Aloha wonderful family,
There are many things that Japanese people do here that are so Japanese, and American things I do that are SO AMERICAN.
For example, I found out this week it's not good manners to be seen eating in public when I opened a bag of tonari corn (like bugles) on the train. One of the Japanese missionaries sitting across from me said "hajimete, tonari corn" like " that's the first time I've ever seen anyone eat tonari corn in public". He explained the culture to me, and I thought, I never thought twice about it. Americans eat everywhere, and constantly. My companion thinks it's funny that I'm always hungry.
Today we went to the post office which doubles as a bank. It's called "Ubinkyoku", I was amazed that they are so accommodating. I was curious about why next to the forms at each table, they have three types of glasses, all different strengths. While I was trying them on, Sister Kai said "they are for elderly people who have forgotten theirs". I was so surprised. I always find myself asking "why?" this time Sister Kai just had a one word response- "kindness"..."kindness of bank". She is so funny.
This week was wonderful. Really every week gets better, but I totally went through the language pride cycle. I thought, okay I can understand, it's just like in the scriptures, when the people think they are doing alright, then they aren't as careful, and let up-- that's the key, I think, --- we always have to understand we have more to learn. :) And keep going on to the next level.
I went on exchanges this week in Machida. It was a blast! My companion for a day was Sister Delicott, all the Japanese sisters call her name "Delicate" so before meeting her, I imagined a petite little person. I loved the way she loved the people she taught. She's leaving at the end of this transfer (in 2 weeks) soeveryone's super sad, but it really showed me that I want it to be that way when it's my time to go, like I'm leaving behind another family. It was nice to talk to another American, she described her experience in perfect words, she said, "it's like everyone is in this big bubble, and you're on the outside, and then throughout your mission, you come further and further into the bubble". It's so true, there are moments sometimes when I have no idea what anyone is saying, but I have hope that it won't be that way forever! My bike in Machida was literally a tricycle! Since I traded spots with another Japanese missionary, it was so tiny! While in Machida we visited a 95 year old lady, Nishimura Obachan. She was really sweet and used to build tanks for war, and even lost her daughter a few years ago. She has had a difficult life, but when I looked in her eyes and when we shared about Christ, I just saw joy. I know that this peace comes from knowing that we have a Heavenly Father who loves us, and that death is not the end, but just another beginning.
This week we went to a botanical garden with our friend that we're teaching,Oikawa Shimai. She likes old antique things, and Mother Teresa, so we have that in common. and we both love nature! It was such a tender mercy. Here in Japan seeing green is so rare. Also they had GrandmaGladys's flowers! Double Delights!! My favorites! Grandma would always send me home with some, and I really feel like she is here with me, and I felt especially close to her when I smelled all the roses. It was wonderful! At the Botanical Garden, I purchased Basil for only 1.00! I thought it was a steal. Sister Kai purchased rainbow flowers, she has been referring to my basil plant as "Basil Chan".
Also Sofia who we have been teaching for a few weeks now is working towards July 22nd for her baptism! I'm so excited for her! We've been teaching her about the commandments and we taught her recently about the Word of Wisdom. She is a student, so she always drinks coffee in the morning, and she said she knows her body depends on it, and she doesn't like that, so without us even asking her, she said I'm going to not do that anymore. She is so wonderful and said she wants to do everything she can to keep Heavenly Father's commandments.
While teaching her, I realized that's all the commandments are, the Word of Wisdom, and every other thing that people call "rules". Truly the commandments are just means for living a happy life. Heavenly Father really does love us and that's why, just like parents sometimes give curfews, it's all for our safety, and protection and is done out of love. It's really simple.
Last night there was a knock at our door and the same sweet Obachan Grandma that made us breakfast came over again with "sakura" cherries, and these little handmade bags and beanbags, which she demonstrated had a variety of uses --- stress relief --- and she showed us the proper breathing, and hand squeezes as well as juggling to entertain kids. Then she took off her shoes and looked around our kitchen to see what else we might need.
Today for Pday we went ice skating. One of the Elders, Elder Andrus, is seriously like Michael Jackson but on ice. I was very impressed!
At the botanical garden when we were walking around, Sister Kai said to OikawaShimai, "This one is like Sister Vail!" and then she said- "Brightness!" This made me feel really grateful. Even though I feel like I can't say very much right now, I know it's okay, because Heavenly Father's love is so strong for each of his children. Sometimes all I feel like I can do is smile, but I know that even with this broken Japanese, Heavenly Father can use me to help one of his children feel his love. So whatever you have to give is enough! I know this is true, and your love will be felt!
Love each of you so much!
Bubba Im sending something home for you! I love you birthday girl!