"Lord, I'll go anywhere you want me to go, I'll do anything you want me to do. I'm not sure about places like California. Or sleeping in a hammock in a dusty village in the desserts of Africa, but if you call me I'll go." That was my image of missions. Trying to reach pagans in California and the desserts of Africa while living in uncomfortable conditions.
Now 17 years later I laugh. I'm a missionary to the most modern country in the world. Where toilet seats have more buttons and options than my kitchen mixer. My rice cooker will also bake cake and both raise and bake bread. Within 5 miles of my house are at least 3 public bath houses with luxury features like salt saunas, jet whirl pool baths, baths in 5 different temperatures to choose from, indoor and outdoor pools to enjoy, Korea massage scrub, Chinese massage, and sweat houses with about 15 different sweat huts to choose from (all starting at the price of about $6). The only thing I can not get in Japan is a thick juicy steak for $15 and Dr. Pepper within 30 minutes of my house. But even those things I CAN have if I want them. I can see my family and friends face to face and talk as long as I want for free, anytime (something that has changed since I first arrived but...). I have heat, air conditioning, even a Western style bed and kitchen table. Even where most missionaries are concerned, here in Japan as we serve we lack nothing. Litterally the ONLY thing I have not been able to purchase here is flavored Coffee Mate. But even that I can get online if I want it.
When I was called to missions the one thing people often asked me is, "But what about the food over there?" When I asked I might crinkle my nose and comment about how I'd have to get used to it. But I never really worried about it. I knew that at least I could survive on rice.
The first thing that I remember being UNABLE to stomach was a serving of Yakisoba (friend noodles) that was placed before me at a festival. It was topped with fish shavings that were waving around and "dancing" in the steam from the noodles, and I just couldn't bring myself to put something that was moving in my mouth (even though these are dried shaved fish flakes, completel dead). The fish shavings were VERY thinly sliced dried fish that were simply responding to the steam coming off the food. But I couldn't stomach it. However the third or fourth time I was served a food with dancing fish shavings, I ate it and it wasn't bad. Since then, it hasn't bothered me.
The second thing that I absolutely COULDN'T eat was natto beans. Fermented soy beans. Nuff said, I couldn't eat it. But now, I can. It took 14 years, but a couple of years ago my inlaws left some in the fridge after a visit and I decided to give it another try. I loved it, and even crave it sometimes now. I mean hey, it's really no different than cheese! Cheese is aged, stinky and you really have to wonder who came up with the idea to eat such a thing. So why not stinky beans.
Early on, however, I found a way to make myself try anything. I soon learned that I usually liked or could tolerate most things. But some things I loved right away.
One of those things was fresh sashimi. OH, you have never tasted anything yummier than really fresh squid!!! It is soft to chew, slightly sweet, and not at all "fishy"! I LOVE it. And my most favorite...... so fresh the legs are still moving. Near our home is an area that has several restaurants that specialize in fresh squid. You walk in and order, and the chef comes and catches the squid out of the tank in the middle of the restaurant. Within minutes the plate is on your table and the legs are still moving. We eat the body portion which has been sliced, and the legs are taken away and tempura fried. OH YUM!!!
We also had fresh blow fish the other night....
But this time at the restaurant we were served something it took my a while to put in my mouth. Fresh moving baby icefish. No one in our family had ever had them before. They were very active. I couldn't put them in my mouth till they calmed down and stopped moving in my soy sauce.
I'll try to come back later and post a video of Rocky eating them. Really you just drink them down. Just swallow, don't chew. I did it, but it took several minutes. I thought that basically there was nothing here I couldn't eat but I found one more challenge. Next time (if there ever is a next time) I'm gonna do my best to eat em up when they are still moving around. It's my personal challenge!!!
I never know anymore where the American side of me ends and the Japanese side begins. Rocky always says I was born in the wrong place, should have been born in Japan. I don't know about that, but I know sometimes I can't believe where I am, who I've become and the things I enjoy now. God truly can do amazing things in us! And I bet that I really could handle California, or that hammock in Africa if He calls me there. I hope...