Sunday, April 28, 2013

Rainbows and Butterflies

This Spring has not been rainbows and butterflies. In fact, I've seen neither one so far...

It's been warm and cold and cool and windy and a little warm but then the wind blows again, it rains, and it's freezing cold again. We've had to replace some of our seedlings that we transplanted into the ground because of wind and cold-weather damage.

And once again, I'm reminded how weather can have as tight of a grip on my mood as the loving Aunt Flo. I've been happy and sad and mad and apathetic and a little humored but then the wind blows again, it rains, and I'm raging mad again. I've had to squeeze Doug's hand and allow myself some time off to recover and rediscover why I want to be here.

Let me try to use a relatable example to help you understand how I've been feeling. Do you have siblings? Have you ever fought with your siblings (over stupid things?)? Have you ever been so angry, so frustrated and raging mad that all you can do is scream or cry? Yeah, I do have a sibling and I have felt this way. You probably know I have a twin sister; we used to fight all the time over just about everything. We would scream and cry and even yell, “I hate you!” I don't think I've ever told anyone else in my life that I hate them. Only my sister. My only sister. I've never understood how someone so close to me could make me feel so incredibly furious! Do you know what I mean? As Doug would say, Y'now mean?

Yeah, thas kinda how I bin feelin.

I haven't yelled “I hate you” at anyone, but I have screamed and cried. And I've asked myself why am I here? Is what I am doing here worth this heartache and pain and all these tears? And I am wondering why I am having these intense emotions in this foreign land where my only sister is not.

So I've been thinking on these things while I rest and while I work. Why are people smiling one day and hiding the next? And in my own way I've been trying to listen for answers. I've come up with a couple of things that I would like to share, in a rambling kind of way.

I think people just want to be understood. When I'm misunderstood, I feel out of place. I must be in the wrong place if people don't understand me. I want to move to a place where I am understood and therefore can be myself. Most obviously, being understood means being able to exchange words effectively with other people, verbal communication (if you're of the speaking/hearing kind). But understanding also encompasses how we dress, how we work/carry out tasks, our response to any given situation (spoken or unspoken), how we eat, how we wash dishes, how we prepare foods, how we stir the pot (literally and figuratively). Anything and everything we do or don't do is communicating some kind of message to people. And this can really suck sometimes. Usually it's pretty easy to control what we say to people, but it's harder to control our nonverbal communication.

I think hate really just comes down to love. They are both really intense emotions that I think go hand-in-hand. I may be really naïve to say this, because maybe I don't have any legitimate reasons to “hate” anybody. Nobody has maliciously killed anybody close to me, I've never experienced true hatred from anybody else to hate back, etc. But I do know that the only person I have really been hateful towards is someone who I love very, very, very much, and who loves me back.

Needless to say, there are a lot of misunderstandings at ARI: a lot of broken English, broken Japanese, quizzical expressions, frustrated sighs, “neverminds,” apologies, eye-rollings, smiles, hrmphs, laughs, and ignorance. But what I am trying to believe more and more everyday is that underneath all of this is an immense amount of love. Not only rainbows and butterflies kind of love but the kind of love that also lends to disappointment, anger, and maybe even hatred. Note: I do not want to belittle anyone's experience with these emotions or say that love and hate are all the same. I just want to share how some really intense negative feelings have shown me love in a new way.

So let me quit flappin' ma jaws and share some pictures from this week that have nothing and everything to do with love:

Viewing samples of baby dragonflies at Art Biotop
Listening to "Rustico" play at Art Biotop, two very talented ladies!
Knight Field is growing up!
Tater sprouts!
Cookie baking crew for ARI Sunday
Mexican cuisine for ARI monthly gathering!
Enjoying food and fellowship
Doug made a tetherball court for us to exercise our muscles and frustrations and fun! 
Flower weeds in the wheat
Sam from Myanmar working in the wheat fields
We had 4 birthdays this week! (and 4 friends from home off the top of my head: Sean, Marc, Morgan, and Sam!) If Birthdays aren't a representation of love, I don't know what are!
Ferns uncurling
Momiji friend
Fields and Mountains 
Doug says my hair is long enough for a cow to lick! Check it out!
Vic from the Philippines preaching for ARI Sunday at Nishinasuno church!

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Still, Flowers Will Bloom.

Our eyes have definitely been in the papers this week. Our prayers are with the communities in the US which have seen violence and tragedy this month. This includes Mayflower. We are hoping that the community can recover from the oil spill will as little damage to human and environmental health as possible.

Here is the view from the missionary house today.

It is a cold and rainy spring day, but still full of color.

It has been a simple week here. My shoulders are sore from turning earth with a hoe all week. I tried to get the flu once but my body kicked it out after one day of rest. Jenny has been cooking lunch and transplanting lots of seedlings for our spring and summer vegetables.

Jenny and the rest of the kitchen staff went out for a picnic in the spring flowers on Saturday!

This is Shibazakura Park, where the shibazakura flowers bring many visitors each spring!
Sang Ah (Korea), Nishi (Japan), Acivo (India), Me (USA)--Our diverse kitchen crew
The participants are starting to settle into their Foodlife work and have completed their first full week of classes. Andy (Ecuador), Mbuche (Kenya), Martin (Malawi), Cem Bel (Myanmar).

News of violence and instability have not just come from the US. We recently received the following report from Kaniki, a graduate of 2012 from the DRC. We were so lucky to have met and lived beside such a beautiful spirit. Our prayers are with her. Read her report below to get an idea of the work that ARI graduates set out to do and the challenges that they met in doing so.

Kaniki at HTC 2012, selling her fish bread!
The Oneness Development INstitute (ODI) is an ecumenical institution founded by Rev. Katembo Masimango Tshuma in 2005, located in two towns of DRC, Goma and Beni, Mavivi village near the Mavivi airport. this organanization's mission is to help empower women to transform their lives in society by working in partnership with churches, NGOs, other stakeholders to train and support people who are among the most vulnerable. ODI also makes Lishe Bora, or Nutritious Food in English, which is a mixture of 7 cereals: Finger millet, Maize, Rice, Wheat, Simsim, Groundnuts, Soya beans. This product is needed by children, women old people, youth the sick persons the displaced people and refugees as a result of war and those affected and infected by HIV and AIDS.

Before my training at ARI, ODI was involved in growing vegetable, cabbage and other crops, using chemical pesticides without any protection because negative effects of chemical pesticides on people, animals, soils, insects, water, and air were not known in the community. After my training, I decided to pass on the knowledge received at ARI by organizing two day training courses. The main topics were: 1. The danger of Chemicals Fertilizer and Pesticide in Agriculture, and 2. The Use of Compost, Rice Husk Charcoal, and mulching in Agriculture. Participants' expectation through training in DRC was to produce nutritious and safe food, free from chemicals and to fight the use of chemical pesticide in agriculture. The method used in the training was the balance between practical work in our farm and the theoretical approach. The demand for training is higher but we do not have money to support the training session and the transport expenses. 

Due to insecurity, I was requested by ODI staffs to live in Kampala, Uganda. But on 12 February 2013, my husband and I were attacked, tortured, and dehumanized by people of Uganda at Indis Corner Kampala, Makindie Street, Shua zone at 4am. All the money, clothes, and my digital camera were taken inside the office of the chairman. We were wrongly accused of selling counterfeit goods in Uganda by this people and were not allowed to talk. As my husband was trying to explain, concerning the problem, he was directly and firstly slapped by the chairman inside his office. We were surrounded by more than 200 robbers having sticks and stones. These people brought car tires, which were put on the neck of my husband. Plastics of water were brought and poured on him, including Kerosene so that he can be fired. Through the police intervention of Uganda, we were free from death. We thank God to be alive today. We have been realized that DRC and Uganda are not safe places for people, especially for my family. This situation affected our ministry. We need your prayers four our organization to help us to fulfill our vision and mission of serving and helping people of DRC affected by war, and HIV and AIDS. We would like to buy 5 hectares of land for 5000 dollars Your prayer is needed. 

For those interested in knowing, we've finalized our travels plans home. We will finish our time here at ARI early August and leave for Korea on August 4. Jenny's cousin, John, is currently living near Daegu teaching English. So we will hop on over for about 9 days and I'll meet John for the first time and we'll see this country where some of our ARI family is from. We'll fly home from Korea and arrive at the familiar Bill and Hillary Clinton National Airport on August 13, 7:something-pm. It's hard to believe we're making these plans already, we're quickly approaching our 9-month mark. And of course, we wouldn't have made it here in the first place without all of you. Thank you again and again for all of your love and support.

Jenny and Doug

Ps. Here are some photos of our day in Tokyo with David, Katie, Mike and Natalie. We'll let the smiles speak for themselves:

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Train to Tokyo

We're currently riding on the silent/semi-crowded local Japan Railways (JR) train. It's Sunday morning and we're on our way to meet up with David Copley (director of our YASC program), Katie Young (current YASCer serving in Sendai, we met up with her in our Kyoto travels back in January), and Katie's brother and his wife, Mike and Natalie.

Similar to a library, trains in Japan offer a quiet place to read, write, study, or sleep. I've already slept some, Doug's been reading, so shall I write?

One question we get asked a lot is “How is the weather where you're from?” I always like to point out that where we are in Japan is almost the same degree latitude of where we are from in Arkansas. Thanks to my geography and science classes, I know latitude is a big climate determining factor. So Tochigi Prefecture and Arkansas have pretty similar weather. Both have 4 distinct seasons, both get very hot and humid in the summer time and can get very cold in the winter, usually snowing a couple of times. Also, weather can change very quickly. These past 4 weeks have so have been especially hot and cold, causing many of us some rather uncomfortable health problems. So you know how it's April and everything? Yeah, it snowed here the other night. Not a tremendous amount or anything, but enough to dust the ground. Just like Arkansas!

We had a great time on Thursday celebrating Kelly's 31st birthday with her. We all enjoyed too much Indian food and karaoke. Check out our room number!

Friday was part II of our community building event from last Friday. We all gathered at a local gym to play games for a couple of hours. It was like recess, only better.

The main attraction this week is ARI's 41st Opening Ceremony. Participants' have been in their last orientations and the rest of us have been preparing the campus and the community for the official start of this year's training program. We've been busy in the kitchen making cookies and snacks for the tea party. I love getting to bake in the kitchen! Sang Ah and I made chocolate wheat cookies and blonde brownies.

Sigiro (Indonesia), David (staff from Canada), Sakura (Japan), Happy (Tanzania), Jenny
group photo! 
us with Takami-sensei and his wife
After the ceremony I joined some participants in the kitchen who were preparing a special meal for our community supper. We had some apples donated so I made apple cobbler. But more delicious and exciting than that was Chai's (Thailand) pad Thai, Cembel's (Myanmar) sweet and sour pork, and Mbuche's (Kenya) chapati. Yum. E.

We all ate entirely too much but thankfully the fellowship that followed included lots of dancing.
Doug and Ed performing "Imagine"
So here we are, the morning after. Still full from dinner and a little gassy on a quiet train to Tokyo.

Your friends,

Doug and Jenny

Sunday, April 7, 2013

From Now, All Days are Sunday

Jenny and Soren on the daily walk under cherry blossoms to morning exercise. 

I’ve Been Thinking

The participants received their ARI bikes this week. Ban-san has been working diligently to get the bikes tuned up, aired up, and paired up with a participant. Some participants have never learned to ride a bike so they spent a day or two teaching each other.

In the spring sunshine, John a fellow Anglican Church member from Malawi rode past me. The joy of riding a bike was clearly expressed in the wide smile on his face. He waved to me and said, “Now all days are Sundays!” John also helped in the chicken houses this week. The participants are quickly rotating through each section of Foodlife work on the farm so that they can become familiar with it all. One night John and I were feeding the chickens the silage that was harvested and fermented last fall. He saw the way they flocked to feeding troughs and began eagerly picking through it. John said, “Oh they are happy! For them, all days are Christmas.”

My friend John from Malawi.
I have been thinking this week that this must be true for animals. They have such beautifully simple consciousness, unclouded by ego or personal identity. When they receive the food they need to continue living, no time is wasted in prayer. Their whole life is prayer continuous. When I first arrived here I wrote a poem from this idea which you can see on the blog where I post my writing.

I have been thinking about how easily John can declare every day a Sunday, or a Christmas. I’ve been noticing that the cross we used in our Easter worship service is still on the back porch of Koinonia, as if we are still there celebrating the resurrection of Christ. Since coming to the land of the rising sun I’ve been thinking about how the sun is always rising somewhere. It is also always setting somewhere. Since before the beginning of life on earth, up to the time of Jesus, and on through to this very moment, the sun has been on one continuous rising and one continuous setting. The line between today and tomorrow only exists in our minds. If we want to, we can do away with that division and accept the presence of “past” and “future.”

What would this mean for me as a Christian? I think it means trying to be an animal, or rather, to cultivate a mind that is unclouded by ego, so that I may see every day as Christmas. In every breath I should constantly meditate upon the birth of Christ, the life of Christ, the death of Christ, and his Resurrection. When I see the cross on the back porch or hung around someone’s neck, it should be a reminder that these things should be cycling through my mind.

Like a Wagon Wheel

For our very first community event with the participants we went to a park on Friday to view the Sakura (cherry blossoms). We ate a picnic lunch of Japanese curry. Frisbees flew. Football (soccer) was played. Somersaults were done. We soaked our feet in a chilly artificial creek. People strummed the guitar and hit the drums. It was a wonderfully joyous occasion.

Ed (Philippines) and Matheus (Brazil)

Cembel and Zabet from Myanmar

Uncle Timo, pretending to play guitar

Martin from Malawi

Chathuri (Sri Lanka) and Sigiro (Indonesia)   

That night the new staff member David, led a bonfire. Everyone shared songs from their country. The US volunteers sang “Wagon Wheel,” by Old Crow Medicine Show.

Bike Tour But Rain

Now that everyone has bikes to get around on, someone needs to show them the town. The volunteers were asked to conduct a bike tour that will show the participants all the shops they might need to know about in town. Unfortunately it started to rain as soon as we were about to leave campus. So Jenny drove the participants around in the van. Ed from the Philippines still wanted to ride so I guided him and two others on bikes anyway. Luckily the rain let up and we had a nice ride after all. We showed them Trial Supermart, the 100 yen shop, the train station, our favorite Indian restaurant, and Nishinasuno Church.

Enet (Malawi), Mitzu (Japan), Matheus, and Sangita (India)  in Cainz Home

Welcome to the Dorms

On Saturday night the mens dorm and the women's dorm each had their own welcoming party. They discussed the rules that they would try to live by so that they could live together. They also ate lots of junk food and sang lots of song. 

Next Week

We are excited about our plans next week. We will meet up with fellow YASCer, Katie Young, again. Together we'll travel to Tokyo to meet our boss, David Copley. But before we can leave we'll be kicking off this ARI season officially with the commencement service for this term.

You'll hear about it all next week. 

Until then, may all days be Sundays for you.

Doug and Jenny Knight