How The Mormons Recruited Me To The Assembly Of God
I attempted to read the notice on the door, but couldn’t make much of it. There was a Google map on it with a circle nine or ten miles away. Based on context, I bet it said “hey, sorry we’re not here today, but come to our sister Latter Day Saints church way the hell over here. We’re expecting you, and we have cookies!”
I was not impressed. The nice Mormon missionaries had stopped by a couple of times, and I decided to check it out. I go to church off and on in the US, after all, and I am not bothered about the denomination as long as the music is good. I enjoy the community of churches, and of course I LOVE having a place to sing. I was hoping to find a choir to sing in...
Instead here I am, twenty-five minutes away from home, hot, annoyed, tired, drenched with sweat, wearing my Sunday best, and desperately wanting some community, but with my only mobility option the trusty rusty bicycle I had arrived on.
That’s when it started raining.
So I did what any good Mormon churchgoer would have done. I hid under the balcony and commenced looking for the closest church of any denomination. I found an Assembly of God church listing that said something about a gospel choir (?!?!?!), waited for the next lull in the rain, and then made a dash for it. I still got wet, but I arrived at the church ten minutes later. Miraculously the service had only just started, and I could hear them SINGING! Score!
To be perfectly honest, I wasn’t that enthused about the service itself, especially after hour two had come and gone with no sign of stopping. There was no choir, let alone gospel choir, but I did get to sing, and found a community of nice folks who welcomed me warmly. The song lyrics were projected on the wall above the drum set and electric guitar (this is Assembly of God, after all), and they had the Roman letters underneath the Japanese characters, so I was able to follow the words while I was singing. Bonus points for you guys!
So what did I learn from this?
Uhhhh... be persistent? I don’t feel like I learned anything special, other than that I am easily swayed by nice words, dislike biking in the rain, and am only interested in a church service for the first hour, but I already knew those things. Ahh, I got it: Patience and Sense Of Humor, the watchwords of international travel and living. Stuff gets screwed up many times per day, even things you thought you already knew. I rarely get seriously irritated by making mistakes or misunderstanding things here in Okinawa, because it’s simply not worth it. Sure, I was annoyed for a bit, but it was warranted, and meanwhile I figured out a new way to get what I wanted (singing & church) and went for it. It worked out great, too, lucky me!
All Asian People Look Alike
She was flabbergasted when I told her a month later that I had no idea that her ancestry was Japanese. She said most people here refuse to believe her when she tells them she is Argentine, because she looks completely Japanese, and nothing like the stereotypical Argentine person (this is true). Her ancestry is 100% Okinawan, and her physical features show that.
Whoops. Although, making that mistake makes me happy, because it shows that I am learning to believe people when they tell me how they identify rather than by what I assume based on appearance.
Nine-month-old Miyuki kept staring at me, so I made faces at her, and eventually asked mom if I could hold the baby. Mom gratefully agreed and got to enjoy her smoothie, while I got to play with the baby. Mom was happy to foist off... I mean gently and trustingly move, her baby into my arms.
Did I mention I love babies? I love babies. I love all kids. I get happy whenever I am around them.
Teaching My Japanese Friends To Have ATTITUDE
In between my busy schedule of wandering around Okinawa getting into trouble, playing with babies and chatting with six-and-a-half-feet-tall teenage mutant ninja missionary boys from Utah, I began a campaign to teach some of my Japanese friends to have ATTITUDE. This is GREAT FUN for everyone involved.
The video above showcases my favorite example of this. I convinced Mai-sensei to let me video her after she had mastered this fantastical steroid injection to her “attitudinous gland.” I learned the phrase “don’t make me snap my name with a Z-formation” with accompanying snaps from a teenage patient of mine a couple of years ago, and always liked it. Now several of my Japanese friends are using it as well. Warning, the video has a ludicrously high cuteness rating.
Power Up: You Have Reached The Next Level!
The above demonstrates European B1 proficiency. I will achieve my goal of B2 proficiency (upper intermediate) before I leave Japan for my next adventure. I am almost halfway to recognizing the 2,000 daily-use Kanji as well, and intend to learn all 2,000 by the time I leave. I’m not so sure about making that goal, but I’m going to try!
In case you worry that my head is getting big, Fear Not. I can't say a single free sentence without screwing up the grammar, and make hundreds of mistakes a day. I still pretty much suck at Japanese. However, my Japanese is better than the English of almost everyone around me, and I still get to communicate with them and learn their language and culture, which is amazing. I feel so lucky to be here.
頑張ろう！Gambarou! (Try Hard!)