Sunday, January 23, 2011

Photos - Around Kobe

A picture of Kobe from Shindai college. It's a huge city.

The district with Grandma Keiko

Also our district eating yakiniku with investigators and ward members the night before transfers. That was really good but really expensive.

Our district, the day Grandma Keiko came.

 The crazy seagull man that's always at Harborland

that's an outreach activity the week of Christams

Our district at Taro Chan (that amazing Ramen place) with one of the sister's Chinese investigator's: KyoKyo.

At the Ward Mochi Festival

President and Sister McIntyre making mochi

Christmas Eve

On the train

A blowing ping-pong ball game.

January 23, 2011

Any guesses?

I'm still here with Elder Bowman. We are one of about 5 companionships in the mission that actually stayed the same. There were a lot of surprises this transfer. Elder Starks (his mom cut your hair) is no longer an AP and that shocked everyone. He's re-opening Abeno (the most Tokai area in the mission), they've been struggling for years apparently. That area has the most people in it, yet the ward is dwindling and really doesn't help the missionaries. It's been a Shimai area for about 6 months and he's there to re-open it. So Elder McLaws from Washington is the new AP. Elder Maeda got transferred and Elder Johnson is the new recorder. So there are two new people in the apartment. Elder Johnson is from Maryland, half-japanese (parents met at BYU) and lived at yokosuka for 11 years.

Monday was really fun with Grandma. We went to Brazilliano's (a right of passage for Kobe missionaries) and she loved it. The other missionaries absolutely loved her. Sister Shields and Sister Wajima gave her big hugs when she left. Sister Shields said she wants her to come back already and start coming to church and activities. She sent me pictures today. Did you get any? She walked around for a little bit with just Elder Bowman and I and bought us about $30 worth of expensive chocolate. It was a short visit, but it really was great. I was a little bit stressed about it Monday morning. I was worried that I would lose my focus, but she was very respectful and understood that we were busy. In fact, she dismissed herself earlier than she needed to. We probably could've spent more time with her, I think she just wanted to move along. I'll probably need a break from family visits for a few months or so. I don't want to look like I'm just here to see family. But it is also a dendo opportunity. Finding the balance was difficult. Overall it was a fantastic time. When we picked her up in Sannomiya, she said she had just got off the phone with mom. That was weird.

I got to see Ilch (Tamir) Shimai Monday night. She's doing fantastic. She stayed two days in Kobe for transfers and the Shimai taikai because her area is so far away. Plus her new companion is Sato Shimai so the two of them are bound for miracles this transfer.

Bowman Choro's birthday was Tuesday but we celebrated Monday night, of course with a face cookie and the Mission President. On Christmas, Bowman Choro gave Sister McIntyre two singing stuffed animals that ward members gave him because apparently she collects them. Usually when we throw surprise birthday parties, Sister McIntyre asks me "odorimasen ka?" She thinks parties are supposed to have entertainment. And yes, you guessed it, she danced at this one. She wore the stuffed animals around her neck and choreographed a dance with the office elders. Definitely one of the funniest things I've ever seen. President McIntyre filmed it but I'm not sure if anyone will ever see it based on the horrified look on his face.

We met an investigator Monday night named Yoshihito. He said he is homeless but sleeps at a shelter. He's 23 and the oldest of five, the rest are in foster homes. I got a really creepy feeling talking to him. I actually spoke to him for 90% of the contact (probably the most Japanese I've ever been able to speak on the street) and he agreed to come Eikaiwa that next night. He showed up at Eikaiwa and was pretty nuts. He was picking up little children and then started talking to me and grabbed my butt. He calls us at the very least, five times a day. When Bowman Choro picks up the phone, he immediately says he wants to talk to me and calls me "Low Chan." His story has changed a million times. He says he has a job interview everyday and that he got the job every time. He said he "found his house" twice now. I think he's schizophrenic, and he's definitely in love with me. We've decided he's not allowed to talk to me on the phone anymore. He always says he wants to come visit me at the apartment. The other thing is that he's teachable. He says he wants to be baptized. We'll see what happens.

The new missionaries showed up on Tuesday. There were only two of them. Sobrihno Choro and Tsuji Shimai. I actually took Sobrinho Choro out for his first 3 hours of Dendo. He didn't act up, but he didn't say anything either...I don't think he knows how. But, he's here. That actually did all kinds of things for my confidence. It makes a huge difference when you can't rely on your companion during contacts.

We also got our bikes taken by the city this weeks and it costed us 2000 yen. When we showed up to get them they laughed and said "ohhh, morumon kyo, yappari"

I'm actually going to Kitta Rokko for three days this week. There is leadership training here this week and no room to sleep in the apartment, so I'm going back with Kuroda Choro (his companion needs to be here for leadership training) to Kitta Rokko. It'll be good to be out of my area. I've only been here and in Amagasaki.

I went on an exchange on Saturday with Elder Nielsen, the AP from Twin Falls, Idaho (he and Elder Bowman were friends in high school). He's awesome. His dad is Elder Nielsen of the first quorum of the seventy who's on assignment in New Zealand. We had a lesson with a man from Mongolia that night. He was completely fluent in Japanese. I dare say he was better at Japanese than most Japanese people I've talked to. When we said words like "fukuin" "aganai" "fukkatsu" and "seiyaku" he not only understood the meaning, he'd draw the Kanji for them. Japanese people usually have never heard those words before. This guy was nuts. Mongolians are linguists I've discovered. He also said he's from "inner-Mongolia." I've never heard of that. Apparently, the northern part of China is inner-Mongolia and those people speak both Chinese and Mongolian but have Chinese passports, but they claim to be Mongolian. So this guy is tri-lingual. In fact, his job is in translation. He typically translates Chinese into Japanese and vice-versa...and he's Mongolian. The location of the lesson was another story. He originally wanted to go to Starbucks but it was full, then to Mister Donuts which was also full, so we eventually ended up at KFC. There was a girl sitting at the table right behind us and her boyfriend showed up in the middle of the lesson. As we started the baptismal commitment, the two of them started ferociously making out. I was in shock. I have NEVER seen that in Japan and Elder Nielsen said he hasn't either and he only has three transfers left. Heck, with the way they were going at it, I would've been shocked to see that in the U.S. It was terrible because we couldn't look at him, without seeing them. He actually agreed to a baptismal date, despite our difficulty to focus. We came out of the lesson laughing really hard.

We visited the Taneda Sr.'s (the parents of the other family I visited) last night as a district. They fed us pizza, spaghetti, fried chicken, and french fries. And they never stopped bringing food out. There were like 6 pizzas. We could hardly walk out of there. They have 7 kids, two of them living at home. One of them is 27 and not married and probably the most beautiful person in the ward. Mormon culture in Japan is so fascinating. I'll probably send a picture next week. Sister Shields puts them on this computer but she hasn't emailed yet today.

I'm out of time. I'll see if I can send some pictures. Have a great week!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

January 17, 2011

The transfer is officially over. We turned in our final numbers last night. The President was with the Assistants upstairs until 1 AM this morning. There is a Shimaitachi Taikai tomorrow, so they all know where they're going and will leave the taikai with a new companion. I'm pretty anxious to find out what happens. I won't know until tomorrow.

Tuesday was yet another face cookie birthday party, this time for Wajima Shimai. It's almost like they planned to put missionaries in Kobe for their birthdays so Sister McIntyre could make face cookies for them.

We've been trying to explore some new areas. We were walking around Kobe University's Shindai campus up on the mountain this week (which, I thought was illegal, and was later confirmed to us by the office elders so we won't be going there anymore). To give background to the story, there is a homeless (we thought) man in Sannomiya that we see every night. He's usually wearing some kind of strange hat, running around, yelling, rapping, dancing, and asking for money. When we were walking around the campus, we said hello to someone on the other side of the sidewalk. The college student ignored us, but the janitor right in front of us turned around and said "aaahhh, Konnichiwa! Koko de hataraiteriu" and ran off. It was the supposedly homeless man. I need to get a picture of this guy the next time I see him. I wish I could write about all of the people we meet on the streets.

Sister Sato, who is serving in Abeno, came and did an exchange in Kobe for one day. Sister Wajima told her that it is a zone goal to give someone a baptismal commitment everyday on the street. Apparently Sato Shimai heard that and threw out 10 in one hour. We met her and outreach and she was awesome. She's been a member for a little over a year and has the best convert testimony you could ask for. I found out last night that Sato Shimai is transfering to Kurayoshi to serve with Illch (Tamir) Shimai. I'm excited about that.

On Friday we went looking for volunteer service activities. We had been to about 3 different places and all of them kept referring us to different places. We finally went to the international student services center and it looked golden. We walked in and there was a bulletin board full of flyers with volunteer activities, including church services. When we walked into the reception room, before we said a word, the receptionist said "dame." We kind of just stood there clueless and she said that we weren't aloud to be there. We explained that we were looking for "volunteer katsudo" and she said she didn't have any for us because of what was written on our nametags. Missionaries had obviously been there before. She referred us to another place and asked us to leave. Before we left, we asked if anyone could put things on the bulletin board. She said no, especially not religious things. We then said there was a religious flyer on the board to which she said "doko, misete." We showed her, she quickly ripped it off and said "Kore wa apato desu. Shukyo dewa nai." We just walked out before we lost our tempers. I was shocked with how rude she was. People can be that rude when dealing with religion, even in Japan.

Saturday was the ward mochitsuki. That was awesome. Lots of ward members came and brought non-member friends. It was just fun to be there and see that cultural experience.

Grandma came last night. We took her on a small tour of the church and the office. She seemed really concerned about not being a jama. She kept asking if we had shigoto to do. Overall, it was great to see her. It was absolutely mind-blowing to hear her speak in Japanese and know exactly what she was saying. Seriously bizarre. It was almost like meeting her for the first-time. She had a completely different personality. We're meeting her in a couple hours to go to lunch as a district. It should be pretty fun. We're going to harborland.

I guess that's all. Maybe I'll send a couple pictures. Until next week...

More Pictures!

Here's that giant anime character (a little kid was taking pictures of it with his DS).

It's also snowed a few times. None of it sticks, but it does at the tops of the mountains.

There's us with the Taneda's. They're seriously one of my favorite families.

Funny story about that bathroom picture. I couldn't figure out how to flush the toilet. There were two buttons on the wall, I pushed one, nothing happened. I pushed the other and it flushed. Then while I was putting my coat back on a station officer started pounding on the door. Apparently that was a panic button.

January 9, 2011

Hello again.

Yes, p-day is today. I think we can assume it will be Monday next week as well.

Monday afternoon we had lunch with the Taneda family. They're awesome. They're in their thirties, but look no older than 21. They loved the rescue plan and brought us a giant completed list on Sunday.

So Monday night we went to the Mizuno's house as a district for dinner. They have the entire Kobe district for dinner once a month. They are like the cookie-cutter perfect Japanese LDS family. They're older and have one single daughter living with them and four others that are married, 14 grandchildren total. Apparently there is a picture of their family in the church history center in Salt Lake City somewhere. They fed us Shogatsu leftovers and holy crap it was good.

On Wednesday we went as a district to yet another member family, the Toda's. I will probably send a picture in the mail. Toda Kyodai really reminds me of Grandpa Shigeo. The way he speaks, the way he acts, and the way he looks. He knows a lot about everything and loves talking about everything, especially correcting my companion's Japanese. He's perfectly fluent in English too and loves singing. They fed us Shabu-Shabu (all kinds of vegetables, scallops, fish, and pork) with a Sumo soup base (chanko?) and that was without question the best meal I've had here. Everyone was stumbling out because we were so full.

We've taught O-san four times this week. Good grief he is difficult. He has perfect faith. He'll follow any commandment we teach. He comes to church, wants to pay tithing, lives the Word of Wisdom, prays, and reads the Book of Mormon but he refuses to be baptized. First of all, he says he has to finish the Book of Mormon. He's only on page 40 and won't commit to a date to finish it by and says he won't be able to read it too much because he's going to get really busy this month. He LOVED learning about the Plan of Salvation and immediately pointed to the Celestial Kingdom and said "ikitai" and when we asked if he knew how he said: "baputesuma." Yet, he refuses to decide on a date. He also told us that he's terrified of water. He asked if there was any other way. We said no and he said he'll do it if there's a way to do it without water. It's a difficult situation. He obviously has righteous desires, baptism is his only concern. The language barrier is only hurting as well. We fasted for him yesterday. It is no fun to ride your bike all day on an empty stomach.

On Thursday at Outreach (YSA activity) we were playing circle games that the sisters organized. One person stands in the middle with a tube and tries to hit people with it. The person in the middle can only hit someone if their name is said. If someone says your name, you want to say someone else's before they hit you. We were starting another round and it was Sister Priddis's (office couple) turn and when she realized she was supposed to say a name to start the round she said "oh" in realization, but O-san immediately stood up and said another name. This is probably a crappy description, but it was honestly one of the funniest things I've ever seen. Sister Shields and I fell out of our chairs laughing.

We had interviews this week too. The whole zone came to the office and we were last since we live here. It took four and a half hours. I was really baffled because my interview with the President was all of five minutes. We were also supposed to interview with Sister McIntyre as a companionship, but she ran out of time and had to take her son to the airport. She called us on Saturday morning and told us to come upstairs since she didn't interview us earlier. That's why it took four hours when the zone was here, she had us up there for almost an hour. And we talked about great stuff. She had a us practice a lesson on her and then ripped us to pieces on what we did wrong. And she was exactly right on all of it.

O-san's friend Oki-san (he's been coming to Outreach activities on Thursdays and Fridays, no interest in the gospel) called our cell-phone on Friday night and invited Elder Bowman to dinner. He originally wanted just him to come. He was a little reluctant on other people coming, but eventually he agreed to have me and the two office elders come. He took the four of us to a completely authentic Chinese restaurant in Sannomiya. You walk down an alley, take an elevator that is big enough for two people up three floors and open this door that looks like a closet to get to it. The inside was filled with smoke and everyone spoke only Chinese. The food was pretty good. Incredibly spicy and definitely nothing like what an American imagines when they think of Chinese food. It turns out, he invited us there on business. He wanted us to buy rubber in America for his dad's company. I think he might've been a little upset when he found out that we can't go back too soon and that we don't do business right now. Hopefully he'll still come to activities. I think he likes us. When Osaka Choro tried to talk about baptism, he started talking about aliens and outer-space. These Chogoku-jin's are such interesting people.

We visited the Tanakura family last night. That was yet another humbling circumstance. They are an older looking couple but have five young children. Their apartment is decently sized, but not for five children. They're very shy, but seem to be strongly rooted in the gospel. Both my companion and I immediately commented on their ten year old Miki as we left. She just had so much light about her. She's always smiling and the look in her eyes just immediately radiates the spirit. She said some really profound things as we were teaching.

It's pretty cold. I'm keeping warm with my coat and such lately.
I'm going to go get a jisho today. Talk to you next week!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Monday, January 3, 2011

January 2, 2011

Akemashite omedetou gozaimasu!

Ok, so Christmas actually counted as our p-day last week. I'm back to Mondays, but just a warning, we might be having p-day this coming Saturday in order to go to Kyoto (AP's have power like that) as a district. I'm not certain yet, but you may want to get an email to me early.

This week is kind of a blur. Apparently these end and beginning of year weeks are the hardest in Japan because of Shogatsu. There aren't a lot of people out and the people that are out are from out of town, or they're busy and don't want to be bothered during the holidays.

We had yet another birthday party this week. Pictures will probably show up on the blog. It was Shields Shimai's (Kobe sister, training Wajima Shimai from my group) birthday. She's probably the most musically talented person in the mission. She likes to take her ukelele with her wherever she goes, so Sister McIntyre made her a ukelele cookie in addition to her face cookie.

That afternoon, we went back to the Ramen place with the all you can eat kimchee by Hankyu Rokko (the station we go to everyday) to have lunch as a district with one of the sister's investigators. They had free gyoza that day too. Really, really good.

We finally have been able to start visiting ward members. It feels really great to get off of the streets. It's much easier to practice and improve your Japanese when someone is asking you the questions and wants to listen to you. Apparently, the faith of members is one of the hardest things in the mission. A lot of them tell each other that sharing the gospel with your friends will only make you miserable, so they don't do it and they tell others not to do it. It's very difficult to soften their hearts. We met with the Minayoshi family who lives out by Kobe Home Stadium, about an hour comute. Apparently they are less active, they only come to sacrament meeting. When we met the mother, she was full of energy and really wanted us to come over. When we visited, she kept saying how happy the gospel has made her and how it is what her family needs. As soon as we introduced "the rescue plan" (I think that's a worldwide thing) she got antsy. She and her family converted about 7 years ago and she said she shared the gospel with everyone when she was a new convert, but that it ruined her relationships with some people and the members told her it was a bad idea. When we talked about "we invite, they commit, we follow-up" and the idea that we can't force anyone to do anything seemed to change her attitude a little bit.

On Friday, there was a YSA dance party for every YSA across the whole Kansai branch. I didn't know that there were that many Mormon's in Japan. There were tons of them and watching them dance was hilarious. Doing the YMCA dance is apparently still cool here. During the dance party, our zone met with the stake president to discuss stake activities. He fed us sukiyaki, it was great. Apparently we our responsible to be at Outreach (weekly YSA activities) every week, even if we don't have investigators. It was the zone leader's responsibility before, now it is ours.

Saturday, New Years day, was Sports Taikai. That was a blast. Look on President McIntyre's blog for pictures of that. There might even be video of the dodgeball game. That was madness. We basically just went to the church in Ibaraki which has a giant gym where we played volleyball, basketball, badminton, ping-pong, and dodgeball from 11:00 AM to 5:00 PM. We had a gigantic dodgeball game for the last hour, Kohai vs. Senpai (those who have been in the mission for a year or more, or a year or less). Sister McIntyre was on our side and was hilarious. She stayed in the corner saying "abunai! abunai!" Her and Murdock Shimai were the last two remaining and got five elders out to win the game for us. It was so loud in that gym, and I think the McIntyre's daughter got video of the whole thing. They also played the mission DVD and Kung-Fu Panda in the chapel. The Hiroshima side of the mission couldn't attend due to costs, but I got to see Elder Shumway and Sister Myagmarjav (Aruinzaya) again. That was great. Sister Myagmarjav (all the missionaries, including the President, call her "Meg Shimai") had never ridden a bike before her mission. She said that was really difficult for a while, but she's really jozu now. She said she got hit by a car and scraped up her leg pretty bad, but she's doing great. She actually had a baptism the day after Christmas. The investigator was found, taught, and baptized all within two weeks. Your prophecy is coming true.

O-san was back at church yesterday. Between our whole district, there were seven investigators at church yesterday and all of them were Chinese. How nuts is that? It was great letting them mingle for a while. O-san has been really busy so yesterday was our first time seeing him for a while. He has Oyasumi from school now and says he can meet anytime. We have a lesson with him tonight before FHE. We really are going to give him a solid baptismal commitment that he will hopefully understand. I honestly think that if it weren't for the language barrier, he'd be baptized by now.

Talk to you next week!