Valerie's Trip to the Hairdresser

When I was a little girl, my mum went grey before all the other mums. It probably didn’t help that she was 37 when she had me. New friends invariably asked if she was my grandmother, but she was self-confident enough that she didn’t care and never tried to hide her true hair colour. However, I decided that if I were to follow her into premature greying, I would dye my hair. Thirty years passed, which included several stints of pain, and I have indeed gone prematurely grey—even earlier than my…

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A Look Back: Day 12

After eleven days back in Japan, it was hard not to feel like a failure.—and waiting. You see, in Japan officials are very particular about the order that things happen in. There's no expediting a process. If you need a certain piece of ID to get something set up, there are often no alternate pieces of ID that you can use. If a certain set of steps is prescribed, you have to follow the pre-defined method. In a culture that emphasizes…

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Oba san's Funeral


We recently had the privilege of taking part in a funeral for a church member who passed away. Over the past four years, we've attended several funerals, but this one was special. The lady who died (Oba san*) had been a really integral part of the church, and was like a mother or grandmother to most of the rest of us. 

I have two memories of her that I especially cherish. The first is that when my back was injured, she faithfully prayed for me every day for more than a year until I was…

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Indirect Communication: Part 3


This month, I would like to return to a discussion of the principles of indirect communication, as I'm learning them from "Cross-Cultural Conflict", by Duane Elmer. One major communication tool, in a society which relies heavily on indirect communication, is mediation. 

I'm not sure that we Westerners really understand the concept of mediation, at least the way that those in indirect cultures do. Before reading this book, when I thought of a mediator, my first mental picture was always of a…

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Indirect Communication: Part 2

I thought that today I would continue on in sharing some of the things I've been learning from "Cross-Cultural Conflict", by Duane Elmer. As I'd mentioned before, two thirds of the world (including Japan) uses indirect methods as its primary form of communication. In fact, many of these cultures often find direct communication to be rude or cruel. 

Instead, two-thirds of the world uses passive and stative voices very prominently in their communications. If you're like me, and have next-to-no…

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