Sunday, November 17, 2013


Ohayou Gozaimasu!

Today is officially the first day of my third transfer.  Which also means I am no longer a Bean.  Which also means I don't have a really good excuse for my weak Japanese.  But that's ok.  Looking back at my first two transfers, both Hammon Shimai and I have come a long way.

My good friend Jenny, who I've mentioned a fair number of times in these emails, said in one of her letters that there have been miracles in my mission.  When she said that I was kind of surprised because I didn't know what those miracles were.  We haven't had any baptisms, we don't have any of those crazy stories about conversions, or followed a prompting to talk to someone that was searching for answers.  Those are the kind of things I saw as miracles, and in my eyes, we hadn't had any.  But then I started to think, and I really have experienced miracles in these last two transfers.  I'm going to be honest, that first transfer was really rough.  Especially those first two weeks.  We had no direction, we didn't speak Japanese, and we had basically no one to teach.  Hammon Shimai's trainer had really good Japanese, but she wasn't very good at including Hammon Shimai or giving her opportunities to grow.  So when Hammon Shimai became a trainer as a third transfer missionary, she hadn't had communication with the ward members, investigators or really anyone.  She had to take the lead with a brand new missionary, when she never had the opportunity beforehand.  And to top it all off, her Japanese might have been weaker than mine.  I was kind of mad that I was put in that situation because I knew I wasn't going to know anything as a Bean, but I had always assumed my trainer would.  I even got kind of annoyed with the age change for missionaries, because if that hadn't have happened, I would have still gone on a mission at the same time, but I would have had a seasoned trainer who actually spoke Japanese.  I feel kind of bad for thinking that now, because even though my situation wasn't ideal, it must have been so much more stressful for Hammon Shimai.  

So when it comes to miracles, I'd say these last two transfers have been one big miracle.   We made it through 12 weeks of not knowing anything.  We talked to hundreds of people on the streets when we really didn't speak Japanese.  We knocked on hundreds of doors when we had no idea what they'd say to us in response.  We even found a couple investigators, and when I think about them, the fact that they were willing to hear our message was a miracle.  Even though we were completely lost, we somehow managed to be effective missionaries.  Maybe the numbers don't show it, but I know we worked hard, and I know the Lord knows that.  I've grown these last two transfers, but I'm mostly proud of how Hammon Shimai has grown.  She is much more sure of herself now.  Her Japanese is really starting to improve and she talks to people. She has become less serious, and lets herself be her real light-hearted self.  But I'm pretty sure I'm most proud of the food she ate this transfer with me as her companion;)  I'd like to take credit for the fact that she now eats onigiri a few times a week, tried raw egg and rice voluntarily because she saw me eat it once, her favorite food is now inarizushi because I introduced her to it, she eats sushi with raw fish like a boss, and she loves mochi with onko inside because I always bought it on P-days.  Yeah, I'll take credit for that.  She's very willing to try new things, and I think I'm really going to struggle if I ever get a picky companion.  

Speaking of new companions, I'm getting one tomorrow.  Hammon Shimai is transferring out, and Kawaii Shimai is taking her place.  Kawaii actually means "cute" in Japanese, so I have high expectations of that sister.  Like me, she has a Japanese last name, but she's American and doesn't speak Japanese as her first language.  She's also 1/4 Japanese, so she looks completely white.  Now I know what my kids will look like if I marry a white guy.  Anyway, I'm excited and hopefully it'll be an awesome transfer.  She came in the same group as Hammon Shimai, so she's just a 5th transfer missionary as well, but 5th transfer sounds oh so much more comforting than a 3rd transfer companion.  Hopefully she's not let down that she gets me as her companion

I already talked a little about food in this email, but it never hurts to talk about food a little more.  So far, I've liked basically everything I've tried in Japan.  Nothing has been too weird, and I mostly just worry about what I'm going to do in America when I can't get really good ramen or udon on any block.  So yeah, I like Japanese food.  Except I tried nato for the first time and that was sufficiently nasty.  It's infamous for being disgusting to foreigners...and I was no exception.  It's like beans covered in really sticky mucus.  Then later that night we visited some members in the ward and Iida Shimai served us warm milk.  That was probably the second grossest thing I've had in Japan.  Surprising, right?  People don't even drink milk here, and yet she gave us this mug filled with warm milk.  Probably because we're Americans.  Too bad I'm an American that loathes milk.  I'm fairly certain it's been over 10 years since I've swallowed more than one gulp of milk.  And I'm really hoping that it'll be another 10 years till I have to do it again.  But I drank it, so please be proud of me.  Oh, and a couple of days ago we were visiting a less active sister and she sent us out with these sandwiches.  Except they really weren't really sandwiches because they were a piece of bread with halfway melted cheese, bacon, cabbage, probably Japanese mayo, and bananas on top.  I'm am so grateful we didn't have to eat them in front of her (or even try them later). The elders wouldn't even take them.  

And for pictures.  Aren't our investigators adorable?  The first picture is with Manami San and our finished products that we made at the pottery place.  Gahh, I can't get over the fact of how stinking cute she is.  We all agreed that after our missions she's going to visit us in Utah.  And hopefully by then she'll be a member ;)  The other picture is with Kyoko San and her son Shoma.  She's actually the same age as me and married, which is pretty rare in Japan.  She's the investigator that's been taking lessons for a long time, but isn't quite willing to get baptized.  Yet.  And the other picture is of Hammon Shimai laying on our "couch" warming her feat with the space heater.  Central heating.  Japan really should think about getting it.

Love you and thanks for all the prayers.  It really does mean a lot:)

Sister Oda

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Of pears, companions, and ramen

Ohayou Gozaimasu!

We had some computer problems this morning, so I have very limited time to write this email.  So it probably won't be ridiculously long like they tend to be.  Which could also be a good thing...

So Japan suddenly decided that it was fall, and now it's pretty cold around here.  I get to wear tights, and it makes me happy.  I'm also kind of scared for winter now that I'm getting a taste of what it will be like riding our bikes around for hours in the cold.  We officially turned the heat on for our apartment's toilet.  Japan might not have central heating or cooling, but their toilet seats are heated.  Which is pretty awesome.  Did I talk about toilets last week, too?  Hammon Shimai and I did a little clothes shopping last P-day, so I got a few longer skirts and winter clothing.   And for the record, I kind of love shopping here.  A lot.  Even if I am a size large in Japan...

This week was another good one.  Nothing happened that sent me through an emotional spiral, but nothing spectacular either.  We did eat lunch with Manami San (our investigator from Eikaiwa) last week, and that was the first time we had seen her in about a month.  We're not sure if she wants to take the lessons again, but at least we have contact with her again.  She invited us to go make pottery or something with her tomorrow, so we get to see her again!  Hopefully we can bring up the Gospel...

We also had lunch at Kakuda Shimai's house last week.  She's a less active member who is totally nuts (in a good way) and is super funny and talkative.  She also loves American things such as American food, and swear words.  The Japanese language doesn't have swear words, so they really don't understand how strong the "f" word is.  Haha, it was a bit of a surprise to read that in one of her texts.  So if you haven't already guessed, the picture of the crazy lady with the whipped cream can in hand is Kakuda Shimai.  She really is a hoot.

Lily mentioned that I don't really talk about my companion very much.  Don't worry, we get along just fine, I guess I just have a lot of other things to talk about.  So I'll talk about her a little bit now.  

Hammon Shimai is blonde, 19, and from American Fork.  She has a boyfriend currently serving in Norway, and I'm fairly certain she'll wait for him those 6 months after she gets home from her mission, and then they'll get married.  Hammon Shimai took classes at UVU for one semester and commuted from home, so until her mission she had never lived away from home.  In a lot of ways, she's super young and inexperienced, but I truly don't think that has set her back as a missionary.

I thought that I'd have to learn humility by being trained by someone so much younger than me, but I've really learned humility from her.  I'm sure all of you know, but I kind of like to talk a lot.  And I kind of like to be in control of everything.  Not like a dictator or anything, but this whole senior and junior companion thing isn't my favorite.  But Hammon Shimai has been so good about letting me kind of take charge in things.  She wasn't as lucky as me to take Japanese before her mission, so she kind of struggles with the language.  (Which is to be expected from a 3rd transfer trainer.)  I try to recognize the fact that she's my trainer, and I'm grateful for all the things she's teaching me, but I also tend to do more of the talking than her.  If I were to have a trainer that spoke Japanese fluently, I would've never had the opportunity to speak and converse with people as much as I do with Hammon Shimai.  Sometimes (most times) it's hard to be in a companionship with two very new missionaries, but I'm also really grateful for it.  I'm not afraid to state my opinion on things, or suggest what we should teach, where we should go, and so on.  I'm probably really annoying, now that I think about it, but Hammon Shimai is really good about letting me say and do all the things I want.  She had a trainer who was fluent in Japanese, but she felt so worthless in their companionship, and I'm so glad I don't have to feel that way.  So basically, I like Hammon Shimai.  She's much more shy, and pretty different than me, but we get along well, and we respect each other.  We're here for the same purpose, and that is to invite others to come unto Christ.  So that's what we're doing.  That's all that really matters, right?

I think I attached a picture of Hammon Shimai, me, and Uriya with our bowls of ramen at a ramen festival we went to last P-day.  Japanese people love their ramen, which is why they filled a whole stadium-like building of people waiting in lines to get their ramen.  It was crazy.  I also attached a picture of me and a nashi, which is a Japanese pear.  They basically taste like a pear with the texture of an apple.  And they're SO good.  They're about to go out of season, and there was only that one huge nashi left in the grocery store, so I bought it.  For $2.50.  I love them, and it might have been my last chance to eat one.  So I bought it.  

I love you all.  Keep being awesome and stuff.  The gospel is great, and continues to bless people's lives.  I hope it is blessing yours.  

Oda Shimai

Sunday, October 13, 2013

First letter from Japan! (September 3, 2013)

My apologies.  I (Kristen's younger sister, Lily) am a terrible social media manager and have not posted much of anything Kristen's been sending in her weekly emails home.  This is from over a month ago, but I thought her first letter from Japan (after 9 weeks in the Missionary Training Center in Provo, UT) was a good place to start. Look on Kristen's facebook for pictures!

Yes, I am a Bean Chan.  Instead of calling the brand spankin` new missionaries greenies,  in Japan they call them beans.  I really don`t know why.  Perhaps some beans are green?  And Chan is a title the Japanese used for children or something of that nature.  I don`t really know, that`s just what I assume from hearing it.  So for the next 12 weeks just call me Bean Chan :)
First of all, I`m using a Japanese keyboard, so it`s a little different and I`m trying my best.
I have a lot to talk about, so I`m just going to try and go in chronological order so I don`t miss anything important.  First off, Japanese people are very nice.  When I got off the airplane I didn`t realize I was going through customs because my one experience with going through customs in Russia was so different.  And when I say different, I mean scary.  But that`s another story.  So yeah, they were all so friendly and all the sudden I was through customs and I was meeting President and Sister Yamashita.  They`re really great, and their English is really good.  When Japanese people say their English isn`t good, it actually means that they can speak it 10 times better than we can speak Japanese.  And when they say our Japanese is good, it really means "Your Japanese isn`t good, but you`re cute for trying."  At least that`s what I think :)
We stayed in the mission home that night and I crashed hard.  The next morning we had some training and then got to meet our trainers.  I was paired up with Hammon Shimai who is 19 years old and from American Fork, UT.  And just like all the sister trainers but one, she just finished her own training, and became a trainer right after being a bean herself.  Isn`t that crazy?  I`m sure it must be super scary to train someone when you`re still considered a new missionary.  She`s doing a great job though, and I trust her even though we both don`t know Japanese.  
Before I left on my mission, my dear friend Sister Jenny Ansted (serving in Italy), gave me some awesome advice.  She told me that even though she was a greenie, she didn`t use that as an excuse to let her trainer do all the work.  She pushed herself even when she was uncomfortable.  Or something along those lines; I can`t remember the exact details.  Anyway, I really took those words to heart and decided before I got here that I wouldn`t use being a bean as an excuse.  Well, I`m glad that I made that decision before I got here, because that`s not really an option.  Hammon Shimai is doing great, but she`s only been here for three months and no one learns Japanese that fast.  We`re basically on the same level of speaking ability, so I have to speak just as much as her to people when we tract and teach.  It`s definitely scary to knock on a door and try to share a message with a stranger when neither of us can hold a conversation.  I really have to practice what I preached in that last email.  I have to have more faith than fear, or we`d get absolutely nothing done considering both of us don`t understand the majority of what comes out of their mouths.  We`re not in the ideal situation, but I know that the Lord won`t let us fail.  We don`t have a companion that we can rely on to do all the talking or translating, so it`s all up to us to open our mouths.  I think we`re going to grow a lot faster because we don`t have any crutch whatsoever to lean on.  Last night I was joking that out of anyone we deserve the gift of tongues the most.  Well, I kind of wasn`t joking at the same time :)

Yesterday was Fast Sunday so I bore my testimony along with the FIVE other missionaries in our ward.  There are two elders who are Japanese (and super funny) and four sisters.  The four of us live together, and only Sister Breck can actually speak Japanese.  Sister Avarell is her bean and she`s been out here for 6 weeks.  Anyway, I got to meet a lot of people in the ward and they all got super excited when they found out I was half Japanese.  People don`t shake hands very often in Japan, but apparently that doesn`t apply in church becauseeveryone shook each others` hands.  But really, I have never shook so many hands in my life.  And it was in Japan of all places. 

I really want to build a good relationship with the ward members for obvious reasons, but also because they are our best allies.  We really need their help finding investigators, but Hammon Shimai and I really need them to help teach.  At this point we can teach a very simple lesson in Japanese, but we have no idea what the investigators say back.  Basically, we need members present in our lessons if we want it to be effective.  We don`t have many investigators right now because we had to split them up between the four of us because they were a trio before I arrived.  Anyway, after church we taught my first real lesson to Ito San.  Ito San is a sweet old lady who lives in an awesome traditional Japanese style home and is extremely Buddhist.  She also lives far away, so one of the sisters in our ward drove us there and basically translated for Ito San the entire lesson.  We were super grateful Hirose Shimai was there to help.  We were planning on teaching Ito San about the Plan of Salvation, but didn`t get very far.  Ito San told us that she believed that her religion was the best and told us numerous times that she wasn`t going to convert.  That`s when we had to decide what we were going to do.  It`s hard to know when you should drop an investigator, because if she wasn`t willing to keep our commitments, etc., we weren`t fulfilling our purpose as missionaries.  We told her that we were happy to continue teaching her about our religion, but our purpose was to bring others to Christ.  She said multiple times that she`s too old now to change religions, but if she were younger she probably would.  I thought that was kind of weird, but I just said that our faith is for everyone of every age.  Haha, I don`t really know where this will go, but she said that she really liked meeting with us and isn`t sure why she let us teach her because she never lets other proselyters (sp?) in.  We took that as a good sign, so we`ll probably try to teach her again.   

Japan is a great place.  I`m constantly entertained just by looking around as I ride my bike.  The air is extremely humid, and it`s always pouring rain.  The cars look like little boxes and are in pristine shape.  The cicadas are ridiculously loud.  There are old people everywhere either walking or riding their bikes, and every single kid is adorable.  The roads are smaller, the people are smaller, the doorways are smaller, the cars are smaller, the yards are smaller (or non existent), the seats are smaller and for the first time in my life my feet can touch the floor.  Basically, everything is smaller except their rice cookers.  The elderly people may be small and thin, but the babies are chubby and dense; both are freaking cute.  

 Also, does Lily start college today?? Or is it still Sunday in the states?  Either way, good luck!  I`m thinking of you :)

So I`ve only taken like five pictures since I`ve been in Japan.  I don`t know why, but next week I`ll try to take some picture where you can actually tell that I`m in a different country.  So if you were wondering what those rain jumpers look like, I`m wearing one in one of those pictures.  We just bunch up our skirt at the top and ride our bikes in the rain while looking super attractive.  We got stuck in the rain the other day without our kappa and that`s why we`re drenched in the other picture. You can also see my obnoxiously bright orange men`s bike that I bought here.  Nothing says "quiet dignity" like a sister wearing a kappa with an ugly white helmet riding a bright orange mountain bike!   Then we took a picture with Ito San in her awesome house, but you can`t see the background because the stupid flash was on.  It`s really not a flattering picture, but at least now you have a face for Ito San.

That`s all I can write for now, but I love you all!  I can`t speak Japanese, but I still love it here and the people.  The church is true and is for everyone.  I`ve never had to exercise so much faith in my Heavenly Father, but I know he`s looking over us.  The main thing I learned while in the MTC is that the Spirit is the best teacher, and I really have found comfort in that because our Japanese speaking abilities are not good enough, nor will they ever be.  I hope all of you are doing well in the good old U S of A!

Love you!
Sister Oda

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Kristen on a Mission: Sister Oda's first email home

This is from the end of June, but I (Lily, Kristen's younger, social media-managing sister) figured the first email is a good place to start. For those wondering what the heck Kristen is doing for 18 months and aren't on her email list, this is for you!

Dear family and friends, (but mostly Mom)
How exciting.  My first email home.  I have this timer on the right hand corner of the computer moniter that's counting down my remaining alloted minutes and it's stressing me out.  I have plenty of time, but stress away I will.  Anyway, today is my P-day, so you can look forward to these emails every Saturday.  Our preparation "day" isn't really a day because it really ends at 10am. Before then we're supposed to do our laundry, exercise, shower, eat, and write all our emails and letters.  One thing I've learned here is that the day is SUPER long, and you can fit a ton of stuff in that time.  We also get to go the temple today, but they're doing the cleaning or repairs or something starting next week, so this might be the only chance we get to go.  I'm bummed about that, but at least we can go this week.
My first day here was a whirlwind, and I don't remember much of it.  Once I was dropped off I stopped feeling like I was going to throw up, and just relaxed.  I was totally fine once I got here.  In those first few hours I saw two kids from the class I student-observed at Lone Peak and it was weird.   Instead of calling me Miss Oda, I guess they'll just call me Sister Oda.  But it was still weird.  Anyway, I had a host that guided me everywhere because we're all clueless lost puppies, and then she dropped me off at my classroom with my new district.  Except that wasn't my district and I had to awkwardly get out of my seat and follow the teacher to my real classroom.  Awkward situations make life fun...after the fact.  So once I was in the right classroom I got to meet my new teacher, Reading-Sensei.  He's totally white and a really cool dude.  We both kind of recognized each other, so we assume it's because we both took Japanese in the same building at BYU.  My companion (doryo) was the last to arrive, and when she came in I kind of felt disappointed.  I know that sounds bad, and I didn't understand why I felt that way.  And then I realized that she wasn't my companion, but her host. When I saw Sister Walsh for the first time I immediately felt a love for her which took me by surprise. I knew that I would learn to love her, but not the first second I saw her.  I guess it was love at first sight.  Ha, but I think I'm going to like her.  And if not, I'm going to have to anyway.  But I really do think she's great, and she only brought ugly t-shirts with wolves and horses like I did, so I knew we'd get along just fine.  Walsh-Shimai didn't know any Japanese before she came here so I get lots of opportunities to help teach her. 
Our district has 14 missionaries in it, with 4 compansionships and 2 threesomes.  That's a pretty huge district, and we're very aware of it when we're cramped in our teeny little classroom all. day. long.  We have three elders that are fresh out of high school and I think the rest are 19.  We have a couple sisters who are 19, more that are 20, and then I'm the only 21 year old.  Just call me grandma.  Kristi Aoki (the girl who lived next door to me this year) is actually in my district, so I'm not the only one who just finished my third year in college.  Even though we have some youngins, they're all great and I can tell they want to be here and have prepared. 
The days are really long and Thursday may have been the longest day of my life.  It wasn't bad, just super long.  Looooonnnnng.  I think I stressed that enough.  Yesterday we gave our first lesson to a fake investigator in JAPANESE.  I might have had three semesters of Japanese under my belt, but the majority of us haven't, and we taught someone with about one day's training.  We have this awesome book we call Ninja that has everything we need to know for the discussions in Japanese and we basically read from it.  I love that book with all the fiber of my being.  Or is it bean? It makes sense either way...anyway it went alright, and I was very grateful that I could make small talk in my very broken Japanese.  We have also learned how to pray and bare our testimonies in Japanese, and even though we are speaking at the level of a preschooler, the simplicity is refreshing.  The MTC is a very happy place and that's because we feel the spirit continually and are just trying to prepare ourselves to bring this knowledge to others. 
Gahhh running out of time.  This is super long, isn't it.  Well, on a more worldly note, I am chronically hungry, but once I get to the cafeteria I don't want to eat anything.  Probably because I've spent thousands of hours on the other side of the serving line and I know what that food is really made of.  I'm eating lots of wraps and smuggling fruit out so I have something to eat during the day.  You already know this, but I cannot eat just three times a day.  So if you were to send me a package by chance, I'd love nuts or granola bars and stuff like that...just a thought :)
Thanks for all the letters, it's like Christmas every day.  Tell people about because we get those daily, when we can only check our email once a week on P-days.  Shout out to the awesome person who sent me a package in an Otterpops box.  Expect a letter soon :)
I want to attach pictures, but I don't know if I can on this computer, and the restrictions and stuff make it really hard.  If I can't today, I'll try the next time...and the next.
Love you all!

Monday, June 24, 2013

I'm gonna be a missionary

A month or so ago I was texting a good friend from back home and mentioned that I was leaving on a mission in a couple of months.  This was all news to him, because he missed my couple of Facebook posts revealing my mission call.  And then I realized that unlike Provo-land, where everyone and her dog is going on a mission, people in Ohio don't know what craziness has been instilled since last October's General Conference.

So if you aren't Mormon, or want to know the extremely exciting details about my mission call, this is the post for you.  Which also probably eliminates the majority of you.

I'm assuming that all of you are somewhat familiar with LDS missionaries.  Most likely you've experienced them as two young men dressed in a shirt and tie knocking on your door trying to share a message of Christ.  And most likely you politely turned them down.  And I don't blame you, I avoid Jehovah Witnesses in the same manner.
Look familiar?
The majority of missionaries are young men or "Elders" as we call them.  If they are worthy and able to serve a mission, they are basically expected to serve.  On the other hand, young women, or "Sisters," are not held to this same expectation, but are encouraged to serve a mission if they feel the desire to do so.  Elders could serve a mission at age 19, while Sisters couldn't until they were 21.  By this time many are married, or so far in school and life that it's more difficult to drop everything and serve for 18 months. 

And then everything changed.  (Hey, I think this qualifies for being over-dramatic.)  They changed the minimum age for elders from 19 to 18, and 21 to 19 for sisters.

And now we have a TON of sister missionaries.  Like 50/50 elders to sisters and it's crazy.

But what does this have to do with me?  Actually, not a whole lot directly.  I had been planning on serving a mission since high school, but didn't really decide until a few weeks before the change was made. 

So when President Monson announced that young women could now serve at age 19 I was shocked, and then a little upset.  This change didn't even affect when I could leave, and I felt somewhat bitter that I had to wait so long while little freshman could leave at the same time as me.  But then I got over it and was excited for the change.  And I was just grateful that I had made a pretty firm decision before the change was announced because I knew I had made up my mind without the whirlwind of emotions the announcement produced.

I started filling out my mission papers in January and squeezed in my doctor's appointments with all the other hundreds of girls working on their papers.  I was impatient and worried through the whole process, but mostly excited.  After about a month and a half I finally had submitted my papers and just had to play the waiting game.

I didn't have to wait that long for my mission call to arrive in the mail, but it seemed like an eternity.  I had a friend that submitted her mission papers exactly one week before me, so I assumed that her call would come before mine.  Her call came on the Friday of Labor Day weekend, so I didn't even check the mail that day because I thought it was going to be awhile for mine to arrive.  I was leaving for Colorado that day with my friend, Elise, to go skiing and snowshoeing for the weekend.  While we were pulling out of my apartment complex I got a call from my roommate.  I couldn't understand a word she said through her hysterics, but I did catch "mail" and "mission" so I assumed she was talking about my mission call.  While I was sitting there in the car, OUTSIDE OUR APARTMENT, I had to decide whether I was going to open it right then and there without friends and family, or wait three agonizing days and open it Monday night when I got back.

I decided to wait till Monday.  Craziness.  That's what it was.

 Then I went on an awesome trip and did this stuff.
You can't tell, but we're wearing snow shoes.

And then the 7 hour drive was really painful and long because that's all that was separating me from my mission call.  Did I mention it was painful and long?

First time holding my call.
It's a good thing I got a skiing sunburn for all the pictures we took that night.  Also, I'm really glad I wore a pink shirt to match my face.
Look, I have friends!

And I opened it and I was happy.

And yes, I totally included the likes so you guys could see how popular I am.

So yes, I get set apart tonight, and fly out to Provo tomorrow.  And then I report to the Provo MTC this Wednesday, the 26th.  It's gettin' weird, but I'm very excited and grateful that I get to serve the Lord and preach the gospel to the people of Nagoya, Japan.  If you want to know more basic information about LDS missionaries, here's a wikipedia link.  It's pretty accurate, and is much more informative than I'll ever be.

I'm gonna want letters, so keep that snail mail goin' by sending me some love!

I'll be at the Provo MTC from June 26th, to about August 27th.  You can also use while I'm there and they print those out daily for us.

Sister Kristen Camille Oda
2007 N 900 E Unit   3
Provo UT 84602

This is my address for when I'm in Japan till December 2014.

Sister Kristen Camille Oda
Japan Nagoya Mission
1-304 Itakadai, Meitou-ku,
Nagoya-shi, Aichi
We can now email people besides family, but we still have really limited computer time.  Here's my email I'll be using.

If you want to get my weekly emails, just shoot my mom an email at and she'll add you to the email list.  

Tuesday, June 4, 2013


I went home last week to get ready for my mission and to be around for Lily's end of the year stuff.  She's a Senior and graduating.  WHAT.  Lily isn't exactly thrilled about being ranked just 12th in her graduating class, but for people of lesser intelligence like me, I'd say that's pretty good.  So I'll brag about it for her instead.

No, that's not her boyfriend, but this is the only photo I had.  Apparently high schoolers don't use facebook anymore.
Anyway, I went through the temple with my parents and got to enjoy Memorial Day weekend with the family and it was nice.
Cute little people in front of the cute little Columbus temple.
And that's enough about my personal life.  This post is really about planes and cool stuff like that. 

Since I go to school on the other side of the country, I get to fly home instead of drive more often than not.  (Thanks Mom and Dad.)  And since I flew home this past week planes are fresh on the mind.  I've been flying on Southwest for some time, but I'm still getting used to their weird seating arrangements and such.  Since they don't have assigned seats, boarding the plane can be kind of stressful.  They board us alphabetically and numerically off of our boarding pass, but once you get on the plane it's free game.  I prefer the aisle seat because I don't feel so trapped, and I enjoy it when people step on my toes or elbow me in the face as they walk by.  But really, for some reason I feel better knowing that with an aisle seat I can easily escape and move around the cabin.  All 20 feet of it.  My brain doesn't make sense.

Moving on. Once again I was in the last boarding group, so I had given up hope in landing an aisle seat.  And then I saw some open in the back of the cabin and made the trek over there.  I felt relief once I finally found an empty aisle seat, but seconds later discovered that it was unoccupied because there was a baby in the row.  I love babies.  I really do, but I also have ears and I didn't want to sit next to a crying baby for 3 hours.  So instead of being an understanding human being, I awkwardly told the nice mom that I was actually going to sit somewhere else, and moved one whole row back. 

FREEDOM.  Until I looked to my right and saw a mother with her two very young toddlers and another toddler behind me.  That's when I realized that the back of the plane was where all the little human beings were kept.    It wasn't a horrible flight or anything, but I made sure to sit near the front on my next flight.   Even if it meant sitting between two old men.

Speaking of sitting between men, I tend to do that a lot.  Like I mentioned, I'm typically in the last boarding group, so I get stuck with the middle seat.  On my flight home over Christmas break I fell asleep on the guy next to me.  Whatever, his legs were totally in my space, so I let my head take up his space.

The worst part of the flight wasn't the babies.  It was the turbulence.  Sometimes a little turbulence can be kind of exciting.  Just like taking off is pretty darn fun no matter your age.  I don't get how people can just read or sleep like it's not a big deal.  WE'RE LIFTING OFF THE GROUND IN A HUGE METAL MACHINE.  OF COURSE IT'S A BIG DEAL.  Anyway, it was so bumpy that we weren't supposed to be moving around the cabin.  The flight attendants repeatedly told us to "please stay in your seats until the pilot says otherwise," but apparently this meant nothing to the passengers because they kept on getting up and using those tiny suction bowls that pass as toilets.  But seriously, the flight attendants told us at least five times to stay in our seats and no one listened.  Except me.  Me, with my tiny overactive bladder.  And of course I had to go, but I wasn't about to get up and use the restroom after they told us not to FIVE TIMES.  Hey, I've watched LOST; I don't want to be in the bathroom when the plane crashes.

While I'm rambling about commercial airlines, can we talk about the flight attendants?  Let's begin with "Stove"--a great flight attendant.
I don't really have anything against flight attendants, but I've found that they can be pretty boring.  Probably because they have to fly in a little plane all day errday with annoying people like Annie.  Well, on my last flight one flight attendant was particularly hilarious.  I may have been the only one laughing at her jokes, but I was entertained nonetheless.   Before starting the whole safety presentation, the flight attendant began by saying "Please pretend to direct your attention to the front as we give the safety demonstration."  And when she was wrapping up the flight she closed with, "Thank you for flying Southwest.  We hope to see again, and remember that no one appreciates you or your money more than Southwest."  Again, I was the only one to laugh, but I just think that's because I was the only one listening.

I would rant about the food they serve or lack thereof, but there's really nothing to mention when it comes to peanuts.  Except they better give me a couple bags of them because I'm starving and would like to have at least two mouthfuls of food to hold me over for the next four hours.  But I'm not ranting or anything.

Also, I just made this video.  You should watch it.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

i ran a half marathon

So I finally ran a half marathon.  I've trained for three, but this was the first I actually ran.  Sounds pretty similar to my triathlon experience, too.

I didn't give myself much time to train either, but I did let the Facebook world know that I was serious about it.

I call it Facebook accountability.  If I don't follow through on something I post, then my Facebook friends have the right to hold me responsible.  Because I'm sure they keep track.  And care.

So I trained for about 5 weeks which really wasn't ideal, but for once I actually had a running buddy to make me run when I didn't want to.  Which was basically every time.  But training isn't very exciting to read about.  So I'll move onto the actual race.

The Provo City half marathon is pretty much all downhill, so it's a pretty fast course.  It starts up in Provo Canyon up the road past Vivian Park, and takes the Provo River trail to University Ave. straight to 100 south of Center Street.   If you live in Provo/Orem that might actually mean something to you.  What you really need to know is it was 13.1 miles long (like every half marathon) and it started at 7am.  Which means I had to wake up dark and early to take the bus at 5am to the starting line.  Don't worry, I totally got a good 3.5 hours of sleep that night. 

So on the 13.1 mile bus ride to the canyon I sat next to a girl who was a UVU student.  We had a nice chat (and by nice I mean hilarious) in which I found out a lot about this girl.  But I can't remember her name, so I'm going to pretend her name was Ashley.  She was blonde and was wearing makeup.   I hope that's a good enough visual.  These are just a few things that came out of Ashley's mouth on that bus ride.
  • "My parents are so excited that I'm running a half marathon.  I haven't done anything with my life until now."
  • "I don't think I trained enough.  I haven't actually ran more than 8 miles."
  • "I ate way too much pasta at Olive Garden last night.  Five bread sticks might have been a mistake, too."
  • "I almost decided not to run today because I've had food poisoning for the last two days.  I totally threw up at Iron Man 3 because the woman in front of me had B.O.  Bad smells totally set you off when you have food poisoning."
The longer I talked to this girl the more I was impressed and slightly disgusted that she was even running in the race.  I saw her afterwards and she seemed to be alive and keeping her food down, so I assume she was ok.  You go Ashley.  Defying all odds.

After huddling around the campfires by the starting line for a good hour and half, it was finally time to run.  I was a little bit freezing since we were up a mountain, and it was 7am.  If you can't tell, I really don't like running in the morning.  I stripped off my warm clothes, threw them in the bus, and went to the starting line.  I wasn't really sure what pace I was going to run, but I knew that I wanted to finish under two hours.  This meant I had to run faster than a 9 minute mile.  Never mind I had been running a 9:30-10 minute mile pace during my training runs.  Man, I really didn't train well. 

I noticed that there were people holding signs with finish times on them and I quickly learned that they were pacers.  I thought I'd try running with the 1:55 pacer and see how that went because I had no idea what I was doing and hadn't ran in a race since high school cross country.   The pacer was cute, petite, energetic, and I stuck close to her.  The first half was a breeze and I mostly just talked to Isela (the pacer) and her husband.  If I hadn't been surrounded by other runners wearing spandex and short shorts it wouldn't have even felt like a race. 

Then at mile 6 Isela sent me off to go run faster and maybe even finish at 1:50.  I felt pretty good and ran ahead.  And ran some more.  And ran some more.  And then I started to feel it.  And then I realized I had no idea how fast or slow I was running.  Just after I ran the one and only "hill" I heard, "Kristen, what happened?"  And there were my pacers.   Turns out I had slowed down a lot.  So for the last 3.5 miles I was just trying to keep up with Isela.  That 8:45 pace that had seemed so leisurely before, now felt like a sprint.  There was a 5k race that started 3.1 miles from the finish line and when I ran past it, I might have hated those lucky runners who were STARTING 10 miles closer to the finish line than me.  I hurt and I just wanted to slow down, but cute little Isela kept pushing me.  But really.   She literally pushed me forward at one point, and even held (pulled) my hand to keep me going.  I must've looked pitiful. 

Even with Isela's help I couldn't keep up with her.  I ended up finishing at 1:55:18, but I was pretty happy with that.  My high school self might have shuddered at the thought of a 8:48 mile pace, but my younger self can suck it because she was running dinky 5k races. 
Finishing and wanting to die. 
The 1:55 pacers.  Also, my head is really big.
Afterwards, I walked home because I felt charlie horses comin' on, and I was afraid to stop moving.  Thanks to Aubrey, Tiffany and Jenai for keeping me company.  And making sure I didn't collapse.  There were a few close calls. 

Then I we went to Kneaders AND Sonic.  Food guilt doesn't exist after races.
Orange cream slush=heaven

Monday, April 22, 2013

Adolescent Stalking...I mean sightings

So I'm in an Adolescent Development class because apparently it's important for me to know about this stuff as a high school teacher.  Whatever, I totally went through puberty gracefully.

Anyway, we had to do these journals where we wrote about our adolescent sightings and how their behavior reflected what we had learned in class.  Some people went out of their way to go places like high school basketball games, or Panda Express to creep on teenagers, but I felt really weird doing that...and I was too lazy.  So I just sifted through the recesses of my brain to find ANY adolescent encounters I had in the last few months.  And this is what I came up with.  No changes were made.

  • 3/09/13 Later evening: I was disco skating in Orem and there were a lot of high school students there. I saw many cliques, but I think they were all part of a crowd. It was pretty obvious who belonged to which clique though because they were literally wearing the same disco clothing (or their interpretation of disco clothing) and looked exactly the same. They also grouped themselves pretty obviously by taking photos to post on any number of social networking sites. My guess is Facebook or Instagram.
  • 3/22/13 Evening: I went to the movies and there were a bunch of younger adolescents there together. A lot of the girls were taller than the boys because they had started their physical development before the boys their same age. Or maybe they just like younger boys; I won’t judge.
  • 3/28/13 sometime during the day: I was talking to my younger sister who’s about to graduate high school. Lily recently got a job at a restaurant called Sushi on a Roll, and although she has had her licence for a while, she really feels the difference in her social status, particularly in the economic area. Even though Lily’s fairly certain she got the job because she’s half Japanese, she takes her position seriously and is willing to roll sushi when she has absolutely no credentials to be doing so (in a sushi restaurant of all places).
  • 4/10/13 Evening: I went to the BYU Synthesis jazz concert and it was super awesome and the crowd fully enjoyed themselves...except for the middle school boy sitting behind me. While everyone was cheering for an encore, the boy was complaining and asking when it would end. I don’t know if the boy has a musical background like most of the audience, because he definitely wasn’t geeking out as hard as me. But I really think the biggest reason for his disinterest was his age. He wasn’t as cognitively developed and I don’t think he realized the extreme talent of good old Wycliffe Gordon, and simply just heard jazz music instead.
  • 4/13/13 Afternoon: While I was longboarding down the Provo Canyon I saw a lot of adolescents doing the same, but in a much more hazardous manner. I’m assuming the development of their limbic system was ahead of their prefrontal cortex, because they were definitely thrill seeking. All I could think is how stupid they were being, and secretly wanted to put helmets and knee pads on them.
  • 4/18/13 Morning: Today I’m pretty sure there were more high school students on campus than actual BYU students. I think there was some kind of language fair going on, but mostly it just meant that there were high schoolers swarming in packs EVERYWHERE. I’m still amazed with how much noise they can produce, but I guess they were just excited or something. I was studying (cramming) for my Japanese oral exam on the third floor of the JFSB, and somehow the high schoolers found their way up there, too. They were looking for a particular room, and it was interesting to see how some of them would ask me if I knew where they were supposed to go, and others would continue wandering around instead of using an actual college student as a resource. The older students seem to have developed socially because they weren’t afraid to ask me for directions (that I couldn’t give).
  • 4/18/13 Afternoon: Today I was running on the Provo River Parkway trail on the west side of Provo. I was running with one of my professors who has been helping me train for a half marathon. She is pretty thin and cute, so it can be easy to mistake her for a college student, especially since she was running with me. We ran past a couple adolescent boys who were skateboarding and wouldn’t even look at us. I’m pretty sure they recognized that she was a grown adult, and acted very distant because they probably haven’t developed many intimate relationships with adults yet. On the other hand, a couple other boys on bikes whistled as they went by. If they would have known my teacher was actually thirty­-three, and not in her twenties like me, I don’t think they would have done that. They also had each other, and I’ve found that men and boys rarely call out when they don’t have their friends around them. Whether it’s a boy or a man, it’s still obnoxious.
And that's what I turned in for my assignment.  I hope I get an A.

Monday, March 4, 2013

All you can eat sushi

Some things sound like a good idea, but really aren't.  For example, all you can eat sushi.  I love sushi.  I can eat a lot of it and still enjoy it.  But no one should eat as much sushi as I did that one time.

I went to this classy restaurant a couple days ago.
I heard that this place used to be a gentleman's club. 
I'm sure you know what sushi means, but the "ya" part means shop.  Hence, sushi shop.  I'm really good at Japanese.  Anyway, I went to eat a bunch of sushi with some of my friends on Saturday.  I had never been there, so I wasn't sure how the system worked.  Basically you eat a ton of sushi so that you get your money's worth.

The first round was awesome.  We got like five or six rolls of sushi plus six pieces of nigiri.  We ate it in less than five minutes.

Then we ordered our second round.  We also demolished that pretty quickly.  And then Tyler and Anne-Marie suggested a third round.  By that time sushi didn't sound very appetizing to me.  That sticky rice was starting to expand in my stomach, and I knew if I ate any more it wouldn't be pretty.

The third round was just gross.  It's crazy how amazing sushi can taste, and then how absolutely horrible it is once you've eaten 4+ rolls.  It took us a long time to get through that last plate of sushi.  It might be called unlimited sushi, but you're required to eat all that you ordered.  There was no way we were going to eat all of that, so we had to come up with ways to get rid of it.

This is when we had to resort to our childhood skills.  Anne-Marie stuffed some sushi in her napkin and smuggled it into the bathroom where I assume she flushed it or threw it away.  Tyler picked at the sushi and spread the remains across the platter and hid it under our plates.  The whole thing was pretty ridiculous, and all we could do was try not to laugh to avoid puking everywhere.
Trying to finish the third round.  Obviously we were having a good time.
I've overeaten at countless Asian buffets, but not solely on sushi.  If you haven't experienced overindulging on sushi, I wouldn't recommend it.  We ate there for lunch, and I didn't eat anything for the rest of the day.   I repeat, I didn't eat for the rest of the day.  I never lose my appetite.  Like ever, so that's saying a lot.

And this was my experience at Sushi Ya.  You should go.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

How to Write a Sacrament Meeting Talk

To those of you who aren't Mormon, this post isn't going to make any sense.  And I can guarantee it won't be funny.  So you can either skip this post, or convert to our religion.  It's up to you.

Sacrament Meeting talks.  So many emotions sweep over me just thinking about them.  Unlike many other churches, our bishop doesn't give a sermon every week.  Instead we trust those of the congregation (starting at a mere 12 years of age) to prepare and give their talks.  This can be a daunting task, so I have made a template for you to use as you write your talk.  It's based off of hundreds of talks I've heard in my lifetime, so it's sure to bring success.

Talk of Spiritual Awesomeness
Good morning/afternoon brothers and sisters.  A couple weeks ago Bro. _______ came up to me and put his arm around my shoulder.  I knew it wasn't a good sign and tried to find an escape route, but I was trapped, and sure enough he asked me to speak in Sacrament Meeting.  (Chuckle to yourself, and look up for recognition in the congregation.)

But all jokes aside, I'm very grateful that I had the opportunity to prepare for this talk.  It's something that I struggle with, and I'm sure that this talk is more for me than any of you.  I'm not a great public speaker, so bare with me.  I hope that the Spirit will help me along.

I was asked to speak on_____.   There is so much to say about ______, but let's first look it up in the Bible Dictionary.  I also looked up _____ in the Topical Guide and found these scriptures on _____.  (Read those scriptures.  Slowly.  Stressing the word that you looked up.)

By this point you can do a number of things.  Pick any of the bulleted points to speak on depending on the desired length of time you need to fill.
  • Summarize a talk given by a general authority that has to do with your topic.
  •  Read several quotes by prophets, apostles, or C.S. Lewis.
  • Give an analogy that applies to your topic.  Preferably about climbing up a mountain -- this one is used all the time because it's obviously the best.
  • Read an entire verse of a hymn in monotone. 
  • Read a story from the Ensign.
Finish up your talk with a bang.  That is, a testimony of course.  And bam, you're done!

And there you have it.  The foolproof template for writing an amazing talk.  Don't worry about cliches, they don't exist in spiritual settings.