Monday, October 28, 2013

Hello from... still Oyama!

Konnichiwa mina san. This week was way fun and way busy, starting with temple day and a special Sister Missionary training on Tuesday. We woke up at four to catch the train to Tokyo but it was worth it! All of the Sister Missionaries in our whole mission were together, and we got to listen to speakers, music, do some group activities, and of course eat. It was really fun to see everyone again, and the speakers were really good. One woman gave a talk about modesty and the need to respect our bodies that I actually enjoyed - that in itself was a miracle!

Wednesday was a day of miracles. The lessons we taught went really well, we got good news from our investigators, and we found a really nice family while housing. Tsu san. When we showed her the Book of Mormon, she looked at it and said, "oh, does it say nice things like the Bible? I like the Bible. I'm really interested." Sometimes when people actually want to talk to us it's hard not to let the shock show on our faces. Just keep smiling, like "of course you do! Who wouldn't?"

We continue to teach in every language possible. We did another lesson in French on Monday, and on Wednesday we visited one of our ward members from Peru and her father. He'd speak to Sister Cortes in Spanish, who translated in English for Sister Kubota, who then relayed the same message in Japanese to the ward member who was there with us. I sat and smiled and nodded when I understood.

On Thursday we had our last district meeting of the transfer - it was kind of sad to think of all the people who will be going home soon, like my Sister Training leader and one of the Zone leaders. We had a little testimony meeting together which was really sweet, then ate lunch at a ramen shop. After that we went on splits, so one of the Utsunomiya sisters came to Oyama with us while Sister Kubota left. We had fun talking to lots of different people, and made a few new friends at the train station.

Friday it rained and rained and rained - it was the first time since coming here that I've felt unsafe on a bike. My bike light is pretty weak, so nighttime is a little risky sometimes. But don't worry! I'm a defensive biker. The one upside to rain is that no one wants to leave their house, so all the people we visited that day were actually home (it's really hard to make appointments sometimes, so we do a lot of "surprise visits" to our investigators' houses). One of our investigators gave us all big bags of clothes to take home - she says she's "too fat" for them now, but probably weighs half what I do. Everyone here is so tiny.

Saturday we went to our ward Halloween party. It was really fun and well-planned, with lots of games and activities. It was fun seeing the different types of costumes - AnPanMan, a really famous Japanese cartoon character, was a popular one. I worked really hard on my costume, as you can tell from the picture below - dollar store headband! There were lots of cats that night.

Sunday was good, as always. I like going to church and seeing everybody, even though it's a little hard to stay awake sometimes. Very mentally exhausting. I'm slowly starting to understand more and more, but it's still hard. It also doesn't help that I have to wear nylons, which I'm pretty sure are torture devices. All blood circulation is cut off from my brain.

Today we had zone P-day in Oizumi, which is like mini Brazil town in the middle of Japan. We all met at a park and played soccer and other games, plus ran into a huge group of preschool kids who were all so cute. They loved playing with us and took a million pictures. Afterwards their teachers had them perform a cartwheel/frog jump/bridge routine for us. I'll probably see some of them again, doing gymnastics for Team Japan when I come back to watch the 2020 Tokyo Olympics!

The other big news from today was... transfer calls! Oh man I was so nervous. I'm staying in Oyama, and so is Sister Cortes, but Sister Kubota is leaving and another Japanese missionary, Sister Taneda, is coming to replace her. I've heard that Sister Taneda is really nice, but I'm a little nervous about not having Sister Kubota here! Everyone really loves and trusts her so much, and also now I'm in charge of directions. My ability to navigate is still horrible - whenever you pray for me, please don't worry about my safety/happiness/health/whatever, all that is fine. But please ask God to help me not get lost.

Our mission is growing so fast that we barely have space for all the new missionaries! Almost all the companionships in my district are trios now, and we're getting over 60 new missionaries before Christmas. Crazy. I'm excited for this next transfer and hope I see lots of miracles to write home about!

Love you all, take care!
- Anna

Anna at Oyama Ward Halloween Party

Anna and Shimai Kubota and Shimai Cortes at the Tokyo Temple

Monday, October 21, 2013


Well, as predicted in my last letter, I'm already regretting my wish for colder weather. I got that and more this week as I experienced my second typhoon in Japan. It wasn't too bad, just a lot of wind and rain, but it was so loud outside that I could barely sleep at all. Also all of our plans got cancelled - typhoons always seem to happen when we're busy! I've gotten lots of use out of my super shareta (stylish) rain suit. I keep meaning to take a picture... someday!

I got asked the same question by three different people this week, after seeing how tall I am: "what did you eat as a kid?" It's like I'm a walking advertisement for the milk industry.

This week was pretty good, besides the typhoon. Last Monday we went to a member's house in the evening for a birthday party, and got to meet some returned missionaries who left Oyama just before Sister Kubota got here, and had come back to visit. The ward loved them, so I'd heard a lot about them. Hopefully the wards I serve in will remember me like that! It was funny because one of them was wearing a white shirt and tie, and kept asking us about all of our investigators. Still in missionary mode I guess.

We tried out something new this week by having "music corner" after Eikaiwa where everyone who stayed later could sing and listen to one of the Elders play guitar. It turned out really well, and most people stayed! We sang "Book of Mormon stories" and explained what the song meant and talked a little about the Book of Mormon.

On Thursday we had a really good lesson with H., who we found kind of on accident. His wife got baptized when she was in high school but hasn't been to church in years, so we went to visit her a few weeks ago and he answered the door instead. He didn't know anything about the church, but agreed to meet with us again to learn more, and now we've gotten to teach three lessons to him and his wife together! He's like the perfect investigator - listens carefully and understand things well, asks questions, shows interest, is honest about his opinions. It would be so amazing to get to watch them be sealed in the temple as a couple, and I hope I'll have the opportunity before I go home.

Friday we spent all morning at zone training, which is always fun. I love getting to see everyone and getting to hear pep talks in English! Saturday was really fun, because our ward had a barbecue. Lots of people came, and almost a third weren't members! So we got to meet new people, and watch our investigators form friendships with the ward members. It was awesome. We played group games (Japanese adults seem to get into games a lot more than American ones , it's awesome) and ate and ate and ate. In some ways it was really similar to a barbecue at home, except the food was way different. Yakisoba, fried pumpkin and garlic, some mystery meat that looked suspiciously like spam, and a bunch of other stuff.

Oh, I almost forgot the funniest part. There were two (possibly feral?) cats hanging around, but instead of telling their children to stay away, like Americans probably would, everyone kept trying to catch them and pet them. Even the bishop at one point crouched down and try to lure one over with a piece of meat held between chopsticks! These are my people.

Another random fact about Oyama: the sacrament bread here is way better. Usually at home it's just a scrap of whatever the cheapest bread at the grocery store happened to be, but here I swear it's like fresh from the bakery challah loaves every week. Awesome.

Miracle of the week: One of the women in our ward has been having a lot of really hard family problems lately. Her home has been described as a "war zone" - everyone fighting, lots of chaos. She's the only one in her family who's a church member and she wants so badly to have the perfect, loving, church-going family of her dreams, and had just about given up and was planning on moving out when suddenly her dad announced he'd start going to church with her every week. Both of her parents came yesterday, and really enjoyed it. The best part was seeing how happy they all were together, and how they're working together to strengthen their family.

I just want everyone in the world to know about the incredible blessings this gospel can bring! There's so much work to do!

Love, Anna

Oyama Ward BBQ Picnic

Feral Oyama cat observing the picnic

Monday, October 14, 2013

another update!

Hello hello hello!

I hope everyone is doing well. This week was hot - reminded me of when I first got here. Everyone keeps talking about how miserably cold winter is in Japan but honestly I'm so ready to be done with this heat. I'm sure I'll regret saying that in a few months, but oh well. Halloween is approaching and even though it's relatively new in Japan a lot of people's houses are decorated - it makes me feel like I'm trick-or-treating when we go knocking on doors! However, since I'm currently a representative of Jesus Christ, it might be distasteful to go back and T.P. the people who shut their doors in our faces.

I told Sister Kubota it was her turn to decide what to do for P-day today so we cleaned the apartment for an hour an a half... yay! Haha actually it wasn't that bad... cleaning has become incredibly satisfying for me. Yikes I'm turning into such a good little Mormon homemaker, it's scary. OK I shouldn't say that mockingly, I just listened to the conference talk yesterday about the importance of women in the home and how noble their work is. Kuiaratameru [repent?]!

Conference was awesome, by the way. I got to listen to it in English! I think this was the first time I've ever gotten through all 8 hours without falling asleep. Being a missionary will do that to ya. I actually listened to one talk in Japanese, and while I still barely understood anything, I was able to pick out a lot more that I thought I'd be able to. So I guess that's progress? Aki came to watch some, and K. too, and they both seemed to really like it.

Now for the miracle of the week... we set a baptismal date with Aki!! She still has trouble believing she'll be able to make the necessary changes in time, but I think having a concrete goal will help motivate her and give her self-confidence. She works so hard, and has to take care of so many people in her very complicated and confusing family situation, that I want more than anything for her to be able to experience the peace and happiness the gospel brings. She deserves it. I've never met anyone with more desire - or more obstacles in their way - to get baptized.

We had a special 2-zone conference on Thursday, where we got training from the Budges, the APs, zone leaders, and mission doctors. They put a lot of emphasis on being ready - we talked about emergency preparedness, staying healthy, and preparing ourselves to teach. There were a lot of football analogies and we all now have a PDF file made by President Budge called the "playbook" where we can store all of our favorite scriptures, stories, and teaching aids to have on hand at all times. We also got a chance at the end to hear from all of the missionaries leaving next transfer - I knew them all, and they were amazing examples to me of faith and dedication. It's hard to imagine our mission without them.

One good consequence of the zone conference was that after all they said about the importance of cardiovascular exercise, Sister Kubota said she'd set a goal to run every morning this week! So now I can too!! I'd been missing it. I always feel bad asking to go running since neither of the other two ever wanted to. We had a few times before though, whenever Sister Kubota could tell that I needed it. Haha like one time when I was pounding down potato chips saying "make me stop! I'm stress eating!" and she suggested that we run the next morning. There's a small park next to our apartment with a round dirt path surrounding a grassy hill where we like to go. P.S. I'm in awful shape and get out of breath way too fast. Biking builds muscle but doesn't work your lungs so much.

We finally got around to buying Sister Cortes' bike this week, and she picked a really cute red one. For the first time I noticed how dirty and beat-up mine already looked after two months. We all named our bikes too - Sister Kubota's is The White Avenger, mine's the Black Cat, and Sister Cortes' Sakura chan (Japanese cherry blossoms). As you can see, we're super creative and didn't just pick names to go along with the bikes' colors.

Sister Kubota's been encouraging me to lead whenever we go anywhere on bikes, to help me practice remembering directions, and I've been struggling. My inability to navigate is even worse here (no street signs! How is anyone supposed to find anything?) and the thought of being senior companion terrifies me. Our phone has a GPS but it's all in Japanese characters, so not super helpful. I really have no idea what's going to happen next transfer - me leaving, Sister Kubota leaving, or all three of us staying. I'm trying not to think about it.

Also I'm still a freak here - people stare at me everywhere we go. Today was a good morning because BOTH people I said konnichiwa to while biking past said it back! Usually I get blank stares. And it's not because people are rude - Sister Kubota always gets konnichiwas back when she says it - it's because they're shocked to hear it from me. It'll be nice when I go back to school to get lost in a sea of tall white people.

Kyotsukette, ne! (take care)

- Anna

Monday, October 7, 2013

time flies

Mina sannn!

This week was probably the busiest yet. The biggest thing that happened was that our new companion, Sister Cortes, came! She's from around Mexico City. It's been fun watching her react to everything and remembering when I was the same way... a few weeks ago. Time goes by so fast I'm nostalgic already. It's been pretty easy adjusting to living with three people instead of two, but we're definitely in need of more closet space. When we cook we make a little more, and Sister Kubota showers at night now, but no huge changes. We had to rearrange our two desks into an L-shape thing to accommodate three people.

We had a full evening planned for the day we got back from Tokyo to pick Sister Cortes up. Poor thing had to teach a lesson in Spanish after being here for like an hour, then we didn't have time for dinner, then we went to Eikaiwa. Oh and she'd never ridden a bike before, so she got to try that out on a borrowed bike, in the dark, in Japan. She's been a trooper.

It's been a huge miracle to finally be able to communicate in Spanish. We have lots of new investigators already, and have taught two lessons to a Peruvian family who lives near the church. It's funny watching them learn together because the mom has a Christian background, but the husband doesn't really know anything about religion, which sometimes shocks her. When we asked him if he knew who prophets were and he said no, her eyes got huge and she shrieked, "no sei que es una profeta?!" Or something like that. I can sort of understand some of what they say, but Sister Cortes translates for us. But they're super nice, and have two really cute kids. And the dad is a chef, so we got to try some yummy Peruvian food last time we went over!

Hopefully someday we'll get to the point where we can all contribute equally in the lessons. Right now Sister Kubota does most of the teaching in Japanese and Sister Cortes does almost all of it in Spanish. I actually have my first lesson in French scheduled for tonight, with Patrique, the man we met from Congo. I'm a little scared - we never learned religious vocabulary in high school!

This week has been a great one for Oyama. We've been busy busy busy with all the new people to teach, and the Elders here set TWO baptismal dates this week! Both of them are young boys - one in high school and one in college - and they're both way cool and way nice. I'm so excited. Hopefully we'll get to see similar miracles soon! Aki really wants to be baptized and is working hard to find a new job so she can be independent and make some needed life changes. She has such an amazing desire to learn and be a better person, and I want so badly for her to feel the happiness she deserves.

We went to a cool sushi restaurant for lunch today - the kind where everything comes around on a revolving belt and you just take whichever plates you want. It was way fun, and most of it yummy - but I finally tried the infamous nato that all the Japanese returned missionaries talk about! It's fermented soybean goop and just as disgusting as promised. But besides that, oishii!

Since we had technical difficulties last night (technology hates me) I'm finishing my email now Tuesday morning, after yesterday's lessons. I taught Patrique in French. It was awesome! Sometimes between Sister Kubota's Japanese and Sister Cortes' Spanish lessons I feel a little useless, so it was nice to finally contribute. That wasn't the best part though. The best part was seeing him learn and understand, and hearing him say "I want to know more so I can decide if this path is right for me." Yay!

I'm sending a picture of me with my (short) companions, and one at the sushi restaurant. I apologize for the latter - being a missionary has changed me in some ways, but I'm still not photogenic.


Love, Anna

New companion Cortes Shimai (from Mexico City), Anna and Kubota Shimai

Anna eating sushi - Yum!!