Sunday, April 29, 2012


Test your knowledge to see if you can figure out what these pictures are and why they are all lumped together!:

After the earthquake and tsunami a year ago, many members of the Church donated literally millions of dollars to the Humanitarian Fund of the Church and asked that the money go specifically to Japan and its relief effort.

The top pictures are some of the things donated by the Church using the money that was given by the members:  2 forklifts:  boxes with plexiglass that are used by fishermen who hold on to the box and put them into the water and look through the glass to look for fish or abalone before they hook or spear them; oars;  tubs;  spears to spear the fish; fish finder;  2 hoists to help bring in the fish from the boats; three trucks; and the building behind the ribbon cutting.

This week we were privileged to go to three "ceremonies" thanking the Church for their donations.  Although the ceremonies are quite unnecessary, it is the Japanese custom to say thank you in this way.  Each ceremony had about 50 people in attendance including the heads of the fishing associations, city diplomats, and the fishermen themselves.  The ceremonies lasted about 30-45 minutes and included thank you talks and plaque presentations to Church authorities.

Basically, I didn't understand much but a few things stood out in my mind:  the man from the fisherman's association that gave an impassioned talk thanking the Church and saying that they were so indebted to the Church for helping them make a living and basically saving their livelihood; a man who came up afterwards and expressed very sincere appreciation to the Church; the fishermen who, after the ceremony, quickly went up to the fishing equipment, happily loaded them into their trucks with smiles on their faces; the man who took time out of his schedule to take us to his salmon hatchery and proudly showed us his thousands of fingerling salmon which he will grow until they are about four pounds and then release them back into the river; and the man who describes his everyday fishing adventure of spearing swordfish when he sees the nostrils come to the water surface around his boat!

One of the highlights was that at one of the ceremonies they wanted to have a toast.  Knowing that we did not drink alcohol, they passed around bottles of orange juice and everyone opened their bottle and made a toast to the occasion!  It was really so thoughtful of them.

The last picture is the lunch one of associations took us to!  It was really an amazing lunch probably featuring some of the fish they had caught.  At home the sashimi (raw fish) is okay but in Japan it is wonderful.  (I know some of you don't believe me!)  But there was also other cooked fish, tempura shrimp, beef, and several other things.  When we first found out there was a luncheon Calvin and I weren't too excited to go because the other Church authorities could not attend the luncheon because they had to get back to Tokyo to catch a plane that afternoon.  Anyway, our Japanese is so bad that it is sometimes very hard to communicate and going to lunch looked to be somewhat awkward.  However, we learned a great lesson.  When we sat down, these men were the same as anyone else.  They talked about their families, where they lived, how they made their living, and how the tsunami had come over the top of the newly rebuilt restaurant.  The amazing thing was that the shoreline was probably 50 feet BELOW us and the tsunami had come over the top of the restaurant!

We are told that there will be three other ceremonies in May closer to the Ishinomaki area.  We now look forward to them.  The Church receives so many of the plaques that the Church leaders asked that we take the plaques and give them to our branch to display in our Church.  We wondered if they would even want them but again we learned a great lesson.  When we took them to Church this morning and told them about the ceremonies and showed them pictures of what had been donated, the members were so excited and proud to be members of the Church.  I take for granted so much.


I have always heard about sakura (cherry blossoms) in Japan (and in Washington DC) but I really didn't know what it was.  In Japan the flowering cherry trees (not fruit bearing) grow wild on the hillsides and are planted in parks and other places.  So for a few days each year, the hills and parks are pink and beautiful.  Sakura this year I guess is unusually late but here are some pictures:

And this one, not sakura, but equally beautiful:


One of the sisters in the branch gave us a dozen (oops, ten eggs in Japan) onsen boiled eggs.  An onsen is a mineral hot springs (like Lava Hot Springs in Idaho).  These eggs were apparently boiled in a mineral springs--they are NOT hard boiled--they are SOFT BOILED!  Luckily we do eat soft boiled eggs (we warmed them up a bit in hot water and put them on toast--they taste just like soft-boiled eggs!).


We received two "fruit baskets" this week, both of which were donated anonymously.  One bag of food had veggies and fruits in it.  Another, however, is a total mystery.  There were:  dark chocolate bars (Calvin loves dark chocolate), 10 vitamin balance bars (I really like these and have been sad that I ate the last of the ones I brought), and about 500 tablets of glucosamine chondrointin (which Calvin loves!).  No one would know that we like these things.  Or at least, we don't know of anyone who would know we would like these things!  So strange.

A FEW MORE RANDOM PHOTOS (and then I'll quit!)

Calvin next to a tsunami barricade.  It is huge but I guess it didn't work too well--this is where the tsunami went 50 feet higher!

Calvin next to an island covered with seagulls:

Okay, till next week!

Sunday, April 22, 2012


Last week our niece Melissa wrote and said she was jealous because "every week is still an adventure for you."  That got me thinking (sometimes a rare occurrance?).  She is right, of course.  We are having an amazing adventure here in Japan.  But lately I find myself thinking of things I want to do when I get back to the States.  I have no real desire to go back right away (15 months would be fine) but I find myself planning on doing things that were probably everyday type things only a few months ago:  like go eat at Joe Banditos, or take the kids to the zoo, or fix up the yard, or read a certain book.  And then I wonder if we don't take life for granted.  Do we enjoy the journey?  I recently urged Bethany to enjoy the divine miracle of pregnancy (something I wish I would have done more).  I then remembered attending the welcome home talk of a recently returned missionary who said when he was at the MTC (mission training center) he disliked the cafeteria food, only to find out later that that would be the best food he would eat for two years!  And what about those years in school, the jobs along the way, raising children, the callings I have had in the Church:  have I treated all of these things as the amazing adventures that they were?  Sometimes yes.  Sometimes no.

Okay, maybe enough thinking and back to remembering what we are doing here!  This, too, has been a week full of adventure.  Some things we probably made into adventures.  Other things were TRULY adventures without any help from our imaginations!

Last week you may remember we went to beautiful Matsushima.  Well, on Monday our entire zone (around 25-30 of us) met at Matsushima to enjoy the day.  Here are some pictures:

Two sister missionaries ringing the gong at a shrine:

Sister Morris and me at the Entsuin gardens (they were great but will be even better when the weather warms up and the gardens bloom:

The elders eating with us at a great restaurant.  I had fried oysters.  Yummy!

On Monday night we went to our branch president's house and had dinner and played games with their family.  Sorry we didn't get pictures but I had to tell you what we ate:  okonomiyaki (not sure of the spelling.  You make kind of a pancake batter and add vegetable like cabbage and onions and then some meat (strips of pork?) and pickled ginger and fry it like a pancake and eat it with a sauce and Kewpie sauce (Japanese mayonnaise).  It is actually really good and the people LOVE it!  And to let you know I took pound cake with whipped cream and strawberries, canned peaches and bananas (because I could not affort just strawberries) for dessert.  And we played this frog game which I will show you later in the blog.  So fun.

On Tuesday we went back to Matsushima just briefly to pick up two elders at the train station who wanted to visit our English class.  On our way there we were a little early so we stopped at a fish market that I had read about.  And lo and behold there was the place that we had been searching for:  the place that serves all you can eat oysters in 45 minutes for 2000 yen (only October - March so we will have to make a trip back next winter!).  This is the sign on the restaurant.  Notice it has the 2000 yen price, the 45 minutes and some pictures of oysters!

When we got back to our apartment with the elders, we ate dinner which was noteworthy because they eat so much!  We had leftover sloppy joes.  I had 18 dinner rolls to put the meat sauce in and I ate one and Calvin probably ate two and the two elders ate about 7 apiece!  AND they put Kewpie mayonnaise on them!  We also had fried potatoes and corn, and leftover shortcake:

And I must tell you they were the life of the party at our English class.  Nothing like a little youth to liven things up!  We had them be the leaders of playdoh pictionary and they were a riot

Wednesday we were able to teach two more missionary discussions.  This is always a highlight of our week.  Both of them are actually responding very positively to the gospel lessons; however, our first concern is for their well-being.  They have been through so much with the tsunami and all.

Wednesday and Thursday we able to get out and do some pretty good walking.  Especially on Thursday we walked about 2-3 miles in the morning and then in the afternoon we decided to do some visiting and ended up walking a couple of miles more!  But that was nothing compared to what was coming up the next two days:

On Friday a sister in our branch invited us to do some volunteer service that she had signed up for.  We went to Minami san Riku where the devastation is just as bad or worse than we have seen.  It is about an hour north of us.  We didn't get any pictures of the actual service projects because they asked us not to take photos but we do have some photos of the area.  The project for the Friday was helping to harvest wakame!  You may remember that wakame is the seaweed and stem and leaves.  There were bins and bins of wakame that had been gathered from the sea and we cut off the wakame from the stem with a knife.  The knife was actually not a knife like you are thinking.  It has a handle about the size of a butter knife handle and then it is like a two pronged fork that makes kind of like a Y with the prongs.  Between the prongs is the knife blade.  This is a picture of Calvin with some wakame stems in our apartment.  This would be kind of like what the wakame would be like after we got finished with it:

The part that we cut off (the good part) is kind of like a ruffle of different sizes:  some had small ruffles, others had rather large intense ruffles!  The stems and leaves we put into bins that they called "trash" although they probably use them too.  It was pretty slippery, intense work and back breaking since we just sat on some benches and leaned over with about 40 other volunteers doing the same thing.  There were tons of bins though.  So sorry we couldn't take pictures!

That project lasted around 3 hours and then we put together cardboard boxes in the afternoon until it was time to go home.

On Friday we returned, excited to do more wakame, only to find that they had given that project to another group and we were going to do something else.  That something else was going to a large field (several acres) that was downstream from a hospital that was totally destroyed in the tsunami.  We were given shovels and picks (literally) and buckets and about 80 of us got in a line and shoveled the dirt.  Apparently they were thinking they were going to plant something in the field and wanted to get any larger things--rocks, debris from the tsunami, hospital things, etc. out before a tractor tackled the field.  We dug for about 3 hours, not finding much except large rocks, a few tiles off of roofs, some very large metal nails, and some miscellaneous pieces of junk.  I found a film cartridge and a cigarette lighter.  They wanted us to watch even for jewelry or money or medical ID since the hospital was nearby.  The dirt where we dug was only 2-4 inches deep before you hit bedrock bottom.  Whenever we uncovered anything larger than our fists we put them in the buckets and some people came around and put them into larger piles according to what they were. Needless to say we are pretty sore today.  My legs have not known that kind of exercise for a long time!

The sister that went with us talked about it in Relief Society today.  She said she was so impressed by the others.  Some of the people were at least 70 years old that were doing the volunteer work.  She said as she looked at them she realized what a sacrifice it was for them and then she was humbled to continue working even though the work was hard.  We only worked for about 3 hours but most of the others continued into the afternoon.  We had told the people the day before that we could only work in the morning.  It was kind of bitter sweet.  We were glad to quit but we felt bad leaving everyone else to do the work.

Some pictures of the area:

This is the volunteer center.  Notice the 1000's of origami cranes that have been sent here.  One thousand cranes in Japan is a symbol of good luck and well wishing.

This is a wall hanging made to look like a map of Japan with well wishes on the hearts.  The large red heart is the Tohoku area where we live that was hit so hard by the tsunami.

Here we are with Sister Usui in our volunteer vests:

Building (at least 2 stories high) with a car on top thanks to the tsunami:

The hospital that was devastated.  That thing on the left side of the picture on top of the entrance is actually a boat!  And the amazing thing is that it is on the BACKSIDE of the building of the way the tsunami hit.  So I guess that means that it landed there when the tide went out.  The hospital is at least four stories high and at least three of the stories were hit directly by the tsunami.

On Friday night we had some friends from the branch over for spaghetti dinner.  They loved American spaghetti.  Japanese spaghetti is pretty much a little sauce mixed with some noodles and served not so hot--often room temperature.  The one lady in the blue (Takie) was kind of nervous when we invited her over #1 to eat at our apartment and #2 to eat spaghetti. She is the one that takes us out to eat at the expensive places so she kept saying, "I can take us all out."   She ended up pleasantly surprised on both counts.  We have been told several times lately that our apartment is really pretty nice and she loved the spaghetti!  The one girl (Brittney) is from Utah and was SO excited to eat something American!

Afterwards we played this frog game (in the center of the table).  There are these little wooden frogs which are round with two ears sticking out (!) and the wooden launchers that you launch the frogs into the box in the middle with round holes.  The first one with all their frogs in tWehe holes is the winner. 

Well--our life's journey for the week.  We hope you love and appreciate your journey as well.

Sunday, April 15, 2012


Okay I think I need to talk about Matsushima.  Matsushima is a town about 30-40 minutes from here.  We have gone through there several times on our way to and from Sendai or other places we have been.  When we first saw Matsushima we couldn't believe how beautiful it was.  Then we learned that it is listed as one of the three most beautiful places in Japan.  Matsushima is a town on a bay and there are over 250 islands dotting that bay.  Because of the islands, Matsushima was sheltered from very much damage by the tsunami.  When you drive through the coastal road, you might see some views like these:

It is really gorgeous.  Anyway, our zone is having their p-day in Matsushima tomorrow and so we volunteered (!) to check the town out and see what there is to do.   Some of the main attractions are the Zuigani temple, the temple grounds and caves and a couple of other shrines.  We did not go into the temple but we walked the grounds which are wonderful and they are lined with "caves":

These caves were used in the 1100's to 1800's for the burial grounds for ashes of the deceased.  You cannot actually go into them but you are close enough to see into them and they are fascinating.  Also the rest of the grounds are beautiful and peaceful as well.  We have not gone into the other shrines yet (sorry about that) but tomorrow will probably be the day and we have heard those grounds are wonderful as well.  Also in this area are other points of interest and museums that grab your interest.

As far as the islands, they are beautiful also.  There are three islands that have bridges to them but the two longer ones are currently closed due to the earthquake but are due to open this summer.  Once you cross the bridges on foot, you are free to explore the islands which are covered in pine trees. 

The town also has plenty of shopping (nice souvenirs which are actually not that easy to find in Japan) and restaurants.  Matsushima is known for its oysters and during oyster season (October through March) they are know for their "all you can eat oysters" in 45 minutes for about $25.  They say many people can down 75 oysters in that time and that they have pretty big oysters there!  I do love shellfish so that may be on my list.  We'll keep you posted for this next winter!  Other than that, Matsushima is known for its seafood so we went to a small restaurant that had great food:

The top picture was the boiled and raw fish (notice the shrimp) and the bottom picture had the fried fish and shrimp.  Very delish.

Well, we went home well fed AND THEN on Friday a member of the branch invited us to go out to eat with her and another younger member.  When we got to her house she said she wanted to go to Matsushima to a place with a view to die for (not her words--she said it in Japanese but that is just my loose translation).  Well we ended up on the 7th floor of a hotel with a view:

It was gorgeous and the meal was one of those "once in a lifetime" events.  There were 5-6 courses (appetizer, soup(cream of pumpkin), rolls, fish plate, main dish plate (steak and lobster), and dessert plate(ice cream, custard (what is that French custard called?), and a torte).  It was scrumptious:

The above was the fish plate.  None of the courses were huge--just big enough to give you a great taste of some great food.  Matsushima--Thank you for a great time!


After being here three months, I thought I'd tell you about some cultural differences between Japan and America.  These are in random order and are not meant to put either culture down--just some differences:

*In Japan, the people love the dark meat chicken.  The breasts are cheaper than the thighs.

*In Japan, when people laugh they cover their mouths with their hands.

*In Japan, when you go to a restaurant (like the one I just mentioned above), you do NOT say "thank you" to the waitress when she brings you your food or when they refill your water glasses.  We were told that that is because the Japanese are shy and don't feel like they know the waitress well enough.

*When you leave someone's house in Japan, they walk you out to your car (even if it is snowing or raining) and wait for you to leave, even directing traffic so you can leave the area, and bow and wave to you as you leave.

*When you go to a cheaper restaurant (say Applebees in America) when you are ready to order you ring a bell similar to a doorbell and it chimes throughout the restaurant and then the waitress comes right over to help you.  Also if you ever need anything during your meal, you can ring the bell.

*The cars in Japan do NOT turn on their headlights until it is pretty much DARK.  And they don't turn on headlights in the rain or snow either!  And no cars have automatic headlights during the day like in the States.

*The high school students wear uniforms.  The girls' skirts I would describe as "cheerleader skirts"  They are super short and pleated.  Even in the dead of winter you see these high school girls with the short skirts and bare-skinned legs.  You do see a few with a little longer skirts, but not many.

*The police cars in Japan always have on their flashing lights.  If there is an emergency, they also have their sirens on.

*The Japanese bow for everything.  The clerks bow when you buy something, the people bow in their cars when you let them in front of you, the toll booth men bow when you go through the toll booths.  Last week we did some service at a temporary housing unit and gave hand and arm massages to the older people (I learned to give hand and arm massages!) and one lady came in to the rec room and got on her hands and knees and bowed so her head touched the ground as she came in.  Even the Japanese people thought this was kind of extreme!

*The schools (high schools?) play chimes at 7:00 a.m., 12:00 noon, and 5:00 p.m. every day.  It is actually a little tune.  We live close to a school so we always know when it is one of those times!

*The Japanese are very sheltered when it comes to food.  Almost anything I have made, they have never eaten.  Today at Church we had lunch afterwards and we each brought something.  I brought sloppy joes.  They really liked them but had never had anything like that before.  Except at McDonalds, their hamburgers have no buns.  Other firsts that they have eaten and liked that I made are:  rice krispie treats, chocolate cake with frosting, carrot cake and Costco cookies and, of course, chocolate pudding cake!  But I have to admit I have eaten things that they eat for the first time:  wakame (seaweed stem), okada (veggies with soybean fiber), natto (beans in this sticky stuff that even Calvin doesn't like), and okonomiyake (kind of like an egg foo yung only the egg part has flour in it like a pancake).  Hmmm  even though I don't HATE any of these things, I think I'll stick to sloppy joes and chocolate cake!

Sunday, April 8, 2012


So another week has gone by and our lives become more and more eventful.  I thought I'd give you the play-by-play of our last week.  It seems like only yesterday (it was actually a month ago) that I was complaining that our lives were sometimes boring but not anymore.

Monday:  Preparation day.  We spent the day doing wash, cleaning the apartment, doing some major grocery shopping and skyping the family.  If you have never done that, it's quite a good way to keep in touch with others that don't live nearby (your grandkids and kids especially!).  We hook up with them on the computer and they can see us and we can see them and we can talk to each other.  Just like being there and talking to them!  Anyway, the rest of the day was spent cooking in preparation for Tuesday's district meeting and English class.  (See Tuesday to see what I made.)

Tuesday:  Headed off to district meeting at 8:30 a.m. (hour and a half away).  When we were at Costco last month I picked up a couple of large bags of tortilla chips and promised our district (there are ten of us) that I would make "macho nachos."  So today was the day!  I made this HUGE amount of taco meat, lettuce, salsa (whole bowlful), refried beans (got some canned pinto beans and mashed them up), green onions, sliced olives and made some cheese sauce.  I thought there was no way they could eat it all but I was wrong, wrong, wrong.  Hopefully their stomachs have recovered by this week!  We got back around 3:00 p.m.
At 6:00 we headed to English class.  There were only three there which is kind of unusual but we had a great time talking about Easter and spring (Easter,  Easter eggs, the Easter bunny, hunting for eggs and eating ham (their hams are seriously the size of your fist and when you cut it, it looks like bacon it has that much fat--no kidding), they couldn't believe such craziness could happen.  I made them easter "nests" (cocoa krispie treats) with jelly beans and they loved that:

The egg above was one of twelve sent to a member here.  They were real eggs (blown out) and beautifully colored (I don't know how) and were a great visual for our class.  I'm not sure how they made it to Japan from America without getting broken.  We played playdoh pictionary which for some reason is always a hit!
Wednesday:  We were able to talk and give a lesson to an investigator.  It was an amazing experience for several reasons.  We found out he already has had all of the lessons and that his wife died in the tsunami.  I plan on talking about him more in a future blog but I guess I could whet your appetite by saying he has read the Book of Mormon three times since Janauary and has given up coffee, tea and alcohol.  Suffice it to say it was a great discussion! 
That evening we went to Institute (gospel study class) and I took some more "nests" and they were a hit.  Next week we begin our study of the Old Testament.  I am looking forward to that because I loved my high school seminary Old Testament class.  Plus I have begun reading the Old Testament (we have reading assignments) and I have to admit I am already hooked!

This picture was taken before everyone came.  Usually we have around ten or twelve in the class.

Thursday:  Our mission president asked us if we would spend the day with him and his wife and another couple who are missionaries here.  We began in Shichigahama which is about an hour away in a fishing village that was badly hit by the tsunami.  First we saw a bunch of boats dashed up against a rock wall:

And then we attended a dedication ceremony for a refrigeration unit/ice maker for the fisherman's cooperative nearby:

The refrigerators and ice maker (in the background) were donated by the Church to help the tsunami relief effort.  Our mission president is the tall man in the middle.  There were several talks and dignitaries and lasted about an hour.  Afterwards Calvin and I were among some that were given gift bags which contained nori (seaweed sheets used to make sushi).  Each bag had ten packages of ten sheets each--yes we now have 200 sheets of nori!  Our kids will love that!

After the ceremony we continued up the coast towards our place but stopped at a lady's house that the Church met through some service projects.  The missionaries ended up shoveling the muck from her yard (4 inches deep) and she has become friends with the Grames (the missionary couple we were with).  Anyway, we had lunch with her at JoyFull which is kind of like Denny's.  The food was decent and reasonably priced.

After that we continued to a school in Kitakami which is another fishing village that was hit hard by the tsunami.  The elementary school that we went to was the only elementary school left of three.  But the sad thing was that one of the other elementary schools lost 70 percent of their children to the
tsunami because after the earthquake the power went out and so they didn't know about the tsunami and sent most of the kids home.  The ones left at school made it.  Plus there was another school that I'm not sure how many were lost but now there is only one elementary school and a lot less kids.  The Church had donated some sports bags and some storage sheds to this school.

On our way to our next and final stop we saw:

The top building was totally ruined but the clock (top center) was still there with it's haunting face at 2:46 p.m.--the time the tsunami hit.  The bottom building is atually larger (taller) than it appears.  The story behind that was that it was the city building and many people went to that building because they felt they would be safe there, especially on the top floor--they weren't.

Finally we visited a Mr. Sato who is the head of the fisherman's co-op.  The Church has furnished several things to his co-op.  He told us that most of the people in the town will probably never come back.  Only the fishermen who depend on the fishing industry will remain.  He told us that they are in the middle of  "wakame" harvest.  Wakame is the stalk of the Japanese seaweed.  Mr. Sato lost his wife and grandson who happened to be visiting to the tsunami.  He was a wonderful man but said he still can't sleep at night:

We arrived home around 6:30, tired from a full day!

Friday:  Finally a day to get caught up on some things!  We went for a LONG walk from 6:00 to 8:00 a.m. (not a stroll mind you!).  Anyway, the weather was nice and it was great to get out.  Later in the day we had time to get caught up on some studying and I have been wanting to have some time to perfect some cakes made in a rice cooker.  And guess what?!  It works!  So far I have made a banana cake, chocolate cake, carrot cake and brownies in my rice cooker which have turned out really good.  They are moist and I just turn on my rice cooker and it does the rest!
Saturday:  Went for another long walk early in the morning.  At noon we went to the Church to hear the first session of general conference (our church conference held in Salt Lake City, twice a year).  We had a one hour break and then at 3:00 p.m. we watched the second session.  Calvin stayed for the priesthood session in the evening.  I took some of my cakes to sample and they were a hit.  I am having to find guinea pigs because we could NEVER eat all of the experiments!  Everyone loves the fact that I made them in rice cookers.

Sunday:  Listened to the last two sessions of General Conference (10:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m. with a one hour break).  Conference was great!!!!  We listened to the sessions last weekend at 5:00 a.m. and on the internet but it was great to hear them again and this time we had headphones which were in English and the others listened in Japanese. 

After conference a member brought around baggies of something for everyone:  it was wakame!  So tonight we had wakame (remember, the Japanese seaweed stem?):

It was really salty and didn't have much else of a taste but was kind of hard and chewy.  I guess you eat it with rice.  I have seen it in stores but never felt the urge to buy it!

So that is the week in review.  It made me tired just writing about it . . .


Last week I wrote about the 40 day commitment.  Some people wrote and said they were going to try it.  I just wanted you to be aware of two things that the article mentioned:

     *You may not see real results until the 30th day or later

     *You may actually feel a strong temptation not to begin or continue your commitment


Just wanted to wish everyone a Happy Easter.  It is so foreign around here that no one even mentioned at Church that today is Easter which is kind of sad.  I always love the fact that people really want to go to Church on Easter (all Christian churches) and that we are celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  And of course the fun festivities with the children and just celebrating the beginning of spring make the Easter season special.  I read on KSL about making Peeps sushi--fruit by the foot for the seaweed, rice krispie treats for the rice and a peeps sticking out the middle--and I really want to do that next year!

Sunday, April 1, 2012


Can I say before I get started, I am always amazed each week as I write how many people have read this blog!!!  I was pretty confident that this would be a passing fancy but I am gratified by your interest in us and what we are Zdoing.  I also worry that if I write a boring blog, the numbers will dwindle to nothing!  Just kidding--we are planning on having this blog made into a journal as a reminder of these months in Japan so even if no one else is interested, we will be glad we did it.


This week we received a challenge from our mission president.  He gave a talk on obedience at a meeting we attended.  Then he gave us a talk from Elder Gene R. Cook (I think it was in one of his books--sorry I don't have the exact reference).  It was called "Consecrated Missionary (40 Day Fast)."  In his talk he talked about when he was on his mission and things were going okay but not perfectly.  Then he was challenged to go for 40 days and give up things that might get in the way of his spirituality.  Anyway, Elder Cook took on the challenge and found that as he let go of things that distracted him from his work as a missionary, he became more in tune with the Spirit and amazing things happened. 

Our mission president also challenged us to do the same.  We were to begin by fasting (today is our fast Sunday) and then set goals that would eliminate behaviors that might interfere with our spirituality.  Some ideas might be:  wake up at 6:30 you have been instructed to do, be more dilligent in setting goals,  don't speak sarcastically of others, be genuinely interested in those you meet, read the scriptures with a purpose in mind and not just to fulfill an assignment.  So for the next 40 days we have each set specific goals to increase our spirituality.  Maybe after the 40 days I will let you know how things went. 

But I also thought how great this would be for anyone.  What if everyone tried to become more spiritual and got rid of bad habits?   I remembered (since this is Easter week) how the Catholics celebrate Lent.  They give up something that they feel is an indulgence or a weakness for 40 days prior to Easter.  Then I thought of Christ who went into the wilderness for 40 days prior to his ministry.  Each day you are to begin and end with prayer asking for our Heavenly Father's guidance in keeping to your commitments and reporting your progress in the evening.  I am very excited to try this.


In light of the earthquake and tsunami, I have been impressed in seeing an interest in emergency preparedness around here.  I noticed at the grocery store a display at the front of the store with large containers for water, food items which could be used in an emergency, flashlights, radios, cook stoves, etc.  This is definitely something on people's minds.

We also talked to the people in the church where we are about their preparedness before the disaster last year.  One sister said she had filled empty bottles with water and stored them (quite an accomplishment because most people have no extra areas for storage) and they had also tried to keep some extra food on hand.  Then she said what a blessing it had been.  Many places had no power or water for weeks. 

So this week we started our 72-hour emergency kit.  I got a duffle bag which had been abandoned from the mission home and began filling it like I did at home:  an extra change of clothes,  a couple of large bottles of water, a jar of peanut butter, crackers, some smoked fish, and a few other items which I have yet to add.  We do have an extra flashlight, some first aid items and some warmer clothes items that I need to add also.  As a side note:  We have had SEVERAL larger earthquakes lately.  None have been really close to us but we have felt ones that were 5.5-6.8 someplace else and they were pretty strong here.  And, of course, we have heard the horror stories of conditions post
tsunami.  I actually keep my cupboard fairly well stocked also.


We have begun walking in earnest!  The weather has been much better so we are able to walk most everywhere (although we have been caught in some rainstorms--remind me always to take an umbrella!).  It helps that my favorite place to get lettuce is a half hour walk away and there are a lot of fun stores along the way.  I have become obssessed with chicken and salad.  We had for the first time tonight--chicken with BBQ sauce!  Heaven!  Also I discovered V-8 juice!  Affordable and good hot or cold.  Also I have been still experimenting with some "baking."  I made carrot cake and banana cake with good results.  And I have made my chocolate pudding cake on numerous occasions with great response.  Actually I plan on trying to make some other cakes in my rice cooker and hope that will be a wave of the future!  It has been really fun to experiment with cooking because the Japanese hardly cook sweets at all and they love them.

 This week I am making rice crispy treat Easter egg nests with cocoa krispies and filling (?) them with the few Easter candies we could find:  tin foil chocolate eggs (not very many of them because of the expense), jelly beans, and peanut M&M's.  Not only did we have to search diligently to find these things, the packages are quite miniscual (sp?) compared to anything we have in the States.  I guess you can't expect to find Easter things in a non-Christian country!

Sorry, no pictures this week but next week I think there will be!