Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Last p-day!

Mina san, it's my last P-day! So crazy to think that this time next week I'll be on a plane to Japan! Crazy.

This week has been full of awesome experiences. Last Tuesday and Wednesday, the Nihonjin missionaries arrived. This time there were only five of them - four Elders, one Sister - instead of the usual 20 or so. At first I was a little disappointed but it's been great because we really get to know them all individually and remember their names. As STLs we were co-in charge of giving them the MTC orientation and I think it would have been really overwhelming if there had been any more. Anyways, they're all so great. The one girl, Sister Nagamine, is the cutest, sweetest girl I've ever met. Her first name is Ai - the Japanese word for love. It's perfect. She is so sweet and so forgiving of our horrible Japanese. I'm sending a picture of me and her and Sister Dunn on the night she arrived. On the other hand, the four Elders are such little rascals - always joking around and playing pranks on each other. It's hilarious. They love to dump salt and pepper on each others' food when one person isn't looking, and when they joke around they gesticulate and dance around a lot. It's very entertaining to watch. One of the Elders is originally from Brazil but moved to Japan, so he speaks fluent Portugese and Japanese and has excellent English as well. He says he only ever studied it on his own, and only started about 8 months ago! It's incredible how fast he learned, especially considering he was doing it by himself, in a country where English isn't the first language. He says "I just learned it from watching Doctor House" (all the foreigners I've ever met who watch House call it that).

On Wednesday we gave all the Nihonjin a tour of the MTC, with the longest stop being at a bunch of vending machines in the laundry room. They each got a different kind of treat, sharing with each other and saying "ahh.... oishii!" (delicious) after each bite. Sometimes they decided a few minutes later that they didn't like it after all, but the first try always seemed good. The Elders are loving the food here - they eat tons of donuts every breakfast and try everything they can. Not to mention they drink Coke or root beer with every single meal, including breakfast. Yikes. I hope that isn't their greatest memory of the USA. The only thing they really haven't liked so far was some V8 that they tried yesterday morning. It was hilarious to watch their reactions to it. No argument here - V8 is probably one of the grossest drinks ever invented. It was the kind that comes out of those little cans and tastes like the metal lining of the can somehow seeped into the juice. Nagamine Shimai has found a few foods that she likes, but for the most part she doesn't really like it. We keep apologizing for the cafeteria and promising that most American food isn't like this. (Fun fact - they DO have peanut butter in Japan! Most of the Nihonjin don't really like it but Elder Sato does, and says he eats it all the time. It's probably really expensive in the grocery stores but I don't care. IT EXISTS!!!)

Unfortunately, we didn't get to do anything fun for Pioneer Day. They had been leading up to it all week, with all of our speakers talking about them, but then nothing. Oh well. We did have a special speaker for all Japanese missionaries on that day though - his name was brother Mills, and I think he was a director of some international MTC program? He used to be a mission president in Fukuoka also. Anyway, he was way inspiring. He talked a lot about the power of expectations and what we can do to set ourselves up for success. We hear a lot of "Oh, no one in Japan is going to want to talk to you" and "you'll probably never baptize anyone" but he told us to disregard all of that. If you think you won't be successful, you won't work hard or try to be successful. But if you believe anything is possible, miracles can happen. Missionary work in Japan has grown so rapidly in the last few years, everything constantly changing, and it really is the dawn of a new era. I know that sounds cheesy, but I'm so excited to be a part of all these changes. There are people out there ready to change their lives, and it's my job to find them. It reminded me of a quote I heard this week that I really loved: "What wouldst thou have from life? Pay the price, and take it" - Ralph Waldo Emerson. Isn't that sweet? I think I'll have that painted on a plaque in my first home.

Speaking of inspiring speakers, Aunt Jane asked if we'd heard from brother Carmack last week. We did! And he even invited his son (grandson? I forget) to say a few words about what he learned on his mission - I thought it was an awesome coincidence that he'd just happened to have returned from Tokyo! He gave some good advice.

I don't know if I've ever said anything about our branch presidency members, but they're awesome. President Mack is so nice, and he happens to be Spencer W. Kimball's grandson. Kinda cool. I guess that means we're distantly related somehow, through the Heber C. Kimball side. And his first counselor, brother Bradford, speaks fluent Arabic. Isn't that crazy? He teaches it at BYU. I know he also speaks German (he served his mission in Germany, and that's where his wife is from) but I don't know how many other languages. He used to work for the government, so his family has lived all over the world. All of the counselors have traveled around the world and had all these cool experiences, and they all have like 50 million grandchildren too. I love seeing baby pictures. I miss babies here!

We've had a lot of fun showing the Nihonjin our family pictures this week, as well. They love to see them and ask who everyone is. We've also played basketball with two of the Elders a few times, and they're surprisingly really good! One of them especially looks like he might have played in high school or something. I wonder if they have any kind of basketball league in Japan? I'll have to ask.

One not so fun thing that happened this week was getting sick. It was short-lived, but painful. Just after lunch I was on my way back to my room to change for gym when I got these really bad abdominal cramps that didn't go away for a few hours. I'm not sure what caused them, but I have a suspicion it might have been the sketchy chicken that was dumped onto my salad with an ice-cream scoop. Anyways, I only had to miss a few hours of class and felt a lot better afterwards. But even that wasn't the low point of the week - the low point of the week was on Sunday night when I crumbled cookie pieces into my cereal, which I ate with chocolate milk, in the same bowl that had held the ice cream I'd finished minutes earlier. I need help.

Overheard at the MTC this week:
"...yeah, that was the only time I ever shot a cah-yote"
"Ah sweet, what kinda gun'd you use?"
Reminded me of Napoleon Dynamite. I thought Dad would like that.

Well, this is it! I'm not sure when I'll get to email next. The MTC's been fun, but it's time to move the party to Tokyo!!

Ai shite imasu, mina san.

- Anna

Anna and Sister Dunn with new Sister Nagamine

Anna's description:  Some of my district when we decided to wear our rain coats for no reason. After 8 weeks here, you find weird ways to entertain yourself.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

greetings from the mtc

It's almost week 8, mina san! So excited. We get our travel plans THIS THURSDAY, can you believe it? I'll be in Japan before too long. Japan. I've gotten some emails from missionaries who were here before us who've been out there for a little while now, and everything they say just makes me want to go even more. Minus the parts about the extreme humidity and earthquakes. I realized that I've never been in an earthquake before... scary. Sister Dunn keeps telling me they're no big deal at all... I guess that's a Californian's attitude.

Thank you for your letters! The one from the CTR 6 class was so cute. Complete with crayon drawings and everything. I love hearing from Ben too - I noticed all the envelopes are addressed in Mom's handwriting, haha. Thoughtful of you to send those with him. Elyse also gave me an envelope of printed emails that she'd gotten from home when I ran into her last week, so I got to read some of Porter and Victor's emails. Crazy that they're coming home so soon! It was also cool to real Tori's emails, to see her perspective on the same experiences I'm going through. Her letters are much more spiritual than mine.

Hmmm, where to start. We had our Bastille day picnic last week, and I'm sorry but I forgot my camera! I'm the worst at remembering to take pictures. Luckily some other girls in my district are the designated documentors, and when we all come home in two years they'll all go online for everyone to see. And their cameras are nicer than mine anyways. Still, I'll try to make a conscious effort to take more. Anyways, the picnic was really fun and the food very delicious. It was a bit of a struggle to get through La Marseillaise - it might have been caught on video, actually. Hopefully that never surfaces. After the picnic and other things, Sister Dunn and I went to go pick up a new Sister from Tahiti who joined our branch this week. International missionaries come earlier than the rest. Her name is Sister Mataoa and she's very sweet. Her English isn't very strong - she actually understands more Japanese than English - so I spoke to her in French the whole time. It was nice to be able to use that skillset for something. Although, now whenever I try to speak French, Japanese comes out. So frustrating. I still understand everything just fine, but speaking is a struggle. How do those Europeans who speak five languages do it? Everything is so mixed up in my head.

On Wednesday, the rest of the Kohai came in. We got two new districts of 12 missionaries each that joined our branch. In the morning, I hosted new missionaries again. Like last week, it mostly consisted of waiting my turn instead of actually walking the newbies around, so I only got to host two girls. One was going to Brazil, the other Pittsburg. It's so cool getting to meet other missionaries going to different places and learning their stories! The girl going to Pittsburg is the only active member of the church in her family, and she said it's hard to make them understand why she wants to go. I'm always amazed by the courage of so many people here - people who left a lot more behind than I did, with much less support from home. I think of Sister Mataoa being taught Japanese in a language that she barely understands and feel guilty about complaining about how hard my language study has been. Everyone has a different story of how they ended up here, and they're all such great examples.

Thursday night, Sister Dunn and I joined the Zone Leaders and the rest of the branch presidency to give the big orientation meeting to all the new Kohai. Mostly the branch presidency members talked, but for the last 45 minutes or so we and the ZLs gave a short presentation on rules and the importance of getting along with your companion. It turns out there was an boy in the other district who was also from Tahiti, so we had a French translator there sitting with the two Tahitians. It was a huge relief for me, because earlier in the week our branch president had asked ME if I could translate. I said I would, but translating other people's words at the same time they're saying them is really hard. I did end up helping later though, when we gave all the Kohai a few minutes to get to know their companion and ask questions. I was with the Tahitian elder and his companion, and the love and enthusiasm between them warmed my heart. The language barrier makes communication really hard for both part-Tahitian companionships, but their companions have been so loving and supportive. I continue to be so impressed by how hard others have to work. During the new Kohai meeting, each new missionary stood up to introduce themselves for a couple of minutes and say why they wanted to serve a mission. I think I cried both times the French-speaking missionaries shared their stories. This place turns you into a huge baby.One of the most beautiful things about the MTC is seeing how the gospel is the same all around the world, and how we all share such important beliefs even though we were raised in different cultures. 

Thursday was also Sister Dunn's 21st birthday, so we celebrated in classic MTC style by stuffing our faces with all the junk food we have stored in our rooms. We also found a bunch of glowsticks in the free bins, so that was a good time. Speaking of junk food, Sister Dunn and I made a great discovery a while ago. There's a teacher's-lounge type area near some picnic tables where we go for personal study time, and there's a microwave in there! What does this mean? It means we've been eating popcorn while we read ever since. Through the free bins and packages from home, we've managed to stockpile a pretty big stash of microwave popcorn packets. Mmmm. Oh yeah, and I've gained three pounds since I came here.

On Saturday we went to the TRC again, but this time we were supposed to teach a 40-minute lesson instead of 20 minutes. It was a little daunting, especially because we were supposed to focus on getting to know the person through small talk and questions - two of my weaknesses. When I have to talk about anything that doesn't use religious vocabulary my mind usually draws a blank. But it ended up being awesome! The man we taught is from Hawaii, and he served his mission in Sapporo a while ago. He was super nice, and when we ran out of things to say he just asked if we had any questions about Japan. So he talked a lot about cultural things he learned on his mission, and taught us how to politely refuse food (could come in handy). I hope I'll make time to volunteer at TRC sometimes when I come back - everyone there is so, so nice.

Pioneer day on the 24th is coming up, so hopefully we'll get to do something fun for that. Apparently it's a huge deal in Utah, with even more fireworks and celebration than July 4th. All of our devotionals and lessons last Sunday were about the faith and determination of the pioneers - again, hearing those stories just makes me feel guilty. I guess waking up early for seminary wasn't as bad as losing my feet to frostbite or eating wood chips because I had no other food. Although I still have trials! A bird peed on my head while we were walking around the temple grounds, looking at flowers. Ewwwewwew I hate birds so much. It made me think of that one time we were in Williamsburg a long time ago and a bird came and dropped a bomb on Marilyn's khaki pants. I've been kind of scared ever since, and getting bird pee on me was definitely the low point of the week. I guess that means I don't have too much to complain about.

Japanese fail of the week: I was practicing using the Katakana alphabet, used for non-Japanese words like names, by writing my Senseis' names on the chalkboard. I guess I misspelled one of them and accidentally wrote a dirty word instead? He won't tell me what it was, so it must have been bad. Oops. Besides that, though, Japanese is going well. Of course I still feel so behind, but so does everyone else. We took a grammar test on the computers last week, and I was extremely ashamed of my 58% score until I found out that everyone else got around the same. My Sensei told me that my language skills are improving very quickly - "much faster than average"  was what he said. That was comforting.

OK, I managed to get a few pictures in this email. Most of them are dumb. The glowsticks ones are from Sister Dunn's birthday (don't look too closely at anyone's face), and there's one of me with popcorn. Again, limited selection.
Hope everyone's doing well! Ai shite imasu.

Shimai Dunn, Shimai MacArthur and two other Shimai roommates

Shimai Dunn 21st Birthday (with scavanged glow sticks)

Anna unfortunately discovers the microwave to make popcorn

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

hello to my kazoku

Ohaiyo Gozaimasu, mina san!

This week has flown by. They always do; however, it's starting to feel as though we've been here a longggg time - we've seen so many people come and go, while we just keep on keepin' on. A few days ago, our devotional speaker was the same one who spoke to us the first week we were here. To be honest, I didn't even notice (notetaking is still not a strength of mine) but one of the girls in my district did, and she leaned over to whisper "you know you've been here too long when they start recycling speakers." Same with the cafeteria food - there's a pattern to what they serve, and we've now been able to notice the schedule repeating. Update on my efforts to eat meat again: I can do small pieces in soups or salads just fine, and maybe even full pieces of chicken or turkey, but I tried a bite of roast beef last week and instantly gagged. Oh man it was so gross. I'll have to work on that before I go to Japan so I don't offend some kindly family.

Hmmm, where to start. All of the Daisempai (6-9 weeks) left this Monday morning, so we've graduated to Daisempai! It was sad saying goodbye to them, and terrifying/exciting to think that we'll be the next to leave. We're 2/3 done.

Sister Dunn and I have been adjusting to our new calling as Sister Training Leaders. This week we interviewed all of the girls in the branch to get to know them, and I was surprised how talkative they all were! It was awesome. In my interviews, I was always like "yeah, yep, doing good, I'm fine, no I don't have any questions, are we done yet?" But a lot of girls really liked the opportunity to talk. They're all so sweet. This job forces me to be more social, which I guess I needed. It's a lot of fun.

Last Tuesday, after I sent my email, my district had our weekly P-day picnic lunch. We have lots of free time in the afternoons, so we ended up playing werewolf for like two hours. Today, we're having a little party with the care package you sent (thank you!! I have the best Mom ever!). Then on Wednesday, I hosted new missionaries for the first time. Hosting is mostly standing by the sidewalk, waiting your turn when cars pull up - I was there for about two hours, but only hosted 2 girls. But it's all good. You help the new missionaries get their luggage out of their car; say goodbye to their family; then take them to get their name tags, drop their luggage off in their room, and grab the books they need before dropping them off in their classroom. The first girl I hosted actually came here with her twin sister, and they're both going to Korea! Crazy. She was so sweet, and I had a deja vu moment when I took her to her classroom and her teacher greeted her in rapid Korean, never pausing to explain anything in English. I saw the bewildered, wide-eyed look she gave him and remembered doing the exact same thing to my Sensei six weeks ago. Another fun fact I learned this week about the MTC: All of the classrooms and residence halls for English-speaking missionaries are wayyyyy nicer than ours. Not fair at all. They all have comfy chairs, huge TVs, decorated walls, etc. and we're in a tiny room with a chalkboard. CHALKboard. But it's okay.

Friday morning I woke up to find everything wet - I guess Utah has some storms in the summertime. It rained on and off for the next two days, and everyone was SO excited about it.

We've had a lot of extra teachers come in recently, for more opportunities to practice teaching or get individual coaching. It's cool to listen to each one of their Japanese styles, especially the native ones, because everyone speaks differently. We were also visited by Brother Mortenson, an Italian teacher, and he said he knew Marilyn! "Oh yeah, Sister Bradford is great" is what he said. Which, of course, she is. I love reading her letters home. We also get more opportunities to teach new people in TRC - this week, Sister Dunn and I taught the Taguchis, an elderly Japanese couple who come all the time. Apparently they used to live in Salem for a long time! They were very nice, and spent almost all of the lesson time explaining the meaning of the characters in their names and telling us other facts about Japan. They had a whole binder full of laminated pages covered in maps, pictures, and other charts - clearly they've been doing this a long time, and have their presentation perfected.

When we were taking a walk around the temple grounds on Sunday, we ran into a lady from Tokyo who was very excited to meet us. She took lots of pictures and talked to us for a long time, constantly bowing and apologizing for keeping us from dinner but then taking more pictures. She was so sweet. It was really encouraging that I was able to understand her, even though I'm sure she was speaking slowly and dumbing down her words for our benefit.

Oh, I got to play the piano last night for the first time in what seems like years! It was amazing to see my fingers remember what my brain couldn't. We had some extra time after class ended before we could go back to our rooms so we went and found a room with a piano so we could all sing together. It's amazing how fun stuff like that becomes when you don't have Netflix or other things to do.

OK, now I have to include one ridiculous story that happened this week. Venting about things helps me not to feel angry, so I'm considering this therapeutic. Anyways, Sister Dunn and I offered to send any last-minute packages that the Daisempai had after they left Monday morning. One girl told us that she had a couple boxes of things to send home, which she'd leave outside her door, labeled and ready to go. So when we got there, we were shocked to see TEN boxes, all of them overflowing with junk, and a few addresses written out on paper next to them. And I mean BIG boxes - at least three of them were the kind produce comes in at the grocery store. Nothing was sealed or ready, and she didn't leave money or anything. Did she really expect us to pay for all those boxes to be mailed off? It would easily amount to over $100. Anyways, we weren't sure what to do so we called our branch president (Dad asked about that, I think - Our branch, about 100 missionaries, has a president and three counselors) and gave him the girl's mom's phone number so they can figure it out. They live in Provo, so they'll probably be able to come and pick it up in person. I don't know. In the meantime, we have to store all of her stuff in our room. I guess I should have seen it coming - this girl received THIRTY packages from home during her stay here, so it's safe to say she probably lives a charmed life. I hope being on her own in Japan isn't too big a shock. Actually, I take it back. She needs a wake-up call.

Well, time's up! Matta ne!


Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Week.... I don't even know anymore

Hello everybody!

Thank you for all your letters! It was great to hear from so many people. I've run into Ali Bradford a few times, I can't remember if I said that already, and Katherine Weigl. It's so funny that she's in the other MacArthur's ward and that I met her when I was little! She was actually in my BYU ward, and I knew she was going to Kobe. She just got here a week or so ago; she's in my zone. Small world.

This week was pretty exciting. July 4th was a lot of fun! We got out of evening classes early for a special devotional with a short speaker, music, and singing patriotic songs. Then we watched 17 Miracles, the pioneer movie. Wow. Talk about a tearjerker. We left the gym in kind of a somber mood afterwards, which was quickly taken away when we were given ice cream bars and told we could stay outside past our bedtime (woo hoo!! I felt like a giddy 5-year-old) to watch the fireworks. The MTC is surrounded by trees so we didn't have the best view, but it was still pretty spectacular. I dressed pretty patriotically that day, and Sister Dunn and I took some pictures next to all the world flags. I thiiiink you can see both American and Japan in this one. Also, a lot of people in our district got 4th of July care packages so they all brought those to share and I think I ate 40 cookies that day. Good thing I made up a new rule: calories don't count on holidays.

We've gone from teaching one or two lessons a week to 5 or 6. Both of our Senseis take turns being "investigators" for us to practice with, plus an extra helper teacher who we've been teaching as well. They all assume the identities of real people that they taught in Japan while on their missions, so that's cool. Plus now we take turns teaching each other 4 nights a week (which is much less stressful because we're allowed to use some English). We also went back to the TRC this week. Many of the same people were there, but also some new ones. We see TONS of couples where the guy went on a mission in Japan and came back and started dating a Japanese girl. It's funny to hear them talk and joke and argue in Japanese. Japanese fail of the week: During one of my lessons, my Sensei asked me what baptism was and I said "a silver thread."

I'm not sure if I really want to leave yet or not. The days definitely seem longer, and I'm so excited to finally get to Japan, but I don't quite feel ready yet. Much of that has to do with the fact that whenever I try to have a conversation with the Nihonjin there are serious communication problems. They are all so sweet though. If everyone is like that in Japan, I'll never want to leave! Although I'll be a lot busier from now on than I used to be because Sister Dunn and I got called as Sister Training Leaders on Sunday. STLs are pretty much the female equivalent of Zone Leaders, so we'll be responsible for the 50ish girls in our zone. It's a big responsibility - we have to interview all of the girls on a weekly basis, and counsel them if there are any problems between companionships. The interviews are mostly short and easy but there are some girls who I've been told will need to be talked with for at least half an hour per interview because they've been having a hard time. I don't really have any idea what I'm doing, and I hope I'll be able to help the other sisters. We'll also give MTC tours and teach Residence Hall rules to the new Kohai who will arrive in about a week, plus act as guides for the next batch of Nihonjin. Each Nihonjin district comes for about two weeks, and they all fly back out to Japan with the current Daisempai (weeks 6-9). So, the next Nihonjin districts will be "our" Nihonjin, going to Tokyo with us on the plane. I really, really, reallllly hope I'll be able to communicate with them and help them understand what to do. The MTC schedule is confusing at first, and I can't imagine trying to figure it out in another language. Some of the Nihonjin speak pretty good English but others are very limited.

Hmm... for some reason I'm struggling to think of things to say. I think the days are starting to all blur together in my mind. I've played 3 on 3 basketball a few times at gym, and I've actually been dominating the court. Just kidding! I'm about as talented as I was when I quit the YMCA league in 4th grade. It's fun though. I actually tweaked my ankle a little last time we played and it got really fat afterwards, but it's fine now. They have so many rules to keep it noncompetitive - no more than 3 on 3, you can only keep score up to like 15 or something, you can only play half-court, etc. But we find ways to still get into it. Let's be honest, the only reason sports are fun is because of the competition. The MTC has a bunch of records posted in the gym, like highest vertical jump and fastest mile time, for both guys and girls. I think it'd be awesome to beat one of those records, but I don't see how any of them would be physically possible for me. The longest wall sit is 41 minutes. 41 minutes!!!! Are you kidding me? I can barely stand 41 seconds. I want to meet that girl. Her thighs are probably made of iron.

A bunch of girls who lived next door to me left this morning, all Russian speaking. They've been here the whole time I was here and it's weird to have them gone. We would always bond by complaining about how hard our languages are. Although, they left some awesome stuff in the free bin. Have I mentioned the free bin before? It's easily the best thing about the residence halls. There are 3 giant bins - one for clothes, one for books, and one for miscellaneous things and hair/body care. A lot of the Russian sisters were beauty queens with tons of really nice hair supplies and things that are now mine. I also scored some silly string and two squirt guns. Not really sure what I'm going to do with those, but our district's having a picnic later today and we might surprise the chorotachi.

Another funny example of how polite Japanese is as indirect as possible: to tell someone they "must" do something, you have to tell them "if you don't do this, this won't happen." Therefore, you must. It doesn't really make any sense, just makes everything harder to say. But giving a direct command is much too bold. There are so, so many little etiquette rules, plus whole other sets of honorific and humble language to be used at different times. I sincerely hope I don't offend anybody when I get to Japan by accidentally mixing some of these up. It's too much for my little American brain to remember.

Ai shite imasu, mina san! (I love you all)

Makasa Shimai (that's what my name will probably be changed to)

Anna & Dunn Shimai on Independence Day

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Week 4 Report

Hello all!

It's been another good week here at the MTC, although I will admit that the days are starting to seem a little longer. We graduated from Cohai (0-3 weeks) to Sempai (3-6 weeks). All of the Daisempai (6-9 weeks) have major cabin fever, and I know that'll be me soon. Also, I'm not sure if Cohai, Sempai and Daisempai are actual Japanese terms or if they were just made up here.

I'm trying really hard to remember all your questions. Dad asked about what we do in class, I think. I have six hours of structured classroom time each day, 3 hours each with a different teacher. The 3-hour block is usually broken up into 3 1-hour parts, one for language instruction, one for practicing teaching the "investigator" played by our teacher, and one for learning different teaching methods or gospel topics. It varies though, and sometimes we'll have discussions or watch videos or something else. Besides structured class time, we also have about an hour each every day for personal study, language study, and TALL (technology-assisted language learning) on the computer.

My favorite parts of the day are definitely mealtimes and gym time, because it's time when we can just have fun as a district and take a break from Japanese. We also have an hour every night after classes are done for "additional study and planning," during which we sometimes go out and do something fun. At one point, when we were all in choir, we went and found a piano to practice our songs. Now that we mostly all dropped out of choir, we just sing for fun. We also had two parties this week, one for Sister Willden's birthday and one for Canada Day yesterday. We found some picnic tables on the edge of campus and the Elders brought tons of food. Apparently they all get care packages full of junk food like every day and their rooms are overflowing with it.

For the Birthday party, we learned how to sing Happy Birthday in Japanese and there was even a cake! I guess Sister Willden had a relative in the area who knew someone who worked here, and they delivered it to her room! It was really fun. She turned 21. Sister Dunn is turning 21 in about a month too - most of the girls in my district are around 20 it seems. I'm the youngest, but I'm older than all of the boys by a few months. On Canada Day, we tried all kinds of Canadian packaged foods (ketchup-flavored Lays, maple cookies, candy bars that aren't in the states, and other things) that Elder Keith's family sent him from home in Ottawa. He loves his Canadian heritage, and encouraged us all to wear red that day. We ate on Canadian flag plates and napkins, and tried to follow along as he belted out Canada's national anthem. Funny kid. I'll try to attach a picture. It made me really excited for the 4th (I've heard we get to watch the Stadium of Fire fireworks!), and we've decided as a district to try to throw as many themed parties as possible. If anyone wants to send me a French-themed package for Bastille Day (isn't it the 14th?), I wouldn't object.

Besides our picnics, gym time is definitely the most fun part of the day. The Shimaitachi have continued to play soccer pretty regularly, which always leaves me winded and dripping with sweat. It is soooo hot here. And since we usually only play 4 on 4, a lot of running is required. It's always nice when other girls join in. We played basketball yesterday too, which was way fun even though it involves lots of getting hit in the face. We can only play half-court, so it feels like you're constantly switching directions and running around in circles. Oh yeah, plus I'm really bad at basketball and have no idea what I'm doing. I almost won a game of Bump yesterday though! If I'm not one of the first three out, it's a good game for me. So getting second felt like winning an Olympic medal. Foursquare is also a really good time. It reminds me of fifth grade.

Sundays are definitely the best days of the week. No class! And because Relief Society is combined with all of the girls in the MTC, we always get really cool speakers. I'm usually not a fan of female speakers in general conference and the overly sweet tones of voice they all seem to have, but we've gotten to hear from such pretty amazing women. Last Sunday we heard from Sheri Dew! For those of you who don't know, she's a big deal to Mormon women. What an incredible lady. And our devotional speaker last week was Janice Kapp Perry, who writes a lot of music for the church. Her talk involved lots of singing and funny stories. Her husband was there with her, and she talked about how they first met. They were in the same music class a long time ago in college, and right before she was about to give her final performance on the clarinet, he leaned over and spoke the very first words he ever said to her: "those lips look like they were meant for better things than clarinet." Obviously, his line worked. When she told the story, her husband walked over and gave her a huge, loud kiss that got a standing ovation and lots of whooping. It was great. She also played a really funny song that she'd written for her whole extended family. It sounds like there's a lot of talent in that bloodline.

Another fun thing about Sundays is that you don't know who's speaking until our Branch President announces it 2 minutes beforehand. There are about 80-ish missionaries in our branch, I think. So, we all have to prepare short talks on an assigned subject beforehand. It's always fun watching people's reactions, except of course when that person is you. When I heard him say my name I'm pretty sure my eyes grew 10x bigger. Usually though, giving a talk really isn't a big deal at all. All of the speakers in the past have used lots of English, made tons of mistakes and laughed it off, and only went for like 2 or 3 minutes. But the dude who went before me is one of the ones who actually studied Japanese in high school and takes it very seriously. His talk was honestly like 10 minutes long, much of it unscripted, and flawless. Not a single English word. So I made sure to compensate for all of his perfection by messing up my conjugation and only speaking for about 90 seconds. Silver lining: I know I won't get called on twice so now I don't have to write any more talks.

Speaking of music, I miss it so much. Leaving behind Facebook and TV and all that was pretty easy, but not having my ipod is really hard sometimes. We get to sing here a lot, but Japanese hymns that I barely understand just aren't the same. Like, someone is currently playing Yankee Doodle on the piano in the room next door to me and I'm enjoying it so much because it's something different. I have to refrain from dancing. I've started to compensate for my lack of music by writing stupid songs about our district to the tunes of Disney songs or Christmas carols or whatever I can think of. A few days ago, I wrote a 12 Days of Christmas- inspired song about our district because there's 12 of us, and each day was something unique about one of us. For example, it started off with 12 pairs of shoes, which is how many Sister Dunn currently has. 12! And Dad thought I was being frivolous with 5 or 6. I wish I could shop here. Actually, there's a small store above the bookstore from which I bought a skirt. But that's all, no more clothes. Even though I might need some new underwear because I accidentally dyed some of mine pink in the laundry today. I thought that only happened in sitcoms! Anyways, my songs are totally dumb and silly but people seem to enjoy them. I think some performances have actually been recorded and hopefully never resurface.

We went to the TRC for the first time this week, and I'm not actually sure what that stands for. Training... something... center? Anyways, it's where volunteers come and let us teach them short lessons to practice. It's mostly returned missionaries from Japan who live in Provo or go to BYU, but there was this one really old Japanese couple who I guess were really funny and a little confused about the fact that we are supposed to be teaching them, and not the other way around. I was a little nervous beforehand, but everyone was really nice. Although sometimes they speak a little fast and I just sit there, smiling and nodding, hoping that whatever they just said wasn't a question.

We're getting two more districts of Nihonjin next week! I'm so excited. There are 20 of them, about half-girls, half-boys.

Overheard at the MTC this week:
"Recycling is actually really bad for the environment"
"Having a catheter would be so fun!"

Love, Anna

Anna's MTC district celebrates Canada Day