Monday, December 30, 2013

Hello again!

My first Christmas away from home was awesome! Very fun and very spread out over the week, so I kept getting to celebrate again and again. I have to admit it wasn't quite the same without family, but the people here took very good care of me and I was never sad or homesick. The best surprise of the week was getting the huge "Merry Christmas Sister MacArthur" poster from home - I remember signing those every year for other missionaries when I was little, but never did I imagine that there would be one with MY name on it some day. So surreal. I keep having little moments like that where it just hits me: I'm a real missionary.

After all the caroling on Monday, we decided to keep the Christmas spirit strong by knocking on doors and asking strangers if we could carol for them. One person said yes, but I was a little sad by how many people said no - Christmas just really doesn't have the same meaning here as at home. One man said "if you do it won't mean anything to me," which sort of broke my heart. It made me want to share our message even more - joy to the world, peace, goodwill to men. There is so much happiness waiting for them if they'd just take the first steps towards it!

Because of how busy Monday was, we switched our P-day to Tuesday and all four of us Sisters had our open-presents-bake-cookies-listen-to-Christmas-music party together. It was fun and we got SO MUCH food and clothing from the Niigata branch members - I forgot to take a picture, but imagine two huge boxes big enough to hold a person, filled to overflowing. Of course, Christmas isn't about the presents, but I was touched by how generous all these people were to someone they'd barely known for two weeks. In the evening we went to the Osekis' house, all nine of us missionaries plus more of their friends and family members, for Christmas Eve dinner. It was fun and a little chaotic, trying to figure out how to get all of us home on time. We ended up taking a taxi, carrying bags of leftover chicken in our laps.

The highlight of Wednesday morning, of course, was Skyping my family! That went by way too fast. Afterwards we went out to lunch with two of the ladies in the ward and practiced teaching the first lesson to them. That practice came in handy later that afternoon when we taught the first lesson to Sa. She is so sweet, and has such a desire to learn - she told us that before coming to church the first time, she'd prayed, pleading with God to help her convince her sons to come with her (apparently middle-school aged boys don't think church is the most exciting thing in the world). It worked, and she was so grateful. I sat there in awe as she was telling us this, wondering how in the world I got so lucky to get to teach her. She's beautiful, inside and out, and I can't wait to send a picture of us together when she gets baptized!

Christmas evening we spent with the Eikaiwa students, eating snacks, caroling in English and reading a Christmas story together. A lot of them said it was there first time celebrating Christmas, and it made them really happy.

We got the opportunity to teach Kim about the Word of Wisdom this week, and saw another miracle when she said she'd decided she should probably keep it, and promised to try her best. She was very hesitant to make any changes for so long, but now she's ready. Sometimes the hardest part about being a missionary is finding a balance between being bold and being patient - you want to help people make changes, and not stand idle if they don't, but at the same time it's not about you at all. It's all about their personal commitment and relationship with God, and we can't rush His timing.

I don't have much time left, but the rest of our week was filled with other lessons, powering through our Christmas candy, getting lost trying to find people's houses in the freak hailstorm blizzards, and trying to convince strangers to talk to us. On one of our adventures we found the Goblet of Fire and of course I put my name inside (see picture).

Let's hope that the miracles keep continuing through the New Year!
Love, Anna

Anna adds her name to the Goblet of Fire (somewhere in Niigata - who knew?)

Traditional missionary Christmas card from Eugene 3rd Ward

Monday, December 23, 2013

'twas the week before...


Another awesome week. Freezing, but good. The Christmas spirit is in full swing, which just makes everything better. I thought it would be sort of hard being in a place where Christmas isn't a big deal, but the church members have made up for that and more. All of the holiday celebrations remind me so much of home, from the silver bell music performances to the fake Santa Claus at the Christmas party to the little kids dressed up as shepherds with towels on their heads, acting out their surprise when being told by an angel that the Savior of the world had just been born in a stable.

We had a lot of adventures this week that came from being in a new area and not knowing where anything was. Before we visited people we'd carefully map out a route on Google maps beforehand, but it still always took forever to find their houses. I guess it did give us good opportunities to talk to all their neighbors though, asking for directions. Japanese people are always very helpful, but the ones here in Niigata really go above and beyond. We've had multiple people leave their homes and personally walk us to whatever building we're trying to find, just to make sure we understand! Unfortunately, none of my attempts to ask "hey you're super kind, so you probably want to learn about Christ, right?" have worked so far. Shimata! Anyway, I was feeling really frustrated about my continuing inability to navigate, when I came up with a brilliant solution to the problem:  Put Sister Wigginton in charge! So the next time we wanted to visit people, I put her in charge of writing down and remembering all of the directions in our 8-mile, 5-house loop. And it went off without a hitch! Not gonna lie, I was pretty proud of myself for figuring that one out. Until we get iPads I will continue to depend on other people's navigation skills.

Unfortunately only one of the five people we visited that day was home, but she was totally awesome. She spends all her time rescuing sick or injured dogs and cats, then taking care of them until they're well enough to be adopted. I love this woman. She showed us a ton of pictures of past animals she'd cared for, and I almost begged her to let us help sometime. I haven't seen as many stray cats wandering around here as I did in Oyama, and I miss them.

The Niigata train station is much bigger and busier than the one in Oyama, and at first I was a little overwhelmed and unsure how to start. Now instead of talking to any female we see, we only talk to a small fraction of the many busy people walking around. It's weird choosing people out of a crowd - I usually just go for people around my age because they're easier to talk to. Although it's funny, my ability to understand Japanese has seemed to improve a lot since I got transferred, but only sometimes. I'd heard missionaries talk about the gift of tongues a lot before, like not knowing what to say and all of a sudden a lightning bolt of inspiration puts the words in your mouth, or something like that. I hadn't felt like it had happened to me yet. But I've noticed that I'm better able to understand, when it counts. Like in a lesson, or when talking to mission leaders about our goals. I couldn't understand at all when a group of 12-year-olds at the Christmas party were asking me if I had a boyfriend, and probably looked like an idiot, asking them to repeat the question a million times. But does it matter? No. I think divine help only comes when it's important.

We taught our first Eikaiwa this week, which was really fun. Eikaiwa's always great. Here, instead of only 2 classes they have 3, including one for kids! Since we have 4 companionships of missionaries we might add another one next year, because the "beginner" class now isn't really very beginner. I was surprised by how many people here can speak English - it seems like almost everybody at church knows at least a little, and lots of people are pretty good. My goal for this transfer is to have them trust in my Japanese enough to stop giving a quick English recap of everything they say to make sure I understand. But they do that to all the missionaries, even the fluent ones - I think they like getting to use the English they know whenever they can.

Saturday we saw an amazing Christmas miracle. The investigator passed on to us from the other sisters, Kim, met with us for a lesson. She'd been thinking about getting baptized before, but never felt ready to make a decision and kept putting it off. We talked about her fears and ways to overcome them, and she was surprisingly open with us and very willing to try new things and make goals. The member we had with us was also super helpful, and a great example for Kim. Together we set a baptismal goal date, and she's going to work hard and let us help her get ready! It was Sister Wigginton's first "real", sit-down lesson with an investigator, and what an awesome first lesson! Lucky kid. Anyway, we're super happy. Saturday evening was the church Christmas party, which including some musical performances by two local university students. One sang and the other played piano, and it was incredible. Nothing is more impressive than a really well-done O Holy Night.

The miracles continued on Sunday when Sa san showed up at church again! She said she really liked it, and had read multiple chapters from the Book of Mormon I gave her! Amazing. Usually it's so hard to get people to read the Book of Mormon, and they have every excuse in the world, but she did it all by herself. We're going to teach her the restoration on Christmas, and I can't think of anything I'd rather do on that day. She is so sweet. Sunday evening all four of us sisters went to the train station and caroled, three of us singing at a time and the other one talking to nearby people about Christmas. It was really fun and made it less awkward to start sudden conversations with people. Later, I called Sisters Cortes and Taneda in Oyama and got to hear about the two baptisms in Oyama this weekend! Both Miro and Pe, a man the Elders had been teaching, got baptized, and from what I heard it was wonderful. What an awesome way for them to start the new year - a clean slate, and a new huge, loving family to be a part of.

Today we spent the morning and early afternoon with a bunch of members, caroling at a local old folk's home. I thought beforehand that it would just be a couple songs, but they had an elaborate program that they'd been practicing for a while. We sang some familiar Christmas hymns, in Japanese, then a few young kids sang some Japanese kids' songs. Then, the missionaries all sang Jingle Bells and Santa Claus is Coming to Town in English, complete with various musical instruments and our Branch Mission Leader dressed as Santa, handing out cookies. Afterwards we sang some Japanese holiday songs I'd never heard before, so I sang quietly while trying to copy other people and decipher the lyrics written out in kanji on the piece of paper I held. It was really fun, and the rest home people were so happy. We did the whole thing twice, once before lunch and once afterwards, to different groups of people.

Merry Christmas everyone!
Love, Anna

Niigata missionaries and university music performance students at the Christmas party

Niigata branch sister's Christmas tree in the tatami room

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Sister MacArthur (December 15)

We received this email & pictures this week - so thoughtful!!


Dear MacArthur Family,

Please allow us to introduce ourselves.

This is our first mail to you. We’re members of the Niigata Branch.
Our only daughter was also working as a missionary until March 26th.
Our friend sent us pictures of our daughter every week.
We were very happy and looking forward to seeing those pictures every week.
So we decided to send pictures which make missionaries’ family happy.

My husband takes pictures and I write English.
I hope you can understand my English.
I can write English but I can’t send a mail with pictures.
So we share jobs and it takes time to send mails.
Two pictures are of our branch building.

Now our branch has 9 missionaries and the number is record.

We hope Sister MacArthur gets used to cold Niigata in winter.
We thank Sister MacArthur’s parents for sending your daughter to Japan.

Sincerely yours,
The O. Family

All nine missionaries in the Niigita Branch

Niigata Branch meetinghouse

Niigata Branch meetinghouse

Monday, December 16, 2013

Hello from up North!

Wow! What a crazy, crazy, week. Transfers are always nuts - it`s hard when you only have a few days to say goodbye to everyone who`s become your family and pack up your life into two suitcases and a bike bag. It also forces one to realize how much stuff they've mangaed to accumulate in four short months. Between Japanese people`s love of gift-giving and my shopaholic tendencies, I`ve collected quite a lot more things than I started my mission out with, and it was a tight fit getting my suitcases to zip shut. I also had to ditch a few things in my apartment, including my bike basket. It was very useful and I`ll miss it, but I have to admit that my bike seems much lighter and quicker now.

My week in review:
Tuesday we went to the bike shop in the morning for what I thought would be a five-minute oil job for my bike`s squeaky brakes. Turns out they were so loud because they`d almost completely worn out - after only four months! Apparently I drive my bike about how I drive a car - very sudden starts and stops, not very energy efficient - so I`ll try to be better from now on. There was also a pushpin stuck in my front tire. So, I guess it was good I fixed those problems. I feel a little safer now. Later we went to the hospital for my last lesson with Miro and his wife. I`m so sad to be missing his baptism! It was hard to tell him I wouldn`t be able to come. But they promised to send pictures! I also got to say goodbye to T, the exchange student from Australia, which was fun.

Wednesday was very bittersweet. We met one of our good friends in the ward for lunch at a way cool, very Japanese okonomiyaki restaurant. They had low tables with a deep dip in the ground underneath to put your legs. After that, we went to visit with three other women in the ward who have become dear friends. And such good examples to me! They are all such strong, independent women - I think they`d fit in well in the Eugene 3rd ward. In the evening we sang one last song to our favorite obaasan friend in her flower garden, visited another member and had Mr. Donuts for dinner (not planned, actually... I think it was fate). Then, it was time for Eikaiwa. That was the most sad! All of my friends were there, and lots of ward members came too, bearing Christmas gifts and goodbye hugs. For our last music corner we sang "God Be With You Till We Meet Again", AKA "World`s Saddest Song". I`ll never forget these kind, loving people that have become my family.

Thursday morning we got a ride to the train station in the morning, then met a bunch of other Sisters in Omiya, halfway to Tokyo. As one last miracle in Oyama we saw Patrique, my investigator from Congo, on the train! So I got the chance to say goodbye to him, too (I said this before, but this time I really mean it - my French is now AWFUL.) At Omiya I said goodbye to Sisters Cortes and Taneda and went to Honbu (mission home) with a everyone else who was going to train. There, we had a one-hour trainer`s training, basically stressing the importance of our job and making me even more nervous than I already was. Then, I got to meet my new companion! Her name is Sister Wigginton, from Sacramento. She also went to BYU, for two years, studying neuroscience. Smart cookie. She is also six feet tall!!! I can`t tell you how awesome it felt not to have to stoop down when we took a picture together.

Thursday afternoon we took the bus to Niigata, a five-hour journey. It actually didn`t seem that long - I`m really good at entertaining myself with my own thoughts. We traveled together with four Elders and one other Sister, whose companion was up in Niigata. When we finally got there (after passing through a snow storm!) the Zone Leaders were waiting for us, then we all took a bus to the church building. At the church building we met some Sister Missionaries who walked the girls to our apartment (five minutes from the church building). All ten of the Sisters in our zone were there, so we had a giant sleepover!

Quick tangent to talk about my new area: It`s HUGE. I think it`s the biggest area in our whole mission, and the farthest North. We don`t have snow yet, because the elevation is low, but it`s freezing. And extremely wet - Sister Crane said that "there`s three types of weather: slightly gray, raining, and typhoon." I live in an apartment with my companion, plus Sister Orton and Sister Crane. It's really fun having four of us. There are also five Elders here - nine missionaries! Even though the area's so big, there's only one branch here. About the same number of people come to church as the Oyama ward, maybe a little less, but there are over 400 less-active members who haven't been to church in years. It's way sad, and we definitely have our work cut out for us. My image of Niigata was sort of like "frozen wasteland in the middle of nowhere," but it's actually much more city-ish than Oyama. Much better shopping! Dangerous. It's also famous for it's good food - also dangerous.

Anyway, Friday morning we had Zone meeting. I was surprised how many more Elders there were than Sisters in this zone - Kiryu had so many girls! I guess that wasn't normal though. Anyway, my new zone leaders/ district leader are super goal-oriented, hardworking, and obedient. Nightly check-in calls, which used to just be kind of a quick chat, are now pretty intense. I think it's good though - it will motivate us to work harder. We spent pretty much all day Friday doing weekly planning and learning how things work here. The other sisters are passing a few of their investigators to us, a nice surprise, so we won't be completely starting from scratch. The new apartment is really big, and I love that we get to sleep in a tatami room! It's kind of old, though, and the power shorts out at least twice a day. Oh, well. Friday evening we went to the church to practice caroling with some of the members, which we're going to do next week at an old folks' home. It was fun.

Saturday we finally got to go out and explore and meet people! Before going to buy Sister Wigginton's bike we "helped" the Elders put mine back together. It's seriously embarrassing how incompetent I am at these kinds of things. We then successfully picked and purchased a bike for my companion, with the sales man very graciously helping us fill out the insurance form because I can't write kanji. For the rest of the day we walked around the mall, meeting people, inviting them to Eikaiwa, and trying to find new people to teach! We hadn't had much success, and had just decided to call it a day and go eat some udon, when we met Ko, a 17-year-old girl who left the friend she was with and went up two flights of escalators with us to show us the food court. So sweet! She then told us that she'd always wanted to see what a church building was like, so we said we could give her a quick tour at next week's Christmas party!

Sunday I finally got to meet my new church family. They were so kind, and so welcoming, and so ridiculously generous. One lady made lunch for all nine of us missionaries, and apparently she does is every week, and has been for years! We got to meet one of our new investigators from the other Sisters, so that was great too. But the biggest miracle happened when the Sa family showed up. They had seen an Eikaiwa flyer somewhere, and just came to church! It was so great getting to sit with them, and explaining about church, and watching them listen to all the talks and sing along with the Christmas songs. After the meeting I gave them a Book of Mormon and asked them to read it together as a family. Such an amazing miracle! I think the Lord knows that I have no idea what I'm doing and I need some extra help right now.

Today was a very good first P-day in Niigata. The Relief Society president in our ward had all four of us over for lunch (soo good!), and gave us lots of good advice on people to visit. We went to the dollar store, of course, and did some more shopping before going to the biggest, best panyasan (bakery) I've ever seen. Sister Orton calls it "the Mecca of all breads." It's all decked out for Christmas, and we met a mother and her super cute 4-month old baby there and got to talk to her for a little bit. One advantage of me and Sister Wigginton being giants is that our name tags are right at peoples' eye levels. Instant conversation starters!

Pictures: making okonomiyaki, last music corner, posing with the double-decker McDonald's bus that came out of nowhere, and world`s best bakery

Love you all!

Making okonomiyaki in a restaurant in Oyama

Last music corner in Oyama before transfer to Niigata

Anna and Sister Wigginton posing in front of a McDonald's double decker bus in Niigata

"World's best bakery" (panyasan) in Niigata

Monday, December 9, 2013

Transfer call results...

Hello everyone! Transfer calls were this morning, and I learned two things:
1) I am going to train a new missionary fresh outta the MTC. I don't know who she is yet, but I expected this (President Budge basically told me during my last interview).
2) I'm getting transferred, to Niigata! I did not see this coming at all. Niigata is the farthest North zone of our mission and actually used to be in Sendai boundaries. I enjoyed hearing about all the snow in Eugene this week, and it'll be like that where I'm going too! Literally a white Christmas.

I'm very, very nervous to be training in an area where I've never been before. When I got the transfer call, he kept saying "We've prayed a lot about this! We feel confident you can do it!" I think they say that to all the missionaries who get an assignment that's a little more than they think they can handle. I'll have to juggle teaching and learning, as I don't know anyone there or how to get anywhere or even where our apartment is. I'm also kind of sad to be leaving Oyama right before Miro's baptism, and Christmas. This place has become my home, and the people here my family. I've heard nothing but good things about Niigata though (other than the fact that it's freezing and covered in snow. Yikes). My image of it was a frozen wasteland in the middle of nowhere, but the area I'm going to is actually a pretty big city. Lots bigger than Oyama. So I'm excited for that!

Anyway, this week was crazy busy! Monday night we took an evening train to Shibuya to spend the night before temple day. It was fun seeing more of the city, and Sister Kubota's new place! Even though the Shibuya Sister's apartment is currently the most expensive missionary apartment in the world, it's pretty old, and I hear they're looking for a new one. I didn't see any cockroaches, but apparently there are lots.

Tuesday morning we went to the temple, which is always good. All the missionaries get to go every transfer (except Niigata zone, because it's too far away. I'll definitely miss the temple get-togethers while I'm there). Afterwards we ate lunch with a bunch of friends, including Sisters Dunn and Willden from my MTC district, and even got ice cream afterwards! It's much warmer in Tokyo than Oyama, so ice cream didn't seem that weird. If anyone has the opportunity to try French Toast flavor from Baskin Robbins anytime soon, I highly recommend it. While in Tokyo I noticed a troubling trend - it seems that many American missionaries have adopted the weird white medical masks that Japanese people wear when they're sick. It's super common, but I still refuse. Never ever. One of the girls was wearing one at the temple, and Brother Harrison, one of the senior couple missionaries, told her in his funny, blunt way, "you look like a bank robber!" I laughed.

When we came back on Tuesday, we had a really good lesson with Miro and his wife. We printed out "Away in a Manger" in Spanish beforehand and had Sister Cortes coach us on pronunciation on the train ride there so that we could sing it to them. I think they really liked it! I love Christmas music. Sister Cortes bought a MoTab CD at the temple bookstore (featuring David Archuletta!) so we've been listening to that recently.

Wednesday we ate pumpkin soup for lunch, visited various people, and got to have a last lesson with Sri before she goes back to Thailand. Then, in the evening, we had a special Christmas-themed Eikaiwa where we taught about the meaning of lots of Christmas symbols (holly, wreaths, candy canes, etc.) Luckily one of the women in our ward had info about it because I sure didn't know any of that stuff beforehand. We also sang carols in English, drank cocoa and made ornaments to decorate the big Christmas tree in the church building. It was really fun, and Aki got to come with some of her friends!

Thursday marked the 6-month mark of my mission. Completely blows my mind. We took a train to Maebashi (about an hour and a half) to go to a training for 2nd-transfer missionaries (Sister Cortes) and their trainers (Sister Taneda). Upon arriving there I was put with two other "extras" who didn't need to go the the training and we were given a bunch of "I'm a Mormon" flyers and told, "be back here in three hours!" It was actually really fun, getting to explore Maebashi and meet people. Lately I've felt like talking to people on the street is getting kind of hard in Oyama, but easy every time I go somewhere else. Maybe I've started to get stuck in a rut... and that's why I'm transferring! After training was over we had lunch with the Utsunomiya sisters before going on companion exchanges with Sister Ikeguchi, the Sister Training Leader. She came to Oyama with us and helped us meet people near the local university. We met two really nice girls who want to meet again, and gave a Book of Mormon to one of them!

Friday morning we had our last district meeting of the transfer, then went home to do weekly planning. In the evening we played ping-pong with some investigators before sharing a quick message with the seminary class. They usually meet in the morning, but Friday is from 7:30 to 8:30. Glad we didn't have to do that!

Saturday all three of us got sick - Sister Taneda blames the cold in Maebashi. I'm not sure what it was, but my throat's pretty scratchy. We walked around by the train station and a nearby outdoor mall, talking to whatever young girls we met. On the bus ride from the mall back to the station I talked to a really nice high schooler who's taking a class trip to Montreal in a few months! I told her that I took a class trip to Montreal too, when I was younger, and it was fun to talk about that. Saturday evening was Stake Conference, so we drove over with the bishop's wife (an hour an a half both ways). I understood a lot more than I thought I would, and it was all about member-missionary work.

Sunday morning was part two of stake conference, and it was wayyy far away. Like two and a half hours by car. It was in a huge community center, not a church building, with ushers and people holding signs in the parking lot and everything. It was pretty cool seeing so many people from the stake, and I recognized a lot of them! I've met people from other wards at random church events like the 40-year anniversary party, wedding reception, etc. After conference we went to a family in our ward's house and ate crab for dinner!

Today, after transfer calls, we met as a zone to play volleyball and ate Indian curry afterwards. It was way fun and way exciting to see where everyone's going. Lots of nervous people, excited people, everything. I have to rush home and pack and figure out how to take my bike apart now... crazy crazy crazy!

Well, out of time now but I hope everyone is going well! I'd appreciate it if people could pray for whatever poor soul gets me as a trainer. "Welcome to Japan, where we get lost in the snow all day!"

Love, Anna

Eating Baskin Robbins ice cream in Tokyo

Decorating the Christmas Tree in Oyama Ward building after Eikaiwa

Thanksgiving dinner with the Oyama District at a member couple's home

Monday, December 2, 2013

Happy December!

Mina san! Can you believe it's already December? Time flies. In four days I will officially be 1/3 done with my mission. 33% finished! I feel like I just got here! I can barely speak Japanese, but I only have a year left. Scary, scary, scary.

We started the week with an awesome lesson. We got to meet with Aki, and her friend Kei that comes to all the lessons/church with her. Aki told us that the president of the company where she works apparently knows President Monson, and wants to incorporate some of the church's organization into the structure of his company. Awesome! But the best part was when she told us that when she heard that announcement, she felt very proud and wanted so badly to raise her hand and say, "I'M a Mormon!" Hearing that made me so happy - my smile wouldn't go away for the rest of the day. Aki wants to be baptized in the beginning of January, and Kei said that she would too! We were never really sure how much interest Kei had, and never even counted her as an investigator, but now she's getting baptized. Amazing.

Wednesday we had district meeting, where everyone was asked to give a short presentation on different assigned topics. I spoke about hope, which was a little ironic because I had been starting to wonder how in the world we were ever going to reach our goal of seeing a baptism before Christmas. But then, that evening, a miracle happened. While I stayed at the church to teach Eikaiwa in the evening with Sister Taneda, Sister Cortes went on splits with a member in our ward to teach Miro, the investigator who's been studying every night out of a Gospel Principles textbook. When Sister Cortes came back after the lesson, she was excited to tell us how well it went. When he was young, Miro studied to be a Catholic priest, but eventually stopped because of all the corruption he saw in the church. He didn't think it went in line with the teachings of Jesus Christ. Now, he's so excited to be learning again, and is happy that he's finally found the truth he's started looking for so long ago. He wants to get baptized on December 22nd, two days after his wife gets out of the hospital, so that she can be there with him. And when she's well enough, she wants to get baptized too!

And so my hope was restored. Isn't it funny how little things like that work out? I've noticed that we're often asked to teach others about things we need to learn for ourselves. At the last Sister Missionary training, Sister Dunn and her companion gave a presentation on exercise. She told me that they'd been getting pretty lazy before getting that assignment and joked, "we've been called to repentance!" No more being a "futon missionary" - what we call the missionaries whose exercise in the morning consists of lying on their futon and maybe stretching or doing a couple sit-ups. So far all of my companions have fallen into this category. Sister Cortes actually bought a jump-rope, with good intentions of using it, but then realized that we live on the 3rd floor and our downstairs neighbors might not like waking up to thumping at 6:30 in the morning. And during this time of year, going outside in the morning is not an option. Too cold.

Thursday was... Thanksgiving! That was one holiday I thought I'd have to kiss goodbye for two years, but one of the couples in our ward invited our whole district over for an American Thanksgiving lunch - turkey, stuffing, everything. I forgot how much I love stuffing. I even ate a little turkey, just because. My first time eating Thanksgiving turkey since 2007, and I did it in Japan! Crazy. It was a little hard to stay awake that afternoon during planning time because of the food coma, but we made it through. That evening, we went to the church for "music night" with the Elders and some investigators. We all took turns singing hymns, and I played the piano and Elder Justesen played guitar. It was fun and relaxing.

Friday we thought it would be a good idea to try to get in touch with Oshi san, who we'd taught a little bit a few weeks ago, by visiting her at the restaurant where she works. Turns out it wasn't the best talking opportunity, since she was busy and didn't really want to have a long conversation. Good ice cream though. After that we went and visited my favorite old obaasan, the one who always gives us flowers, and sang to her and gave her a Book of Mormon to read. She said she'll try to read it but probably won't be able to see. No matter where you are in the world, old people love to say the same things: "You're so young!" "Aren't you cold?" "Wait, let me get my reading glasses."

Friday evening we did ping-pong night again, where we got to spend a lot of time with Jas, the girlfriend of one of the Elders' investigators. She's really nice, and wants to know more about missionaries and church! I've really enjoyed getting to spend time with people my own age this week. It's easier to understand them and communicate, and I feel like I can really be myself.

Church on Sunday was awesome. We had four investigators there, and they all really enjoyed it! It was also testimony meeting, which is easier for me to understand since the talks are shorter and not as formal. Very good day.

No time for pictures, gomenasai! Hope everyone is well.

Love, Anna