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

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