Sunset in Ako
We rode our bikes to Aioi on Tuesday. Aioi is even smaller than Ako but it strangely has Shinkansen stopping in the eki (station). Have I written that before? We basically have to climb a mountain to get there. We found a way around it along the ocean that`s not quite as steep a climb, but still pretty rigorous. We go about once a week. We weren`t able to find anyone out there, but one lady did come up to us assuming that we were Christian and asked for the church`s information. She seemed very troubled. She said that she`s had problems with suicidal feelings and that her preacher at 日本キリス今教 (another Christian church) told her there`s no reason to fear death because God exists. I told her that God wants her to live and be happy and she said でしょう？あの牧師先生はおかしい。("That's right. I think that minister is strange.") She wouldn`t exchange contact information but hopefully she`ll show up sometime.
A guy who graduated from Tokyo Daigaku walked into 英会話 (English class) this week. He said he couldn`t speak English at all and wants to be able to speak it to his former classmates. He`s pretty much fluent though. He was very genuine and seemed impressed by our introduction of the Book of Mormon. We`ll see where he goes next week. I got his phone number.
A river we walk along near the castle.
Had district meeting on Friday. This was the first one I`ve ever organized. Next week I introduce the new training plan so I managed to escape this whole transfer only organizing one. :) I thought it went fine.
We had heard about the Peron Matsuri (Festival) in Aioi on Saturday but just decided not to go the night before because we weren`t sure what we`d do and didn`t really think it`d be that big of a deal or opportunity to 伝道 (proslyte). We planned to be near Ako eki (station) at 6 (I don`t know why, there`s never anyone there) and when we got there, there was a steady stream of young people in yutakas going in. When we looked to the platform, it was over-flowing with kids. It looked like they were going to fall off of the platform beacuse there simply wasn`t enough room. Elder Singleton and I looked at each other and both felt like we should go, so we jumped on a train right then and headed over.
It was absolutely madness. I`ve never seen anything even close to it. They were going to launch fireworks from a river once it got dark. We explored the area close to the station and there were people everywhere and all of your standard matsuri tents with takoyaki, ikayaki, okonomiyaki, catching guppies, card-drawing for video games, ice cream, skewered fruit, karage, etc. In fact, the owner of なにわ屋, the takoyaki stand we clean here in Ako every now and then had a stand set up in Aioi for the evening. We saw that the other side of the river looked like a sports arena. People were sitting on steps waiting for the fireworks to begin. We crossed the river to go see what the traffic was like on the other side and that`s when it got astonishing. The ENTIRE CITY was in Matsuri-mode. It was just a swarm of people and red lit-up tents for as long as you can see. It was especially astonishing because we`ve ridden these streets many times on our bikes and there`s usually nobody to be seen or heard. We visited the U family who own a restaurant out there. They were closing (the wife is still running the place while going through chemotherapy; the branch is doing a special fast for her next Sunday) and we ducked in to follow-up on a few of their friends they`re introducing the gospel to. We went back out during the fireworks and tried to kubari (street contact), but it was meaningless. We`d just get trampled if we stopped moving. We had to run back to catch the train in order to get back before nine. The fireworks, like all Japanese fireworks, were massive. Our ears were ringing when we got back. It was a good experience.
It was dark so these pictures of course didn`t turn out well, but maybe it can at least give you an idea of the scope. It was an endless sea of people and tents selling matsuri food.
If you're reading via email, click here to watch this video clip. I`ve been to quite a few festivals, before and during my mission, but nothing even comes within a fraction of this thing. It never ended. I`ve never seen anything like it.
We`ve got only one more week left this transfer.
So was this midnight Randy incident on a weekend? (Randy's phone was turned off and within one hour all his friends thought he was hurt or in an accident.) I beg to differ on that being a good thing. You MUST draw lines in the sand with everyone in your life. If people are thinking you`re dead in one hour because your phone is turned off, you`re too connected and you are letting people demand too much of you. Give youself some one on one time. Everyone should be allowed peace and quiet and isolation for an hour if they need it. Heck, sometimes you need to disappear for a whole week to get a hold of your thoughts. In Randy`s case, you`re soon going to cut all of that communication off for two years. You have to start giving yourself that personal space right now or else you`re going to have withdrawls that drive you insane when you go off of it cold-turkey. There is definitely such a thing as too much digital communication. Be careful. Also, the fact that the term "girlfriend" is still being thrown around is making me sick. I`m warning you now, you`re in for more and more pain the longer you wait. Nobody is the exception. If a mission is really your priority, you need to do some social readjustment.
I agree so much about what you said about seminary. I`ve thought that so much on my mission. Davis High School students have a blind-fold on. I saw grown men and women sob in branch council over seminary. They were heart-broken over all of the troubles it caused for the students. It stressed the heck out of busy moms who woke up at 4:30 AM to teach, went to part-time jobs, and then worked on the next day`s lesson for the rest of the night...all with no time to spend with their families. Seminary is the gauntlet for Japanese saints. So many of them aren`t strong enough to make it through. Those that do are truly, truly saints. I don`t think most Davis High students could last one day in a Latter-day Saint Japanese high school student`s shoes.
I thought all week about when I am going to come back to Japan. I am still 悩んでいる (thinking). I know I want to stay for at least three weeks and I need to do it before January, BUT I don`t want to miss Christmas, Thanksgiving, or the Disneyland trip. I suppose the only solution is to give up Halloween and my birthday in the states. I was looking forward to seeing the house on Halloween but I suppose it`s worth it to have sufficient time...maybe even a whole month. I honestly have no idea what to do. I don`t really want to think about it too much. I at least want to think about it until I can have an interview with President Zinke next transfer. Hopefully that`s enough time. Don`t feel like you can`t talk about any of this after-mission business. I know it needs to be sorted out practically, just give me some time here an there. I don`t have hours and hours to make decisions so the decision making process for my future is on slow-mo. Keep me updated on everything.
I guess this week went long, but please, keep asking questions. I never know what to write about.
Have a good week!