Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Week 3 Report

Konnichiwa, mina san...

The MTC continues to get easier. Now that I'm getting used to the schedule and don't feel quite so rushed all the time, we've found that we sometimes have a little free time to goof off. Although I'll admit that most of the free time in the girls' dorms goes towards doing our nails, braiding hair, etc. I think the Elders have a lot more play time than we do. They always talk about a bowling set that somebody set up in their hallway, and all kinds of weird things like water guns and whoopie cushions left by past missionaries hidden in their AC vents. I haven't checked any air vents in our rooms, but I doubt that any of them contain nerf guns. The schedules here are definitely catered to men, though - I don't know who in their right mind thinks that 25 minutes after gym is enough time for a girl to shower, dry her hair, do makeup and get dressed. The leaders here always give us "gentle reminders" that wet hair, ponytails, and braids aren't "professional" looking, but also that it's important to adhere to the schedule and be on time to everything. Well, you can't have your cake and eat it too. Wet hair it is.

Our first teacher, Brinley Sensei, left last Saturday to start a new job with an American/Japanese business. He was such an awesome, inspirational teacher. I'll miss him a lot. I'm attaching a picture of my district with him, since I forgot to send the one of my district last week. We got a new teacher yesterday, Hugo Sensei, and he seems cool. Everyone keeps saying he looks like Superman, and I guess it's kind of true. Oh, and I thought I said this in my first email, but you keep asking so I guess I forgot. Everyone in my district is going to Tokyo. It's fun to think we might see each other around.

It was so cool to be part of the broadcast on Sunday! We watched the tape afterwards and I saw a close-up of Tori (by the way, I run into Tori pretty frequently and I've seen Elyse a few times too). You could see me and my companion at one point, but pretty far away. We just looked for the yellow shirt I was wearing. Almost everybody in my district got a close-up shot though. It was so cool to get to listen to the apostles speak. Missionary work is constantly changing and improving. How cool that missionaries will now be stationed at church buildings, ready to give guided tours! And internet will be used more and more. We've been told that email is big in Japan, especially since it's considered a little weird to give your personal phone number to strangers. So we'll most likely be doing a lot of talking with investigators through email.

The more I learn the Japanese language, the more I grow to love its little quirks. There is so much importance put on politeness and humility. For example, if I was to ask someone if I could come inside their house, they wouldn't say "no." Instead, they'd say "it's okay if you don't." Basically, the less direct, the better. Also, all of our textbooks that we use have Japanese nicknames that come from Pokemon or other things like that. We have a Miyagi (old man from Karate Kid?), a Pikachu, a Bulbasoar, Charmander... I guess the Pokemon ones were chosen based off the covers' colors. For the first few times, me and Sister Dunne would be so confused every time someone said, "Oh it's on page 11 of the Charmander." We'd ask which one that was, and get this look like "Oh my gosh, obviously it's the orange one; how could you not be familiar with Pokemon, you ignorant fool?" I'm learning, I'm learning. Every now and then I'll run into someone here who's really into anime and very jealous that I'm going to Japan. I just kinda give them a shrug, like "ehh, sorry I took your dream mission. I'm sure there's a very good reason why I'm going there!" I actually met a (white) guy a few days ago who spoke FLUENT Japanese, and got called to Korea. So interesting.

I've gotten a chance to interact with quite a few French missionaries here. I met a Sister in line yesterday who's from Montreal and got to talk with here, and I've had short conversations with lots of Americans trying to learn French. I even talked to some Elders learning Creole a few days ago, and that was fun to listen to. I could understand almost everything, but wouldn't be able to speak it. They use the same words as French, but differently. I don't know how to explain it, it's weird.

Earlier this week, we went to a meeting for all the girls going to Japan. I think they were talking about toiletries, what was different in Japan, how to make sure your underwear was covered while on a bike, stuff like that. I couldn't understand much because it was ALL in Japanese. Every now and then I'd hear words I recognized, like "taisetsu! Taisetsu, des ne?" (important). Like okay, glad to know that what you're saying is really important. I still can't understand it. The worst was when they'd tell a joke and all the Nihonjin would laugh hysterically and I'd just stand there with a blank face. What I could gather from all that was, like we'd heard before, toothpaste and deodorant is different in Japan and you might want to bring your own. Also I've heard that their makeup usually has skin whitening stuff in it? Yikes. I'm going to come back paler than I've ever been in my life. It was funny watching the Nihohjin walk outside to the temple last week. It's maybe a five minute walk, but the girls were all holding scarves over their heads to block the sun. I guess it's a good think I'm losing my tan - don't want to look like a a peasant.

One experience this week that warmed my heart: we've been eating meals in the gym instead of the cafeteria this week because the main building was being used for all the new Mission Presidents here, and the amount of waste that came from disposable utensils was disgusting. Styrofoam trays for every meal, water bottles, paper and plastic everything - all straight into the trash. Being from Eugene, it is very hard to realize that there are places in the US where recycling isn't considered important. So I usually gather up the bottles and cans from my district and walk around to the back of the building to sort them into recycling bins, and last time I was there I saw all the Nihonjin sorting their cans and bottles too. So the Japanese people recycle! I'm going to my people.

Well, time's up. Love and miss you all!

Goodbye to Brinley Sensei

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Week 2 Report

Hello all! I hope everything is well at home.

This week has been just as busy as last week. Japanese is coming at me faster and faster, and I just have to try my hardest to keep up. I'm almost done learning the two phonetic alphabets. Sometimes when we have lots of extra "study time" we'll come up with little word games to keep us busy, like one person saying a word in English and us having to write the translation on the chalkboard in Hiragana, fastest person wins. It gets a little heated sometimes. Our district has also started to meet together at gym time too, to play volleyball or basketball or soccer. All of the Shimaitachi (girls) played soccer outside yesterday and it was so much fun! We try to use what little Japanese we know to come up with team cheers and battle cries. Usually whenever anyone scores I just yell "Chikara!" for "power", but we've started saying "chick-ara" (girl power). It's fun having so many more girls than boys in our district because whenever we vote to make decisions we always get our way. Who has to go first giving Japanese lessons? Never us.

One cool thing that happened this week was the arrival of a district full of Nihonjin (native Japanese missionaries). Their English is about as good as our Japanese, so communication is a little difficult, but I love saying Konnichiwa to them as we pass in the halls. I love them all even though they talk too fast. The first day we met them, last Sunday, we had a little get-to-know-you session in our classroom and they all bore their testimonies and said why they wanted to be missionaries. It really hit me then - that this is why I'm here. All of these Japanese missionaries' families had at some point been converted by someone like me, and now they're all so happy to share what they know with others in their home country. There was so much love in that little room that night. Even though I could only understand every tenth word, I couldn't stop the tears from falling down my cheeks. The Nihonjin leave in a week, since obviously they don't need as much time as we do to learn the language, and I'll miss them a lot.

One exciting announcement: this Sunday, the 23rd, the entire First Presidency of the church and all twelve apostles are coming here for a special broadcast that we get to be a part of! I'll be singing in the choir (and you all know how little vocal talent I have... the things I do to see the prophet) and the whole thing will be broadcast worldwide! There are all kinds of rumors about a "big announcement" that they'll be making, but I have no idea what it will be or if there even is one. Some theories I've heard are, 1) sister missionaries can now serve for two years, 2) they're opening China, and 3) all missionaries get iPads. Actually, a lot of people are convinced it's the iPad one. Crossing my fingers!

It's been very hectic trying to fit choir practice into our already-packed schedule. I'm thinking I might become a dropout once the big broadcast is over. Last Sunday night we only had fifteen minutes for dinner before we had to be at rehearsal, and the lines in the cafeteria were miles long. It never seems overly crowded here except on Sundays. I think mealtimes are shorter because they try not to have as many people work, so there are twice as many missionaries in the cafeteria during mealtimes. We picked the shortest lines we could and I ended up with a bowl of rice, some cottage cheese and one of those gross, sour green apples that are always around because no one wants them. The food is USUALLY okay though. Although I think I'm losing weight. But that's probably because I don't have unlimited access to the kitchen pantry full of snacks whenever I'm bored.

Our "investigator" from last week, Shuma, is now our second Sensei. We have Brinley Sensei for three hours in the mornings and now Willard Sensei for three hours in the evenings. Although I keep accidentally calling him Shuma-san and I'm not sure I'll be able to stop. That's just what his name is in my brain. Fun fact: both of our Senseis married half-Japanese women and either have jobs or will have jobs related to speaking Japanese. They are both on the short side... I wonder if smaller men really like going to Japan because they feel so tall compared to everyone there? Their wives are tiny too. One of them is having a baby boy in about a month!

Also, I saw Tori and Jacob this week! Jacob was at the other campus, so I only saw him once, but I've run into Tori a few times. She said she's staying for the whole nine weeks so I'll have lots of time to see her.

Overheard at the MTC this week: "Oh holy mother of pearl"

Love you all!

Anna and roommates studying diligently

MacArthur Shimai and Dunne Shimai

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Week 1 Report

I've really enjoyed your letters. Dearelder.com is definitely the way to go, because then I have unlimited time to read them instead of trying to race through them during my email time. They get delivered either the same day or the next.

Today is Tuesday, my first prep day. This week has been crazy. When I imagined the MTC I kind of thought I'd be sitting in a classroom all day, but we are constantly on the move. It's great because even though I study and read all day, I've never once felt bored. I don't really have time to be bored, honestly. There never seems to be enough time in the day.

Japanese is extremely hard. I guess I knew it would be, but I still wasn't prepared for feeling completely incompetent. My companion and I are the only two girls in our whole district with no Japanese experience or heritage, and we've been feeling way behind everyone else (side note- if you study any Japanese at all, even one term, you WILL go to Japan on your mission. So I guess if Ben really wants to leave this continent, this is one way to ensure that'll happen). I feel like I need to prove to the other people in my class that I'm actually not an idiot. For the first three days of class, my sensei spoke no English whatsoever. Not a single word. I guess it was helpful, but I've never been so overwhelmed. The beds here are extremely uncomfortable but I'm so mentally exhausted at the end of every day that I have no problem falling asleep.

Other than the fact that they all know too much, my district is great. There are four elders and eight sisters! I definitely see more boys than girls around the MTC, but for some reason our zone is very girl-heavy. We've gotten really close just in this first week, and it's really starting to feel like a family. My companion, Dunn Shimai (I'm called MacArthur Shimai) is great. We get along super well, and I can't imagine myself with anyone else. And... she's from San Diego! That city has definitely treated me right. I think I'm destined to move there; it's where my people are.

Speaking of San Diego, I met Drew Toolsen (Toolson? I forget) this week. I introduced myself in the airport, like "Oh hi, do you know the Crickmores? They talk about you a lot, I'm their friend from school..." whatever. I think I kind of freaked him out, but he says hi to me now so I guess he's over it. I also overheard a girl say she was from Pasadena, so I asked if she knew the Bradfords, and she said yes! I think her name was Sister Bevan. Apparently they'd told her to look for me! It's crazy how small the world is through Mormon connections. Everybody knows somebody who knows somebody. I've seen tons of people I know from school, too.

I share a room with three other Shimaitachi from my district: Dunn, Yamaouchi and Smith. We've been getting along really well too. So far there are only four of us in a room with six beds, but I really hope no one else moves in because there are only four desks and closets. Space is limited as is. Also, even though I was the first one to the room and got to choose my bed, for some reason I picked a top bunk. Rookie mistake. I guess the little kid in me got excited and went for it, but the ladder is the most unstable thing ever and I'm probably going to fall off it someday and break my neck. I don't have many regrets about my time here, but one of them is definitely picking this stupid bed. The showers here are also pretty disgusting, but I guess it prevents me from wasting too much time in there. Dad would be proud of how little watter I'm using.

My daily schedule varies, but for the most part, we wake up every morning ten minutes before six to go to the exercise classes at 6am. They're just for girls, and a little wimpy sometimes, but light exercise is better than no exercise, right? We also get four gym hours a week, during which we can either run, lift weights, play volleyball or basketball in the gym, or play sports outside. I've only been outside once for gym because it's so hot here. We played bocce ball in the shade and even that was pushing it. After coming back from exercise and showering, we eat breakfast and usually have an hour to read or study. Throughout the day we have six hours of class instruction that's broken up by other personal study times, meals, and computer-assisted language study. The days are long, but we're always go-go-go! Sundays are different though, and this past Sunday was my favorite day by far. We don't have any classroom time, just listening to speakers, and music, and other church-y things. It's nice to take a break from Japanese (even though half of church is in Japanese - but at least I don't have to speak it!) and just focus on listening to the speakers.

This Sunday I went to a "new sisters" meeting for all the girls who had just come in that week, and it was basically finishing school. We were taught how to sit, bend over, etc. The lady speaking also said that technically we didn't HAVE to wear makeup, but that she personally didn't recommend leaving the house without lipstick. She even showed us her personal favorite products! It was hard not to roll my eyes.

Most days part of our classroom instruction includes teaching a fake investigator, "Shuma." Our first lesson was on day 3, and it has to be in all Japanese! They are definitely a struggle. We aren't supposed to write down sentences to read from, so our communication is seriously limited. I try to just talk fast and not leave him time to ask too many questions that I won't understand. At one point, he asked what our interests were and I said "ice cream" because I literally could not think of any other Japanese word. It's rough. Also, my French keeps coming out in class. I'd heard people talk about that happening to them before, but it really is real. I'll try to string the few Japanese words I know together with French particles, and I keep trying to ask my sensei "Comment dit-on..." before realizing he doesn't understand me. There's a boy from Canada in my district who speaks some French so he kind of understands what I'm going through, but not really because he's apparently a Japanese genius and seems to have no trouble picking up a third language.

Update on my gradual shift towards becoming an omnivore again: It's going pretty well, but slowly. I've been trying to eat things with small amounts of meat mixed in with pasta or other things so I can't taste it as much. I ate some kind of chicken-parm noodle thing the other day and was actually enjoying it until I bit into a piece of chicken fat and got freaked out. I haven't felt sick at all though, so I think it'll all work out.

Fun fact about Japanese: the word for scriptures, "seiten," has a very similar pronunciation to the word "satan," for the devil. I foresee some potential problems.

Overheard at the MTC this week:
"You don't need a degree if you get a ring" - a boy
"Wait, it snows in Provo?"

I love you lots, can't wait to tell you about next week!

P.S. I've been getting lots of compliments on my outfits. I know shopping for a missionary wardrobe was tedious for Mom and hellish for Dad, but it's all worth it!

Arigato gozaimasu.