Monday, March 27, 2017

Week 13

Hello world,

Pday has come again. I'm sure that you've all been dying to hear from me.

This week was pretty okay. We had quite a bit of traveling. We went to Sendai on Tuesday for the second orientation meeting which meant about a four and a half hour bus ride each way. So we actually had to wake up about an hour early, and because the bus coming back was a couple minutes slow we got back after 9:30 which is the latest we're supposed to be out if we have a lesson (We're not actually awful disobedient missionaries... or at least we weren't at that point. The zone leaders told us it was okay :)). So that was interesting. Then Wednesday we went to Aomori for interviews and that was about a 45 minute train ride. Then again on Thursday we went back to Aomori for zone conference.

Funny story about the long bus ride on Tuesday: it was really hot. Outside it was within a couple degrees of freezing, but we still got ice cream at both rest stops. It was bad. We were basically sweating out of every pore. I'm not sure how all of the Japanese people handled it. A lot of them still had jackets on. I'm not exactly an expert on temperatures and things of that nature, but it had to be between 85 and 1,000,000 Fahrenheit. Probably closer to 1,000,000.

This week we were taken out to eat by a sister in the branch who's husband isn't a member. He was a really nice guy, but he doesn't seem that interested in the church right now. I'm sure it was good for him to talk with us though. We just shared a short scripture and testified about it. Maybe he'll eventually decide that he wants to take the lessons. That would be pretty cool.

We also went to Mr. Donuts after interviews on Wednesday which was pretty fun. There will be a picture of that attached. I also took a picture of my bike that I get to use for this area. And the last one is an Elder from my home stake in WA. He's been out for about a year and a half already, but we're in the same zone right now. The picture is from zone conference.

I love you all,
Elder Mitchell

 Mine is the bike closest to the camera.

 Elder Mitchell and Elder Steven Matthews from Lake Sawyer Ward in our Stake in WA.
 The donuts were pretty okay.
English Class topic board: We do a few English classes. There's the regular one and kids one that both happen on Wednesday nights. Then we have an advanced one on Saturdays. We usually have a 'warm up' where we just have questions on the board and go around the room and answer them in English. Then there's maybe a pronunciation activity or something like that. And then sometimes a game like telephone. Then we fill up the rest of the time with whatever people want to take from the topic board or anything else they want to talk about. Then at the end we have spiritual thought. It's open to whoever wants to come, but at advanced we currently have two regulars and a new guy, at the regular one there are usually about six, and there are usually two or three kids that come to that one. 
A picture of the fancy toilets they have here.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Week 12

Friends and Family,

Another week has passed and I'm still alive. That's good I guess. This week was rather enjoyable. I think I'm starting to get used to the day-to-day life of a full-time missionary. I've also started to figure out where things are in my area so that's nice.

There were quite a few happenings this week so I'll start towards the beginning. This week we dropped our only investigator. He had been meeting with missionaries on and off for ten years or so and hadn't really made any progress that we could see. So this week we just asked him if he was preparing for baptism and if he had any interest in the church. He told us that he didn't have any interest, so we told him that we wouldn't be coming back for regular visits anymore. It was pretty hard because he's a really nice older guy that lives alone and seemed to enjoy talking with us, and we don't have any investigators anymore, but we decided that the Lord's time would be better spent somewhere else looking for people who are ready for the Gospel.

That's probably enough sadness for this week. We started riding bikes this week as the weather has gotten quite a bit better. There's still a decent amount of residual snow piled up on the sides of the roads and sidewalks, but they're, for the most part, passable. So our gigantic area just got a little bit smaller. To get to the northernmost part of our area is about two hours by car, so that's still a little out of our range, but we'll worry about that when we've housed everywhere that we can get to on bikes. We also had a branch volleyball activity on Saturday which was pretty fun.

A funny story for this week: We were walking down the sidewalk on our way to some place that was probably very important, and we notice that there is a rather large group of high school girls walking down the street towards us. My companion has decided that he doesn't really like talking to high school girls so he usually just says "Hello" in English whenever we see any. This time was not an exception, and he said "Hello," in English on our way past this group of girls. Soon after this occurrence, and just as we were about to be past them, one of the girls replies, also in English, "I think I wanna marry you" more or less to the tune of the song. I was pretty much dying. It was so funny. It was easily the highlight of the week.

I love you all and hope you're doing well,
Elder Mitchell

 The first one is a sudoku thing that I was looking at on a train and realized that it was shaped like a house. I figured it was worth sharing a picture of. 

 This one is a little graphic. It's a couple of heads on sticks and the red coloring is supposedly real blood. One of the brothers in the branch took us to see them. They're called the spooky scrolls and they're only open to the public twice a year. I guess they were being shown on TV in the 1970's but somehow in the live coverage the eyes of one of the pictures were open. So that's fun. 
The last one is the bathtub after I put in one of my fruity bath salts. It smelled really nice.


I am alive and doing pretty okay. I'm starting to figure out the general lay of the area that I'm in and get used to real missionary life. I've started talking a little bit more (than zero) to people on the streets and in housing so that's pretty good I guess. I still haven't eaten anything really weird yet besides the octopus thing. We've made our own meals every time except maybe three. One time this random dude that apparently likes missionaries (and has for quite a while because he's in Area Book) chatted with us long enough that we could give him a message and then took us to an all-you-can-eat place. I don't remember if I told that story already. That was where I had the octopus thing. The restaurant was okay, but they seemed to think that I should cook the meat myself, so that was a little weird. I like it when other people do those sorts of things for me, especially when I go out to eat. Also for district lunch a week or two ago we went to this place called Pepe's that's supposed to have real American hamburgers. In hindsight it may not have been the best idea because even if they were really good it's like 'Wow I got a normal American hamburger,' and if they're not then it's like, 'wow I didn't get a good hamburger and I just paid an arm and fourteen legs for it'. It wasn't that good, and it was a little over ten bucks for a pretty tall but very skinny (small diameter bun and everything else) burger. It was rather unfortunate. Then the last time that we didn't cook for ourselves we went to McDonald's which was pretty okay. It may have been better than American McDonald's, but it wasn't that great. I'll probably end up going again eventually and trying out a couple other things but it was a small disappointment. So that's everything about eating... Just kidding no it isn't. I'm fairly comfortably under 170 again. Our scale only works in kg, but after the conversion on my tablet from kg to lbs last night I was 166.66. So I'm pretty much skinny.

This week we started riding bikes because it's a little warmer, but apparently it's supposed to snow again in the next week or two. So that's fun. The weather really hasn't been that bad because I've got that ginormous coat from the missionary store and then those gloves that Cleary got me.
Side note: Those might be the highest quality things that I've ever owned in my life. I've worn them probably every day I've been here except one or two when we weren't outside very much. But they are some dang nice gloves. I suppose it is a little chilly sometimes, but I'm pretty well equipped for it is what I'm trying to say.

We also had a branch volleyball activity on Saturday which was okay. 12 people showed up and five of them were missionaries. It wasn't terribly competitive but I still served fairly hard. I probably could have exercised a little more self-restraint, but I've never really been a terribly big fan of exercise. Lol

I remembered that I forgot to talk about my name on the program last week. I just had to do a short self-introduction and then a short testimony. I probably took up a whole 60 seconds. It was pretty long. It went basically like this: My name is Elder Mitchell. I have seven people in my family (I forgot to say where I'm from in my intro. It was rather embarrassing). I said that my hobbies were running and volleyball. I also said that my favorite food is oranges. People thought that was pretty funny. But one of my MTC teachers said that you should always say that in your intro to your new area (apparently that happens in pretty much every area you go to in Japan) because then members will give you a lot of whatever you say your favorite food is. I've gotten one orange so far. :) Then I said something like "I know that the church is true. I know that The Book of Mormon was translated by Joseph Smith and that we have a prophet today" and then I closed. It was pretty great. When that meeting went long I told Elder Free it was because I took too much time.

I also got a haircut today and I don't speak Japanese so I showed the guy a picture and he said something like みじかく which means short and I said yeah. So I put my tablet away and he goes to town on the side of my head and there's a mirror in front of me and I was like 'Oh dang that's sort of short'. But he'd already started so I couldn't just say 'not quite that short' even if I did know how to say that in Japanese. So it's pretty short on the sides. It didn't end up being quite as bad as I thought it would be by the time he finished but it is rather short nonetheless. Here's a picture.

 Okay so I took two trying to get my hair and then I tried really hard to do a good smile so that you'd think I'm happy and then I took one while I was being proud of myself for taking pictures. Also my description of it makes it sound worse than it is. I kind of like it actually.

I also remembered that I took up sewing this week. I'm sort of a professional.

 P.S. The bag opened itself up while I was flying to Japan. It didn't really affect anything though so that's why I waited so long to fix it... or maybe try to fix it is more accurate. Either way, it has some character now. :)
P.P.S. Don't worry, it's not where anyone except me and my companion ever sees it so it's okay.

I'm failing to come up with other important things. Let me know what other things you'd like to know and I'll see if I can make them happen. I'll try to respond to individual questions too, but don't be offended if they're a little brief because I put my heart and soul into this one so I'm about all emailed out.

I love you all the most :),
Elder Mitchell

Monday, March 13, 2017

Week 11

Hello world,

So I think I'm at week 11 right now. I guess that means I'm about 10% of the way through already. That's a little crazy. I feel like I just reported to the MTC even though it was two and a half months ago.

Last week I failed to share the experience that we had flying to Japan. So Monday morning we reported to the travel office a little before 5 am and loaded up about 25 or 30 missionaries on a bus. The bus actually only took us to the train station and from there we had one other train switch before we got to the airport. From the airport we were able to call home and get some breakfast before getting on the plane. It was all great except that during one of the train rides it started snowing and became more and more heavy as we waited for the plane. So we finally end up on the plane and just sort of sit for a few minutes before they say that we'll need to get de-iced before we leave. At this point the Elder sitting next to me goes to sleep due to the early hour of our departure. About an hour after we were supposed to take off and we've finally been de-iced and are getting ready to get on the runway, he wakes up and looks at his watch and says something like 'hey we're actually going to make our next flight'. He didn't realize that we hadn't even taken off yet. It was pretty funny. By the time we got to SEA we were about 20 minutes after the next flight was supposed to take off and they had just held it for us. We felt pretty special. :)

So my district here is pretty cool. There are seven of us - two companionships of Elders and a trio of sisters. We're all in the first half of our missions except for one of the Elders who happens to be named Elder Mitchell. Before my mission I'm not sure that I knew anyone with the last name of Mitchell that I wasn't pretty closely related to. But ever since the MTC I've seen at least three other Elder Mitchell's and I haven't known any of them. One was from somewhere on the east coast - maybe Maine or something. The one in my district now is from Idaho. I'm not sure how I feel about all of it.

This morning my companion and I went on a run. That was one of our weekly goals, so we're well on our way. We've already got one down and it's only Monday. :) My companion is Elder Free. I'm not sure if I mentioned that in my last email, but he's the son of a member of my branch presidency at the MTC. It's funny because he sometimes says things like 'Yeah I have to behave now because if I don't you'll email my mom'.

A scripture that I really liked this week is 1 Nephi 10:19. It says "For he that diligently seeketh shall find; and the mysteries of God shall be unfolded unto them, by the power of the Holy Ghost, as well in these times as in times of old, and as well in times of old as in times to come; wherefore, the course of the Lord is one eternal round." I like how it talks about diligently seeking the answers to our questions and that by the power of the Holy Ghost we can know that they are true. I know that this scripture is true and that we really can receive answers from God.

I hope that you're all doing well,
Elder Mitchell

Some pictures:
The bike parking lot by the train station and the tacos we made the other day. The snow was actually quite a bit higher last week, but I didn't think to take a picture until it had melted a little bit. Last week all you could see was the very tops of the handlebars.

 Check out the label on the tortillas. . . They are Mission(ary) tortillas for Elders only.  :-)

Questions and Answers from the family: 
Elder Mitchell,
Can you please answer some basic questions for us?  We are all dying to know. . .
1. Q: What is the weirdest food you have eaten so far? 
A:  There was some thing that looked sort of like it might be sweet and desserty so I grabbed one. I then asked Elder Free what it was and he said it was たこやき which has octopus in it. I don't think I'll ever need to eat one again.

2. Q:Where is your apartment/flat?  Do you live with a member or just by yourselves?
A: We live in an apartment by ourselves. It's on the second floor. Not sure what the address is. I'll maybe send that to you later. If you have anything that you want to get there fast then you can send it straight there if you know that I'll be there for long enough. Otherwise you can just send it through ほんぶ which is the mission office and they'll get it to me. The address for that is 

3. Q: What are the beds like there?  Are they on the floor or on a bed frame? 
A: The beds that we have now are pretty normal. Apparently the apartment that we're in right now used to be a sister's one, so we have some nice stuff.

4. Q: What is your current schedule like? 
A: Schedule is different every day. But most of it is walking around in the freezing cold knocking on doors or trying to talk to people because we have sort of 1/2 of an investigator right now. We're not sure that he's actually interested in the Gospel.

5.  Q: Are you enjoying your new companion? 
A: Yes my new companion is great. He's half Japanese but basically grew up in America, so he's really helpful. He can also cook better than I can and can read a lot of the labels at the grocery store, so that's good too. 

6. Q: Do you know how missionary families send packages the most quickly/cheaply? 
A: It doesn't sound like there really is a cheap way. My companion's dad flies to Japan fairly often and gets airline benefits so he gets a free suitcase. So his family will just get a trashed suitcase from DI or somewhere and fill it with stuff that his dad will bring to Japan and ship from Tokyo or wherever he is for the trip. If there's something that you can get online that would be cheaper than trying to ship something (like if you wanted to order real peanut butter online or real bread or something like that :)) but I think there's not really a cheap way. 

I love you the most,
Elder Mitchell

Monday, March 6, 2017

Week 10

Hello world,

Yes. I am finally in Japan. It's a little weird to think that I'm finally in the place that the Lord called me to preach his Gospel, but I'm sure I'll get used to it soon enough.

I'd like to first talk about some of the things that are strange about Japan. One is the toilets. They have remote controls for all of their functions (if you're interested I'm sure that you could look up a picture of what I'm talking about and you'll understand). I haven't been adventurous enough yet to try out all of their functionality and I may or may not be during my time in Japan, but we'll see I guess.

Another thing is the cars here. They all have their names written in English letters, but the names are all kind of weird. Most of the foreign cars (to the Japanese) have normal names, but all of the Toyotas and Hondas and Mazdas are called something that they're not. I think that the only two that have their correct names on them are a Honda Fit and Toyota Prius. Also there are some cars that have normal car names, but they're on the wrong kind of car. There have been a couple Honda Odyssey's but the're more like a wagon than a minivan. It's weird. And then there are at least six different kinds of Toyota minivans. There's the Alphard, Estema, Esquire, Noah, Vellfire, and Voxy. I'm not exactly sure why but there are.

And then there's also the fact that probably 90% of the cars on the road are about as small as you can find in America. I was looking at one of them and they're so narrow that I asked my companion if he thought we could fit next to each other in one of them. And we're not even big people.

Also, there are some 'normal' foods here that are actually different. Like all of the eggs have orange yokes instead of yellow. Some are even closer to red. I'm not sure how I feel about it. Also, there seems to be no such thing as good bread here. All they have is this silly white bread that says おいしい on it which means delicious. It's not bad, but it's not good either, and there's definitely no nutritional value in it. But I'll probably get over it.

Some other standouts from this week are the weather. I'm in Hirosaki which is in the furthest north zone, so it's pretty cold. Most of the sidewalks and roads are clear, but there are massive piles of snow all over. And then today it decided to start snowing again. So in the last couple of hours we've gotten a couple more inches. It's pretty fun. Also of note is the fact that our area is rather large. I'm not sure how big it is in square miles, but we have two maps. A really big one that shows our whole area with a little red rectangle on it, and another one that is a full size map of the little rectangle which ends up being like an hour walk in each direction from where our apartment is. So we're not really in danger of accidentally leaving the area, which is nice I guess. But it's also sad because most of the area won't have an opportunity to meet missionaries unless for some reason they come into our little sphere of influence and tell us that they're interested in the Gospel. Then we could probably figure out a bus/train method of getting to them, but for the purposes of finding, we're pretty busy just in the places that we can walk to.

My trainer is great. He's half Japanese, but he's also the son of one of the members of my branch presidency at the MTC, so that's pretty cool. He speaks both English and Japanese pretty well (English fluently) which is good for me because I don't speak either. :) He says his Japanese isn't that good because of how long he lived in America, but it sounds fine to me. I don't understand what he says in Japanese most of the time so that's kind of hard, but I'm getting better slowly but surely.

I hope you're all doing well,
Elder Mitchell

The pictures are both funny ones that members of my MTC district will appreciate (sorry everyone else). My MTC companion I'm sure will enjoy the dude on the poster and his sense of fashion, and the other one should be appreciated by all of the members of my district. I'll try to get a good one of my new companion and I by next week.

Mommy (and maybe Poppy),

My week has been pretty okay. I got here and my companion Elder Free (who happens to be the son of one of the members of my MTC branch presidency) said something like we don't have any progressing investigators. So that was fun. I'm not sure what I expected, but one or two would have been nice. So now we have one that's kind of like an eternal investigator, and another person that seemed to be interested (from what I heard of the Japanese conversation that my companion had with him) and gave us his contact info. Hopefully we start to have a little more excitement happen here soon. I'd like to say that I plan to lead our companionship into battle as it were but I don't really speak Japanese so that's too bad. 

I got on the new time zone pretty quick. I haven't taken any melatonin since I've been here, and I attribute it to two things: the bed at the MTC was so hard that it may have been able to cut diamonds if it were appropriately sharpened, and the fact that here we're actually outside and walking around all day long rather than being stuck in a stuffy classroom sitting in a chair all day. So I guess that's good.

My mission president seems like a pretty nice guy. I learned part way through the MTC (and I don't think I've remembered to pass it on yet), but he's actually only going to be the mission president until this summer. I don't remember why I thought he had just been put in. Maybe he said in his bio 'I got put in this summer' or something like that and then just never changed it. I'm not sure. But I've had a couple different people say that the new guy is really nice. He's actually a Japanese guy though, so that might be hard if he doesn't speak very good English. 

There is no good bread. Peanut butter is terribly expensive, and there are no regular member meals in this branch (but I guess they have a basket of food for us every fast Sunday and sometimes the rich people in the ward will take us to all-you-can-eat places sometimes). So I might lose weight. Probably not though. Also on the subject of eating, eggs are pretty much the elixir of life right now (the eggs have orange/red yokes). I guess this companionship has bought 6 packs of ten eggs the last few weeks and we did that again today. So that's fun. We have eggs at least once a day but sometimes twice and we finished the eggs from last week this morning. So it's basically like five eggs per person per day. I'm not sure if that fits in the word of wisdom, but eggs are pretty cheap here so I guess we'll just keep eating them until we get a budget increase. I'll let you know later if there are any foods later that I just desperately need to be shipped to me. I guess that's something that a lot of Elders here have their family do is send them food that they don't sell in Japan.

Also there are at least six kinds of Toyota minivans: Alphard, Estema, Esquire, Voxy, Vellfire, and Noah. Interestingly all of the cars here have English names but I'll say more about cars later.

If there are any other important things they have fled from my mind so I guess you'll have to hear about them tomorrow or in the next couple weeks.

I love you the most,
Elder Mitchell

Week 9

Dear Missionary Parents!
Your missionary has arrived in Sendai and is loved immediately.
We are thrilled to have him here safe and sound and excited to get working.
Thank you for sharing him with us.
Office Smiths

Elder Mitchell and his companion with President and Sister Smith

Elder Mitchell got to call home from the airport in Salt Lake City. It was fun to hear his voice and talk to him for just over half an hour.  He was in good spirits and looking forward to getting to work in Japan.