Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Farewell, 2014

One year ago, I wrote a blog-post thanking friends and family for helping with wedding prep, set-up and clean-up.  Sometimes I forget that I didn't get married in 2014; December 28 may have been late 2013, but it was still 2013.  Therefore, I cannot reflect on 2014 as "the year I got married", but it was significant for a number of other reasons!

Married Life
2014 was my first full year as a married man and it was an eventful year.  Tomomi and I had about a week after our wedding before she needed to be back at her job, and I needed to be back at school.  The following weekend, we flew to Thailand--not for a late honeymoon as some might expect, but for Tomomi's cousin's wedding.  This was our first time to travel together and it was wonderful to do a bit of sight-seeing, and to get to know Tomomi's family better as well.  There was a surreal moment when I realized that I was the only gaijin  (non-Japanese) at the rehearsal dinner, a moment that became even more bizarre when the Thai waiter approached me to ask what the evening's plan was.  Ah, the curse of being the only apparent English-speaker in the room!  What was worse was the fact that the waiter did not seem to believe me when I told him that I didn't know anything about the plans and that Tomomi's cousin also spoke English, so he should go ask him.  Guess we all have our own prejudices!

2014 saw Tomomi and I build a life together and learn how to live as a married couple: we established routines for cooking, shopping, laundry, how to spend our Saturdays, etc.  I personally learned a lot about cooking, as Tomomi typically would not return home from work until 7:30, sometimes as late as 8:30 or 9:00.  I learned how to make homemade pizza and chili, spare ribs, mikan chicken, sloppy joe's, green bean casserole, homemade Oreos, custard, and even a Thanksgiving turkey (just to name a few).  I did have a few disasters, too: once while trying to deep-fry homemade potato chips (I was really into making homemade versions of typically store-bought food), the oil overflowed and clogged up the burner, a mess which took quite some time to clean up.

Kitchen oil-spills aside, it was a wonderful and peaceful year.  Tomomi and I had been advised by so many friends from church that the first year of marriage would be difficult and even more-so for an international couple.  Maybe it was because we went in prepared for differences and miscommunications that neither actually bothered us when they occurred.  Rather, we enjoyed figuring out how our new family life would look, and spending each day together (even if the work-hours could be long).  It was a year of foundation building, a foundation which will serve us well as our routine changes in 2015 with Tomomi now done with her job and seeking God's guidance on what will come next.  Having just celebrated our first anniversary, we are truly excited for the years to come.

Family Life
In addition to the beginning of our married life, 2014 saw big changes within both Tomomi's and my family.  In July, we traveled to America for a visit, kicked off by my brother's wedding in Denver.  Ben and his wife Hilary have settled in New Haven, Connecticut for at least a couple years while Ben pursues a Master's in theology at Yale.  The wedding was beautiful and it was a great opportunity to reunite with extended family and old friends.  There was a bittersweet moment at breakfast the morning before the wedding when we realized that it was just the five of us--Dad, Mom, Ben, Lea and myself--sitting around the table, and we said a quiet goodbye to the family life we'd known for so long.  Lea herself was only on a short break from her job as a camp counselor in Wisconsin, and so went her separate way after the wedding rather than coming back to Washington.
It was the beginning of a new normal for my parents' Gibson family as two new Gibson families formed.  Who knows when all three Gibson families will meet at the same time again?
Then in September, Tomomi's sister Manami got married.  Again, I was the only gaijin at the wedding, and when Tomomi and I escorted Manami from the reception hall at dinner time so she could change out of her wedding dress, a drunken chorus of "USA! USA! USA!" reminded me of my nationality, in case I had forgotten.  Manami and her new husband moved to Nagoya, a city several hours to the southwest of Tokyo, a dramatic change for Tomomi's parents, with whom Manami had been living.

After a break from my Master's classes in the Spring, I resumed my coursework over the summer, studies which challenged, encouraged and inspired me in my planning for the coming school year.  On top of all of the hours I devoted to my Master's coursework, I clocked well over 100 hours of curriculum planning in my classroom at school, a fantastic opportunity to apply what I had been learning in my courses.
That investment has paid off to a tremendous extent as the fall semester felt like my most organized, thoughtful and creative teaching to date.  Though a glitch in the scheduling saw me with another semester off from my coursework this fall, I am eager to resume my studies this Spring with a Teacher Leadership Field Experience course.

After several months of attending both Grace City Church and Grace Harbor Church, in September, Tomomi and I ultimately decided to settle in at Grace Harbor.  While this has made it challenging to consistently keep up with our Grace City friends, many of whom live on the opposite side of Tokyo from us, we have also developed many new friendships, including several other young international couples.  We deeply appreciate the fellowship and vision of our church home and feel blessed to be a part of the Harbor community.  We also look back fondly on our time at Grace City, and are grateful that God led us both to the church where we met each other for the first time.  We continue to pray for the growth and success of these wonderful church communities in a city so desperately in need of the Gospel.

As I finish this blog-post, our final night in Washington for Christmas vacation draws to a close.  The time with my parents and sister has been refreshing and it was a season of many firsts for Tomomi as she was able to experience an American family Christmas with all of its traditions.  It will be difficult to leave early tomorrow, but we trust that God will lead us and provide in the year to come, just as He did in the year we now depart.

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