...of teacher and student. At Baiko (and at all Japanese schools, I suspect) teachers are far removed from the students. They are placed in an untouchable position of power that the students are taught to respect at all times. There are certain cultural "rules" governing student-teacher interaction. Teachers greet each other each day by saying "Ohayo gozaimasu." "Gozaimasu" is a formality added to lots of phrases. Thus "Ohayo gozaimasu" is a very polite phrase that means "good morning." But when addressing students teachers simply say, "Ohayo" without the formal ending. When students enter or exit the teacher's office they must bow and say "Shitsureshimasu," which literally means, "I am being discourteous," but is usually translated as "excuse me," or "sorry to bother you." In many classrooms there is a raised platform below the chalkboard that teachers stand on to give lectures, thus placing the teachers at a higher level than the students. I am aware that construing some of these things as intentional separations of a lower class from a higher class could be assuming too much, but there's more. The teachers have separate bathrooms from the students-- bathrooms with Western-style toilets, a door at the entrance and sometimes even decorations. They use a different set of stairs that students are generally forbidden to use. They also enter and exit the classroom from a different door. These things, to me, are not only weird but wrong, in a way. I may feel this way because I am removed from student life by only one year, so I don't feel that much higher in status than the students. Sure, I'm older and I am an authority figure over them, but some of these customs to me seem a little absurd. Am I blowing these things out of proportion? Or is this weird to anyone else?
written by Ruthie @ 12:26 AM   1 comments
I met two Mongolians yesterday. I thought that was worth a mention.


written by Ruthie @ 12:25 AM   0 comments
Other Side
As a student-turned-teacher I frequently find myself forgetting what it was like to be a student. Last week my 中二 students (equivalent to 8th graders) had their midterm test. When I came into the classroom they were all freaking out, quizzing each other, laughing and talking loudly: generally being rowdy. Geez, why are they so loud today? I thought. Then I remembered what I felt like before I took tests in school. I was nervous because I didn't know what to expect and excited to see how quickly I could finish the test (I was known for being the first person to finish tests throughout my school career). I was downright giddy. I acted just like my students were acting before the test. I realized that, despite the language and culture barrier between us, we are the same, my students and I.

So I'm trying to consciously remember this idea when teaching. I'm trying to remember what it felt like when the teacher called on me and I didn't know the answer and how humiliating that felt. I'm trying to remember how unfair I thought some of my teachers were to expect me to do certain tasks when I had assignments from seven other classes at the same time. I'm trying to remember how I wanted to fit in with the other students so badly that I would misbehave in class to look cool. I'm trying to remember how uncool some teachers were when trying desperately to connect with students, and how cool other teachers were when they stopped trying to connect and were just themselves. I think my students feel a lot of these same things. Now that I'm on the other side, maybe I can use these feelings to become a better teacher for them.


written by Ruthie @ 2:59 AM   0 comments
Love Your Enemies
Chapel Speech 5/9/06

Luke 6:27-36

Recently I have been thinking a lot about kindness. I struggle with being kind to people. In America I can be direct and say my opinion. I can talk to people I don't like in a civil way, but without kindness. In Japan, this is considered very rude. I must be kind to all people, even to people who annoy me. This has always been very difficult for me.

I have a younger brother. His name is Aaron. He is 20 years old. I love my brother, but often he is very annoying. For example, in my home in America, Aaron and I share a bathroom. We use the same sink, the same shower, the same toilet. Sometimes after Aaron uses the bathroom, he forgets to pick up his dirty clothes, or he doesn't flush the toilet, or he doesn't clean the sink. To me, this is very annoying. My brother also likes to watch anime on television. I don't like anime. So when I want to watch television, but he is watching anime, I become annoyed. In these annoying times, it is difficult for me to remember to love my brother. 

When I was in high school, there was a bully named Joey. He insulted me because my clothes were not fashionable, because I liked school and enjoyed studying, because I didn't play sports, because I didn't have many friends. He was very mean to me. Sometimes I was so angry with him that I said mean things to him. Joey was my enemy. I did not love him. Actually, I hated him.

It is very easy to be kind to people we like.Most people in the world are kind to their friends and people who love them. However, it is very difficult to be kind to people who annoy us, or who are mean to us, or who don't respect us. It is difficult to love our enemies, but this is what Jesus tells us to do in this passage.

In the Old Testament, God gives the command, "An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth." This is also in Hammurabi's code. This means if someone does something to you, do the same to them. If someone hits you, hit them back. If someone steals from you, steal something from them. However, Jesus says that this law is no longer correct. Jesus says, "If someone slaps your right cheek, turn to them the left cheek." Do not seek revenge; be kind even to people who are mean to you.

In the New Testament, Jesus asks his followers to do some very hard things: leave your family behind, forget your own desires, sell all your things, love your enemies. The Bible doesn't say that a Christian life is easy. Actually, the Bible says the opposite: as Christians, our life will be very hard. But we are not Christians because it as an easy life. We are Christians because our eternal reward will be great.

We should love all people―not because they love us, but because Jesus tells us to love all people. Is there a brother or sister who annoys you? Is there a teacher you dislike? Is there a classmate who insults you? Love them and your reward will be great.
written by Ruthie @ 9:07 AM   0 comments
Manhole cover in Fukuoka, Japan. Not colorful, like some cities', but interestingly geometric and modern.


written by Ruthie @ 8:44 AM   0 comments
中国 this summer!
That's right, it is official: I am going back to China this summer!!!!!!! LOUD NOISES! Monday Rachel and I went to the consulate in Fukuoka to get our visas (pictured left). It was surprisingly easy. We just took all our documents, filled out the forms, waited a tad, paid, and left. The passports were mailed back to us later in the week. It's weird that paperwork concerning the Chinese government was so easy: thanks China!

I am so so so excited to return to the land I fell in love with two years ago. Rachel and I will take a vacation there in August. First we will visit a friend in Qing Dao, then do some sightseeing in Beijing, then we will part ways: she will return to Japan (then go back to the States for seminary) and I will go on to southern China to visit my friends!


written by Ruthie @ 10:04 AM   0 comments
Bus Stop
A windy morning. I approached the bus stop with hair blowing in my face and the pocket flaps of my new suit fluttering in the breeze. Sitting on the bench was a man whose age is difficult to ascertain. He had a young face, but the dimness in his eyes and his leathery brown skin could easily place him in his late sixties. He noticed me and stared with a vacant, bewildered expression at my fair skin and light hair-- a typical reaction to Caucasians. His baggy blue sweatpants flopped with each gust of wind, revealing very skinny ankles ending in a dirty pair of Reebok's. He turned to a few possessions at his side: a pink translucent cigarette lighter, a can of Coca-Cola, a cafe latte bottle that is obviously not filled with cafe latte, and a clear plastic cup. As he opened the can of Coke the plastic cup was caught by the wind and flew from his hands onto the busy street. To my surprise, the man jumped after it, forcing oncoming traffic to stop or swerve into another lane. The man hardly seemed to notice the cars bearing down on him as he concentrated on following his cup. But the cup eluded him and was crushed under the tires of a minivan. The man looked visibly defeated, as if he had watched a family heirloom be destroyed. But instead of abandoning the cup he continued pursuing the remains and grabbed the now-useless pieces of plastic before returning to the bench. As he sat back down next to his coke and "cafe latte," he nonchalantly let the remains of the cup fall from his hands and float back into the street, pretending not to notice it had happened. Then he mixed some of the coke into the cafe latte bottle, took a swig, and lit a cigarette.

As I watched the man's peculiar behavior I felt a growing abhorrence for him. I moved away from the bench so he wouldn't look at me or try to talk to me. I checked the amount of space there was to walk around the bench once the bus arrived, in case he tried to grab me. I watched in disgust as he drank what was probably some kind of alcohol from the sun-yellowed bottle. I was quietly willing his clear plastic cup to be smashed. I actually felt triumph when the cup was run over, like there was a match between Team Man and Team Cup and the latter won. Yeah, that ought to crush your spirits. That's what you get for being a bum, for freaking me out, for running into traffic. At that moment I hated the man for being an eyesore and myself for being so violently offended by him. Why did I hate this man so much?

When the bus arrived he didn't get on. He also didn't try to grab me as I boarded. He stared vaguely into the distance as the bus drove away and I took my place onboard among businessmen and students, wondering about poverty and compassion in Japan.
written by Ruthie @ 1:27 AM   2 comments
I recently had a birthday (the big 23, if that is big), and my friend Rachel and I went out to celebrate. First we took a ferry to the other island. Just across the Kanmon Strait is a fun little toursity area called Mojiko Retro. There are many fun shops and historic buildings to see, including a railroad museum and a house Einstein once occupied. We looked around for awhile in a shopping center and saw this awesome rug in a dressing room:
I just thought it was hilarious. The store also had a lot of marijuana-themed merchandise and hippy-looking clothing. Pretty cool, and a little disturbing. We looked around in a glass store, saw a tiny in-mall shrine sort of thing that gives you a fortune. If it's a good one, you get to keep it. If it's bad, you tie it to the shrine and hope the fortune stays there, I guess. We thought it was pretty interesting, and a little disturbing.
Next it was on to dinner. We had kawarasoba: noodles made from green tea topped with beef, egg, seaweed, lemon, and a peppery paste and served on a piping-hot roof tile. To eat, first pull off the lemon and red pepper paste and mix into a special soy sauce. Then pull off a chunk of noodles and beef and stuff, dip into the sauce, and enjoy. It's one of Rachel's favorites, and it has become one of mine. The restaurant was really swanky, to boot. It had just relocated and the atmosphere was very relaxing, like a modern version of a Japanese garden or something. Then we walked around and looked in some more stores, one of which had many varieties of honey. They also served honey ice cream! So I had a honey and chocolate ice cream twist cone- fabulous. After we caught the ferry home Rachel came back to my place and surprised me with a birthday cake! Well, it wasn't exactly a cake. Kind of a lemony-frozen-creamy thing. But man was it good! And there was even a candle on top! So even though I was away from my family, I had a great birthday thanks to a dear friend. Love you Rachel!


written by Ruthie @ 8:41 AM   1 comments
Fun Things to do in Japan
This list is probably hilarious to people who have lived in/visited Japan, and maybe mildly amusing to those who haven't.
  • If a Japanese says, ''hello" in English, start screaming at them in French that people should stop assuming you're an American pig.
  • Make up a holiday with ridiculous traditions and teach people to celebrate it: "Did you know that in Iowa people celebrate Mamie Eisenhower's birth? On August 3 we wear our oldest winter outfit to remember the poverty she endured and we throw barley and old corn onto small shrines devoted to her in our homes."
  • Drive on the "right" side of the road.
  • Try starting a conversation with a sleeping person on a bus/train/subway.
  • When speaking in Japanese, insert an English word but pronounce it in a Japanese way. If they ask about it, insist they should know it because it is a Japanese word.
  • When using public transportation, get up and switch seats at every stop.
  • Mimic the train conductor/bus driver/cashier as they recite information into the PA system.
  • While walking down a crowded street, begin dancing sporadically. Watch for reactions.
  • If someone begins speaking to you in English, respond in Japanese. When they switch to using Japanese, respond to them in English.
  • If someone bows to you, act as though they are looking for something on the floor. Help them look for it.
  • Walk through a supermarket shouting "Irasshaimasee" at every person you pass.
  • If anyone asks you a question in Japanese, act extremely confused and laugh hysterically.
  • Stand too close to people.
  • Bow at least seven times to people who bow to you while repeating, "gozaimasu, gozaimasu, gozaimasu..."
  • Try to return an item at a store using only body language.
  • Tell people they're pronouncing English words wrong: "It's Amoooorica, silly!"
written by Ruthie @ 11:57 PM   0 comments
Stream of Conciousness
I have only a passing interest in God. As soon as I start thinking about God, I get bored and my mind wanders to something else. How can I be interested in God when he seems so far away? How can I get closer to him?

What are bridesmaids even for? Do they just stand there at the wedding? I want my bridesmaids to have a role in my marriage, as well: they should help me out before and during the ceremony, and help me live up to my vows for the rest of my life. If I chose bridesmaids thinking more about these principles than "who will feel hurt if I don't chose them," my list would be really different, I think.

My hair is at that awkward stage where it's too long to let down all the time because it doesn't curl right, but too short to stay up in a ponytail. So I end up putting it in a ponytail and pulling the stray bits behind my ears all day. It makes me feel less mature. And generally unkempt.

I have felt so lazy lately. I wish I was still in school so I had too much to do. I hate this feeling of boredom and lack of motivation. I need structure, deadlines.

"It's not even light out, but you've somewhere to be."

I spend too much time on the internet. I think it is beginning to warp my brain. Sometimes I mentally note which words would be capitalized for emphasis if I were typing them. I mean, COME ON. That is a little weird.

You know how some songs have a TON of silence at the end before the next track begins? I hate that. It's so annoying. Just start the next song already. Granted, if it's classical music (a symphony or something) then a slight pause is appropriate, but on a CD if I need more than 10 seconds of dead air I'll hit pause.

Recently I played a computer game that sounded different tones with each successful move. All of the tones together created a pentatonic scale. So I played each level and transcribed the pitches each level produced. I may try to write something based on these indeterminate melodies. I know. I'm a huge nerd.

The bugs are starting to annoy me. Last night before I went to bed I killed probably ten bugs. They're not dangerous or anything; I just can't stand the buzzing sound they make close to my ear. And I get paranoid that bugs are biting me in my sleep and infecting me with dengue fever.

"So I looked around and I noticed there wasn't a chair."

If I lay down on my futon when my computer is on, I can feel the vibrations of the fan running through the floor. Is this because the vibration is exceptionally loud or because I am hyper-sensitive? I suppose it could be both.

Sitars are freaking awesome. I wish I could play the sitar. I don't think I've ever even seen a sitar in real life. Norah Jones is Ravi Shankar's daughter. Yikes. No wonder she's awesome.

"I'm thinking it's a sign that the freckles in our eyes are mirror images that when we kiss they're perfectly aligned."

I am now a little obsessed with Zach Braff. It all started when I decided to start watching Scrubs, and then I watched some interviews he did on late night TV shows, and then I found out he had a MySpace account, and then he became my MySpace friend, and then I could read blogs he wrote, so now I'm all about Zach Braff. It's not terribly healthy, I know. I think the sign that I need to back off is when Zach is a major character in my dreams.

I wore my orange and black sparkly long flowing skirt to school today and all my students were like, "Ah, kawaii!! Suteki!!" Even a teacher used the Japanese word for "wonderful." I knew the skirt was awesome, but don't they have stuff like this here? Really.

My birthday is Friday. I will be 23. I think I am now at the age where I will dread all subsequent birthdays. Before this time I looked forward to becoming older, more mature. Now I would rather stay young and responsibility-free. However, since I am so young I'm not respected by my colleagues at work. I'm not taken seriously because I'm still a kid to them. So I don't want to get older, but I want to be treated as an adult. Catch-22.

Why did Sonny Rollins have to die so young? Why, God? He's like the best sax improver EVER, and he wasn't even a drunk or a druggie or anything, like so many other jazz musicians. At least we have "Body and Soul."

"I never meant to do you wrong."


written by Ruthie @ 8:10 AM   2 comments
From my trip to Hagi:
Castle ruins.
A Japanese garden.
Outside of a shrine.
In front of a statue of some lord or important dude.


written by Ruthie @ 5:22 AM   0 comments
My Golden Week
Last week was Golden Week-- a "week" (every day but Tuesday and Wednesday) of straight holidays. Japan even has a law that if two holidays are separated by a non-holiday, that day is automatically a holiday as well. The holidays last week were Green Day (used to be an Emperor's birthday or death day, but it was changed to a sort of Arbor Day), Children's Day (a Shinto holiday that actually only celebrates boys), and a few other "holidays." If you're interested, there's a pretty good Wikipedia article on it.

Since there was a "week" of holidays I made a few travel plans. April 28th I went to Fukuoka with a two colleagues to Costco, an economy big box like Sam's Club. Since Costco carries a ton of imported food, I was able to buy food there that I can't get anywhere else in my area. I bought tortilla chips, refried beans, a huge bag of chocolate chips, bagels, a big block of cheddar cheese, and some garlic powder. Not only did I have a great day of shopping; I got to get to know two of the Japanese English teachers better.

Tuesday and Wednesday were regular school days. Thursday I went to a little town a half hour outside of the city to see a few friends do a concert. My friend Takeshi's band, Gentlemen for Cutie, played first; they performed covers of a Japanese band called Jude (or was it Jute? Takeshi's pronunciation wasn't so clear). The second band, New Leaves, performed all Beatles hits. My friend Jenn and I acted like typical Westerners-- dancing, shouting and yelling after songs were finished, calling for encores, yelling over the music to talk to each other. The only problem was that the Japanese don't do this kind of thing. Needless to say, we were stared at a lot and branded weirdos by most of the crowd. But the band said they loved our enthusiasm.

Friday Rachel and I had an adventure in another little town a half hour outside of the city. We went to a shrine, a little park, and the beach! I collected many shells, saw some beached jellyfish, took a bunch of pictures, got a little sunburn on my nose, and had a great time relaxing with Rachel.

Saturday I bummed around the apartment and cleaned. Sunday I went to Hagi with three older ladies from a Bible study I attend. Hagi is known in Japan for being a very historic city. We saw some castle ruins from the 1600s, two samurai houses, and a famous shrine. We also had tea in a traditional tea-house, took a lift to the highest point in the city, had a fancy buffet for lunch, and went for a dip in a natural hot spring. Hot springs, called onsen, are very popular in Japan (Here's another Wikipedia article to pique your interest). The only catch for foreigners is that you have to go in to most onsen naked. I was a little leery about walking around a bunch of strangers in my birthday suit, but I quickly found that it was no big deal because everyone around me was naked (keep in mind that this was not a coed affair; all onsen have separated women's and men's pools). Apparently this onsen was pretty fancy, as there were at least seven different pools, all with different features. One was about 120cm deep, so you could walk around in it. One had special jets for your back. One was outdoors, complete with bamboo and rock fountains. It was so relaxing and, ultimately, I was very glad I went.

Tomorrow I go back to work. So far this semester has been good, though I am a bit worried about a few of my classes. The new English majors are so quiet and I don't know what to do to help them talk more. My intensive reading class was VERY rowdy last week, so I'm worried their behavior problems will get worse, although last class I got so angry I yelled at them. :( Other classes seem to be going pretty well. So wish me luck as I get out of vacation mode and back into work mode. I doubt it will be an easy transition, but I think I can handle it. ;)


written by Ruthie @ 5:20 AM   0 comments
I looked on Wikipedia: it was a heron of some kind, I think. Maybe an immature Grey Heron.
I meant "heron," not "herring," Becks. I know herring is a fish. ;) But your comment made me figure out what it was, so thanks.
written by Ruthie @ 9:40 PM   0 comments
Seaweed and Seafowl
I want to know who the first person was to look at seaweed and think, "Hmm, looks delicious. I'll make a soup out of it." Who does that?! Who looks at a weird, smelly, slimy water plant and decides to eat it? The Japanese, that's who.

In other news,

I went to the beach for the first time in Japan last Friday. Rachel and I packed a lunch and went north two train stops to Yasuoka. We didn't know what was in the area, but we suspected there was a beach and a hot spring (there wasn't a hot spring. I read the Japanese characters wrong). The beach was so nice, and the weather was beautiful, much to our surprise. We collected shells, took pictures, got sandy and wet and a tiny bit sunburned. On the walk back I saw a bird which is either a crane or a herring of some kind:

It was standing in a little canal that flowed through the city and out to the beach. There were actually boats that traveled through it ("It's like Venice!" I remarked to Rachel). I wanted a picture of the ambiguous sea-faring bird, but just then a motor boat started coming up the canal. I saw a golden opportunity to get a shot of the bird in flight:

Predictably, as the boat came nearer to the bird he took flight over our heads. I had my camera ready and got a few good shots:

I was really proud of this close-up. Check out the wingspan on that sucker. Awesome.

Rachel and I watched it fly for awhile and I assumed it would go back to the water after the boat passed. But it didn't:

It alighted on a nearby rooftop and sat there until we got bored and walked off. It may still be there, for all I know. For some reason I thought it was so funny that the bird was on top of the roof. I don't know why that amused me so much.


written by Ruthie @ 5:39 AM   3 comments
This is AnPanMan. I met him in a mall in Fukuoka. Apparently he is a superhero on a kid's cartoon. His head is made of a pastry called AnPan, which is bread filled with sweet bean paste. He can fly, and he becomes weak if his head gets stale.
I assume these are his friends/sidekicks. I don't know their superhero names, but the dude to the right may be a termite or something. I dunno. The dude on the left has a block of sandwich bread for a head. He didn't seem to popular. Notice how the child on the far left seems a little hesitant to get close.


written by Ruthie @ 9:11 PM   0 comments

Name: Ruthie
Home: Japan
About Me: I want to know who God is and what his truth is. I love getting lost in beautiful music and cloudless star-filled skies, especially in the fall. I hate being bored. I like big cities. I want to travel the world.
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