In approximately 17 hours I will be on a slow boat to China for vacation! This means no blog posts until after August 18th. Here's a final post before the silence, including a few of my favorite photos from my trip to China two years ago.

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written by Ruthie @ 7:13 AM   0 comments
Iowa Trivia
This is for all the people out there who think that Iowa has nothing special to offer. People in Japan (Japanese and Westerners alike) often ask me, "What's Iowa famous for? Are there any famous people from Iowa? What's there to see in Iowa?" I hope this little bit of trivia answers those questions. Thanks to Aunt Angie for sending this out! I loved it! (slightly edited)
  • Iowa means "beautiful land."
  • Ripley's Believe It or Not has dubbed Burlington 's Snake Alley the most crooked street in the world.
  • Strawberry Point is the home of the world's largest strawberry.
  • Crystal Lake is home to a statue of the world's largest bullhead fish.
  • Elk Horn in the largest Danish settlement in the United States
  • Kalona is the largest Amish community west of the Mississippi River.
  • The Cedar Rapids Museum of Art houses the largest collection of Grant Wood artwork.
  • Fenlon Place Elevator in Dubuque is the world's steepest and shortest railway.
  • Wright County has the highest percentage of grade-A topsoil in the nation.
  • Quaker Oats, in Cedar Rapids , is the largest cereal company in the world.
  • The Saint Francis Xavier Basilica in Dyersville is the only basilica in the United States situated outside a major metropolitan area.
  • Cornell College is the only school in the nation to have its entire campus listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
  • The Sergeant Floyd Monument in Sioux City honors the only man to die during the Lewis and Clark expedition.
  • Knoxville 's National Sprint Car Hall of Fame and Museum is the only museum in the country dedicated to preserving the history of sprint car racing.
  • Herbert Hoover, a West Branch native, was the 31st president of the United States and the first one born west of the Mississippi
  • Mamie Doud Eisenhower's birthplace is located in Boone and includes a restored frame house, complete with summer kitchen and original furniture from the family.
  • Van Meter is the hometown of baseball's Bob Feller, an Iowa farm boy who went on to greatness with the Cleveland Indians during the Golden Age of baseball.
  • Born Donnabelle Mullenger in Denison , Oscar Award-winning actress, Donna Reed, started her career at the young age of 16.
  • Born Marion Robert Morrison in Winterset, John Wayne was the son of a pharmacist and grew up to become one of Hollywood 's most popular movie stars. The famous actor was born on May 26, 1907.
  • Meredith Wilson, who played with the famous John Philip Sousa and the New York Philharmonic before launching his career as a famous composer and lyricist, is a Mason City native.
  • Jay Berwanger, the first winner of the Heisman Trophy, was born in Dubuque in 1914.
  • Glenn Miller, noted trombonist and orchestra leader, was born in Clarinda, located in Southwest Iowa .
  • The town of Fort Atkinson was the site of the only fort ever built by the U.S government to protect one Indian tribe from another.
  • Campers and motor homes are manufactured in Winnebago County. They're called Winnebago's.
  • Iowa is the only state whose east and west borders are 100% formed by water. Missouri (& Big Sioux) and Mississippi rivers.
  • The highest double track railroad bridge in the world, the Kate Shelley Bridge , is located at Boone.
  • Iowa is the only state name that starts with two vowels.
  • Iowa State University is the oldest land grant college in the U.S.A.
  • The National Balloon Museum in Indianola chronicles more than 200 years of ballooning history.
What's your favorite?


written by Ruthie @ 5:22 AM   0 comments
Summer begins.
Japan is a country known for its four distinct seasons, but it should be known for having five distinct seasons: winter, spring, rain, summer, and fall. The change from the rainy season to summer could be clocked with an egg timer. Last Sunday it was drizzly, gray, damp, and relatively cool: just like it had been for weeks. Then Monday morning an oppressive, thick heat, dazzlingly bright sunlight, and the raucous sound of millions of cicadas filled the air. Summer has finally arrived, and shows no signs of slowing until September.

Summer will bring many changes to my life. It will be the closing of the first chapter of my Japan experience and the opening of the second and final chapter. This, as they say, is where the plot thickens. Several main characters will be replaced with new ones: my two American colleagues will be returning to the States, my close friend from Canada (who has been teaching ESL for 6 months here in Shimonoseki) will be going back home, and several members of the local Japan English Teachers (JET) program will be leaving. I am very sad to see these dear friends and confidants go. I'm worried that none of the new arrivals will be friends, and that I will be alone. Will these new characters become protagonists or arch rivals in my Japan story? I know one new character will inevitably become quite important to me: I will be joined here by a new co-worker, a graduate of Northwestern. I'm excited and anxious for her arrival. Will we work well together? Will she be weird? Will she think I'm weird?

Summer is also the high travel season in Japan. So, in true Japanese style, I'm taking a long vacation abroad-- to CHINA!!!! I am bouncing-off-the-walls-excited about this trip. As many of you know, two summers ago I lived in China for a month, studying the music of a minority group there, living with a host family, learning Chinese language and culture, and doing some missions work. That experience was one of the defining periods of my life. It forever changed my view of the world, music, culture, people-- pretty much everything. I also fell in love with Chinese culture. I am very excited to go back into this culture and see it from a new angle: coming from life in Japan. I'm sure China will seem much dirtier, more confusing, and louder than Japan. I'm looking forward to comparing notes on these two very different cultures. I'll be traveling with Rachel, my American colleague, to Qingdao by ferry to visit a mutual friend. Then we'll travel by overnight train (hopefully) to Beijing to see the Great Wall (one of the new 7 wonders of the world!!!), Tianamen Square, the Forbidden City, etc. Then Rachel and I will part ways: she'll go back to Japan, then promptly turn round and go back to the States. Meanwhile, I'll travel by plane to Southern China to hang out with people I met on my missions trip 2 years ago. Then I'll come back to Japan to recuperate from my vacation and wait for school to start up again.

So that's what's new with me. What's new with you? Please update me on life in the States! What's the hot news? Has Paris Hilton really reformed?! (Just kidding. Please don't mention Paris Hilton.)

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written by Ruthie @ 5:22 AM   0 comments
In lieu of a substantial, thoughtful post (it's too dang hot for me to concentrate on any one thing for long), I'm posting a list of some of the books I've read this summer and short reviews:

The Remains of the Day (Kazuo Ishiguro): the book was written by a Japanese who spent most of his life in England. The plot centers on the life of a butler and his contributions to the profession. From that description it sounds a little dull (a butler's life can't be that interesting, can it?), but I found it to be quite absorbing. Side note: Before reading this book the only thing I knew about it is that Corky St. Clair made Remains of the Day lunch boxes for his movie memorabilia shop in the last scene Waiting for Guffman. That's pretty much the only reason I read the book.

China Wakes (Kristoff and Wudunn): a nonfiction work describing China's slow political, social and economic transition onto the world stage, written by a husband and wife team who worked as NYTimes reporters in Beijing during the Tiannamen Square tribulation. Fascinating, and a great preparation for my UPCOMING TRIP TO CHINA!! 5 DAYS!!

Anna Karenina (Tolstoy): The stupid preface to the book ruined the ending!!! Why do they do that? It was so irritating. It's like they assumed that, if you're reading the preface, you either a) won't care if they tell you the ending, just as long as they tell you all the fascinating political and Biblical allusions Tolstoy wove into it, or b) you've read the book already, both of which are RIDICULOUS. Anyway, I thought the book wasn't too bad. I really had to pluck up my perseverance to get through the entire thing. And I still skipped quite a few unimportant sections about a few of the characters arguing about politics or agriculture or going to an election or a government meeting. Those things may fascinate someone who has a head for political science, but I just wanted a good story and maybe a few poetic allusions, truth be told. At least now I can brag that I've read Anna Karenina.

Down and Out in Paris and London (George Orwell): I had wanted to read this ever since we read excerpts of it in Western Civ, and I devoured the book in less than 48 hours. Granted, it wasn't even 200 pages, but I rarely sit down and power-read through books like that. It was quite absorbing, even horrifying at times. Orwell describes (with his usual knack for witty metaphor) his experience living in abject poverty in Paris and London. What I love most is that he doesn't just describe the events. He also includes his opinion of why these people are poor and how society could change. I highly recommend it.
written by Ruthie @ 7:45 PM   0 comments
A Gospel ballet group came to Shin-Shimonoseki Church last week. They were beautiful, and I took some beautiful pictures:

The group has five schools in Colorado, where they teach ballet technique and Christian missions. The company has been sending a team to Japan for the past couple of years. They will come and shout for joy on the heights of Zion;
they will rejoice in the bounty of the LORD—
the grain, the new wine and the oil,
the young of the flocks and herds.
They will be like a well-watered garden,
and they will sorrow no more.

Then maidens will dance and be glad,
young men and old as well.
I will turn their mourning into gladness;
I will give them comfort and joy instead of sorrow.

I will satisfy the priests with abundance,
and my people will be filled with my bounty,"
declares the LORD.

Jeremiah 31:12-14


written by Ruthie @ 12:48 AM   0 comments
Student Art
For an art project, my students took artistic license with a painting by Toshusai Sharaku, the results of which are quite fun:

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written by Ruthie @ 11:14 PM   1 comments
Classes for tomorrow have been canceled on account of the class 4 typhoon that's scheduled to hit Shimonoseki at 3AM. I guess, instead of a snow day, it's a typhoon day. I never thought I'd have to deal with that.
written by Ruthie @ 5:17 AM   0 comments
I love to watch movies. I especially love action movies and comedies. There is one movie that I like so much that I have watched them over 20 times. It is an American comedy called “That Thing You Do.” The Japanese title is “すべてをあなたに.” This movie is special to me because in college my best friend and I would watch it together when we felt depressed or stressed or we just wanted to relax. We watched the movie so often that we memorized the dialogue. Even when we weren’t watching the movie we could quote dialogue from the movie to make us laugh. Whenever either of us were in a bad mood, we would say a funny line from the movie, and we would instantly be cheered up. Do you feel this way about a movie you love? Have you memorized funny lines from a movie?

When I was in junior high school I went to a Bible camp every summer. At this Bible camp, I memorized important Bible verses. Every day I tried to learn 2 or 3 new verses, so that by the end of the week I could recite over 20 verses of the Bible. To this day I still remember some of these Bible verses, and when I am confused or sad or afraid or angry, these verses come to mind and I am comforted and encouraged. It is similar to the feeling I had when I quoted movie lines with my friend. But since I am a Christian the Bible is much more important to me than the dialogue from a movie. Psalm 119:11 says, “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.” If I remember God’s words, he will show me the right thing to do and give me comfort. I sometimes think it’s strange that I can easily memorize the lines from movies, lyrics from my favorite songs, and trivia about my favorite actors, but I don’t spend my free time memorizing the Bible, the book which is most important to me. 1 Peter 1:24-25 says "For, 'All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord stands forever.' And this is the word that was preached to you." When I think seriously about it, the words of God are much more important than the words of Johnny Depp or Avril Lavigne. I want to spend more time in my life thinking about what is really important. Which do you really think is more important: the Bible or a movie with Johnny Depp?

Every day in chapel we recite a memory verse. Have you ever thought about why you do this every day? It is not because your teachers want to punish you. It is not only because of tradition. It is because the leaders of this school believe the Bible has a very important message. While you are in this school it may be the only time in your life that you read the Bible, so we hope you will remember what you have learned. Do you memorize these verses? Today’s verse is Isaiah 33:2. Does this verse comfort you? Is it important to you? Have you thought about what it means? Think about these memory verses. Hide God’s words in your heart. Maybe someday in the future when you have some trouble in your life, you will suddenly remember these verses and be comforted.

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written by Ruthie @ 10:07 PM   2 comments
Graffiti is an uncommon sight in Japan, but I saw some in a tunnel...

And in the English Lounge...

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written by Ruthie @ 9:02 AM   1 comments
I love to look in my Japanese-English dictionaries and find interesting word meanings. A lot of words are two characters that, when put together, can hold an entirely different meaning when separated. To whit:
  • 神風 kamikaze: literally it means "God's wind" or "divine wind." And I thought it just meant "suicide bomber." This adds an interesting insight to the Japanese mindset during WWII.
  • 食道 shokudou: separately the two characters mean "food" and "road." Together they mean "esaphogus." Anyone know the Latin meaning of "esaphogus?" Is it similar at all?
  • 男色 danshoku: These two characters are "man" and "color." Can you guess what they mean when combined? "Homosexual:" a man of a different color. Hehe.

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written by Ruthie @ 8:20 PM   1 comments
Things They Say
Here's a list of things Japanese people say about me when they don't realize I can understand them:
Look, a foreigner!
She's so tall!
Her legs are so long!
Her skin is so white!
She has a cell phone!
Her skin is like snow!
Wow, she [likes/uses/knows about/is wearing] a [traditional Japanese thing]!
written by Ruthie @ 10:05 PM   3 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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