Sunday, May 27, 2012

Letter May 7, 2012

Brittany answers Mum's questions:
  1. How far away from you is the Tokyo temple? Will you get to go? How often?
  2. What kind of food are you eating? Do members feed you?
  3. What is your companion like? How good is her English? How are you communicating?
  4. How are you doing with your discussions? Does your comp let you teach at all?
  5. Are you driving, walking, riding bikes? All 3?
  6. What is your mission pres like? When will you get a new one?
  7. How is your tummy feeling?
  8. How was your first church Sunday?
  9. How many missionaries are native japanese there?
  10. Ok I'll stop with 10 questions…. What is the weather there like now?
My area right now, Matsudo, is about an hour and a half away from the Tokyo temple by train. We get to go once every transfer, so that's every six weeks! Pretty cool. Also, next week a general authority (a Seventy I'm pretty sure) is coming to speak to us, so all the Tokyo missionaries are traveling to a building right next to the temple to listen. That will be exciting, because I'll get to see my MTC friends ("doki"s).
2. The food here has been pretty good so far. Predictably, Ohsugi Shimai and I eat a lot of rice and noodles. She loves to cook meat and I love to cook vegetables, so between the two of us we eat pretty well. One thing I LOVE about Japanese food is that with every meal you have a small bowl of soup, usually a simple broth with onions, tofu, or mushrooms. All the food I've had here has been delicious (with one exception---I don't like the taste of seaweed at all).
The church members feed us 2-3 times a week. Last night we had a really fun meal with the Nishimura family. Remember how at Beni Hana's the chef said the Japanese don't actually do hibachi cooking? WELL, our meal went like this: each person had a bowl of soup, a tiny bowl of sauce, and a plate of fried rice, and in the middle they had a big round grill (sort of like your pancake griddle but in a circle). Also on the table was a huge plate of thinly sliced raw beef and another plate of raw vegetables---asparagus, onions, peppers, mushrooms, cabbage, a bunch of good stuff. The father oiled the grill and everyone using their own chopsticks cooked whatever they wanted to eat! It was super cool! They even covered the table in newspaper to catch oil spills. Sounds like a fun FHE activity, right? It was casual and easy and I had a great time. Everyone I meet here compliments me on my ability to use chopsticks.
3. My companion Ohsugi Shimai is a good missionary. She thinks one of the most important parts of missionary work is making friends with our investigators and helping them be fellowshipped into the ward. I have a hard time being anyone's friend because the language makes it difficult to get to know them, but I can always have a friendly smile. 4. Ohsugi Shimai is great about encouraging me to participate equally in the lessons. They're all split into sections, so she has me to a simple introduction of the main points and then backs me up and answers any questions. Her English is not great. We almost always speak in Japanese---and charades---which is good for me to learn but frustrating too. It's such a relief when we meet up with American missionaries and they can translate for me what's actually going on! Definitely the hardest part of having a native companion is that when we socialize with other Japanese people no one ever pauses to make sure I understand. It's embarassing when people ask me questions and I can only understand one word in their sentence. One good thing about Japanese though is that questions always end in the "ka" sound so you can identify them clearly. In English it's harder for a non-native speaker to tell when they're being spoken to! So I can empathize.
5. We use all sorts of transportation: bus, train, bike, and walking (and sometimes driving if a member offers). It depends on the weather, how far we're going, and whether we're carrying anything.
6. My mission president is GREAT! He is so loving and works so hard. Unfortunately he and his wife are going home in July, but I hear the new one is just as hard-working and will push us to reach all our goals for the mission.
7. I haven't had any huge problems with my ulcer acting up again (I'm way too young to be saying that!), but if I over-eat or have too much meat or fat (usually I like to eat the least amount possible to be polite) then I get uncomfortable. Mostly though I've been fine. Thanks for the concern! You asked about my weight a couple weeks ago but I'm not sure how to answer. The scale we have in our apartment is in kilograms so I have no idea if I'm doing well or not! Missionaries exercise every morning, though, and we get plenty of exercise throughout the day. From doing yoga consistently and riding a bike so much, you should see the size of my calf muscles.
8. My first Sunday was just as overwhelming as every day! I met tons of new people, forgot all their names, and didn't understand much, but I can tell you the church is true all over the world! The gospel of Jesus Christ is being taught here, and since I learned MTC vocabulary first, when people talk about the gospel is when I can follow conversation most. Matsudo Ward is really interesting. It's the biggest ward in the Tokyo mission, and I don't know if it's just the area or if it's indicative of Japanese LDS in general, but there are a TON of young families in the ward. Everybody has a ton of babies and young children. Sacrament meeting, predictably, is quite loud! I really like the Japanese kids though. They're super precious, and I can't understand them any better than I can the older people, but they are super friendly and love missionaries. Leave it to the Japanese to change my mind about kids!
9. As far as native vs. non-native missionaries in Tokyo, I'm not sure, but in my own zone it's about half and half. We have two Brazilians, maybe six Americans, and probably another eight Japanese missionaries. I've heard the ratio is higher in other Japan missions because all the missionaries come from Tokyo to go to other areas!
10. The weather right now is GORGEOUS! The Japanese people talk about the weather a lot but aren't happy with it most of the time---it's too hot, it's too cold, it's too rainy, it's too dry, etc. They love sunny days because then they do laundry. I have really loved the weather every day. We've gotten a few rainstorms and an equal portion of cloudy and sunny days. I hear that next month it's going to rain all the time, and after that is peak hot and humid season, so ask me again at the end of the summer how I feel about Japan weather!

Sorry I don't have any photos to share yet. Next week for sure. I don't carry my camera around with me because our Missionary Handbook says to avoid looking like tourists, but on P-days it's okay. For now, you can Google "Tokyo" or "Matsudo" and get a picture of where I am! I think Japan is beautiful, and all the tiny little houses are SO neat. I wish I could read more signs. Everything is in kanji so my companion translates for me (especially in train stations).
That's all I have time for, I think! I'm glad to hear that all of your activities are going well, especially gospel-related ones! You're all in my prayers. This week, pay special attention to little miracles that happen to you every day. When I'm working hard and feeling discouraged, if I stop to notice my blessings it helps me so much to be reassured that Heavenly Father is taking care of me and wants me to succeed. The more we notice our blessings, the more blessings it seems we're getting.
Take care. I love you!
Long Shimai

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