How’s Your Heart?

How Are You? [The person asking (generally) doesn’t care what your answer is]

I’m good, thanks! [The person answering is (generally) lying.]  How are you? [Automatic response with no regard for the answer]

I’m good. [Lie because does that person care if you are having the worst day and you are holding back tears?] 


In Japan-there is no “small talk”. I have asked my friends-what do you say when you first see someone…It’s not, how are you. It’s a respectful greeting and then straight to communicating. No small talk…but when I am at the store it seems like the cashier says 1,000 things and I catch a thank you and your welcome somewhere in what sounds like never ending words. That’s what it sounds when you hear a language you do not know.

Foreign languages. I cannot believe people can have entire conversations and I can have little idea of what it is about. I pay attention to body language and then I can understand about half of what is being said…just not through words, YET. 

Spending time on something you don’t care about = intensely absurd

When I go to a store in the USA, we have small talk to be polite. If you don’t want to talk, you still do it. It would be rude if you didn’t. That’s a bit crazy. [HOLD UP-In Spokane I have gone to the same grocery store since I can remember-those cashiers have seen me grow up. That’s not small talk. I love those people.]  Small talk seems to be comparable to busy work. It passes time by and is senseless and meaningless. I don’t know why this matters to me-we all have small talk (in the US), but I like that about Japan. You greet a person and then you begin your communications. No automatic “How are you” to begin each conversation. Everything is automatic nowadays [toilets, sinks, bicycles, doors, lights]. People ask how are you that as an automatic response in America…Yet, people are the only thing that cannot be automatic. We are not automatic and our conversations should not be either.

The person asking generally doesn’t care what your answer is because we ask without thought-like a reflex. The person answering is lying because they know you don’t really care. What in the world. This is where we go wrong. Not caring how one another are doing. I’m guilty too. “How are you” can slip out of my mouth before I realize that I am asking a complete stranger how they are doing (someone that I will never see again…and this complete stranger just lied to me by saying they are good because who would tell a stranger their life?) I would.

We have to share our life stories.

I do ask “the question” by accident sometimes but I am trying to be intentional about listening to what the person says. If they say ok, I ask what is going on. Being okay-is similar to surviving in my opinion. If you are okay…you are only going through the motions of life-something is going on and you could probably use a friend.

In Japan: okay=good

For Rachel: okay=your heart hurts. 

  • Why in the world would we ask how somebody is doing-if we don’t care to hear the answer? I say we-so that you don’t feel so bad that you do this every single day. I say WE so that I don’t feel bad that I do it too.
  • Why is it polite to initiate a conversation that you do not want to have in the first place?
  • Why is it rude not to talk?
  • When you say “good” do you ever actually mean that you are doing good? Replying with good is automatic-there is nothing put into it. I have been working on being honest when somebody asks “how are you”. I am going to assume you want to know how I am doing if that is what you ask me. If you don’t want to know…don’t ask.
  • Aren’t we supposed to MEAN what we SAY and say what we mean?
  • How do we make every interaction meaningful?
  • Asking a friend how they are doing is not small talk. It is situational (I think).

I want every single interaction I have to be positive. I want to improve the quality of lives. The lives of children, family, friends, even strangers. When I would be asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up”, I never was sure (until Mrs. Rypien changed my life) I just knew that I wanted to impact the world in a positive way. Maybe giving a compliment, a genuine compliment to each person would be a better way to start a conversation.

I prefer to ask-How’s your heart. I want to know how your heart is doing (I know it’s beating DAD). If I asked chichi “How’s your heart” I can tell you right now he would say “beating”.

Your heart is the chamber of your fears, happies, sads…the house of all your feelings. When I ask how is your heart-I want to know how you are doing as a person, how your life is, how your feelings are.

I asked several people-what do you say when you are next to a stranger and you want to say hello.  You don’t.   What if you want to be their friend?   No-you don’t do tha. . .

YES, I DO.       

In America it is easy to start conversations and say hello to anybody. It would be strange to say “want to be friends” no matter where you are in the world…but I’m trying to be intentional with my words and say what I mean. I have used that phrase more than once and acquired 2 new friends through doing so. Do not confuse this with asking to be Facebook friends. I’m asking people if we can create a friendship-not if I can scope their Facebook page.

Everyone here has been a stranger to begin with. Everybody is a stranger to begin. Strangers are just friends in the making, some strangers will even become your people. Except for the rare occasion when you meet a stranger that you need to run in the opposite direction from. That happens too. Trust your intuition with people-it is usually right. When people present you with a “red flag“, it is a RED FLAG-doesn’t matter who you want this person to be. Red flags = red flags [no matter how you look at it]. I’ve thrown more red flags out of my imaginary window than I’d like to admit. Red flags are warning signs or advanced notice of what is to come. WOW. We get warnings long before the person lets us down. A red flag is equivalent to a warning sign. Proceed with caution-danger is ahead.

There is something to this. We could avoid bad situations, feelings, decisions by observing and LISTENING to the warnings. Therefore, it imperative to treat people with kindness and respect. If we treat people poorly, we end up being the person to hand out the red flags. The times I feel the most miserable/guilty are when I handed out my own red flag (giving warning to a person that I could be a terrible, harmful, insensitive or mean human). Looking back-I would have avoided every single life lesson I have learned, had I “seen” the warnings. However, you can’t see something if you don’t know what you’re looking for. As a adolescent I didn’t know that your actions were/are who you are. I still like to ignore the stupid flags-but I see that they are (mostly) accurate. I say mostly because I know I have thrown up my own red flags according to others…but sometimes we do make mistakes and do something that is out of character for us. This is not to be mistaken with judging, it absolutely is not judging. You are not making a decision about somebody prior to knowing them-or letting your opinion of them be swayed by something other than their actions.  Letting someone’s actions define them gives you evidence to support your view of them. Actions speak louder than words. Moko, a beautiful young lady that I adore submitted a speech to a university in Tokyo called Actions Speak Louder Than Words. I had seen this bag that I wanted a store within my first week of being in Japan. It said(says) Actions speak louder than words. I looked at it daily for at least 2 weeks. (At the time this was the only place I knew how to get to…so I went there every day!) I wanted it because I believe that to be true…But I didn’t know if 1,000 Yen (10 dollars) was in my budget when I arrived here but then… this beautiful human being says she is writing a speech called Actions Speak Louder than words. SAY WHAT! Being a person who is as sentimental as me-this was meant to be. Not only did I go back and get one of these bags but I got two. I knew that I had to get one for this person who also believed that actions are the single most powerful means of communication. This young lady has a heart of gold, like her Mama. These girls who were strangers to me 2 months ago are now my people. The people who I will be connected with for life. Soul Sistas. You are the company you keep. Back to that. Seeing the people I have in my life…I hope that I am the company I keep-because they are astounding. Stay close to people who feel like sunshine.

Sports Day- Extraordinary

In America we have NOTHING like this. Here it is called “Sports Day” A day that is all about sports. A festival that the entire student body participates in. Relays, races, dances, and marching. I could not believe the synchronicity, talent, strength and skill that these kids possess at such a young age. Everybody should see this at least once in their life. I loved it because I enjoy sports, but I do wonder how people view it that do not enjoy watching/playing sports. I just laughed out loud thinking about enjoying sports. A friend said to me, “I think you are boy-ish”. I didn’t know if I should take this as a compliment or an insult because being “boy-ish” is a perk of having three older brothers.

Even if I did have a choice…I wouldn’t change a thing. Having three older brothers is the greatest gift I have ever been given. People often say, “you’re the only girl, that must have been terrible.” I cannot even comprehend where people get the idea that it could have been terrible. It was anything but. Many things I have learned in life have come in some shape or form, from my brothers. They have been my heros, hurts, saviors, protectors and a source of grief and happiness. I have never met any siblings that are as close as we are (especially with an age difference like ours). We have gone through events that some siblings/families go through. We have gone through some situations that other families have never dreamed of-but have seen in the movies. I’m not sure why we are different than most brothers and sisters. But we talk everyday, we rough house, we visit each other, we share our happies and our sads and sometimes we are each other’s happy and/or sad.

Being an athlete myself-I’ve stayed to watch/play sports with the students. The coaches here put more time into their clubs than some people put into their daily job (in America). Club activities take up after school time and weekends. Dedication. In the United States we would have games after school that lasted until 5pm. Those were late nights for everybody (coaches and students). A normal day-practice was over at 4:30. Here practice ends at 6:00pm. Games are just “matches” the real games are the games that are played during tournaments, on weekends. We never have tournaments unless you are part of a team outside of school. Sports day was one of the coolest experiences I have ever had. I got to be in a teacher replay which nearly gave me a panic attack (I’m such a wuss). Good thing I didn’t know until RIGHT BEFORE it was time.

Something I giggle about frequently…How many times I use to change my clothes during the day. When I was teaching in America, I rarely ended the day in the same outfit I began it in. I had enough clothes in my classroom to live. I would change because I was uncomfortable. Maybe too hot, too cold or was going to PE with my students. I changed at least twice a day. Here-the teachers change more than I did! Now I don’t change at all. Teachers wear suits-EVERYDAY. But during the day I see several switches. Anywhere from 1-4 or 5. Suit to gym clothes and back to the suit. Teachers here change because of the classes they have or activities they are doing during the day. The teachers have a locker room!  What I would wear teaching in America would not be appropriate here. It is much more formal. You should see the uniforms the students wear. They are so neat and tidy-boys with suits and girls with skirts and cardigans. No khakis and polo shirt. Some people never own a suit-these children wear one every day!

Manners…Using my hands to eat…pick food up is a no no. (I can use chopsticks now). Luckily, I have the greatest friends so they just laugh and tell me that “manners” are a thing here and I should not do that. I would say I have manners. I always say please and thank you and chew with my mouth closed. I make a point to be kind to people and in a way, that is manners. Standing while eating might not be done by many but I do that often and it’s polite to sit. You know when you’re so hungry you grab a piece of pizza and eat it while standing? (Everyone does that, right?!) I don’t use dishes. I don’t enjoy washing the dishes so I avoid that by not using dishes. More people should do that. When I do use dishes, I do my own so nobody else has to. If everyone did their own dishes, there would never be dishes to wash. My dad-he always HAS to use a plate even if it is a meal that you get that is basically on a plate/tray. Most people use the paper that the TOGO burger is wrapped in as a plate (or is that just me?)…not chichi.

Growing up, we did not eat at a table. I don’t think we could. We did it a few times a year and I’m pretty sure each time we did I ended up crying from being hit, made fun of, or from laughing so hard. Tom was/is notorious for hitting me under the table. When I was mad enough I would retaliate and then RUN for my life because once I got caught-my retaliation would be the biggest mistake a little sister could make. This didn’t happen because we had parents who didn’t discipline us. You’re thinking, wow their parents let them do whatever they wanted. No. Our parents are the most caring, supportive, loving, parents a bunch of little stinkers could have.

We just had a hard time having all six of us in such close headquarters. Driving to Nebraska, from Washington, that was even harder than sitting at a dinner table together. Six people. Six Binger’s together-it was/is beautiful chaos.

The mornings are cooling off. HAPPY OCTOBER! Time is going too fast. The one thing we can’t slow down. Typhoon #24 was yesterday. Number 25 will be next week. I ordered a mattress (expensive yoga mat) from Amazon.

You may or may not know that I came to Japan to become the person I am meant to be. I did not like who I was becoming. I had/have a lot of self-growth and learning to do. Moving locations is only geographic. But moving countries by myself with the intention of becoming the person I want to be-that’s the roots of my heart spreading. It’s happening each day. I feel it. While my roots are developing I feel like the roots of people I love are shriveling. I hate that I cannot be there to love and support my people. However, I am here because I couldn’t continue to let my love and support for my people consume me anymore.


You know-a lot of hurt/hate lives inside of us? I’m thinking of a person right now that I dislike(d) very much. Not because I was jealous. This person was genuinely mean. When I thought about this person my heart would pound, instant anxiety. Now when I think of this person I feel sorry for them. I let them live inside me for months. I hated them, was scared of them and sometimes getting out of bed felt like a challenge/battle. This person wasn’t physically in front of me. You can’t hurt me if your not physically HERE. I had to let this idea sink in. Because emotional pain is different. But I don’t have to let emotions live in me. I’m still letting this idea sink in…but I’m learning that you will only be as hurt as you let yourself be. Pain is real. But letting pain make or break you-that is real thoughtless. A battle within yourself is the most tragic of all battles if you don’t win.

I have never been able to verbalize these emotions as eloquently as a loved one has:

“Is it impossible to embrace this miserable feeling almost like a rebirth and to be proud because you’re finally doing something you want to do more than anything…even though you feel dead inside? I feel old and tired like a prisoner of war. I hope this escape is final and for good with as few casualties as possible. I will fight with everything I’ve got knowing it will be my last battle. I’m not going into battle for glory, but for a victory at all costs…I hope to feel small but very strong feelings of victory as I know I am still standing although I am using a cane to do so…”

People feel this way…but what the are they supposed to do when they feel this? How can people feel this, yet we don’t have access to the resources they need to go to battle. I’ve learned that my hurts are no deeper or worse than yours, just as yours are no more real, painful than mine. A situation might be worse for a person…but the pain they feel is NO different than the pain you feel. In my life-I thought I was the only one for a long time. The only one that had panic attacks, cried myself to sleep or had to start turning my phone off after 9pm.

When I learned I wasn’t the only…it was a weight lifted from my shoulders and placed onto my heart.

I couldn’t/can’t stand the thought of other people feeling that kind of pain. I’d rather have been the only one than to know there are thousands of people who experience the same unfortunate events that I have, every day. Our hurts are all different but what if our pain is the same? Wouldn’t it be a more caring world if we all knew that each person has pain as severe as our own? Wouldn’t that help make us more empathetic and sympathetic?

When I think back to being 16, I was miserable. I think about the number of people I hated. I hated more people than I liked. I knew that these wouldn’t be my best days while others would never have better days. Some people don’t ever move past the hate, mistakes and regrets the make. I don’t think I would still be here today if I remained the person I was back then. [I had a teacher that saved my heart. Once this happened…I knew that I had to be a teacher. If I could impact even ONE life the way she changed mine…it would be worth it. Thanks Ryp. I love you dearly.] I’d say most people walk out of high school on the last day-the same person they were when they walked in 4 years previous. I walked out of high school a completely different person than I was when I started. Then-I went to college. I left there a entirely different person. I have yet to say I left, a complete-or whole person. With each new chapter in life I have transformed, developed and grown. I don’t think that I need to be “completed” or whole-I prefer to be a work in progress.

Life is hard. Be kind.


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