dad throughout this year. Whenever I missed my bus, needed someone to take me to the doctor, or had creepy bugs in my apartment, he was the person I called. Miyanaga shimai is the goofiest angel I have ever met. She translated for me every week at church, took me to Tokyo temple a couple times, and always did small things to show me she was thinking about me throughout the week. I will never forget the couple days she spent with me and Mal in Tokyo and all the silly adorable things she did. The Nozakis are the sweetest couple you could ever meet. Every week they would pick me up from Miyauchi station to drive me to church. Nozaki shimai taught my class at church, and even though she doesn’t speak English, she always found a way to make sure I was included in the discussions. Nozaki kyodai speaks English very well and would always be so friendly and helpful to me. All of these people made me feel so incredibly loved this year. I can’t thank them enough for their kindness and for everything they taught me through their friendship towards me.

    I am so blessed.

  5. The Ojay

I spent my last night in Ojiya with two of the people that make this town the best in Japan. I couldn’t have been any luckier than to spend this year with Jackie and Lee. Jackie, thanks for being my first onsen partner, much needed girls’ night fix, and senpai. Lee, thanks for looking like a fool with me while we were first figuring out life in Japan, the long walks to Japanese class and dinner, and the crazy musical weekends. I love you both and am so glad I had you through the ups and downs of this year. I am looking forward to the first Ojay reunion, or should I say, “I’m waiting for you” :) 

We spent the night hanging out at a small festival on the main street in Ojiya where I got a chance to see basically every person I’ve ever met in this town. Everywhere I turned I ran into a pack of my students. It was nice to see them all on my final night here. All of the familiar faces and happy greetings were a nice indicator of how Ojiya has really become my home this year. At the Ojiya festival last year it was fun because everything was new and I didn’t know what to expect, but tonight it was nice to see how I have truly been welcomed into this community.

I love my Ojay. It is so hard leaving, but I know I will be back.

I am so blessed.

    The Ojay

    I spent my last night in Ojiya with two of the people that make this town the best in Japan. I couldn’t have been any luckier than to spend this year with Jackie and Lee. Jackie, thanks for being my first onsen partner, much needed girls’ night fix, and senpai. Lee, thanks for looking like a fool with me while we were first figuring out life in Japan, the long walks to Japanese class and dinner, and the crazy musical weekends. I love you both and am so glad I had you through the ups and downs of this year. I am looking forward to the first Ojay reunion, or should I say, “I’m waiting for you” :)

    We spent the night hanging out at a small festival on the main street in Ojiya where I got a chance to see basically every person I’ve ever met in this town. Everywhere I turned I ran into a pack of my students. It was nice to see them all on my final night here. All of the familiar faces and happy greetings were a nice indicator of how Ojiya has really become my home this year. At the Ojiya festival last year it was fun because everything was new and I didn’t know what to expect, but tonight it was nice to see how I have truly been welcomed into this community.

    I love my Ojay. It is so hard leaving, but I know I will be back.

    I am so blessed.

  6. Last night would have been my last eikaiwa class, but seeing I couldn’t make it, they all came back again tonight to do a farewell party for me. We played games, had a talent show, and then ate an overwhelming amount of delicious food.

I absolutely adore these people.
They have taken such good care of me throughout this year, and tonight they went above and beyond. Just the fact that they came tonight meant so much to me, but they also gave me many sweet cards and gifts. One woman even rode in the car back to Ojiya with me, just to turn around and take the train back to Nagaoka. She said she just wanted to spend more time with me…

It was a hard round of goodbyes, but I feel so lucky for the time I got to spend with them. They are yet another one of my unofficial families in Japan, and are a big part of why this was such an incredible year. 

I am so blessed.

    Last night would have been my last eikaiwa class, but seeing I couldn’t make it, they all came back again tonight to do a farewell party for me. We played games, had a talent show, and then ate an overwhelming amount of delicious food.

    I absolutely adore these people.
    They have taken such good care of me throughout this year, and tonight they went above and beyond. Just the fact that they came tonight meant so much to me, but they also gave me many sweet cards and gifts. One woman even rode in the car back to Ojiya with me, just to turn around and take the train back to Nagaoka. She said she just wanted to spend more time with me…

    It was a hard round of goodbyes, but I feel so lucky for the time I got to spend with them. They are yet another one of my unofficial families in Japan, and are a big part of why this was such an incredible year.

    I am so blessed.

  7. This family truly adopted me while I was in Japan. I met the Nakagawas at church, and over the year they have invited me to stay at their house for multiple days at a time. Every time I go over, sister Nakagawa greets me with a big hug and says, “Welcome home!”

Yesterday after church I went to visit them again. We played games, ate dinner, and tried to teach each other songs in our native languages. After the kids went to bed, the parents and I did our usual tradition of sitting around the kitchen table, with them giving me fresh mint tea along with invaluable life advice. That’s always one of the highlights of my visits. 

The next morning I got up to eat breakfast with the family and hug the kids on their way out the door for school. After everyone left, sister Nakagawa and I went to visit her parents’ shop in a town nearby. Her parents are as sweet as she is. They treated me to lunch, showed me around their shop, and sent me home with a few traditional Japanese souvenirs. 

When the kids got back from school we played games, made dinner, and then had Family Home Evening. Everyone came along to drop me off at the train station when it was time for me to head home. I’m glad I got to have one more perfect visit with them to add to all the other wonderful memories I have with them from this year.

I’m so blessed.

    This family truly adopted me while I was in Japan. I met the Nakagawas at church, and over the year they have invited me to stay at their house for multiple days at a time. Every time I go over, sister Nakagawa greets me with a big hug and says, “Welcome home!”

    Yesterday after church I went to visit them again. We played games, ate dinner, and tried to teach each other songs in our native languages. After the kids went to bed, the parents and I did our usual tradition of sitting around the kitchen table, with them giving me fresh mint tea along with invaluable life advice. That’s always one of the highlights of my visits.

    The next morning I got up to eat breakfast with the family and hug the kids on their way out the door for school. After everyone left, sister Nakagawa and I went to visit her parents’ shop in a town nearby. Her parents are as sweet as she is. They treated me to lunch, showed me around their shop, and sent me home with a few traditional Japanese souvenirs.

    When the kids got back from school we played games, made dinner, and then had Family Home Evening. Everyone came along to drop me off at the train station when it was time for me to head home. I’m glad I got to have one more perfect visit with them to add to all the other wonderful memories I have with them from this year.

    I’m so blessed.

  8. Warning: This post is the beginning of a series of sappy farewell posts.

The goodbyes aren’t getting any easier, but with each one I am reminded how blessed I have been to meet so many wonderful people this year.

Tonight Ofuchi sensei invited me over to have dinner with her family one last time before I head home. This weekend is also a holiday in Japan called Tanabata. For the holiday, you write wishes on slips of paper and tie them to bamboo branches. The above picture is of one of Haruka’s wishes: to be really good at English so she could talk to me.

After writing wishes and decorating the bamboo tree, we had a BBQ, played balloon volleyball and wii games, and then Ofuchi sensei brought out a cake for dessert. I opened the box to find a goopy shimmering version of my face staring up at me. Haruka and Nanami debated which part of my face they would eat, as my head was sliced into eight equal pieces. Haruka ended up with an eye. After a couple bites, she turned around from where she was sitting on my lap to stare up at my real eye, and then turned back and scooped the much tastier version into her mouth. 

At the end of the night, Nanami and Haruka gave me a scrapbook the family had put together of the several nights I had come over for dinner throughout the year. Of course, all I could manage was a hiccupy “hontouni arigatougozaimashita” through my tears.

I am so blessed.

    Warning: This post is the beginning of a series of sappy farewell posts.

    The goodbyes aren’t getting any easier, but with each one I am reminded how blessed I have been to meet so many wonderful people this year.

    Tonight Ofuchi sensei invited me over to have dinner with her family one last time before I head home. This weekend is also a holiday in Japan called Tanabata. For the holiday, you write wishes on slips of paper and tie them to bamboo branches. The above picture is of one of Haruka’s wishes: to be really good at English so she could talk to me.

    After writing wishes and decorating the bamboo tree, we had a BBQ, played balloon volleyball and wii games, and then Ofuchi sensei brought out a cake for dessert. I opened the box to find a goopy shimmering version of my face staring up at me. Haruka and Nanami debated which part of my face they would eat, as my head was sliced into eight equal pieces. Haruka ended up with an eye. After a couple bites, she turned around from where she was sitting on my lap to stare up at my real eye, and then turned back and scooped the much tastier version into her mouth.

    At the end of the night, Nanami and Haruka gave me a scrapbook the family had put together of the several nights I had come over for dinner throughout the year. Of course, all I could manage was a hiccupy “hontouni arigatougozaimashita” through my tears.

    I am so blessed.

  9. A little 1st year junior high school student chased me down in the hall to give this to me after class :)

    A little 1st year junior high school student chased me down in the hall to give this to me after class :)

  10. I made a deal with my students: if they could collect 300 hygiene care items to donate to an orphanage in Ethiopia, I would sing the school song at my farewell assembly …

Looks like I better start practicing

    I made a deal with my students: if they could collect 300 hygiene care items to donate to an orphanage in Ethiopia, I would sing the school song at my farewell assembly …

    Looks like I better start practicing

About me

This blog sailed around the world with me from Augst-December 2011, and then spent a year with me in Japan as an Enlish teacher. I'm not sure what life will bring next, but I refuse to let my best years be behind me. Here's to more adventures in the future!