My name is Kathy, and I have loved Japan ever since I lived there at the ages of 10-12. Now I am 22 and have been back twice since then. The last time was for a month with OMF’s Serve Asia programme. One of the things I learned whilst in Japan was to always have a minute long self-introduction prepared, so I’m a pro at this first bit! Anyway, here are the three things I have learned in Japan:
- Firstly: I can only go so long without sleep, after that point I will sleep. I flew to Japan after a full week and having stayed up late packing. I didn’t sleep on the plane (despite my best efforts) and landed in the morning with a full day ahead of me. This totalled 48 hours of activity on just 2 hours sleep, but I thought I could just press on regardless. However, the evening of my first night inevitably came, and I was out of my depth: falling asleep despite willing myself not to. We were with a missionary couple and a man training to be a pastor, I‘d have been mortified if I had nodded off! Thankfully the wife of the couple noticed and gave me a drink, which perked me up enough to make it through the evening. In the grand scheme of things I realise this isn’t exactly earth shattering but definitely it made me think. I hadn’t realised until it was too late how much I was depending on myself when I had been asked to do something extremely difficult. It’s one thing to say ‘I know that I need to do things in God’s strength, not my own’, but actually doing it is another thing! When I stop and think about it there are more things I don’t realise I’m insisting on doing myself, and I need to become more aware of when I’m doing that.
- Secondly: when getting to know people, sometimes you should go for it even though it might feel embarrassing. For two weeks I was part of a prayer team. This was great but could potentially have been a real challenge. You are thrown into the company of people you barely know and spend the next two weeks with them almost 24/7. Thankfully there were no disastrous clashes between anyone and I think it’s in part because our team leader was good at using car journeys to get us to all say something about ourselves. At the time it seemed a bit funny and even the most outgoing people in our group were initially a little shy, but it did really help us bond as a team. It also kept you aware that the way you react in a new situation can be very different to the way that someone else reacts.
- Thirdly: if you’re unsure ask someone (unless you’re looking for an address). My overall experience in Japan was that people are very helpful and, provided you have effectively communicated your question, they give sound advice. I know of only one exception, directions. Here’s an example: myself and another girl on the team were walking home from walking from the subway. It was raining and getting dark but that was fine, it was only a couple of minutes walk and we had the address written down on a piece of paper. However it appeared that road sign and address conventions were very different in Japan and we couldn’t fathom what was happening! We’d be following the numbers to get closer to our address, then all of a sudden they would change and we’d be further away from home again. Eventually we decided to ask someone. Every person we asked tried to help but nobody’s directions matched up with anyone else’s and none of them took us any closer to our address. Eventually we gave up, rounded a corner at random and there was our house. I’ve asked for navigational help before with the same result so have now decided it’s best to get good directions before embarking on your journey!
Kathy recently completed an OMF Media Internship. Check out her thoughts about the year here.