Monday, January 21, 2013

Hey Everyone! It's that time again! It's been a good week out here in Ushiku. But it has ben COLD the last few days. Ok, I take that back. It's really not that cold. But the wind is really cold, and it's been blowing really hard the last few days. Just as an update about the snow from last Monday, it's all mostly melted already. There's still a little bit here and there, but not much. Most of it got cleared from off the sidewalks and roads by tuesday afternoon. However, there was snow on the ground all day Monday, and that includes when we went out from the apartment in the evening to do some contacting. What we learned from this experience is that riding your bike in four inches of snow is rather tricky, especially when you have road tires.
Best picture I could get of the taxi snowball fight.
   But yeah, that's that. Tuesday we saw something that was pretty funny. Elder Christensen and I were out at one of the train stations, and it was really slow. not many people were around. There were about half a dozen taxis of so that were waiting for customers, and they had all been sitting there for quite some time and were getting bored. Then, to our surprise, these two taxi drivers get out of their taxis, grab some snow from off the hedges, and start throwing snowballs at each other. Then, some of the snow would get on the taxi, they would freak out, grab a rag, and buff it off. The best part was when one of them completely missed and ended up hitting a taxi belonging to a driver that wasn't even involved in the snowball fight. Probably one of the most funny things I've seen in quite some time.
   On Wednesday, we had our weekly English class. This lady shows up who I haven't met before, but apparently she's been coming for the last several months. She then starts telling Elder Christensen that on the first Wednesday of the year she had come to class, but the church was all locked up and nobody was there. What had happened is English class had been cancelled that night because of new years, and too many students said they weren't going to come anyway. I guess this lady had missed the memo somehow. She wasn't very happy though, because she waited outside (where it was quite cold) for quite some time, and apparently she tried calling us. After we got that all sorted out, as a joke she told Elder Christensen that to make it up he would just have to treat her to dinner sometime. Then, Elder Christensen said that instead he would make a cake for her and bring it next week. Well, she decided that she's going to hold him to it. Now, Elder Christensen is faced with a choice: cake or death.
Funny note I found on the map of the area in the apartment. 
   Thursday I got to meet Kada for the first time. He's a single guy in his 30's who was baptized quite some time ago, but hasn't been to church in a long time because of work. We have a weekly lesson with him on Thursdays, but for various reasons it's been cancelled the last couple of weeks, which is why I haven't met him until now. He's a pretty interesting guy though. When I found out he wasn't married, I asked if he had a girlfriend. He said he did, and pulls out his phone to show me a picture. It was a picture of his cat... He's a really fun guy, he's just really weird too, and he's really lonely. And he talks really fast. I thought my Japanese was finally getting somewhere, and then I try to talk to this guy and it just hurts. I'm looking forward to continuing to meet with him though. It'll be fun.
   That's about it for this week. There really hasn't been a whole lot going on. Due to our current lack of investigators, we've been spending alot of time trying to find people who are interested. I think that part of it might be the weather. It's cold, and Japanese people hate the cold, so most people we talk to on the street are grumpy. But we have been able to find a few people with some potential. We're going to try meeting with them this week, so we'll see how that goes.

Take care everyone! Enjoy the next week!

Monday, January 14, 2013

So, I'm not sure what you call it when it's snowing and raining at the same time, but that's what it was doing this morning for about an hour. The snow ended up winning that battle though, and it's been just snowing for the last several hours. What I can say though is that the snow is about 3 weeks too late to have a white Christmas. Well, not much you can do about that though, right?
Army of oranges!! I made sure that none of them are the same.
   It's been a fairly uneventful week this last week. There have been a few interesting things that happened, but for the most part not a whole lot went on. Thursday we had a zone meeting over in Matsudo. I'm not sure if other missions do this activity or not, and if they do I'm not sure what they would call it, but after the Zone meeting we did a Dendo Blitz. Dendo essentially means missionary activities, or proselyting. I'm sure you know what blitz means. Basically, a Dendo Blitz is when a district or a zone gets together in one area, everyone gets paired up with someone other than their current companion, and then we go hit the streets really hard for 30 minutes to an hour and try to get as many contacts as possible. There's always some sort of unusual event that takes place when we have one. For example, I was out with Elder Hall (who I was in the MTC with), and we managed to get a Book of Mormon out in the 30 minute blitz, which is surprising since in Japan it's typical to only get out 3 or 4 copies a week. On a good week. It was actually really funny how it happened. First, I should probably explain that in the Japan missions we're not allowed to call out or stop women on the street unless they're with a man. The reason being Japanese people have this image that Americans are all players and womanizers, and we don't want give the incorrect impression that we missionaries are trying to flirt with these women. That being said, we are allowed to say konnichi wa as we pass them to be polite, but we can't call out to them, and stopping them is definitely not allowed. So, to continue with the story, Elder Hall and I passed this older woman, and we said hello. After we had already passed her, she turns around and calls out to us, asking why we said hello to her. I guess she was caught off guard when she saw two white guys who appeared to be in a hurry take the time to say hello as they passed her in the street. Well, Elder Hall (who normally keeps his cool) starts acting all awkward since she's a woman. He basically just handed her the Book of Mormon without any explanation of what it is, and said we wanted to give it to her. Surprisingly enough, she took it, and then we went our merry way after giving her a flier with the local missionaries phone number. That was one of the most interesting street contacts I've ever had for sure.
Elder Christensen playing with the steam coming
 off the oldschool rice cooker that cooked 
the rice for the mochitsuki
   Saturday the ushiku ward had a mochitsuki. A mochitsuki is an annual event for new years where you make mochi. Mochi is what you get when you pound cooked rice, and it's really chewy and delicious. Eating it plain tastes about the same as eating plain white rice (obviously), but when you flavor it with other stuff it's really good. There were several members that brought friends with them, so that was a great opportunity for us. The mochitsuki was really fun, and Elder Christensen and I even took a whack at it... pun intended. There was a lot of rice to pound too. Whoever planned it decided that we needed 20 Kilos of uncooked rice for this. What that means is that we had about 8 batches of rice to pound. It may not sound like alot, but I can assure you that it is. It's a good think we had a lot of people there to take turns.

   That's about it for this week. While you're all enjoying your clear dry days, think of me out here in Tokyo riding my bike in the snow. Haha! Take care everyone!

Monday, January 07, 2013

   Hey everyone! I've managed to survive the first week in this new area without too much difficulty. It's way different from Yamato, but Ushiku is a nice place so far. One really nice perk is that the apartment is really clean, and it's really big. We could easily fit 4 missionaries in here no problem, but there's only the two of us. And, the train station quite literally downstairs from our apartment. Our apartment complex has an exit that feeds into one of the station entrances about 30 yards away. How's that for convenience? Our apartment is on the 7th floor, and we can see 3 major landmarks from our apartment. When the sky is clear, we can see Mount Fuji despite it being so ridiculously far away. It's usually blocked by clouds or smog though. We can also see the Tokyo skytree, which is a massively tall tower in Tokyo. We can also see the Ushiku Daibutsu, which is the largest statue of Buddha in the world. All three, right from our apartment.
Massive sundial that's fairly close to our apartment
   Ushiku isn't quite as rural as it was made to sound. It's actually pretty close to the same as Gilbert. It's actually like a strange mix between Gilbert and Apache Junction because there are random patches of nothingness surrounded by buildings everywhere. After spending 6 months in Yamato though, it feels like I'm living in a small ghost town though. Funny how perspective can change like that.
Aaron and Aaron. One is a dog of the Kohinata family
and the other is a missionary in Japan.
   So, I actually have a pretty neat story from last Monday on Transfer day. So I had to ride the train from Yamato to Ushiku by myself, and that's about a 2 hour trip. Elder Gallacher was also transferring, so we met up at the Yamato station and then rode together to Shinjuku where we then split up to go our separate ways. After Shinjuku I still had to transfer trains again before I got to Ushiku. Well, I got to the station I was supposed to transfer trains at, followed the signs, and got on the train that my instructions told me to get on. This old grandpa gets on at the same time as me, and we start up a conversation. A little bit into it, he asks where I'm heading. "To Ushiku," I said. Then he told me that I would need to transfer one more time at a station called Abiko. Well, that was a surprise to me. My instructions didn't say anything about transferring at Abiko. Well, we looked at the map together, and he showed me that the line I was on split at Abiko. One direction when to Narita, and the other direction went through Ushiku on up to Mito. As it turns out, I was on the train bound for the Narita direction. My directions didn't say anything about the train line splitting at Abiko, and I'm not even sure how you're supposed to be able to tell which direction the train was bound for anyway. After thanking him for his help, he got off at the very next stop. This old Grandpa was the only person that talked to me on the entire 2 hour trip (with the exception of some drunk guy that was talking to everyone), and we only rode together for one stop, right after I had made the only mistake on that trip. Well that's sure interesting. I wonder how that happened.
   Well, seeing as how I came to Ushiku just in time for new years, we've been visiting lots of members and eating celebratory new years meals almost every day. New years is a big deal in Japan after all. Oranges are part of the traditional lineup of new years foods, so we've been getting bags filled with oranges from several of the members. Yeah, there's no way we can eat them all fast enough to keep them from going bad. Then again, it probably doesn't help that neither Elder Christensen or I like oranges... that might have something to do with it...
Sorry if the blog posts have been kinda sketchy since about Christmas time. We were really busy, and didn't have much free time. Now that the holidays are over, it should be back to normal now!

Elder Blake

Monday, December 31, 2012

Hey Everyone! I'm doing pretty good, and I'm mostly over whatever it is that I had during Christmas. I'm still a little congested, but that's about it. Nothing too bad.

So I suppose the biggest piece of news for now is that after being in Yamato for close enough to half a year, I'm transferring today. My next area is a place called Ushiku, which is about 2 hours away by train from where I'm at now. I guess it's pretty rural out there, so that will be a different experience from what I'm used to. Then again, it is Japan, so we'll see how rural it really is when I get there. Oh, and here's the best part: my next companion is Elder Christensen. My trainer. Again. Definitely didn't see that one coming. When we got the transfer call and they told me I was going to be companions with Elder Christensen, I said, "What?! Elder Christensen?" And they said, "Yeah, do you know him?"  "Yeah I know him, he's my trainer."   "Oh. *shuffles through some papers* Yeah, I guess he was. Well, you get to be companions with him again!"  After they posted the roster for this next transfer, I've gotten calls and emails from several missionaries asking me why I was going to be companions with my trainer again, as if I knew the answer or something. Haha! Well, I guess we'll have to wait and find out.

Let's see... other than that, it's been a fairly busy week. Thursday through Saturday we had fully booked days, which was really exciting for us. Unfortunately, nearly all of our appointments fell through. We did have a lesson stick though, and we were able to attend the baptism of one of the boys in the Zama Branch. We had an investigator come with us to that, and it seemed to have a good effect on him. Sister Ishihara, who was baptized about a month ago, is still acting like a rock star. We've been able to make contact with everyone in her family now, and we've started teaching them. Her oldest son actually lives in another area, so the missionaries over there are working with him. We actually got a call from those missionaries on Friday, and they were telling us about how their first lesson with him went. They just kinda asked him about what we had taught him when we met him, and he said that he had been praying on his own and reading the Book of Mormon (which is fantastic after only one lesson). He also told them that he was able to recognize a change in his mom since she's been baptized, and that he wants to learn more about that so he can have that same change too. Then he pretty much straight up told the missionaries that he wanted to be baptized. He has a date set for the 3rd of February now. It's so exciting!

Sorry this is kinda short, but I've gotta go get stuff packed up so I can get to Ushiku. I'll tell you all about it next week. Later!

Elder Blake

Merry Christmas

Japan Tokyo Mission Christmas Card

Let me know if you find me in the video!

Monday, December 17, 2012

   (Almost) Merry Christmas! Christmas is in just over a week! Are you guys ready yet? It's coming up pretty quick. I'm probably not going to see a white Christmas in Japan. It's not quite cold enough to snow. I guess Tokyo is kinda like Washington in the aspect that it doesn't snow very often, but it still rains even during the winter. I'm looking forward to Christmas though. There's going to be quite a few fun things going on.
   So last week for p-day we went bowling as a district... again. You know, when everyone said that I'd be playing a lot of b-ball on my mission, I thought they were talking about basket ball, not bowling. Haha! But yeah, that was really fun. There are some really cool missionaries in our district, and I'm grateful for the opportunity to serve with them. Let's see, what were some other highlights...
Christmas cards we made for people here
   So, our recent convert Sister Ishihara brought her son with her AB lesson this week. That means that instead of teaching an AB lesson like we thought we were going to, we ended up teaching a first lesson to her son. He's 17, and a junior in high school, but he's pretty cool and he has a pretty strong interest in the church. I'm sure his mom being baptized may have had something to do with that. So that was really cool, but the miracle doesn't stop there! On Sunday, Sister Ishihara came to Church with her son. But, not only did she bring her son, but her husband (who we've never met before) also came to church! We totally weren't expecting it at all. She's told us before that he doesn't really care either way if she wants to go to church, but he has no interest in it himself. So when they showed up we were all really surprised. He said that he had a good time though, and that he thought everyone was really nice and he wants to learn more. This is why it's so important to be friendly to people you don't recognize at church! You never know what kind of impact you might have in their conversion.
    So, backtracking a little bit, Friday was an interesting day. During personal study we get a phone call from President Budge. Well, that's never a good sign when the Mission President calls you directly, right? Well, he then informed us that we were having an emergency transfer, and that a new missionary would be coming to join us the next day (Saturday) and then Elder Nakamura would transfer to the mission home on Tuesday and begin being trained as the comissarian for next transfer. That means that we're now in a 3-man companionship until tomorrow, and then Elder Nakamura will be leaving me for the last two weeks of the Transfer. My new companion's name is Elder Holden, and he seems pretty chill. So I guess that means I'll be celebrating Christmas with him instead of with Elder Nakamura.
    Saturday was a pretty good day too though. Elder and Sister Harrison had a Christmas party with their neighbors, and they invited us (since they don't speak Japanese and we do). They have some really nice neighbors. It's actually really interesting to see them interact, because they're all like really tight friends. That's something that you don't see very often, in Japan or America. I think it would be pretty cool to live somewhere where you could be best friends with your neighbors. That wouldn't be a bad thing at all.

That's about it for now! I hope you all enjoy Christmas!
Elder Blake