Tuesday, December 29, 2015

MeltyKissmas

During my time here in Karuizawa I have been given the honour of participating in a time-honoured tradition. Every year during the Christmas season the tasty Japanese candy Meltykiss is celebrated with a display of dramatics. The name alone merits such attention, but the candy also just-so-happens to be delicious and evoke a certain visceral response satisfied only by theatre. I am featured as a supporting role and was able to put my struggling iMovie skills to the test.  I invite you to enjoy this Karuizawa Christmas tradition. 


Music: "All I Want for Christmas" by Mariah Carey

Special Thank you to Karuizawa Union Church, Karuizawa Retreat Centre, the city of Karuizawa, and of course Meltykiss for always being so delicious. 

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Time Zones

Hello again! My Dad put together a handy-dandy Time Zone spreadsheet!

For Your convenience, if you would like to know when is a good time to try to FaceTime, text, email, or snapchat me then please refer to the chart below:



For the record, iMessage does work and for those of you without an iPhone Facebook messenger is my chosen alternative! I hope you all have a lovely day

Friday, December 25, 2015

Christmas

As I am writing this there are 16 minutes left until it's officially Christmas. For some reason it doesn't seem like (14 minutes) Christmas. In Japan Christmas day is a work day (13 minutes), which means people get up at the same time as they do every week-day morning, they eat their same lame breakfast, they put on their same clothes, and drive their same car (12) to their same job that they do every single other day of the year. (11)

I promise I don't actually type this slowly, I'm just easily distracted right now. 

(10) Life on Christmas day in Japan doesn't halt like it does in the states. (9) you don't get to wake up late while one of the women in your family makes you an extravagant breakfast.

(All hail the women in the families all over the world who do this, I am not one of them, but I have some wonderful one's in my family, and life would be much lamer without you.) (8)

(Also shout out to the men who do this, you are an MVP as well and deserve recognition)

You don't get to hang out in your pyjamas* all day drinking coffee and eating Christmas-specific pastries.

*Okay, hold up my computer just autocorrected to this. someone please tell me I have not been spelling pajamas incorrectly my entire life.

(7) Japan is so different from everything I'm used to (6). I've heard it said several times that Japanese culture is opposite in every way it can be to American culture. (5) Being here has challenged me to understand that there are people in this world who see through a completely different lens (4).

Until we understand that our way is not always the "Right" way and start trying to (3) communicate with people out of respect for their understanding of life we can never really form relationships with each other. (2) Christmas has always been a big deal to me, I love Christmas and so many things about it, but this year it's just a work day. This year I'm spending Christmas looking through the lens of someone else. (1)

It's hard to spend the last few minutes before Christmas alone on your bed writing a blog post to people who are just waking up at home. I wouldn't trade the lessons I've learned here, and the laughs I've shared with these incredible people, but this isn't the version of Christmas I love. It is however reality for at least an entire country and surely more in the world. So I guess the point I'm trying to make is that you should really appreciate your traditions, whatever they are, and share them with someone else

MERRY CHRISTMAS!


Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Places

In an attempt to show you all some of the beauty of Karuizawa and the surrounding area I've made a video of which I have grown to dislike (possibly because I've watched it 100 times). I hope you are more fond of the attempt at artistry. If you are not then take my mother's advice, "if you have nothing nice to say then say nothing at all" 

In some of the pictures you will see a very large and beautiful volcano, this is Mount Asama, and despite my fear of volcanoes- thanks to Dante's Peak- I was able to capture the sun and clouds framing it's grandness.

Other pictures you will notice are of waterfalls flowing out from the side of a mountain. This was explained to me as an underground lake which overflows in to these falls. This water runs down from Mount Asama and makes up the water consumed by the towns and villages of people living around it.

Fun fact I learned from working at Sun King: good water is the key to good beer, and the local breweries are known for using this mineral-rich, pure mountain water. 

Most of the other sites are places I've walked or have ridden to. You'll see some exciting 200 year old lava rocks with glowing moss and you'll also see the excitement of the inside of my cabin. Even today I got more pictures from a lovely hike up a mountain, but alas, I don't feel like further editing this video. So with no further adieu:




Saturday, December 19, 2015

The day I Ran

Two days ago I went for what I thought was going to be a casual run and ended up dangerously close to meeting God.

Some lovely people who live up the hill invited me to go running with them. I am not a runner, no, I run for the soul purpose of avoiding self loathing. I do not run well. So when I went for this run I thought to myself "a couple of miles won't be bad."

5.28 miles later I found myself wondering if self hatred might be a better alternative to running. The original intention was apparently to run 6 miles, but either out of exhaustion on their part, or more likely pity, we descended the mountain we scaled and went home. Some things you should know about this scenario:

1. It was snowing
2. Mountain air has less oxygen
3. Your body needs oxygen
4. I thought I was running 3 miles

When I got back to my cabin I couldn't find my dignity, it may now be the property of a wild mountain boar.  Here is a picture of me after:

Once I could form thoughts and move my legs again, I thought I should document the moment. 

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Naked with Strangers

I won't lie, I titled this post "Naked with Strangers" with the intention of attracting more readers.

I was in fact naked with strangers today though! This may require explanation. Here is a picture of me post-exposure. Notice the smile. Notice the clothing.


The second day I was here someone mentioned the Hoshino-onsen hot spring. Naturally I was excited, hot springs in Japan sounds exotic and would probably make me cool on some level.

Lauren: "Awesome, I'm glad I brought a swim suit"
Person: "Oh you don't wear a swimsuit"
Lauren: "So what do I wear?
Person: "You aren't allowed to wear anything"
Lauren: ...
Person: "Men and women are separate"

Fast forward to today when everyone was talking about going to the Hot springs and I had to mentally prepare to get naked in front of a bunch of strangers. Me without clothes is currently a visual between myself, my maker, and my sister- who had to help me out with a terrifying cockroach situation recently.

The men and women parted ways and I entered a cultural experience to remember. The Japanese are very particular about being clean before entering the hot springs. So, you strip down and delicately hold a tiny towel as you walk across a locker room in to the shower area. Here you sit on a wooden stool- if it could speak I'm sure would have a story or two- next to strangers, and you scrub from head to toe with your tiny towel.
Afterwards you go outside and join more strangers in a giant hot tub (essentially). If you're crazy (we are) you go from the hot spring to the ice-cold pool. Then, because you're a complete pansy, you run back to the hot spring and feel every single nerve in your body do a factory reset.

When you're done cooking you scrub off again and strut back through the locker room to reluctantly put on the warm winter clothes you were so timid to remove in the first place. That is the story about how I was naked with strangers today. #missionswork ?


Monday, December 14, 2015

Hi! I have been in Japan for a few days now. (I can't remember what day I got here, so that felt like a safe intro). Several of you have asked for an explanation of what I'm doing here in Japan. So I'm going to attempt to give a concise explanation starting NOW.

1. It all started when my dad was in college. 

2. He met Joel Kaufman who is now a missionary with his wife Sally in Karuizawa Japan. (I should really be spell-checking that, but after this post I get to go to bed so I'll leave that for tomorrow-Lauren to be annoyed by). 

3. Joel and Sally invited me to come to the Retreat Center they are in charge of and help with their Christmas Outreach ministry. 

4. Outreach involves putting together tracts, dressing up like santa and elves, going in to public places and saying "Arigatou Gozaimas" and "Merry Christmas" over and over while handing out these tracts. 
(If you asked to be on my e-mail list you will get a more detailed description of the outreach ministry once I get around to articulating it in an email.) 

5. I am also going with teams and other missionaries exploring Japan

6. I also eat and sleep a fair amount

So Here is a video of me doing everything described above:


Music by: Hillsong United, Touch the Sky (SXW Remix)

P.S. If you would all look at the comment section of the post before last you will notice how many of you responded to tell me you got an email alert when I posted. No really, go look now.

So since I got such an overwhelmingly helpful response (this is me reprimanding you with sarcasm) I added ANOTHER way to subscribe. I don't know how it works, but try it. love it. if it doesn't work then that's fine because no one will tell me anyways! 

Thursday, December 10, 2015

So today I chased the sun from Indianapolis to Japan.
Many things happened, and I've been traveling for 30ish hours.
So no more typing. Time for sleeps. I did however make a video of my travels to hold you over.


Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Today! It happened! I woke up at 4 in the morning and showered, brushed my teeth, took a shuttle to the airport, got on a plane, flew to Dallas, and now I'm staring at the giant metal tube I'll be trapped in for the next 14ish hours. 

This is what I looked like this morning

I'm going strong on 5 hours of sleep in the last 48 hours. Remarkably I haven't been miserably exhausted because I'm running on pure adrenaline and coffee.

This is a picture of take-off 

And then I proceeded to pass out cold. which is not entirely a figure of speech as the plane was an arctic tundra and I am very happy I wore my winter coat. In other news, I ate a really gross mustard sandwich. It was not advertised as mustard, but as it made up 90% of the meal I have re-named the sandwich accordingly. 

So on to other business, I'm not sure if the subscription e-mail thing is working, some people say they get e-mails but others do not, soo if you subscribed below and received an email update when I posted this then please let me know it worked in the comments or email or something. If you don't tell me it worked I will assume it does not work and proceed to be annoyed and try to fix it. 

On to the next stretch of the travel day. Thank you to everyone who sent me encouraging texts, video messages (Shout out Dina), emails, notes, and all other ways of communication. You have no idea what your words mean to me. Saying goodbye to the wonderful people in my life was very difficult, but I know you are the type of people who are genuinely interested in me and my successes and failures. I love you all very much and I want you to know I know how blessed I am.

Okay it's boarding time! Next time you hear from me I'll be in Japan! 

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

After 21 hours total in a car to and from Philly I have learned the simple science of iMovie.
No, I am not good at it. I figured the best way to learn was to jump in and attempt to make something, and I came up with a thank you video to some of my favorite people. After hours of work I came up with one minute and forty-one seconds of content. Respect the film makers of the world my friends. They are heroes.

Not everyone made it in because too many people have sent kind words, sat through lengthy phone conversations, or just kept me on their prayer list. I don't have pictures with all of you, but I have the memories with all of you and those mean more. Thank you everyone for what you have done on my behalf!


Music: Traveling by Paper Lions

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Hi! Because of popular demand (just kidding only a few people asked) I added a way to subscribe to these posts via email!
Check out the bottom Right side of this page and put in your e-mail address! You're all fantastic.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Hi there! So It seems everyone is interested in the small amount of time I have left before I leave.
In order to appease the questions and hopefully give you all a picture of the last couple weeks I have here, and maybe some insight in to my mental state, below is my perspective of the next 17 days:

Today: Dad put my mattress in the back of his vehicle. Not sure where I'm sleeping tonight, but it will likely involve a couch or a futon.

Monday: I NEED to FaceTime with Leah (yes I remember and i hope you're still planning on making it happen). The rest of my clothes and belongings need to be put in my car, then I am driving to Bluffton to pack for the week I will be in Philadelphia.

Tuesday: I will likely be throwing last minute packing items in to a bag because lets be real, there are not enough hours in a day. Then the parental units and I will be jumping in the car for 6-7 hours of podcasts and books and sleep.

Wednesday: we finish our 10 1/2 hour drive to Philly and when we get there I don't know what happens. I guess we'll hang out? food and family will likely be involved.

Thursday: we join the famous O'Donnell Thanksgiving. I have been promised a lot of food, and family, and borderline unhealthy competition. Rock band will also likely be involved. Who knows, I can only speculate at this point.

Friday: The women are pampered and then we practice not looking like fools walking down an isle and then we eat.

Saturday: I'm not going to get in to the whole schedule of this day because honestly I don't know what all is happening, but the moral of the story is I gain a wonderful new sister, and then we eat more.

Sunday: no clue, we're still in Philly

Monday: I believe we leave for Bluffton, more hours of driving and reading and sleeping, mostly sleeping.

Tuesday: Still more driving, we get home and I start packing for Japan like a crazy person.

Wednesday: I wake and probably do more packing and then leave for Indy for a Dr's appt.

Thursday: Nothing, Nothing? certainly this cannot be real, a whole day? Don't be fooled, it won't last long. especially after I post this. And if it does then I will sit in a coffee shop and research and send emails or maybe do some Christmas shopping

Friday: My last shift at Sun King. Many mixed emotions

Saturday: Probably go home to see my beloved second family, or hang out with loved ones

Sunday: Sun King's holiday party, so more food and good times and finally saying goodbye to the job I never knew I'd love. Then driving back to Bluffton

Monday: Saying goodbye to my dad that morning before he leaves for Chicago, waiting for my mom to get off work, and completing my packing. freaking out

Tuesday: Flight to Dallas at 6:27am then Fly to Tokyo 10:35am. Land in Tokyo 3:20pm

Any down time you spy in that list is filled with panic attacks, quality friend time, sleeping, staring at a computer screen, and hoping  someone across the planet will email me back.

Friday, November 20, 2015

I keep writing lengthy posts and deleting them because I don't like what i have to say. 

So.. this is awkward. I'm definitely going to have to get better at this when I leave. 

This weekend I am moving for what I believe is the 5th time this year. Only this time I don't have a destination, I'm just bumming with friends because I need to send my bed home. My duffel bag and my backpack will be my trusted companions for the next 20ish days. 

I am struggling to pack for the first part of my trip, I only want to bring carry-ons to Japan, because it's only a month and I think it's silly to bring a bunch of clothes. So if anyone has packing advice different from "bring a bigger bag" I would be very grateful. (fun side-note: every time i type grateful i think of grapefruit) 

don't judge me, I have a lot on my mind. 

I get a "Carry-on"and a "personal item" 

What are some things you regret NOT having on a trip?
What are some things you regret bringing?

Email me, comment here, send a pigeon, pony express etc. 

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Over this past year I have noticed a pattern of thought about my choice to travel. Many people are supportive and kind, but they assign me a mythological reason for why I have chosen this path.  Because I am too prideful to let everyone else dictate popular thought about my decisions I am clearing out the mythological creatures inhabiting my metaphorical life.

Myth #1: The Sphinx
Lauren wants to travel to find herself

No. No I am not. I assure you, I am right here. I know who I am, I like who I am, I am proud of who I am. I hold no conception of some part of me being in Japan or New Zealand or anywhere other than where I am right now. I don't expect to have a grand epiphany or eureka moment while I am traveling. I am a lot of things, but lost is not one of them.

Myth #2: The Pegasus
Lauren wants to escape

Nope. I am not trapped, I have the freedom to go wherever I want, whenever I want at my own volition. Nothing is keeping me here, and it is this realization which has propelled me to leave. I don't have to escape anything because nothing is holding me down. I'm not running from my emotions or from responsibilities. I'm not flying away to some kind of freedom of the soul. I am just going to a place I want to go, to have new experiences, and learn about culture, and meet people who look at life through a different lens than my own.

Myth #3 The Phoenix
Lauren is doing this because it's the easy way out

NO. Let me just ask, what about this looks easy? If I'm making this look easy then please, let me correct my mistake and be real with you. This is probably the hardest decision I've ever made. Not the decision to travel, or buy a ticket, or pack a bag. EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. I have to decide not to back out. I have to convince myself again and again to send another email, answer another question, and not fall apart when I have to run in circles to please everyone who cares about me.

Myth #4 The Griffin
Lauren is being reckless

Well this is just nonsense. If you saw the yellow pads full of resources, planning, budgets, back-up plans, lists, and cost analysis you would be a fool to think I'm being reckless. If you knew about my safeguards, and extensive research in to safety for female solo travel you would feel silly for thinking I'm just riding a smooth wave to my departure date.

Myth #5 The Unicorn
Lauren is running away from responsibilities

On the contrary, I've just handed myself an extensive list of responsibility I would have never had to worry about before. I'm responsible to make sure my family and friends know I'm alive. I'm responsible to make sure I stay alive. I'm responsible for my living, my finances, my transportation, my health, my education, my belongings. I'm still responsible for what I decide to do with the rest of my life. Just like everyone else is responsible for what they decide to do for the rest of their lives.


Trust me friends, it's not that deep! I'm going to meet people, help people, be stretched spiritually and physically. I am going to learn and to change the way I look at my narrow world. I want to take you along, and the only way you can fully enjoy my experience is to get rid of the mythological creatures everyone seems to think I'm housing.


This list of mythological creatures brought to you by wikipedia and Harry Potter.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Begin


It has been tough planning for this. The move. The transition. The missions work for a month in Japan. The moving to New Zealand where I know no one. Everyday I feel slower and less ready to go because every day something doesn't work out in my favor I carry the discouragement. I carry it under the bouquet of flowers I'm trying to show everyone else. Today I watched a video by a Casey Neistat, an all around pretty cool human being, and I remembered it's not all struggle. God gives us a spirit of curiosity and sense of adventure for a reason. 

So I'm starting this blog. Ready, set, GO.