Monday, April 24, 2017

Week 17

Hello Everyone,

I'm still alive and doing well, although Elder Anderson and I have had a few close calls with cars while riding our bikes lately. Personally I've just had one and it was while I was following my companion (more to come in a moment), but for some reason he has had a near miss almost every day this week. I think it has something to do with the fact that he thinks we always have the right of way, and I suppose we generally do, but I like to keep a little more distance from moving cars than he does. I sometimes wonder if he were hit by a car whether or not the first thing he would say is "I had the right of way". But hopefully I don't have to find out.

So my near miss experience goes something like this: we were riding on the shoulder of a rode and there was a car stopped and waiting for an opportunity to turn. We just sort of assumed that we had been seen and proceeded to ride across this driveway (or side road or something like that) that the car is waiting to pull out of and just as we're getting really close the car starts to make like it's going to pull out right in front of us. So we slammed on our brakes and so did he and there were at least three inches to spare. Fortunately we all made it out with nothing more than an elevated heartbeat. Fun stuff. I suppose even if we had been hit it would have only been a couple mile per hour collision, but it still wouldn't have been the best thing.

Here is the companion introduction that I promised: Elder Anderson is from somewhere in Utah and is interested in art. He hopes to one day write comics for a living. He also skipped High School (and went to college) and got paid to play video games. He has an associates degree in Science. He also appreciates food so that's good.

Also today we had a zone pday of sorts and went to the Cherry Blossom Festival that my area is famous for. It was pretty cool, but some of our English class students were telling us earlier this week that it's going to be better at the beginning of May. There are a couple pictures attached.

So this week we also had our housing guy actually came to the English class! Unfortunately we didn't get a very good chance to talk to him afterwards and he was in the class that the Sister missionaries teach (right now we teach a kids class), so we didn't get much more than "It was fun" from him, but we have high hopes that he'll come again this week and we'll have a better opportunity to talk with him.

I didn't mean to write this much stuff since our writing time is a little shorter today because of zone pday, but there you go. I guess you all just got lucky... or something like that. :)

I love you all,
Elder Mitchell

P.S. The building in the picture is called Hirosaki castle. That's all I know about it.

 Cherry Blossom Festival
 Me eating curry.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Week 16

Hello everyone,

This week was interesting. It was my first experience with transfers, so that was an experience. I didn't actually end up transferring, but ended up staying a couple nights in Sendai to drop off my old companion and pick up my new one. I was sad to see Elder Free go, but I think that Elder Anderson and I will be able to do some good work together. I only have a couple of stories this week, so here they are.

First, one of the Less-Actives in our branch right now is pretty friendly with the missionaries, and asked us to help him out with some service at his house. Naturally we readily accepted the invitation and went to help out with it. It was actually pretty easy and didn't take longer than 30 or 40 minutes, but then he wanted to feed us lunch. The food was great, and he was even prepared with an adequate supply of food for a couple of hungry missionaries. :) Unfortunately he thought that mugicha was a suitable beverage to go along with it. Most of you won't know what mugicha is, and to be honest I'm not really sure what it is either. It's some kind of tea that somehow complies with the word of wisdom. For some reason it's one of the cultural foods that every missionary just has to try in order to be a missionary. Before this experience I had been told that it was basically "cigarette water" by multiple different missionaries who also didn't enjoy it. Despite this poor feedback, I was prepared to try it with an open mind. It was absolutely awful. I've tried various kinds of seafood and other Asian foods while I've been here, and it's all been edible. I've even had nato which is the other food that all missionaries have to try, and it really wasn't that bad. I wouldn't ever buy any and eat it at the apartment, but it was fine. It could not compare to the mugicha. I was trying to balance nausea and progress through my glass the whole time we were eating. It was rather difficult. I found myself holding my breath and taking a couple quick gulps before shoveling a bunch of meat and cabbage in my mouth to drown out the taste. And then the rest of the day I had a residual mugicha taste on my tongue accompanied by slight nausea and a minor headache. It was rough. Everyone who has had mugicha before is probably laughing at me right now, but I was really struggling.

The other story is of a guy that we found housing the other day. For those you who don't have a lot of experience with missionary life, housing is basically just knocking on peoples' doors and hoping that they'll come out and talk to you about the Gospel. So for some reason on this particular day we ran into a young guy that was likely low-mid twenties and actually seemed to want to talk to us. We have an English class that we teach every week on Wednesdays and he sounded like he wanted to come to that. We also talked a little bit about church stuff, but English seemed to be his primary interest so that's mostly what we talked about. At the end we asked if he wanted to exchange information (which really just meant that we wanted his phone number) but he said that he would just call us. I kind of took that as a "Sorry I really tried to sound interested while we were talking but now I want you to get off my front porch because I'm busy". I didn't expect that we'd hear from him again. But then the next day he called and asked if we could tell him a little bit more about the English class. My companion and I were both surprised. So we talked to him for a little bit, and towards the end we asked if he had any more questions. And he asked what set our church apart from other Christian churches! I was pretty pumped. :) My companion gave him a quick rundown of The Book of Mormon and Priesthood authority and he seemed to be decently interested in it. And then he said that he would come to eikaiwa (the English class) on Wednesday. I really hope that he comes and that we get the opportunity in the future to talk more about the Gospel. I know that he would be blessed by the Gospel in his life.

Those are all the stories that I have for this week, so I guess I'll end there. Below are a couple of pictures of my new companion. Next week I'll probably give a brief introduction of him once we exchange a few more life stories and get to know one another a little better.

I hope you're all doing well.

Have a great week,
Elder Mitchell

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Week 15

Ladies and Gentlemen,

This week marked the end of my first transfer. This I obviously knew before the week started, but being a greenie neither my companion or I thought that either of us would be transferred as I still have another transfer's worth of training left to do. But alas, we were both mistaken. Elder Free is transferring to become a zone leader and so I will becoming companions with Elder Anderson. Interestingly Elder Free is also going to become companions with an Elder Anderson, but it's the other one in the mission. Anyway, I am now on a four and a half hour bus ride to Sendai to meet up with my new companion. So that's why this email is a little later than normal (I really have no idea how much later than normal it will be) because after I click send it will just sit in my outbox until I have wifi again. So I apologize for any inconvenience it will cause to those who are waiting anxiously to hear from me. I'll try to do better next time.

I would also like to thank everyone that sent me a birthday email. My inbox has been blowing up the last couple days with birthday emails (which is definitely a better problem to have than to get none) so thanks for making me feel loved. :)

Soon after my last email went out (after we colored Easter eggs) the Elders in my district decided it was a good idea to visit the local all-you-can-eat pizza place near our apartment. It definitely was a good idea. The pizza here (in Japan) is super expensive so all-you-can-eat is really the only way you can get a decent value for your money. We were slightly limited by time because we could only spend an hour there and they took a little while to have food ready, but each of the Elders had two regular pizzas and a dessert pizza. It was still pretty spendy (and really was only possible at the very beginning of the month right after we got our funds because we can't budget for longer than about ten minutes into the future :)) but if we had just paid for the pizzas individually rather than doing the all-you-can-eat it would have been between $30 and $40 per person. So we decided the $17 was worth it.

After the pizza Elder Mason and I had splits in Odate. It was a good experience and I learned that Japanese people are more likely to come to the door if you say that you're greeting them as representatives of a nearby church rather than just introducing ourselves. I guess it's sort of a cultural thing. Also, most of you probably don't know, but most of the doorbells here  have cameras and speakers on them so that people can see you and talk to you from the inside. So it's generally through those that we introduce ourselves. It's kind of interesting because those super-nice doorbells are all over the place here and I don't think I've ever seen one in the US. They're even on a lot of the poorer neighborhoods and on apartments. But whatever the reason, that might help clarify why we're introducing ourselves to people before they come to the door.

This week we also had the privilege of watching General Conference. In Japan we just have normal Fast Sunday's on the first Sunday of the month and then watch conference the next week so that they can get the Japanese translation for it. Fortunately, the missionaries get to watch it in English because our Japanese is still pretty basic, and a lot of the General Conference language is a little more eloquent. Even the missionaries who have been here longer just watch it in English so they can better enjoy the message. One of the things that I liked was the talk (I believe it was by Elder Bednar) that talked about how all missionaries are called to the same calling, to share their testimony about the gospel, and the area assignment is secondary. It helped remind me that it's the gospel that's important, not the fact that I'm sharing it in Japan.

I hope life is treating you all well and that you'll all have a great week.
Elder Mitchell

  The berry tart that we got for my birthday.

 Me looking out the window of the bus during my 4 1/2 hour ride.

Hello Family,

I have quite a lot to say this week. I actually made a little note on my tablet about all of the things that I wanted to mention, so there's kind of a lot.

I guess I can start first with my birthday since that was yesterday. One of the sisters in the branch I think tried to tell me happy birthday so that was nice. Someone also gave us some potato ball things which were pretty good. For dinner our plan had been to eat a bunch of gyoza but we actually ended up doing a yakiniku thing on the griddle  because Elder Free's mom had sent a bunch of meat and he wanted to use more of it before he left. It's kind of rough because she sent a lot of good stuff and there's a decent amount of it that he can't take. So I guess Elder Anderson and I will have to take care of it for him. :) I'm going to try to pay him back for it. We also bought that mixed berry tart thing that I sent a picture of and had that last night.

On the subject of Elder Anderson, Elder Free and I are both getting an Elder Anderson next transfer. There are two in the mission and we both happen to be getting one of them. It's kind of funny.

And a quick note back to the subject of my birthday: I got the package and it had a couple different stickers on it that said it had been opened and inspected by customs when it got to Japan. So I was a little disappointed by that. But I'm going to enjoy it's contents nonetheless. I sent a picture of it earlier.

Well, the only other thing I have on my list for this email is that I dropped a chair on my toe the first or second week I was here and the mark is still there. It's under my toenail so I guess I'll just have to wait for a full toenail cycle or something. On a similar subject is the incident that happened on our way back from the grocery store today. We were just starting to speed up after crossing an intersection (I had five liters of milk and orange juice and a package of gyoza and a bag of granola in my backpack) and my chain just decided to pop off. This wouldn't have been a huge problem, except that I was accelerating with a little more enthusiasm than the average Japanese grandma so it upset my balance slightly. So there was a big snapping noise of the chain being a pathetic piece of junk, and I'm still not sure exactly how, but my knee drove hard into something (as the pedal went straight down with no gear to oppose it). At the time I was only going a couple of miles per hour so I just sort of hopped off still straddling the bike and stopped. But anyway, the important part was my knee being violently assaulted by my bike. I made it back to the apartment, but even by the time we got there it was starting to be swollen. It's definitely going to leave a mark. Hopefully I can walk tomorrow.

I love you all the most and there will be a couple other things you haven't heard yet in the weekly update that might end up being sent tomorrow so it might be worth reading,
Elder Mitchell

Monday, April 3, 2017

Week 14

Hello World,

This week was pretty okay.

Early this week we had zone leader splits so I got to work with Elder Dance for a day. That was pretty fun. We missed our first train in the morning and ended up having to wait for nearly two hours for the next one. So we tried to street for a while in front of the train station and then we studied in the waiting area.

We were taken out to eat twice this week. The first one was to a Ramen place on Wednesday after Elder Free and I got back from ZL (zone leader) splits. It was pretty good. Then the next day we went to another restaurant with a Sister from our branch and her nonmember husband. It was a pretty cool place. I got to try some squid and octopus. There was also something else that was foreign to me, but I don't recall what it was called. It was all decent if I focused more on chewing than tasting. We had planned to share a short spiritual thought, but as soon as we started talking about church stuff, the husband got up to go to the bathroom. It was too bad.

Well that's about all that was worth mentioning this week, so I guess I'll talk about some of the interesting things that we've heard while talking to people since I've been here. These are sort of rough translations, but they get the general idea across:
 - "Sorry. I'm old, so I don't understand"
 - "What are you doing?!?! It's the middle of the night!!" That one was at about 7:30 p.m.
 - "Sorry I can't talk right now. It's the important part of sumo"

All of the pictures are from the District P-day that we had today. We colored Easter eggs for a while and then it sort of dissolved into everyone emailing.

I hope you're all doing well,
Elder Mitchell

The eggs are all ones that I did. There's one that I sort of scribbled on in green and 
then the other two say 'Sendai' and 'Mitchell'. It was really hard to write with the 
crayons that we had. Or maybe I'm just bad at artsy things. One of those two.

 Everyone around the table.
 My companion, Elder Free.
 And then a couple of me. I figured people might be interested 
in seeing my beautiful face. :)

Excerpts from the family letter. . .
Dearest Family of mine,

Several of you seemed to be interested in how we get to watch conference here so I will tell you. :) We get to watch it next Saturday and Sunday the 8th and 9th with the rest of the Branch. They just wait a week, so they can get the Japanese translation all good and professional before they put it out. So we'll just be in the same room but watch on our tablets with earphones. 

This week we had zone leader splits and I got to go with Elder Dance. It was pretty fun. He has quite a bit of enthusiasm. The whole time he would entertain himself with things like putting our little English class flyers inside newspapers and stuff that were already in the post slot and say things like 'they won't even see this coming'. It was pretty funny. 

We ate out on Friday because we took our bikes and went out decently far and didn't really have anything that we could pack very well. We had some dollar-menu type hamburgers that cost about three dollars. And they weren't that great. It was a little unfortunate.

I'm not sure if I mentioned this before, but there's a rule that says we're not supposed to ride our bikes when the road is wet. So this week we had a little instance of being stuck in the rain with our bikes walking for a little over an hour. So that was interesting. I might buy another jacket soon because I have the inside half of my coat that keeps you mostly warm if it's dry and there's no rain. And then you can add the top half that makes it super warm but also keeps off rain and wind. Or you can use only the top half that doesn't really keep you warm but does block wind and rain. So I don't really have a happy medium right now. I'm either super hot (as in temperature :)) and wet with sweat, or sort of warm and wet with rain, or not warm at all and dry.

I love you all the most :),
Elder Mitchell