Monday, August 26, 2013

week 3

It's P-day already! Not too much has changed here - I still barely understand what people are saying, but they're so kind and understanding about it. And they continue to shower us with food. Everything here is so good. The only thing I've tried and not liked is some mochi covered in what looked like caramel, but turned out to be soy-sauce-like. Blech. Also some steak that I was served at a member's house - I didn't throw up, so that's good, but I still can't stand red meat. I don't think I can ever go back.

Today was pretty eventful. We went to a Japanese class taught at a community center in the morning, where I learned a lot and remembered maybe 5% of it. I met a man from Connecticut teaching English here, and we met up with one of our friends from Thailand, Sermsi. She's kind of an investigator, but mostly just likes talking with us. We got lunch together at a curry restaurant that was really good. After lunch, I finally caved and spent $30 on a comfier bike seat. Almost everyone here has really wide granny seats on their bike - I think it's because they're all so skinny and don't have as much padding as we do.

I rode home on my new bike seat with a basket full of groceries, and my skirt held up with a clothespin tied to my bike. We biked for probably around four hours yesterday, and I suffered my first bike casualty - my skirt got caught in the brake and the bottom was shredded. I'll attach a picture. It happened to Sister Kubota too, and hers was even worse than mine. It's rough out here.

The best thing that happened today was we got our AC fixed! It's been broken for about five days, and I felt like I was slowly dying. Sleeping was especially bad - I didn't even use a sheet because it was so hot. Usually I can't fall asleep without at least two quilts! One perk to missionary life is you're so tired by the end of the day that sleep comes very easily. No more insomnia for me.

One of the cons to missionary life is you meet new people all the time who have foreign names that are hard to remember. Sometimes I'll forget someone's name five seconds after they tell me. Usually it's okay, but it's led to some awkward moments when you're asked to pray aloud for their family and you can't for the life of you remember their name. Sometimes I hope that I'll get some divine revelation and remember it just as I need to say it, but I don't think it works that way - so instead I find ways around it, like blessing "the family" or "our friend" or just not using a pronoun at all. You can get away with a lot when people know your Japanese is bad.

On Tuesday I experienced my first Japan downpour. It came out of nowhere, so we didn't have our raincoats, and by the time we got home at night we were completely soaked. I literally looked like I'd just jumped in a pool - I would send a picture, but I don't look so cute in it so you'll just have to take my word for it. Think drowned cat.

On Wednesday we had our first district meeting - there are six of us, plus the two Zone Leaders came. We had a little training, plus a pep talk-ish lesson, and discussed the people we were teaching and asked each other advice. I really liked it. Then in the evening we taught Eikaiwa, and it was really fun. We split into beginner and advanced groups, so I got to teach the advanced group with the other bean-chan (what greenies are called here, along with "greenbean").

Thursday was a little rough. We got our first actual door slammed in our face (accompanied with a "forgive me"... Japanese people are so polite). It was also the day our AC broke, just in time for weekly planning, which takes a few hours. I kept drinking water to keep myself from passing out.

Friday we spent lots of time in members' houses, visiting them and doing mogi (practice) lessons. We were fed very well. On the way home I saw a man riding a bicycle while holding and umbrella and smoking a cigarette. How do people here do it? I can barely handle a bike with two hands.

Saturday we did more visits and practice lessons. We also handed out fliers for Eikaiwa for a bit at the train station. I like being outside in the evening - it's the perfect temperature, and everything looks cool all lit up.

On Sunday there was more food - the ward had a potluck lunch after church, and we went to the Stake President's house for a pizza party with all the youth, which was really fun. One of the families in the ward is hosting an exchange student from Australia, so it was nice for me to get to talk to someone in English. We visited a few people between the potluck and pizza party who lived really far away, plus we got lost, so we spent almost all afternoon on our bikes. Hence the skirt ripping.

Lots of other stuff happened, but I can't remember everything. I started a list of funny things about Japan, so I guess I'll share what I have so far:

• All the big trucks here play ice-cream-truck-like music to warn little kids to stay away
• Japanese people like to salt their watermelon, apparently to bring out the taste. I tried it and thought it tasted like salty watermelon.
• They also peel the skins off of grapes before eating them
• Everything is open much later - like little shops that usually close at 5 or 7 at home are open till 8 or 9 here.
• It's custom to bow and wave continually until you can't see someone anymore when they're driving away
• They use mayonnaise as salad dressing. I might have said this before but I've never been so shocked because of food before
• Napkins aren't really a thing, paper or cloth - sometimes there's a box of tissues in the middle of the table, but you need like 50 of them to do the job of a regular napkin
• Even though it's a million degrees out, lots of women wear loose sleeve things that look like arm warmers to protect their skin from the sun
• Everyone wears crocs. Literally everyone. I guess it makes sense in this climate... still, I refuse out of pride.
• Most people's crocs are worn with socks, kind of defeating the purpose of having an airy shoe

That's all for now, hope I didn't forget anything too big!
Love, Anna

Anna and her new wheels!

Skirt shredded in bike brake - oops

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Konnichiwa from Oyama

Konnichiwa mina san!! Week two was just as busy as week one, although much less confusing. I finally have a grip on all of the ward members' names (probably around 50-60 people come to church every week) and also the names of our investigators. We teach a lot of different people right now, but only two are called "progressing investigators" (meeting with us regularly, keeping commitments). I'm not sure if I'm supposed to say their names so I'll call them K and the I family.

K is really sweet. Right now her biggest problem is just feeling comfortable with the ward members, so we've been working a lot to help her build friendships and get to know everyone. The I family are a lot of fun to teach - they all speak a little Japanese, but the husband mainly Spanish, the wife mainly Portuguese, and their daughter mainly Japanese. There are a LOT of South American immigrants here - I was kind of surprised to find out. Actually, when we knock on doors, most of the people who want to talk to us don't speak Japanese as a first language. It's sort of cool because their Japanese is about where mine is at, so I can participate a little more in lessons, but the communication barrier is hard sometimes. French doesn't really help either - I can understand a lot of what I read in Spanish, but not when it's spoken. Although the days of the week are similar, so that helped with making appointments!

People here think it's awesome that I speak French though. I've seen a lot of products and store/restaurant names in French, I think it's kind of a trendy thing. There are lots of t-shirts and stationary products and other things with English phrases on them that don't make any sense, and French as well. Sometimes they're mixed. I bought some stationary last week that said "Do you know the lovely boy having big appetite? That kid is always hungry, because he plays and talks a lot every day! If you see the kid, you'll surely love him!" Funny. That one is actually more grammatically sound than most.

Everything here is so CUTE. Food is pretty, pens and stationary and tape and little things are everywhere, and people wear pretty clothes. You see some occasional sweatpants but not like at home. Even our toilet paper is pink with flowers on it, and our apartment curtains are pink and lacy. The sunlight that goes through them makes our whole apartment seen kind of pink, so I'm literally seeing la vie en rose.

I'm trying to remember all your questions.... I think I have a 3-question memory maximum. Even if you use bullet points, Dad. Sister Kubota has only been here 6 weeks longer than me (and already training! That happens if you're a native) - we were actually at the MTC at the same time for two weeks. Today we went shopping and visited a few people - seems to be the normal P-day routine. There isn't much to do in Oyama sight-seeing-wise, but a lady in our ward said that sometime she'd drive us to a nearby hike to visit Shinto shrines. Yay!

Speaking of Japanese religious culture, I got to see a lot of it today. During this week there was a summer festival, with lots of balloons and food and music (sounds like Indian music to me, a little). When we visited a woman in our ward, we got to see her awesome ancestor-shrine set-up complete with paper lanterns, candles, offerings, etc. It was in her tatami room, filled with Japanese art and a Samurai sword. So cool. I would have taken a picture but I felt weird to ask... still don't have Japanese culture down yet. We also visited a man whose wife recently died, and he had a Buddhist shrine set up. Before we entered his living room, we each kneeled, lit a stick of incense, rang a bell, and said a prayer. I think most Buddhists here only do things because they're traditional - for instance, Christians will set up shrines during the holidays. But there are some "orthodox" Buddhists (not really sure what to call them).

I had two appointments this week where I had to sit seiza (on the floor). Sitting on top of my legs is excruciatingly painful, so I cheat and scooch my feet to the side, but it still hurts. I try not to let it show on my face but I'm pretty sure it's obvious because people always chuckle whenever I try to discreetly adjust my sitting position so circulation doesn't get cut off. Then, when I stand up, my feet are completely asleep and I have to walk very slowly because I can't really feel them.

Japanese fail(s) of the week: The word for "mother" and "wife" is okasan, spelled the same but with a very slight difference in pronunciation. More than once, when describing my family, I've said "my wife" instead of "my mom." And no one corrects me! They just softly chuckle. Same thing happened when I said "tampon" instead of "rice field." Yikes. Also, learning Japanese from reading the scriptures has its downsides - I thought I was saying "look" when I was actually saying "behold." A lot of the words we learned in the MTC are apparently very old Japanese that sound funny if you say them today.

Bike riding is getting slightly better, but my legs are sore a lot. I guess that's good since it's the only real exercise I'm getting besides a few sit-ups and push-ups in the morning. We bike everywhere, except when church members give us rides.

I think someone asked about cooking. We always cook ourselves breakfast, and usually lunch and dinner, in the apartment, but we eat out sometimes, maybe 1-3 times a week? We've been over to members' houses to eat both Sundays (always really good), and the Itou family took us and the elders (there's us and two Elders in Oyama, plus another Sister companionship in a nearby town that make up our district) out to a nice restaurant this week. It was sooo good, easily my favorite meal so far in Japan. It was seafood curry with cheese and a million side dishes. I took a picture, plus one of me and Sister Kubota. The members here are so nice, and they give us SO much food. We only had to buy milk, eggs and bread for the week at the grocery store today because we took home so much food on Sunday.

It's still unbelievably hot here, but I'm used to the apartment now. We do have AC, but it's set at 26-27 degrees Celsius, which was too hot for me when I first got here. I don't feel like I'm going to pass out anymore, so I guess that's progress?

Oh right, mail. For my whole mission, mail always goes straight to the mission home, then is forwarded to wherever I am. It's kind of a pain - I got a letter from Ben a few days ago, postmarked like 15 days earlier. Ah well. Getting mail is still awesome - better late than never.

Hmmm what else... oh right! Eikaiwa! English class, that is. We teach it once a week, in the evening, plus a special smaller morning class twice a month. I love it. Usually ten-ish people come to the evening class and three to the morning one, and it's lots of fun. We practice saying words, talking, learning new grammar tools, and then usually end with a game. Most of the people who come are older. Another funny thing about Japan, everyone is like 20 years older than they look. There must be a fountain of youth somewhere. I think they also associate height with age sometimes, because everyone is always shocked to hear I'm 19, and when I show my family pictures they all think Ben is older because he's taller than me. I didn't tell them that he likes to stand on his tiptoes when we take pictures together.

That's all for now! Take care mina san. Oh I'm also sending a picture of Jesus I saw in the Japanese church building - I think I like their version better!

Love, Anna

Tasty restaurant meal in Oyama

Anna and Kubota Shimai in Oyama restaurant

Picture of Jesus in Oyama Ward building

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

First email, finally

Hello!! It's been a while since I've written, and so much has happened!! My last week in the MTC flew by in a haze of meetings, devotionals, and training. It was sad saying goodbye to all my teachers and the other missionaries, but luckily our whole district is in the same mission so we'll see each other sometimes. Two of the missionaries from my MTC district are in my zone, and one is in my district. Fun times.

My last MTC devotional was pretty cool actually - Jenny Oaks Baker came and played the violin. Not usually my favorite instrument but it was really pretty. At one point her four kids, all under the age of twelve, played "I am a Child of God" on the cello, violin, guitar and piano. Talk about a talented family. While at the devotional, I was sitting next to a girl who had just gotten here from Japan and she was nodding off the whole time, eventually just giving up and sleeping on my shoulder. Complete stranger. I let her because I knew that would be me in a few days.

Jet lag wasn't actually too bad. We took the Frontrunner train, then another TRAX train to the SLC airport - we must have been a funny sight, all 34 of us with millions of suitcases. Sister missionaries do not travel light. On the plane to Japan (like 14 hours I think? 16? 18? Don't remember) I was all set to stay up and study but then they turned all the lights off and I thought it would be rude to keep mine on. So I talked to the Elder next to me and kind of slept on and off for most of the flight - not super comfortable, but I must have passed out at some point because when I woke up I had three pillows and I don't know where they came from. Some people talk in their sleep, others walk; apparently I become a thief.

When we got to the Tokyo airport, after getting photographed and fingerprinted for our "Gaijin" (foreigner) cards that we carry around as ID, we met the Budges. They are so nice, and very on-top-of-it, as I knew they would be. Lazy people can't be international bank CEOs. We rode a bus to the mission home, filled out some paperwork, and slept until the next morning when we had a big breakfast and did training all day. In the evening we got to go over to the Eikaiwa (English class) that was just ending and talk to all the students there. It was really funny to interact with them and try to understand what they were saying. I was feeling pretty confident about my Japanese back in Utah when only Americans spoke to me, but native Japanese people are a different story. Especially the elderly, who speak quietly and don't open their mouths very much as a rule.

The next day, we had a little more training before getting assigned to our new companions and area. I was sent to Oyama! It's this awesome smallish town about two hours away from Tokyo by train. Although apparently if you ride the bullet train it's only 20 minutes... I really want to try that sometime. Anyway, my companion is Sister Kubota, a Nihonjin from Nagoya!! She's 21 and super cheerful and optimistic. And, luckily for me, her English is really good. She went to BYU-Hawaii for a year before coming on her mission.

After packing enough clothes for a few days I went to lunch with Sister Kubota and some of the other sisters before taking the train to Oyama. When we got there we spent a couple of hours doing weekly planning, and she explained a lot to me about the area and the people we're teaching and things like that. It was all extremely overwhelming.

Our apartment is actually really nice - we even have a dryer! It has a 3-hour cycle though, so Sister Kubota says she doesn't even use it. We sleep on futons which we keep in the main room, because it's much cooler than the bedroom. It is SO HOT here. I think yesterday was 37 degrees Celsius (still don't know how to convert that to Fahrenheit), and it's more humid that anywhere I've ever been. Everyone carries around little washcloths with them everywhere that they use to wipe their sweat off, and little paper fans. Those were the first two things I bought when we went shopping on P-day. I used to wonder why Japanese deodorant isn't very strong if it's so humid here, but now I understand - why bother having dry armpits if the rest of you is soaked in sweat? It's truly disgusting. Especially when I wear my bag for a few hours, and my clothes get soaked underneath where the strap was. I don't bother wearing face makeup or using lotion at all. I also figured out why Japanese food is so salty - it's like their version of Gatorade. After a long day of walking outside and sweating, I noticed after it cooled off that there was some white stuff on my dress. Salt. As in salt from my own sweat. We lose electrolytes like crazy, so the copious amounts of sodium in all their soy sauce and rice seasoning is actually beneficial.

Mmm, now I'm thinking about food. It's awesome. I want to try everything I see - I spend probably an hour just standing in our kitchen looking at everything when I first came here. So many desserts, so many funny drinks (there are no drinking fountains so we usually buy 1-2 drinks from the vending machines that are stationed every 2 feet on the streets. I refuse to buy bottled water on principle so I've enjoyed trying all kinds of different ways to re-hydrate). I love love love the food... maybe a little too much. When you Skype me at Christmas time don't be surprised if I've gained a few chins.

Okay, now I have to gripe about bikes for a little bit: Riding a bike in a skirt is not fun at all. My biking skills have dramatically improved in the last few days, but I still have at least one near-death experience every day. It's made me a very prayerful person because the whole time a ride I'm thinking, "oh please Father don't let me die don't let me die don't let me die." OK, maybe that was only the first day. But still, I'm not yet skilled enough to fix my skirt when it flies up while keeping one hand on the handlebar, so I usually just let it do whatever. Sometimes my legs are sweaty enough to hold the skirt down. Trying out the bike was super awkward because I didn't know how to mount it without flashin the sales guy, so I tried to go really fast and my skirt ended up getting stuck. I think he was laughing. Maybe I'll try to wear the bike shorts under my skirt when it gets cooler, but adding another layer of clothing right now is unthinkable. Here's an excerpt from my journal on Saturday:

"Low point of the day I was riding up a steep bridge on a high gear and couldn't shift down no matter how desperately I tried because my hands were too sweaty." I live a glamorous life, I tell ya.

The people here are just as kind as promised, and more. Even when people don't want to talk to us, they're very polite about it. I loved going to church on Sunday and meeting all of the members. We had dinner at the Shimizu family's house, and it was so fun talking to them. I can't wait to get to know everyone more - remembering all of their names is really hard. So that's one of my first goals. About 50 people came to church on Sunday, and I think that's normal, so it's doable!

I definitely notice a lot of people staring at me, but not too much. Everyone always comments on how tall I am and how small my face is - two features considered beautiful here, but that I don't really like, so I'm not sure how I feel about it. Everyone also asks me if I used to be a model or play basketball, or if I'm related to General MacArthur. Apparently he's a bigger deal in Japanese history classes than in American ones.

Ahhh, I have so much more I want to say about the people we're teaching, but no time. I love and miss you all. Yesterday when we were knocking on doors a boy answered who was like an exact replica of Luke, but Japanese. Same glasses and clothes and everything. It made me miss home a little. This week has been one of the hardest of my life, but I've already adjusted so much and it's been wonderful. I'm so excited to see what's in store.

I'm sending a picture of me and Kubota Shimai (we'd just been riding our bikes, so I'm not looking so cute) plus another from the MTC.

Love, Anna

Eugene 3rd Ward Reunion - Elyse Barnes (Ukrane Lviv), Anna and Tori Butler (Japan Sendai) in the MTC

Anna and Kubota Shimai in Oyama, Japan

Monday, August 12, 2013

arrived safely

[Anna left the MTC 1 PM Monday Aug 5 and arrived in Tokyo about 10:30 PM Tuesday Aug 6.  The letter below was sent Wednesday Aug 7 and the pictures were posted to the mission blog Monday Aug 12]

Dear Parents,
We just want to send you a quick note to let you know that your missionary arrived safely in Japan last evening.  President and Sister Budge met them at the airport, fed them, visited shortly, and then sent them all to bed for a much needed rest.

Today they will receive training and will soon meet their new companions who have been chosen to train them.  We will take pictures at that time, and within a few days you will receive another email with these pictures attached.

Thank you for entrusting your missionary to us in the great Japan Tokyo Mission.  We so appreciate all you have done to get these missionaries to this point in their lives!

Sister Harrison

Japan Tokyo Mission Secretary

This is the largest group of new missionaries we have received to date.  There are 14 elders and 20 sisters!  We used every futon we have!

These are the newest missionaries, along with their trainers.  This group represents more than half of our missionaries!

[Update- we did hear very briefly from Anna this morning after the post above was created.  See below.  More to follow soon we hope!  Nihonjin means native Japanese.]

Mama!! I was so happy to read your letter! I'm in Oyama right now, with Sister Kubota. She's Nihonjin and so cute and awesome. I'm doing well - we email from our apartment but we had some internet trouble today so I'll have to finish tomorrow. I just wanted to write a little bit so you'll know nothing's wrong. Expect my full letter sometime soon!

Much love, Anna

Oyama is under the red pinpoint "A", north of Tokyo.