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.


  1. I have loved reading your mission blog. I agree, it sounds like you are having an AMAZING experience! I enjoyed the post about cultural differences, i also love hearing about all of the different foods you are trying. My parents are leaving for Germany tomorrow morning. I hope they keep their blog updated as often as you have. It really is fun to read!

    Janet (Frank) Miles

  2. Calvin and Julie--Elder and Sister Sakamoto, I enjoy getting your e-mails, blogs and pictures. I look at them on the trax in the morning while heading to Church Headquarters. We just had all of the directors meet with the new Presiding Bishopric and it was very interesting to hear Bishop Stevenson recall his experience in Japan just following the tsunami. Your updates on the recovery efforts are great. Also, on the family front, Xiaoyu just had a 5.5 lb. girl (17 days early)and now that Xiaoyu is feeling better I may ask her if she has a recipe for Wakame.