Japan: Am I Excited?

As of the publication of this post (5:50am Atlantic Time), I am getting aboard my first flight of four to Japan for the next school year.  I’ll have plenty of updates over these 7 months or so, but today I want to talk about the question that I have received the most in the weeks leading up to this trip:

Are you excited?

Most people would automatically respond with a simple yes, but I am not most people.

In a word, I suppose, that yes, I am excited.  However, I have a much more complex response.  This trip doesn’t just bring a single emotion to the surface, it brings a wild assortment of many that keep on changing as the days and moments go by.  There has been a process through which I have gone to get me to today, and each stage brought a new reaction.

At first, upon hearing of this opportunity, I was apprehensive.  I didn’t have an interest in Japan, I didn’t know how I would fit into that culture, or what I would be involved in doing.  It didn’t seem at first that it work for me.

However, as time went on and I got some more information on this placement, I warmed to it, enticing my curiosity.  I prayed several times, looking for guidance, and I learned to have faith and let God steer me instead of withdrawing from the risk of another letdown.  I researched extensively and found more answers that quelled my concerns.  It looked more and more like it would work out.

Then came the beginning of the preparation stage.  I had to purchase tickets for my flights, figure out Visas and other paperwork, and make lots of calls (something a bit daunting for an introvert).  This part made me anxious as I waited for paperwork and scrambled to meet deadlines, but through prayer and being over-prepared for every possibility, all of my papers came through smoothly.

Now, in the past couple weeks have been the final preparations.  I’ve collected everything to take, looked at my itinerary a thousand different ways, pre-planned when I should sleep so as to lessen the jet lag a 12-hour time difference will inflict, and done a myriad of other little jobs in order to be ready for this day.  In the days leading up to now, my mind has been in all different directions, trying to remember what last little details I need to take care of.

And now I am in the air, likely stressing out over my connections ahead, but ultimately thankful that everything has worked out for me to have this experience.

Am I excited? Well, once I arrive, I will be, ready to tackle whatever God has for me in this stretching year ahead.  I am eager to experience a new culture and want to learn all I can in the time I have there.  I am looking forward to all that God will teach me as I complete my Bible-based correspondence courses.  I am hopeful to see what God has me do, and how I will be used in Japan this year, working alongside my mentors.  Finally, I will miss definitely miss my home, family, church, friends, and everything that is familiar, but I welcome this new opportunity with open arms.

-Naomi

First Impressions of the Sony A5100

After a very busy few weeks, I’m back and here to share with you a bit about my new camera!

A5100
Photo credit: https://www.ephotozine.com/article/sony-a5100-interchangeable-lens-camera-26004.

I have had this camera, the Sony A5100, for about a month now, and after having a few chances to put it into action, I have been pretty pleased with it.

After having the same point-and-shoot for almost 8 years, it was time for something new.  So far, this has been an amazing upgrade.  I haven’t been able to try out all of its features, but those I have made use of have gotten me some great shots.

While this is not an extensive review by any means, there are some features of this beauty that I wanted to highlight.  If you are interested in a further review of the Sony a5100, that can be found here.

My favourite features:

  • small size and weight – since this is a mirrorless camera, much of the size and heft have been eliminated that would be present in a normal DSLR.  The body on this one is the same size if not smaller than my old point and shoot from Canon, though the lenses certainly add a great deal of dimension, depending on what is used.
  • interchangeable lens system – speaking of lenses, I love the fact that this little camera can play in the same leagues as DSLRs as far as lenses are concerned.  I only have two lenses to work with now, but I have been able to make use of them in several capacities.  My 16-50mm kit lens allows wider angles and a closer focus point, while the additional 55-210mm lens provides zoom and is wonderful for portraits as well.  I’m still adjusting to the fact of switching out the lenses, but that will be perfected with time.
  • tilting built-in flash – I don’t tend to use flash much, so I don’t need a spot to add my own; this one allows me to use flash when I need it, plus have the ability to bounce the light and avoid the typical harsh lighting that flashes usually give on the subject.
  • 24.3 megapixels – this speaks for itself!
  • flip screen (“selfie” screen) – while I am not the type to be taking selfies every two seconds, I do enjoy having this feature.  When I do occasionally need to take photos aimed at myself, this feature allows me to see what I am doing, plus it is great for self-portraits with a tripod, which I’ll be doing quite a bit.
  • WiFi capabilities/remote: this neat little function allows the a5100 to link to an iPod Touch, iPhone or other phone via an accompanying (free) app.  The way it works is the camera creates its own WiFi network to which the phone/iPod Touch connects, in order to share photos or give remote control to the device.  It works even in the middle of nowhere and is an invaluable feature to have in today’s connected and social-media-driven world.

I have been really enjoying this camera, so be looking for more photos down the road.  Though I haven’t nearly figured out all the bells and whistles on this thing by any means, here are a few samples of what I’ve been able to capture so far!

DSC00293

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DSC00448crop DSC00526 DSC00536 DSC00608 DSC00643

-Naomi

On the Edge

Lovely Little Naomi | On the Edge Lovely Little Naomi | On the Edge Lovely Little Naomi | On the Edge Lovely Little Naomi | On the Edge Lovely Little Naomi | On the Edge Lovely Little Naomi | On the Edge Lovely Little Naomi | On the Edge Lovely Little Naomi | On the EdgeMy style is always a bit of a combination of sorts.  Comfy, casual, feminine, edgy; everything is a mix in my wardrobe.

This Sunday saw some of the more edgier side, though, with an outfit using all my black leatherette pieces.  With a grey base, a strong pop of green, and a darker lipstick, this look brought it all together.

I don’t know what it is about certain colours being associated with certain styles, but here, the emerald green and deep burgundy hints really help to add some more mood and depth to an otherwise all neutral outfit.  Those richer shades seem to contribute an overall deeper tone to the look.  Promise it’s not just me getting moody on you!

How do you like to make an outfit edgier?

-Naomi


glasses: Eye Buy Direct Kashin, ~$35
lipstick: Revlon Black Cherry, ~$5
dress: Old Navy, $6.50 (similar, similar)
jacket: Reitman’s, $25 (similar, similar)
necklace (borrowed from sister): Ardene’s, $5 (similar)
belt: Value Village, $2
clutch: Value Village, $4
bracelet: gift, ?
shoes: Payless Comfort Plus heels, $20

Pro Tips: How NOT to Get a Visa

Lovely Little Naomi | Pro Tips: How NOT to Get a VisaLast week I made a trip to Montreal with my parents in order to apply for a visa to cover my seven month trip to Japan that is just over a month away.  To say that it was an ordeal was a bit of an understatement, since it involved over 14 hours of driving and a whole year’s worth of nerves, plus I had to completely rewrite a whole section by hand for them to even accept my application.  There were a lot of little details that had not been mentioned before I went, but thanks to our family being so over-prepared for things, I was ready with what I needed when the time came.

So here I am, writing about visas, which are a hassle for travelers to get, but which are the very things that permit you to travel in the first place.

Applying for a visa is an important part of long-term travel, and a process that has complicated trips for many.  There are many types of visas, and though I have only now applied for one of them, my experience will hopefully be a help to those of you that will be traveling in the near future, except for the fact that this list has been flipped!

After all, no one would ever need a visa, right?  Here is what to do if you DON’T want to get a visa.

(ALERT: An abundance of satire, sass, and wit ahead.)

  • Don’t bother checking to see whether or not you have to appear in person.  They’ll probably just take your paperwork by mail anyway.
  • If a trip to a consulate or embassy is necessary, don’t call ahead.  They are busy with other people, and they surely wouldn’t have any pointers that you could find online anyway.
  • Don’t feel the need to check on their office hours or book a day or two off work just for getting a visa.  They can always accommodate you, right?  And surely, a simple application won’t take more than a couple of minutes…
  • If you are traveling in from an outside location, you definitely don’t need to bring a prepaid and pre-addressed envelope with you in order for them to return your paperwork.  Can’t they just get one themselves?
  • Don’t bother bringing your passport along with you, especially if the office you are headed to is over 5 hours away.
  • Don’t bother photocopying your passport before you go, or photocopying any important documents, for that matter.
  • Do go ahead with your visa application without booking photo sessions, Drs. appointments, etc. beforehand.
  • Do neglect to bring all of the required criteria with you, especially all those extra papers that are “just in case”.  They’ll just weigh you down.  After all, those are just guidelines, right?
  • Don’t feel the need to fill in every blank.  So much on the forms is repetitive, so they can figure it out on their own.
  • If you have taken all that time to fill it out, do be sure to have some things that don’t match up from form to form.
  • You definitely don’t need to have extra information about your trip, names and locations of where you are staying, who or what you are seeing, or any dates involved in your travel.
  • Do be oblivious about your destination.  Ignorance is bliss.  Absolutely no research is required ahead of time!
  • And lastly, don’t doublecheck a thing.  Your judgment is always best.

If you just follow all of these directions, you will be sure to never acquire a visa, and I’m sure that’s what so many of you world-travelers have always wanted!  😉

TL;DR:  Be forewarned; visas take time, energy and a lot of patience, so hang in there!

Safe travels!

-Naomi

Recent Read: The Third Target by Joel Rosenberg

As much as I love classic books, I love reading action/adventure books the most.  You can give me a political/military/investigative thriller any day over a love story.  Yet, I also prefer to read Christian authors over secular writers.  However, a balance between those two genres is difficult to achieve.

I have found that author Joel Rosenberg fits perfectly into that category.  I have read all of the novels he has put out, and they are always intriguing, fast-paced, and right on the money when it comes to Middle Eastern events and their ties to Biblical eschatology, yet another interest of mine.  That’s why I absolutely devoured this book –  The Third Target – finishing over 400 action-packed pages in only a few days.  This is probably my favourite genre and one of my very favourite authors, and The Third Target certainly did not disappoint.

This time around, Rosenberg focuses on an ambitious reporter named J.B. Collins as the main character in this wild ride of a story.  Set as though this timeline could happen now, the twists and turns of Collins’ adventures take him into the war zone that is an ISIS-dominated Middle East.  As terrorists continue to fight over key locations in Syria, Iraq, and elsewhere, Collins is especially interested in the men at the top of the organization.  Risking it all, he sets up meetings with the key players of the ISIS leadership, hoping to get the preliminary scoop on some of the most wanted and the most sadistic men on the planet.  Despite the danger that keeps following him, Collins refuses to lose the story, earning him widespread recognition and attention from both sides of the battlefield.

As in reality, ISIS is considered to be a threat by this story’s characters.  However, unlike many in the West, Collins does not underestimate the length these radicals will reach to fulfill their appetite for violence against infidels.  Standing in the midst of the enemy, Collins witnessed them first-hand and reported on the full extent of their purposes, their potential, and their plans for the imminent future.  The question is, will the rest of the world believe what he has to present?

-Naomi

Fab Finds: Shopping Second-Hand Stores and Clearance Sales

Lovely Little Naomi | Fab Finds: Shopping Second-Hand Stores and Clearance SalesIn my absence over the past week, I’ve been getting in a lot of shopping time between a couple different cities.  After all of that, I wanted to share with you what I picked up and how I find items despite my very frugal spending habits!

Purchases:

Lovely Little Naomi | Fab Finds: Shopping Second-Hand Stores and Clearance Sales

Lovely Little Naomi | Fab Finds: Shopping Second-Hand Stores and Clearance Sales

Goodwill:
Old Navy mustard patterned top: $5
Gap mint striped sweater: $5
Ann Taylor black skirt: $5
Gap light grey dress pants: $6
cream crossbody bag: $3
lantern: $4
mint plate:$3
Total: $31

Lovely Little Naomi | Fab Finds: Shopping Second-Hand Stores and Clearance Sales

Hobby Lobby:
giant leaf: $.90
Total: $.90

Lovely Little Naomi | Fab Finds: Shopping Second-Hand Stores and Clearance Sales

Old Navy:
navy floral maxi skirt: $22
grey jersey fit and flare dress (similar version with longer sleeves): $6.50
Total: $28.50

Lovely Little Naomi | Fab Finds: Shopping Second-Hand Stores and Clearance Sales

JCPenney:
blush lace top (available online only in white; see pink version): $18 – 20% – $3.33 discount = $11.07
white jeans: $18 – 20% – $3.33 discount = $11.07
Total: $22.14

Lovely Little Naomi | Fab Finds: Shopping Second-Hand Stores and Clearance Sales

Value Village:
books: $5 + $5 + $4 + $4 – 30% – free book = $9.80
New York Clothing Co. navy skirt: $10 – 30% = $6.67
Total: $16.47


Final total: $99.01 + tax


Tactics:

That may seem like a lot at one time, and for me, it kind of is.  However, considering the individual prices, the amount of items I found, and the rarity of my shopping trips, that really isn’t half bad.  How I’m able to do that is in how I shop: veeerrrryy carefully.

When shopping, I almost never buy something at full price.  Instead, I always spread my time between new and second-hand stores, in addition to being armed with coupons from research beforehand.

Sometimes when on a shopping trip, I won’t even take the time to go through regular stores, rather choosing to spend my time hunting in second-hand stores.  Since I’m so cheap, I often will find something I like better, both fashion-wise and price-wise, in stores like Goodwill and Value Village.  I am open to wearing older clothes, and that makes it possible to find an item at a reasonable price that I would have never been able to afford new.  Don’t ever hate on second-hand clothes, just be picky on what you pull off the racks!

On the other hand, in the malls and regular stores there were a lot of clearance racks to hunt this time around.  Around the end of June and through July, stores are turning over their stock for the next season, so all of this season’s merchandise is marked down while it is still the season to wear them.  The same applies to mid-winter, around January/February, when stock starts moving to make room for spring’s supply.  Because of this practice, I was able to find several items on my shopping list that were severely marked down, to my great relief!

Out of everything that I found, I am easily most excited about my Old Navy and JCPenney purchases, as they got me some pretty new pieces that I can pair with so many other things in my closet, plus they were items that had long been on my list of items to look for.  The blush lace top is probably my favourite, and I have already pinned many ideas for how to wear it in the near future.

Be looking in the next few months for how I’ll put these purchases to good use, but in the meantime, go out and find yourself some bargains too!

-Naomi

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What I’m Learning About Japan via the Internet

Having announced my going to Japan in the fall a few weeks ago, I wanted to give a bit of an update on that front: as of this weekend, I have finally booked my flights, so now I just have to get my Visa and do other paperwork before I’m all set!

Photo credit: http://www.churchmilitant.com/news/article/bishop-in-japan-laments-declining-population

In the meantime, I have been researching Japan in general and have been learning quite a bit just in what I found through watching Youtube videos and reading articles from people living in Japan themselves.  There are several channels run by Westerners living in Japan who have taken the time to explain almost every difference there is from here to there and those have been the most beneficial.  The most helpful one I’ve found is called Rachel & Jun, which is run by a Canadian girl and her Japanese husband.

One thing that I have been finding is that much of what is assumed about Japan is not actually true, so I wanted to compile a list of things about Japan that I have learned as I’ve been doing this research!

  • Japan is quite modern, but much of the country is very traditional.  Japan is known for its revolutionary technology and new inventions, and Tokyo is very much a modern, up-to-date city,
    Photo credit: http://wallpaperswide.com/temple_gate_in_japan-wallpapers.html

    being the largest city in the world (I believe).  However, the remainder of the nation is not as connected as North America.  Apparently credit cards aren’t commonly supported, so cash is relied on the most.  Free WiFi isn’t that popular either, like it is in many fast food places in the States.

  • Even though Japan is famous for anime, it is mostly considered to be a thing for kids within the country.
  • Yes, they do have robot toilets.  😉
  • In Japanese homes, restaurants, offices, etc., shoes are always removed at the door and slippers are used indoors.  This keeps the floors clean and the tatami mats from being worn out quickly.  Some homes even have separate slippers for the bathroom, as that room is considered to be dirty.
  • There are rules for using chopsticks (and yes, I do have a pair of my own to start practicing with!): never cross them, never leave them sticking up out of your food, and never pass food from one set of chopsticks to the other, as those things only happen in certain practices at funerals.
  • Littering is very minimal in Japan!  Cleanliness and sanitation are very important in Japan, and that extends to the outdoors.  Unlike the States, Japanese people will take their garbage home with them rather than throw it on the ground, which is pretty awesome!
  • Apparently it is rude to be loud or use technological devices on public transit, so no to playing on your phone!
  • Japan has no circular heating in the homes, so space heaters are very common.  The homes aren’t very well insulated, so in the winter, rooms are heated one at a time while the rest of the house stays quite chilly.
  • Japan is home to many cool places, like a cat island, a fox village, bamboo forests, and so much more!

One of the biggest things though, is the way that Japanese people think.  They are not focused on the individual like we are here.  We have to assert ourselves in North America, and are expected to stand up for ourselves.  Americans fight for every right that they have, and object when anything is unfair.

Photo credit: http://www.su.nottingham.ac.uk/societies/society/Japanese/

In contrast, Japanese people are focused on the group, the society as a whole.  They think of the group before they think of their own interests, which is probably why manners, cleanliness, and a quiet demeanor are emphasized so much.  There are many pros to this perspective, but it makes it a bit more difficult for Westerners that are used to a completely different system and makes us stand out from everyone else.  This will be something interesting to experience, but it may be hard for me to understand when I’m faced with it day to day.

Photo credit: http://blog.uniquejapantours.com/2015/01/kanazawa-2015-holiday-hotspot.html

Beyond general knowledge about Japan, I also rewatched a series of videos that were made by two friends that were doing the same program three years ago.  That helped me to get a better idea of the exact area and more details of the ministry and everyday life.

Now it is less than 2 months from my departure, and I am getting excited!  In addition to my getting ready, a week or two from now, I am going to be seeing my hosts for a couple of days, since they are visiting the area with some of their own students.  It will be up to me to take the Japanese teenagers and show them English culture before I get the same treatment there, so hopefully their Canadian experience will be a good one!

-Naomi

Currently Reading: The Day of the Triffids

Lovely Little Naomi | Currently Reading: The Day of the TriffidsAs a continuation of my classics reading spree, I have been making my way through the oddity of a book that is The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham.  Like with many sci-fi books, this story is a strange one, but unlike many I’ve read, the circumstances in this book are something I’ve never come across before.

This story follows a man by the name of William Masen, a man living in mid-century England.  After an eye surgery due to an occupational accident, he wakes up the next morning to find the hospital at an inexplicable standstill.  Once he rids himself of the bandages, he discovers everyone else left blinded after the spectacle of strange green lights that had blazed across the sky the night before, lights that at the time he was sorry to miss in his state of recovery.  Without the wrappings that had ironically protected him from the fate of the rest, he soon ventures out onto the streets where he only finds more in a similar sightless state, helpless, and at the mercy of the wild.

To throw another wrench in the mix, we come to find out that unusual plants that have come to be known as triffids have been quietly infesting the earth for some time.  However, these are unlike any other plants before them.  As they mature, these plants form the ability to release a whip-like stinger that possesses enough venom to kill or seriously maim a man, though that is only the beginning of their unusual nature.  The strangest part?  These plants can pull up their roots and walk.

In a world full of mobile, carnivorous plants, a population of blind people are left as sitting ducks for such monstrous weeds.  As William finds his way through the chaos and confusion, he must weigh the odds and survive in a world turned on its head and left to fend for itself.  With law and order out the window, he must decide how to live as human nature is rubbed raw and nature reveals the true extent of its power.

When the blind are leading the blind, a sighted man must arise on behalf of mankind.

-Naomi

New Specs

After weeks of anticipation, my new glasses finally came!  I was able to get two of the pairs I mentioned in an earlier post, the Monica and Kashin frames from Eye Buy Direct.  Though they are similar, I like that they each have a different feel to them and I love the rich tortoiseshell on them both!

Monica Lovely Little Naomi | New Specs Lovely Little Naomi | New Specs

Kashin

Lovely Little Naomi | New Specs Lovely Little Naomi | New SpecsThis was my first time buying glasses online, so I am very glad it worked out.  I had been hoping to get some new glasses for the past few months, but with eye doctors maintaining such high prices, I turned to the internet.  I was already looking at Eye Buy Direct when I found someone else at school with glasses from them.  It was nice to find out that there is an alternative to expensive eye wear!  Lovely Little Naomi | New SpecsSo far I am very pleased with these; they even seem clearer than my old pair from the optometrist!  They may sit a bit crooked, but I think that’s the fault of my ears, not the way they were made.  All in all, I am very happy with them and will likely get more from Eye Buy Direct in the future.  After all, when you can get two pairs of nice glasses plus extra coatings for under $100, you can’t go wrong!

-Naomi

This post is now featured in a link up:

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glasses: Eye Buy Direct’s Monica and Kashin, <$50 each,
shirt: Value Village, <$10
shorts: Kohl’s, <$20
necklace: yard sale, $.25
watch: Value Village, $3.50
belt: Sears, gift (<$20?)
shoes: Walmart, free (cast offs)

Unintentional Red, White, and Blue

Lovely Little Naomi | Unintentional Red, White, and Blue Lovely Little Naomi | Unintentional Red, White, and Blue Lovely Little Naomi | Unintentional Red, White, and Blue Lovely Little Naomi | Unintentional Red, White, and Blue Lovely Little Naomi | Unintentional Red, White, and Blue Lovely Little Naomi | Unintentional Red, White, and BlueWithout meaning to, I made up this outfit a couple days ago and took these photos, but only now as I look at them do I realize that they are a subtle version of the red, white, and blue that are assuredly clothing many Americans today!  I am seeing these colours everywhere on my feeds, so it looks like people are having a pretty good holiday as they celebrate freedom. To all of my American friends: I hope you all are having a great day today, so enjoy all the food and fun and go see some fireworks for me!

-Naomi

This post is now featured in a link up:

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shirt: Kohl’s, <$15 shorts: Kohl’s, <$15 necklace: Aredene’s, $5 belt: Sears, gift (<$15?) watch: Value Village, $3.50 Aetrex shoes: Ebay, $40