Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Christmas and New Year's in Japan

December 30

Sukiyaki and Christmas in Japan

As it turns out, Christmas in Japan is not really existent. The day was another day of work.  We woke up early so that we would have time to open our presents, and it was so fun to have some stuff from AMERICA!  And American candy!  I love Japanese candy and food, but, the American candy is a little piece of home.  Irie K. had us over for dinner!  He taught in the MTC and went to BYU after he converted - and he LOVES missionaries.  He made this incredible American meal...turkey and everything.  You don't get turkey in Japan.  Not a big turkey, at least.  It was amazing.  I just love these people!  I just love this WARD!
Christmas Morning

This week Dean Shimai and I saw a lot of miracles together.  It is getting harder and harder to put my thoughts into words to email home as I am out here longer and longer.  It is like...the more my heart, mind and strength and might go into the work, the less I can figure out how to explain what I am experiencing.  I guess this is because many of the moments of a mission are very personal experiences which make them difficult to explain.

For example, this week we were invited over to a member’s home for lunch.  We ate some of her famous spaghetti (she is from Korea, and it has an interesting Korean twist to it).  Her daughter is sixteen, and thinks that we are "the coolest sister missionaries she has ever met."  So she invited her friend over to meet us.  We were obviously stoked but it is difficult to fully convey why it is so meaningful.  It is hard to describe the joy that comes when an insecure sixteen year old Japanese girl confides in you.  It is also hard to fully explain the feelings that come with simple things such as the view from the top-of-the-building apartment, the light snow in Osaka, the tiny little alleys that we park our bikes in, the tatami mats underneath our investigator's futons, or the strange trees...that I still don't know what they are called.  I can't adequately put JAPAN into words.  I experience Japan and these people's lives in a way that can only come from working with the people on a daily basis.  We are welcomed into people's homes...maybe for just a month or two...we meet people on the street.  And they open up to us, in part, because we have a message that is unlike any other.  I am so lucky to be a part of this work.

Last night we went to another ward member's home for dinner.  We had sukiyaki - and I loved it!  But it was incredibly Japanese, probably the most Japanese meal that I have had so far.  You crack a raw egg into a bowl, and then put some tofu, and meat and cabbage and other cooked vegetables on top of it.  It is so delicious, although, I have heard that it depends on who makes it.  I love going to members homes.  I love sitting seiza and eating from low tables on the floor.  It is an exciting reminder that I am in JAPAN!  And, my chopstick abilities are slowly improving.  I think I am slowly starting to look like a native chopstick-eater.

Transfer calls came this morning.  That is another part of a mission that is difficult to explain or prepare for!  There is so much apprehension packed into one email - letting you know if you will stay for another six weeks...or head somewhere completely new. Dean Shimai and I are both staying!  I am so excited because I know that there is so much work for us to do in Higashi Osaka still.  We are not finished with the work of Salvation here!  

Much Love!! I hope you all enjoyed your American Christmas...I will never take Christmas for granted again, that is for sure.
"If not us - then who? If not now - then when."
‾ A daily quote in the apartment of the Higashi Osaka Sisters

Grundvig Shimai

January 5
Japanese New Year 
During New Years...Japan shuts down. The country goes into a week long slumber.  No one is out, and the ふんき is just incredibly relaxed.  I would probably have loved it...except that I am a missionary...and so we are not incredibly relaxed or laid back and it is kind of important to find people to talk to.  We went out finding a lot more this week because the people we are teaching seemed to have dropped off the face of the planet during new years...but, I think that my Japanese improved more just because I absolutely had to talk to a lot more people and try to get them to want to listen to the American girl that doesn't really know what she is saying.  All things considered, we had a lot of success!  And we have some appointments set up this week as a result of our efforts.

Our drawing of ourselves
We try to be "artistic"
With the beginning of a transfer, we also spent a lot of time planning and preparing ourselves for the next six weeks.  We spent a lot of time praying about Higashi Osaka - and I am so excited to be here for at least another six weeks with Dean Shimai.  To brag about my companion - for a little bit.  She is just so wonderful.  We have so much fun together, but we also work incredibly hard.  We can laugh when people pretend they can't hear us...even though they obviously can.  We go running in the mornings.  We recite the Japanese language together.  We make fun of each other when neither one of us can really bike because we have so many layers of tights on...and our legs are still cold.  She pushes me to be better, to work harder, to be more diligent.  Our companionship is so united in doing the work of the Lord, ergo, the work of the Lord moves forward.  As we have grown more united and stronger in our teaching together we find more people to teach, our Japanese improves, our goals are set higher and higher and we have a lot more fun.  Also, she has helped me figure out how to cook some Japanese meals and use all the Japanese ingredients.  It is the best. 

Also...because it was new years, many of the members of the ward wanted to invite us over for meals.  I decided that this week was a week meant to bring the members closer to Christ.  I got to eat A LOT of Japanese food this week.  And my chopstick usage improved drastically.  I am excited to astound all of my friends and family with my ability to wield a pair of chopsticks with incredible precision when I return from Japan.  On New Years day we went over to Irie K.'s parent’s home His parents are not members, and they are the sweetest Japanese couple ever. We had some food that I don't think I ever want to eat again...but it was a good cultural experience. Each food item meant something for the new year- I wish I could remember them all. We had bamboo, some sort of carrot, dried tofu, fish eggs, seaweed...soaked in something...mushrooms, soaked in something, various other kinds of roots...some sort of fish cake? A giant fish...the list goes on and on.  For dessert we had bean soup.  For anyone that knows me...they know that I absolutely hate beans.  This soup...was a struggle.  But, I finished it all.  My reward was a very American Chocolate Cake that Irie K. brought for the missionaries because he knew that we would want something...more familiar...after that meal.  It was very delicious.
Main course (Quite delicious)
New Year's 
Love you all!  Sometimes, the Lord just wants us to be faithful...and that means even when we can't see the improvement that we continue pushing onward. 最後までたえしのぶ


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