Monday, January 30, 2012

January 30, 2012

There is a ton to write about this week. I don`t think I`m going to get to it all.
We got close to the Seto Ohashi Bridge this week.

Marugame Tower
First of all, transfer calls came this morning. We`re both staying put. I`ll be here until at least March.
I guess the next thing you`re going to want to know is that I got hit by a car this week. I`m perfectly fine, put the phone down and stop worrying. It`s funny, Sister Davis, my MTC teacher promised us that we would all be hit by cars while in Japan, and it sounds like everyone in that district that came to Kobe has now been hit by a car. It doesn`t help that little Kagawa-ken has more accidents than anywhere else in Japan.
We were riding back to the church in the dark and I got hit by a car pulling into a parking lot for a shoe store. She hit my back tire and my leg. I felt the car make contact with my leg and immediately went about six feet into the air. My companion said he thought I was dead. I layed there for a second thinking I probably broke my leg or my back or something, but then realized I was perfectly fine and stood up. I felt nothing. The lady`s car`s bumper fell off. It got ripped off by my pedal. She was a young mother with a baby in the car and absolutely horrified. She felt terrible about it. The police came and filled out a report. I was perfectly fine, so was my bike. I got back on my bike and rode to the church. Her insurance representatives have been calling me every day to make sure I`m ok. My tailbone was a little sore the next morning so I put a kaero on it and the next day it was normal. The only damage to my bike was the basket on the back. I went to get a new one and the insurance company said they`ll pay for it. I told Y-san about the accident (we call her every night) and when I said it was in front of a shoe store, she was really worried. Apparently somebody got ran over and killed there last month. I was pretty lucky. (Editor's note: "Luck" had nothing to do with it.)
So as you can see, it snowed this week. Pretty rare for Shikoku apparently.

池内兄弟 took us out to eat again on last Monday. I don`t know if I told you, but the week before he took us out to eat really expensive sushi and it made Elder Maris a sushi convert. He`s been begging me to go eat sushi ever since. That was one of the petty goals I`ve made on my mission: convert people to sushi.
We taught our golden couple once again in their apartment this week and after church yesterday and they`re finished. He`ll be interviewed on Tuesday and baptized on the 5th! This is such an exciting baptism. It`s always beautiful to see someone come to Christ, but this one just seems to have so much more significance. They already have the big picture in mind. This is just the first step towards eternal marriage for them. He said during one of our lessons that he worries that he`s getting ahead of himself. He`s already looking up ancestors that he wants to be baptized for. There is no denying that the Lord has been guiding and preparing this couple for soooo long. We had nothing to do with it.
We picked up an investigator named S who was found about a year ago. He`s been Protestant for a while, but kind of just says that he likes to study various sects of Christianity and decide for himself what`s true. We went to see him again and he was very kind and let us in and we had a couple lessons with him, but after the second lesson I had no intention of seeing him again because he had no intention to commit to anything. He called during the week and said he had a really intense prayer experience and knows the Book of Mormon is true and that he`s decided to keep the Word of Wisdom.
We attended the monthy Sakaide English Enjoyment (SEE) club that Nakamura 兄弟 runs at the city hall again and it was a blast. We went out to eat with the T family afterwards and they`re still just as fun as ever. They`re planning on attending the Seoul temple, since they`ve been to both of the temples in Japan. They are the strongest recent converts I`ve met yet. T 姉妹 also loves American TV and gospel music. She didn`t know Gladys Knight was a member and we just talked to her about that for nearly 30 minutes. Elder Maris` dad sees her in the Las Vegas temple. She was just saying まああじで?!?! (Really?!) over and over again. It would be fun to get her that church CD that she did.
Some of the English students asked if there is anything difficult about being Asian where I`m from. I ended up talking about Randy`s little incident and you should`ve seen how furious one of the students got. She asked for the school`s name and wrote it down. Who knows, maybe she looked it up and gave them a call.
Our zone (smallest in the mission, it`s also just one district) had to try three times to get a group picture.

I got your pictures on Thursday  I showed them to Tanimoto Shimai on Sunday and she loved them and said to say thank you for calling her. She was very grateful.
I also showed the pictures you sent to Akiyama 姉妹 and 山西姉妹 (who lived in the branch when Elder Low's parents lived there 23 years ago) and they were hypnotized.

We visited the Yamaji`s who live in Tadotsu since we were close. They are very active and the sweetest people I think I`ve ever met. Sister Yamaji is deaf in one ear, about four foot 11 and shuffles around everywhere she goes and is REALLY worried about everyone. I think her hobby is visiting less-active members. She begged us to stay for dinner, so we did. Yamaji Kyoudai had a video of a play that the Takamatsu and Marugame seminary did about 13 years ago. Church plays are obviously never spectacular, but I do feel like you can always see the faith of the members who are participating in them. When we left, Yamaji Shimai came out with a flash light and shined it on us from her third floor apartment all the way back to our bikes.
I guess I`ll go on to your questions:
Question: Do you eat pancakes for breakfast?
Answer: Hardly ever. There`s not time enough to make them in the morning. My companion has once or twice though. I think he made them for me once.
Question: If not, what do you eat?
Answer:We have tons of fruit in the apartment so I`ve just been eating that with plain yogurt every morning. The thing about missionary apartments is they`re always just stuffed with food that missionaries don`t eat. There`s an endless supply of Miso and Onion soup in this one so I drink that almost every morning too. 
Question: Have you become a better cook?
Answer: I`m pretty dang good. But who said I was bad before? Anyway, yeah, I think after about five transfers in the field, I just naturally took over and now I cook for all of my companions. I worry too much that they`ll do it wrong and they always eat what I make, so that`s how it goes.
Question: Do you ever ride the bus or train?
Answer: We ride a train to Takamatsu and a bus to Tokushima every week to get to district meeting.
Question: What about cabs? Isn’t that cheaper than renting bikes?
Answer: I doubt it.
Question: Have you tried the Vegas burger at McDonalds yet? I think that’s the next American burger. I’m in love with the Grand Canyon. I think I’ll try to make one. Bishop Freeman said he wants to try one.
Answer: I did. You must have looked it up on the internet. It`s good, but doesn`t come close to the Grand Canyon. The cheddar cheese and egg on top and then the white (I`m not sure what it was...goulda, maybe?) cheese and some kind of teriyaki barbecue sauce on the bottom was just a perfect match. Seriously, I think I cried when I first tried it.
$1900 for a plane ticket to Japan is pretty ridiculous. There`s still time. I hope something works out. Maybe it`d be better for me to come home and then go straight back since I won`t have school until January? Just keep it on your mind every now and then.
Ah, One Acts were a blast. That was a really busy time for me. I still remember how on edge I was, but those were still two of my favorite shows I`ve ever done. What were they called? What were they about? I know I should ask Randy, but I feel like hearing from him is hopeless. Can you relay the message that yes I am curious and do want to hear about his high school crap? I`m glad Andra got my card. She`ll always have a pretty soft spot in my heart too. I sent one to Kelly Oram and LeeAnn Hyer as well.
元気だよ (Hello) to President Harbertson.
日本語をしっかりと勉強しろぜ!!(Study Japanese!) to the rest of you.
This is the smallest restaurant I think I`ve seen yet.

I tried to take a picture in front of a sunset while my companion worked on his bike for a second. It didn`t turn out well.
I guess that`s all. Have a good week!

Monday, January 23, 2012

January 22, 2012

I have so many thoughts on my mind, I don't know where to start.

First of all, the change in bishopric. Otsukaresamadeshita! (Well done/You must be tired!) That was a bit of a surprise for me. I just got a letter from Bishop Freeman yesterday. Five years is a normal span I assume. I remember thinking Brother Gemperline would make a good bishop when I attended elder's quorum in the 8th ward a couple months before my mission. He's really great. It will definitely be strange coming back to a different bishop though.

Thanks for calling the Tanimotos. Apparently Sister Tanimoto finished chemotherapy just before the Jackson's got here five years ago and she came to church with a hat on. She survived breast cancer.

I would write Randy an email but I've written him several times and he never replies so I assume he just doesn't check it. Anyway. I am so sorry. Hearing all of what he had to deal with at school wasn't really much of a surprise. You're in Kaysville, Utah.  I know what it feels like. I went to that school too. I know what it's like to be known only by your ethnicity. You're just 'the asian one.' It's true. I'll say it again, just brush it off your shoulder. The comment about the book you chose for you paper also made me really mad. If I remember right, that book talks a lot about a "feeling" and how it led him to opportunity after opportunity. Jacob sent me the video of him announcing his decision to serve a mission and he said it so perfectly I nearly cried. "It's not because anybody told me I was supposed to, it's just what the feeling inside is telling I need to do. The same feeling that told me I needed to do music. I've learned to trust that feeling." So long as you are worthy, those little ideas that pop into your head are the promptings of the Holy Ghost. Just do what you want and forget what anybody has to say. God knows who you are and just puts you through it to make you stronger. Read 1 Nephi 20:10. One of my favorites.

We had interviews with the mission president in Tokushima on Tuesday. Tokushima is such a long trip and we do it every week for district meeting. We have to rent bikes from the station and ride to the church. Huge pain. Anyway, I had a good interview. I discussed the end of my mission. I really didn't want to. It's still a ways away and I didn't want to look trunky. He basically said what you'd expect. I can do it so long as I have a companion. That means one of you ( a member) has to pick me up or I drag another missionary there for a day or two. That or they meet me at the airport or train station. I'd rather not do it at all if it's just a couple hours or a couple days. That would be too devastating. I want to meet my cousins too. Remember, I haven't been able to have a conversation with either of them for my whole life. It's like they're being born to me. He said he'll think about it. He even said he doesn't make the final decision.

As always, we had "special training" from the Assistants after interviews that went until the evening. That's a new thing. President Zinke takes the Assistants everywhere with him.

We taught our golden couple again and they're so golden. He's ready to be baptized. It's on the fifth and completely solidified. We're scheduling the interview and pulling out the white clothes. It's exciting. It's been a while for me. He is absolutely incredible. He already has a desire to SHARE the gospel with his family. He feels like it answers every question he's ever had about God, growing up Catholic.

I did an exchange in Takamatsu this week with Elder Smith from South Carolina. Apparently he used to live in Alpine Village, not at the same time as me, but probably when Jacob first moved in. He said he knew Jon Low from Cardston, Canada.

We began teaching N from Brazil. She was found about 6 months ago by a Brazillian missionary and quit because she got busy trying to get a driver's license. She's a really nice person, and speaks good enough Japanese to teach. Her son is 17 and has a bit of a shogai and LOVES us. It's really cute.

We also started teaching S-san, another former investigator who was baptized Protestant. He became a non-denominational Christian, even considered becoming a 'mu-shuha senkyoushi" (non denominational preacher) and teaching people about what he thinks about Christianity from his own home. He had just broken up with his girlfriend when we knocked on his door and seemed pretty humble. He ruled out our church a year ago due to the Word of Wisdom and stuff he read on the internet, but mid conversation, he saw a Word of Wisdom pamphlet in my bag, asked to read it and looked it over, and then promised to follow it. He said he would start coming to church as soon as he can stop smoking. I think we caught him at the right time.

Y-san continues to be really nice to us. She told me this week that she wants to be baptized in August, on her birthday. She's obviously not quite getting it so we're going to start over and find out where her testimony still needs to develop. It'll take a lot of patience. She's so yuppy, and talkative that I almost feel like I should hide from paparazzi when we walk out of the church from a lesson. Turns out, she is about as close to a celebrity as it gets in Marugame. She tells everyone she knows about us and some people see us on our bikes and we're "the Christians that Y-san knows."

If you send me one more tube of tooth-paste, I should be good for the rest of my mission. I need some more stick deodorant though.

Here are some more pictures from our project last week. These are from Elder Maris' camera:

And here's the sequel:

I feel like there was a lot more I wanted to say, but I've forgotten it all. Hope you have a good week!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

January 16, 2012

Ok, before I write anything I have to tell you about two things that happen LAST Sunday. I felt so stupid last week for forgetting them that I got home and wrote a postcard about it. You probably haven't gotten that yet so I'll write it again.

A couple walked into the church an hour early. They said they 'have been meaning to do this for a long time."  More about them to come.

I was sitting in the foyer filling out a little profile to hang on the bulletin board when a member came and started reading over my shoulder. She asked "Akio to iu no?"  ("You're Akio?" - Elder Low's middle name.) I said yes. She muttered "ahhh, Yuichi jya nai ka."(Oh, you're not Yuichi." - Elder Low's older brother's middle name) under her breath. That was crazy. It was Maruyama Shimai and when I told her my parents were Chris and Saori she started screaming. She was definitely the most excited to meet me thus far. Like, literally. She was screaming. She said she helped pick out the name Yuichi. She remembers Grandma Peggy and Wendy coming to Sakaide. She remembers meeting Mom at BYU. She said "toshi kanjiru."("I feel old.") They put my name on the sacrament program that week and she said all during sacrament meeting, she was trying to calculate how old Jacob is and see if I was him. She was really pleased and says "yoroshiku." ("hello")

We also committed I-san to live the Word of Wisdom as well and he was surprisingly willing to do it. He has always felt like he needs to stop smoking and wants so badly to be clean. He's still really scared of offending his buddhist parents. That will be the biggest obstacle for him, I believe.
This is from Elder Maris' camera. He likes taking pictures of me and I've decided to have fun with this and try to look like the world's worst companion in all of them. I think it will be quite a good finished project. In reality, we get along really well.
Y is still a character. I think she still has some conversion left to do. She'll get there eventually. We just have to be patient. I'm still not good at that.
I spoke yesterday in church, finally. Everything is back to normal now after the holidays. President Jackson back and he has the most darling family ever. His two young boys are obviously English speakers in that their parents are both American but they are both FLUENT in Japanese because they go to public school. How cool is that? The gaijin (foreigners) really pump energy into the branch. They keep everyone on their toes. I really like the diversity. I have always loved that the gospel is universal.
President Jackson gave a beautiful talk about learning from a child's example, being thankful for the most simple of things, finding joy in them, which in turn gives us faith, hope, and a positive outlook on life. That's such a wordy concept that is so mental. It's something we really have to do, but it is the key to happiness. Gratitude. Everything we ever have or experience: good or bad, is an opportunity given to us by God in order to prepare us for the eternities.

Confession: the last picture of Udon I sent you was at Hanmaru Udon, a chain restaurant that I've seen in Nara and Osaka before. It was the only place open because of Shogatsu (New Year). We did go to a real place right by the church this week though. In fact, I'm pretty sure it's the one that the assistants went to when the Hiroshima mission was merged. The owner said she remembers a ton of gaijin coming in with a father-like man (President McIntyre), plus I felt like I'd seen the interior in pictures.

This is what our apartment looks like from the outside. Yes, that is Santa Claus delivering groceries on Christmas Eve. I took that a while ago and forgot to send it. I suppose it would've been a fun picture for the blog back during Christmas. Oh well.

You may or may not be able to tell, but there is snow falling outside, very rare for Shikoku. It was only for about five minutes and of course none of it stuck. This is right outside of our apartment.

I don't know what else to write about. Is everyone ok? I feel bad not inserting enough interest in what you're doing. I really, really do want to know. Write as much as you want every week.
Some more pictures of your old apartment and neighboring grocery store from last week:

Well, I can't think of anything else. Always feel free to ask questions too. Have a good week!

Monday, January 9, 2012

January 9, 2012

So we went to check out the old apartment you lived in on Tuesday morning. Nobody was living there, but it was a really fushigi kanji (strange feeling).

Elder Low standing in front of the apartment building his parents lived in from 1988-1989. The actual apartment is the one with the balcony on the second floor behind him.

Elder Low knocking on the door of the apartment his parents lived in from 1988-1989. "Am I freaking you out yet?!"

We parked out bikes at the Maruyoshi next door and as we went back to them, N Kyoudai from the branch came walking out, no groceries, he was just kind of wandering.
Maruyoshi Center grocery store, next door to the apartment where Elder Low's parents used to live. Because their refrigerator was so tiny, his parents visited this store every day.

He asked what we were up to. I figured that was the perfect time to ask him if he knew T Sensei (Elder Low's father's old boss from the Sakaide School District). He knew. Apparently he was a pioneer and is a huge part of why Kagawa-ken is swarming with gaijin (American) English teachers. He took us back to his house, looked up his address and we went to see him. He`s 85 years old and just got over a cancer surgery but looked great. He didn`t recognize the name at first, but when I showed him a picture and talked about how you told him about your values, he said he had "vivid memories."

We went to see Akiyama Shimai the next day. She loves showing people pictures. She showed us pictures of the Tachibana`s wedding and that`s when I realized that she was her daughter. Akiyama Shimai is really old, but she`s darling. She said she`s more happy alone with her dog, cat, and fruit to pick than she ever has been.

From there we went to visit 16 year old Y-san, who`s mother is a member and apparently wants to join the church. We got to the home and only his grandpa was there. He said the Y`s are visiting their father who is working for J-tai in Kyushu. I felt like I needed to ask for the Grandpa`s name and he said "Tachibana." I pulled out the picture I have of you with the Sakaide branch and he immediately pointed to Tachibana Shimai saying that she was his wife. She passed away 10 years ago from cancer. He got a little emotional seeing a picture of her so young. He said he remembers having gaijin from the church over and was pretty sure he recognized the both of you. I think we`ll be seeing him again. He was ridiculously friendly.

We had district meeting for the first time this transfer due to all of the irregularities. It`s in Tokushima and it`s a two hour bus ride for us. I haven`t had to travel that far for district meeting since Shingu. It was great being with missionaries that were in my MTC district again. They`re so wise, spiritual, and fluent in Japanese now. It`s crazy. I can`t believe they go home in two months.

I suppose that`s all. I`m so short on time.

It sounds like you had a good week. I hope mom can finish school as well. I really hope the kids you student teach don`t give you a hard time.

Last of all, I don`t know if you remember this time last year, but McDonald`s here was doing a "Big American Burger" campaign. The Idaho burger being the stand-out (I`m making myself sick as I type this). Well, they`re doing it again this year and the "Grand Canyon Burger" is the first of the four. It was really expensive. 400 yen for just the sandwich, 700 ($9.10) for a set (combo). But, oh my gosh. That was the best thing I`ve ever had in any McDonald`s anywhere, hands down. We`ve been twice. My companion and I keep making refrences to it all day. It doesn`t help that McDonald`s is next to the church and we can hear people ordering the Grand Canyon burger through the windows on fast Sunday.

Have a great week!
Ohh....I`m going to discuss how I`m going to end my mission (family, etc.) in my President`s interview in two weeks. Are you coming? Think about it. Talk to Grandma and Grandpa. I`m not leaving this country without talking to my cousins in Japanese face to face.
mata raishu (next week....)

Sunday, January 1, 2012

January 2, 2012

Akemashite omedetou gozaimasu! (Happy New Year!)
Me in front of the Marugame church in perhaps the cheesiest picture I`ve ever taken.

We`re in an internet cafe just for today (normally at the branch president`s English school but he`s in America) and I can`t find how to switch this thing to Japanese. Anyway.
I didn`t feel an earthquake at all yesterday.
It`s been a pretty eventful week. We`ve made two trips to this tiny little corner of town. A dirt road leads off to it and it`s like leaving the country. Only Filipino and Peruvian welders and their wives live there and apparently it`s been a gold mine in the past. We found two new investigators and got invited in by two other women and said we would come back another time when their husbands were home. It was really interesting.
It was difficult to get anyone to church yesterday. Impossible pretty much, but it is understandable because of the big New Year holiday. I-san continues to progess and I talk to investigator Y-san every night on the phone. I wish you could meet her.
There`s a family here named K: four children 18, 15, 13, and 10, orphaned and being taken care of by their grandmother who was baptized with them about 5 years ago but they don't come to the church.  We visited them and will hopefully figure out someway to get them to church. They all still read the Book of Mormon.
I showed the Another Testament video to all of the recent converts at Family Home Evening and I think they really liked it. There were some tears.
We also had the holiday taikai (conference) this week. Since Christmas and New Year`s are both Sundays, we can`t really do the sports taikai like last year. It was great. We played sports, watched the year end DVD. The DVD had pictures from the disaster and it was just devastating to watch. I`ve seen plenty of stuff here and there, but seeing it all together just really put it into perspective. The pictures of people praying to pictures or remains just killed me. There was also a very short devotional afterwards, President and Sister Zinke and the Assistants gave talks and they asked me to translate. That was a shock. President McIntyre had a very small, elite group of translators that he trusted, but President Zinke is much more tekito (random) about it so they had no problem asking me. (Editor's note: The parents disagree. We think Elder Low really qualifies as an elite translator.) I really am getting old here. I wonder if this is a chore they`re going to have me do into the future. I probably slaughtered it. I do want to get better at it though.
At the holiday Taikai it was our last chance to meet the Priddis` who go home this month. They are the office couple and I will miss them a ton. They were absolutely a blast when I worked in Kobe. Sister Priddis loved when I would pick up some of her busy work and she said "someday I`ll give you a hug" when we took this picture. They are amazing. They have ten kids, five boys, five girls, all ten served missions. This couple left at the same time as their youngest son and Elder Priddis was the bishop at the time. They`re amazing.
Me, Sister and Elder Priddis
The Akiyama daughter was at church yesterday. We were having dendo chosei shukai (Mission Planning Meeting) and I saw her head pop up in the little window in the door. She looks EXACTLY the same as she does in that picture (from 23 years ago), if not younger.
From 23 years ago: Elder Low's father, Jacob Low (age 6 months), Sister Tachibana, and Sister Akiyama, the daughter, in the Sakaide Branch.
I couldn`t get a picture with her because everyone went in a million directions after church, but she`ll be here all week so I`ll go drop by and maybe take her some doughnuts or something.
We spent nearly all of yesterday with the Takashima`s and they are an awesome family. 6 kids. The second son just got back from the Sapporo mission three months ago and was called last week to be our Dendo Shunin (Ward Mission Leader). He told us stories from his mission and we laughed until our faces were purple. It reminded me a lot of Thanksgiving at home. That family is huge, messy, loud, roudy, imperfect, simple, and perfectly happy. It was beautiful being in their home, I thought. They didn`t treat us like royalty either, we were just part of the family for the night. They fed us Yakisoba and Takoyaki. 

The Seto Ohashi bridge in the distance.

Marugame Castle

Marugame City
Thank you so much for the names to contact. I`ll see what I can do. N Kyodai actually wasn`t an English teacher, I learned, but he was in one of the board of education meetings with you. He still works at the city hall and I`ll see if he recognizes the names and can help me find the places. Also, I`m sure I`ve passed your apartment. Is it still there though? I think it might have been buldozed and turned into something else. I`ll try it though. Oh and the picture that the same place as the one you sent last week? It looked familiar...
Elder Low in Sakaide
Elder Low's dad, in nearly the same place, 23 years ago.
And yes, I would like copies of those pictures you sent.
Hope everyone`s having a good holiday break. Have a great 2012. I come home this year...yorishikuonegaishimasu!