Sunday, November 25, 2012

Give Thanks Always, For Everything

This week has been one to be thankful for. We’ve had heavy coat days, t-shirt days, sunny shine, and blankets of clouds. The fall foliage stuck with us through it all. I’d guess that the leaves around here are at their peak. There is often snow on the ridges of the mountains that we can see from our fields. Fall is here, but winter is on the way. The week has been a time to welcome our ARI family back, to be warm by the fire together, to cook a big dinner or two or three, to sing out loud, and to say thank you to everyone and everything.

Participants Return!

Jenny has been heading up the effort to prepare a surprise for the participants returning from their Western Japan Study Tour. Since the participants would be leaving before Christmas came around, we decided to celebrate with them. We found some boxes of Christmas decorations above the office. Sunday night after dinner, we put on some seasonal music and decked the dining hall out.

By Monday night, we had a welcome banner hung, light’s and tinsel twinkling, and an ARI all-star dinner on the table: pork adobo, fried noodles, fried fish, chicken ‘n’ dumplings, salad, peach cobbler, blonde brownies, and of course, rice! Jil, the training assistant who works most with the pigs, met the returning participants in the parking area leading “Joy to the World,” on his guitar. Veny, a graduate intern who is working mostly in the kitchen, had prepared a dance which we performed during dinner to the tune of Jingle Bells. Finally, Santa Claus (Jil) stopped by and passed out some small gifts (cookies and coconut chili paste) that we had prepared.
Farm Work

In the spirit of fall, the farm workers spent a couple of days raking leaves around the ARI campus. This was not for aesthetic purposes but for making hot beds in early spring. We will pile up the leaves nearly four feet deep under our green house. Their decomposition will produce enough heat to grow tomatoes and other veggies before the cold leaves.

The wheat grains we planted out in the fields are now 3-inch sprigs of green. Contradicting our nurturing instincts, we were ordered to go out and step on the young wheat sprouts. A good stomping pushes their roots deeper so they’ll grow stronger this spring. American volunteer Peter likened it to times when we are seemingly crushed by the heavy burdens that life places on us. Through these trials we become strong enough to grow through the spring and bear many fruits in summer.

I spent one afternoon butchering ducks with Ban-san, Peter, and his wife Anna. We butchered three; one was used to test the radiation in the meat, the other two were for Thanksgiving Dinner, which we were rushing to pull together.

Wednesday Night

The volunteers went out for dinner at our beloved Indian Restaurant down the road. We were saying goodbye to Anna and Peter, who had surprisingly already been here for the ten weeks that they planned to spend here. They are a young couple, both fresh out of Seminary, planning to be Lutheran pastors. Just like Jenny and I, they were married one year ago on September 24th! So back in September when they first arrived, we shared our special day with them by, you guessed it, sharing a meal at our favorite Indian Restaurant. It was neat to eat one of our last meals with them there this week.

After we returned from ARI we headed back into the kitchen to do some major prep work for the Thanksgiving feast we were planning to share with everyone on Thursday night. As most traditional American Thanksgiving dinners are, ours was a bit oven heavy. So we got some baking out of the way. Before 11:30 we had whipped out two pumpkin pies, three pumpkin bread loaves, a sweet potato pie, and an apple pie, and were well on our way to a hearty pumpkin soup.

Community Work Day in the Forest

On Thursday, the whole community woke up and headed out to the forest to work up an appetite. ARI has a share of forest land nearby which we often visit and care for. On this day, some of us cleared out underbrush while others scaled the Japanese cedars and sawed off dead limbs.

Thanksgiving Feast

When we returned from the forest, Jenny and I went straight to work on the Thanksgiving dinner. Other American volunteers were already tending diligently to our two turkeys, stirring pumpkin soup, and kneading rolls from scratch. We then started in on the mashed potatoes, the dressing, roasted roots (carrots, radish, burdock), and oven-roasted ducks.

Thankfully we had some extra help! Rachel’s parents were visiting. They helped make the pies (crust from scratch!) and carve up the birds. Also, an American family, living and teaching in Tokyo, was visiting ARI for the holiday. They brought their adorable children along. Something about kids climbing around the room, crying, and generally being cute made it feel like the holidays. Eleanor even helped me fix the dressing!

Before digging in we introduced the holiday. Peter talked about the pilgrims and the natives. Kelly led us in a small prayer service and the song, “For the Fruits of All Creation.” I explained what dressing was and the many ways to use gravy and cranberry sauce.

Everyone really enjoyed the meal. We’ve been getting compliments and thank-you’s all weekend. Fuji said that the meal made him consider applying for American citizenship.

Our ducks in a row

Not too colorful a meal, but D - lish!

Giving Thanks

Minngos Concert

Friday was a national holiday here so we all got the day off. It was nice to get an extra day of rest after all of our work in the kitchen. All Jenny and I had to do was feed the pigs right before dark. In the afternoon, the gospel choir, Minngos, performed a final concert in Koinonia. They even sang some Chirstmas songs like, “Silent Night,” and, “Ding-Dong Merrily on High,” so the Christmas decorations from Monday were still working their magic.

Wind Family Cookout

On Saturday night we grabbed our last two broiler chickens and loaded up on the bus. Gussan, the farm manager, was hosting a cookout at his farm, Wind Family Farm, to celebrate the end of farm work for the participants.

There were two grills set up. We gathered around and threw on onions, potatoes, pork, fish, and the chickens we brought and butchered. We all stayed warm by the fire eating, drinking, and singing songs into the night.

Nishinasuno Church

Pastor Joseph 
The kind folks at Nishinasuno Church hosted a final ARI Sunday for this year’s participants. Joseph Kora, from Papua New Guinea, gave the sermon. He talked about Mary who poured expensive perfume on the feet of Jesus and how she shows us we should give even what is most valuable to us. After church, we shared fellowship over a fine lunch that the congregation had prepared for us.

Last Few Moments Together

As we move on into December, the participants are counting down the days and hours they have left here at ARI. Graduation will be on December 8th. After that people will begin departing. We are all aware that our time here together is coming to a close. As this happens we become increasingly thankful that we were able to meet here and share these beautiful times together. We will pray for them as they prepare to re-enter their lives in their communities and use the gifts they have found here at ARI.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Pumpkins and a Turkey

We can't believe another week has gone by. This means that the participants study tour is coming to an end--they will be back tomorrow night! It also means my sister, Katie, will be here in less than 4 weeks! We are beyond excited about this...  :)

There are lots of things to share so let us get started:

Recent Harvests

This past week we harvested:

And more carrots!
The "good" carrots, ones that are an average size and typical shape, have been taken to a factory to be made into juice. ARI will then sell the organic carrot juice for income generation. It is actually one of the highest income generating projects that ARI has. So this work is very important! The good carrots that the factory cannot process into juice go the kitchen, and the "bad" carrots go to the pigs, yum!

Day Off

We took a substitute holiday this week and went into town. We pretty much went on a biking food tour, stopping at bakeries, coffee shops, and supermarkets to try new treats and also to enjoy old favorites. We took a picnic with us and ate on a nice grassy knoll along a side street. It was nice to get off campus for a bit and discover more about the town we are living in.

Blueberry danish
Green tea mochi with red bean paste

Supper at Sensei's

Friday night, Otsu-sensei, director of ARI ("sensei" is an address meaning "teacher"), invited everyone to his house for dinner. He had nabe set out in three different rooms (nabe is a kind of stew/soup, usually cooked at the table, eaten during cold weather season). It has become quite cold at ARI, so this nabe was a real treat! Also, Kathy (staff member form America) made cheesy garlic biscuits, they were the bomb.

Excited about dinner!

Pumpkin Fest

We got a little bit pumpkin happy this weekend and made quite a pumpkin feast. Kikuchi-sensei, a former director of ARI, invited a few of us to cook pumpkin-something for residents at a local retirement home. He had a large pumpkin from his porch that he donated to the cause. I unfortunately was not able to get a picture of it, but it was about the size of a small child, maybe a 4-year old curled up in the fetal position. So we spent the entire Friday afternoon carving, cutting, and cooking the pumpkin to prepare for Saturday's festivities. In the morning we prepared two pumpkin pies. 

Des working on the pie filling

Doug and Jean Hae working on the crust

Before baking

Kathy, Doug, and Jenny with the finished pies!
We took these with us to the home since they take so long to cook and cool. In addition to the pies, we brought the fixings for pumpkin bread and pumpkin soup. With the help of a few residents, we whipped up the bread and soup in no time. 

Doug with the ladies filling pumpkin bread!

Pumpkin soup!
Before we knew it, we were all feasting together on soup, bread, and pie. We had a ton of fun and have already made plans to revisit the home during Christmas time, perhaps to make fruitcake!

The group

Shiobara Mountain

This morning, Sunday, we all set off in a bus to Shiobara Mountain. This is near where we went hiking before back in August. However it was just a tinsy-bit colder this time! Don't we look cold? 

We packed in a nice picnic lunch and shared treats in a little pavilion on the trail. After lunch, we hiked just a bit further and came upon an onsen! One of them was a foot bath and one was a mixed company bath. However, at the time, it was dominated by males. So Doug joined that bath and the rest of us enjoyed the foot bath! It was so nice after hiking and freezing our tootsies off!

We also visited the Emperor's Room Memorial Park, where we fed birds and toured through an information center about the Emperor (however, we did not learn much because we could not read the information boards, but the pictures were nice!).

Because it was such a cold day (4C~39F), we decided to stop at the ice cream shop. At this stop, we also journeyed into a zoo where we saw this guy:

Thursday Dinner?

Knight Field Update

Those were, in fact, wheat sprouts that we saw last week! However, only a few seeds had germinated. We were afraid that would be the case, for we did see some two-legged avian creatures hanging around our field and sticking their beaks where they don't belong. So we took up all our rice straw and tried another method of sowing wheat. We feel better about our defenses against birds and we just had a good rain, so God willing, our grains will multiply.

Up and Coming

As I mentioned before, the participants will return tomorrow! We have been preparing quite the welcome back party, so be looking for details on that coming up! 

Also on the agenda this week is THANKSGIVING. It has been strange seeing on the memes and status updates concerning this fast-approaching holiday, as you can imagine, the spirit here is not quite the same. However, the volunteers are planning to prepare a somewhat traditional Thanksgiving meal for the community. Doug is heading up that effort, so again, more details on how that plays out coming up next week.

When the participants return, they will only have 3 weeks left of their training program. *Fingers Crossed* they will all graduate on the 8th of December and fly out sometime that next week. 

And a very special and exciting announcement, two of our community members will be getting married at ARI on the 9th! Veny (Indonesia), a past ARI graduate who is a 2012 Training Assistant, and Kengo (Japan), a current participant, met here at ARI and are tying the knot! We are all very excited for them and can't wait to share in the celebration.

We ask that you continue to keep us and our community in your thoughts and prayers. The weeks to come will be very stressful and emotional yet exciting and joyful. We hope everyone has a safe and Happy Thanksgiving!

Missing our traditional Thanksgiving festivities but open and thankful for new ones,

Doug and Jenny

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Sprouts and Pizza

It has been a quiet week here on the farm with the participants out on their study-tour of Western Japan. Jenny is working in crops and vegetables for morning and evening Foodlife work. They have been finishing cleaning up all the vegetables from late summer and sowing winter wheat.

This means that the kitchen has large baskets full of final harvest. We don’t want to waste the green tomatoes, and green chilies that haven’t matured yet so we find things to do with them. We fry the green tomatoes or cook them with eggs. Today we worked all morning to put up some coconut chili sauce, and salt and vinegar chili sauce.

I’m in meal service for morning and evening Foodlife work this month. I’m working in the fields with the crops during the day and then using them in the kitchen to cook everyone’s meal that night. It is a dream come true for me.

News from Knight Field
We had a good rain this week so our spirits are high for Knight Field. Every day we squat and peer under the rice straw we laid down for mulch to see what is sprouting. Yesterday we high-fived and gave our thanks to the God of small things upon discovering several garlic sprouts peeking up, catching their first rays of sunlight. We also suspect a few needle-sized, green sprigs to be wheat, but we cannot be sure just yet.

Pizza Party!

Saturday, Jenny and Kathy turned the kitchen into a pizzeria. Together with the help of the volunteers, they made ten pizzas. Two were dessert. All were delicious, especially for us pizza deprived American volunteers.


To celebrate our full tummies we piled in the van and rolled in ARI style down to the local karaoke joint. The place smelled like a bowling alley (cigarettes) but there was a free soft drink bar, complete with coffee and hot chocolate!

We rented a whole room and commenced jamming out.

Ricky opened us up with "Having A Good Time," by Queen.

I chose to sing “Seasons of Love,” from the Rent soundtrack and “Say It Ain’t So” by Weezer. 

Jenny sang “Zombie,” by the Cranberries "Hopelessly Devoted to You," from the Grease soundtrack, and, "Sk8er boi," by Avril Lavigne. She closed us out with "Bohemian Rhapsody," by Queen.

Today, we are resting up, doing laundry, and preparing for Monday to arrive. This week we'll also be preparing for the return of the participants. Last time when they returned we surprised them with a water balloon fight and a candle-lit dinner. This time we have to do it bigger and better. Jenny is heading up the effort and she is thinking along the lines of Christmas in November. We'll keep you updated in next week's post. 'Til then, enjoy this beautiful autumn season.

Your fellow servants in Christ,

Doug and Jenny