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