Monday, August 1, 2011

August 1, 2011

I can`t believe it`s August. I hit one year next transfer.
We went to Himeji Castle last Monday. It was awesome. It`s still totally worth entering, even though the main tower is under construction. I do want to come back sometime after it is finished though. That won`t be until at least 2014.

They`re redoing the main keep but have an exhibition set up so that you can see the work they`re doing.

My favorite part of the castle was probably the west living quarters, that long hallway. It`s an endless hall of rooms that are all still in perfect condition.

It was built for Senhimje, the granddaughter of Tokugawa Ieyasu (The first Shogun). The thing is huge.

 You can really feel the presence of the people that lived there before.

This week we had a massive, all zone-all day exchange in Sumoto. All of the Elders in the zone went to Sumoto (the zone leader`s area) and exchanged from Elder to Elder by the hour.
The bus ride to Sumoto, on Awaji Island. You cross a huge bridge.

Sumoto is seeing success that`s unheard of in the mission so I think everyone went expecting to see some big secret revealed. (Note: To learn more about the Sumoto miracle, click here.) There really wasn`t too much of that. The thing that struck me the hardest was when I was walking around with Elder Knight on the beach (it is a TINY little city, just a tad bit bigger than Shingu) and some kid started waving at him and calling him by name. Those Elders are celebrities on the island. The little kid knew him because his friend was recently baptized. Those two Elders are not afraid to be themselves....they have friends. That`s why Sumoto is exploding. They`re being themselves and connecting people. You would think that`s such and obvious thing, but it really struck me.

That night, all of the Elder`s went to the branch activity....volleyball on the beach. It was really just watch little kids throw a volleyball back and forth over the net. Regardless, it was probably the best activity I`ve been to in Japan. Three families with tons of kids all got together and just had a great time. That branch is full of children. The gospel is really meant to be lived as a family. It was easy to see that. That little Sumoto branch is headed for great things. I can`t believe how strong the three recently baptized families are. If it continues at its current pace, it should be a ward within the next year or two I would guess.

So that next morning everyone went to Kobe for interviews.

On Saturday, Toshi, one of our Eikaiwa (English class) students called and said he wanted to take us to go see fireworks. That was awesome. I love Matsuri`s (festivals). For whatever reason, I feel super trashy when I go to similar events in the US, but in Japan, it`s just awesome.
He bought me Karaage (Fried Chicken) and we sat on the ground and watched them launch fireworks over the ocean. I took some videos. They weren`t just fireworks. These things were massive. I`ve never seen anything like it. They take fireworks really seriously out here. One of the very few things that`s actually bigger in Japan. They had some that had a 300 meter circumference. They extend from end to end of your peripheral vision and leave your ears ringing.
On the drive home, Toshi (who told us he`s in his 70`s, even though he looks 50) told me that he feels like there`s something in life that he needs to get done before he dies. He wants to meet and talk about it. He also said he has lots of advice for me, since I`m so young. Hopefully we`ll be seeing him soon.

The pictures you sent from the McIntyre`s homecoming were so heart-warming I can`t describe it. I`m just so happy for everyone in that picture! I`m really glad mom and Sister McIntyre got to know each other as well. I always thought they`d get along. They are prety nitteiru (similar). I recognized Elders Bowman, Nielson, Starks, and Maeda...I lived with them. There were a few others that I met here and there in that picture as well. I`m really curious as to what they had to say and how they`re all doing.

That handcart picture was pretty awesome. I can happily say that I escaped my youth in the church without going on one of those things. I`m sure it was a good experience though.

I`m glad Sam enjoyed his experience in Japan. The hardest I`ve ever cried in my life was when I left the house in Naruse after staying there for a month. I cried all they way to Narita airport and then for half of the plane ride. It`s something I can`t describe. It`s like being introduced to your other half and then having it taken away from you again. I hope Sam can go back sometime. I`m excited for Clint to experience it too. Somehow I`m going to have to spend time in Machida after my mission. Sam, if you send me a video of just a cave that`s embedded in an email, it`s probably ok. I loved the Asakusa pictures. I went there too. I went to Ueno zoo and Tama zoo as well. Did you go to the zoo with the okapi? Send me some more pictures if you have any I haven`t seen yet.

I sent a package today that should come in a little while. It has tons of brochures and touristy things that I needed to send home, hopefully they`ll get scrapbooked. There are a couple Japanese books that I don`t need and are too heavy in there also. Benkyo shiyoze! (Get to studying!)

Man, there is no time in this darn internet cafe. I guess I`ll see you next week!

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