Monday, December 29, 2014

My First Week in Japan

I'm sorry this is delayed! These iPads are a hoot and a half!

The transition from the MTC to the mission field is a lot like being born. Mormons, you will understand this next bit. If you're not Mormon, find two young men dressed in suits with black name tags and ask them what the Plan of Salvation is. They'll explain it brilliantly to you. So I'm sure in the Pre-Earth life we were trained. I'm so sure! We had excellent teachers and we role played real life experiences and we studied HARD. We thought we knew exactly what we were going into. That would describe me at the MTC. Studious, excited, and "ready to go." But I have a theory that nobody is ever ready for anything. This can be applied here. Because we did all this study about earth life and then what. We come into this world crying, drooling, and soiling ourselves. This is how I felt! All the sudden, I couldn't read anything anymore. I had to be lead everywhere. I couldn't understand much of what anyone was saying. And this was just at the airport!
So we get to the airport. A missionary stops our whole group of twenty three missionaries and says: "I see President Budge!" We run out there with smiles on our faces, I extend my hand to him and before my hand touches his he says "You're the Guatemalan aren't you?" Suddenly I felt all the emotions. Relief, that he was speaking English. Love because he knew me already. Excited, because I could already hear his second question: "So you're pretty fluent in Spanish huh?"

The next day we were trained but on the very surface of surface level. We met in the church next door to the mission home. In the gym, all of us new missionaries and all of our new trainers filed in. One by one, President Budge called a trainer to the front of the gym, briefly described the area, and then shouted the name of the newly assigned missionary. Applause and hoots and hollers that only eighteen-year-olds could make followed. At some point, a sister missionary with thick, wavy, blonde hair stood at the front of the gym. Before he announced her companion, he paused slyly.
"Sister O." he shouted, "Would you say there are a lot of Spanish speakers in Koga?" I clasped my hands together and wiggled a little. 
"Sure are!" She said back.
And thus we became companions.

THAT NIGHT we taught Ekaiwa which literally translates into "English Conversation." It's a free class we missionaries put on where we teach anyone who wants to learn English. We have a textbook to go by and everything. But in Koga, we also have Spankaiwa. Can you guess its meaning? My first day in Japan I was teaching Japanese people how to speak Spanish. HOW NUTS. I'm just lucky that our district leader Elder M. speaks better Japanese than I do and a little bit of Spanish. He's from Idaho and simply studied Spanish in high school. But when he saw a desire for Spankaiwa he stepped up. Imagine the faith!

So that was Wednesday. On Saturday we had a ward Christmas party. Since I got here I had been stopping everyone I could and telling them in my broken Japanese about this Christmas party. In Japan, they celebrate Christmas by going to KFC. No joke. This is a nationwide practice. Plus, the spelling for Christmas and Christ are different here so nobody makes the connection to Christ. Anyways, by the end, no one we had invited showed up. However, there is a couple from Peru here in the ward. The husband found me, spoke a little Spanish to me to ensure that I was fluent, and threw me at a friend his wife brought to the party. Her name is Sonia, she's also from Peru and we're meeting with her on Saturday. GOD HAS PREPARED THIS AREA FOR US. Side note: my companion speaks little Spanish. Not enough to lead a lesson, so she's never taught in Spanish before, but enough to understand! And she's memorizing the first vision in Spanish already! WOOHOO!

Even though it's Christmas and I'm always singing Christmas hymns and I just attended a Christmas party, it doesn't feel like Christmas here. People are still working through the holidays, there is no snow, and life is going on. We have an investigator right now named Hasegawa who's mother passed away TWO DAYS before I got here. We visit her almost every day. Nobody should die so close to Christmas. It's just too sad.

Another cool investigator we have is Josie. She's from the Philippines, so she speaks Tagalog and English. Can you believe it? I get to teach in English! But she's the best. She reminds me a lot of my own grandma, Tita. She's got these great big eyes and she''s so willing to learn! She's read the Bible a ton of times over so she's got a great base. Just yesterday we were teaching her Lesson One, and when we were talking about prophets and how they have the keys to Christ's true gospel she said: "That's you guys!" and it was hilarious. She called us prophets. Luckily she also knows the word "disciple" so that was easily fixed.
I love my investigators! I'm so lucky to love them! It just warms my heart to know that they're so awesome and I'm revealing information to them that will bring them more joy in their lives. 
Japan just as a country is pretty ordinary! The streets are uncomfortably small. The cars even more so. That aspect reminds me a lot of Guatemala. The houses are pretty plain and most driveways are gravel which makes me think of the place we stayed in in England. All in all, it's very familiar. It's not the city I imagined it would be, at least not Koga. There's actually a cabbage field right by where we live and whenever the men that work there see us, they give us a cabbage each. I am coming to love cabbage.

I don't have my own bike yet! I'm using a sister's old bike until tomorrow. It's quite a brilliant strategy actually. Give a new missionary an awful, old, run down bike, and by the time they get their new one they'll never complain about a bike again! Needless to say, the chain has come loose twice and I'm getting pretty quick at fixing it.

I'm sending you pictures! The one of me and my terrible bike depicts how shopping at a grocery store happens in Japan. There's one of my companion Sister O. and I that depicts our experience in Japan thus far. She's been here a year, I haven't even been here a week. She's always smiling and I'm always confused.

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