Sunday, June 24, 2012



On Monday at 5:30 a.m. we were rudely awakened to a 6.4 earthquake centered closeby!  This was the biggest quake we have felt.  The quake itself was not as bad as I thought it could be and didn't really do any damage or knock anything down.  It lasted about 20 seconds (or at least that was all we felt--it could have been longer but we were asleep!) and the biggest concern I had was, "How long will this last and is it going to get worse?"  Our cell phone immediately went off and told us we were experiencing an earthquake (in case we missed it I guess) and our AP's (missionary assistants to the mission president) texted us and asked if we were okay. 


So then on Tuesday evening we were headed to our English class and there were speakers blarring outside and someone saying something we couldn't understand.  When we got to the Church, the students told us that there was a typhoon headed our direction and it was scheduled to hit Ishinomaki later that night!  No one seemed all that concerned (some had ridden bikes to the class) but our phone rang a couple of times during the class but we didn't answer it because we were teaching English class (no one ever seems to call us with something that important).  Come to find out it was our district leader calling to tell us we HAD TO head home because the typhoon was coming!  We got home around 8:30 p.m. and within a half hour the winds began to howl.  It was extremely loud throughout the night and we didn't get much sleep.  The rain didn't seem so bad but I wondered if the windows would hold up against the wind.  The next morning all was well and we woke up to the sun coming through the clouds and not a sign of any wind damage!  Apparently Ishinomaki where we live had 10,000 residents evaculated from their homes because there was flood danger but I don't think anything really came of it.  But we were right in the path of this typhoon.

Zone Conference and Family English Class

Thursday we had zone conference in Sendai.  It was fun to see all of the young missionaries (and some not so young) and get a shot of enthusiasm in us.  When we have zone conference a nearby Relief Society usually provides lunch and this time they had taco salads!  Well, sort of taco salads.  We worked our way down a long table which began with a large scoop of rice, then taco meat and cheese, then lettuce, tomatoes, salsa, and then a few tortilla chips.  But I'm not complaining,  it was really good (especially since I passed on the rice).

We left just in time to go to our family English class.  We were having an indoor picnic.  We had sloppy joes, p-nut butter and jelly sandwiches, chips, fruit, and some desserts:

Some of the older students (notice pinata hanging above them):

And then we played some games and broke the pinata.  This is the egg on a spoon relay (the kids were really glad that we boiled the eggs because they ended up on the floor more than once!):

All in all it turned out good.  We learned that almost all of the kids are living in temporary housing because their homes were destroyed and this was a real treat for them.  So now we are that much more excited to teach the class.  Plus the sloppy joes were such a hit!  The mothers were asking us where to buy the "meat sauce" and we explained to them that we made it from scratch and they were kind of disappointed but when we explained it was just ketchup, water, curry powder, chili powder, and mustard basically, they said, "oh, we have those things, we can do that!" so that was good.

Eye Problems

This past week I have been seeing flashes of light to the side of one eye.  I googled it and it said that it could be a detached retina!  Anyway, to make a long story short there was a doctor at our zone conference who said to go see an eye surgeon so we did.  He did a thorough check and said there was no detachment and not to worry about it unless it got worse or I became concerned again.  Also he checked for macular degeneration which is common in diabetics but he assured me there was no sign of that either.  WHAT A BLESSING!  And also, since we have Japan insurance (which costs us about $100 for the whole time we are here) we only had to pay $30 for the doctor visit!

Street Signs

I realized for the first time (I know, we have been here for this long and I am just figuring this out!) that Japan has NO street-name signs.  I mean, not just neighborhood signs, but ANY signs that tell the name of the street you are on.  No wonder it is so hard to figure out where we are going.  We just use our GPS.  People do have addresses but I haven't figured out what that means.  These are the signs on the highways that point the way to towns or cities or major highways or where the freeway is:


Today was stake conference so we headed to Sendai again (we are in the Sendai Stake).  We took with us two members of the branch.  Calvin actually spoke in last night's adult meeting and did a great job.  Anyway, today's stake conference was a satellite broadcast made especially for the people of Japan so we were able to listen in an overflow room in English!  It was really great.  The speakers included President Uchtdorf and Elder Oaks plus an area authority and the General Primary President.  There are only about 125,000 members in all of Japan so it was amazing to hear the General Authorities talking right to these people and telling them what to do.  Their basic message was to get more converts and especially to reactivate members, especially the priesthood holders.  Also they want more young men to serve missions so they can be a strength to their country.

So what do we do on Sunday after stake conference instead of chatting for hours at the Church?  Well, we went to one of the member's houses and had lunch and then we played Japanese dress-up:

And Calvin got into the act too (this is his looking-manly picture):

They are trying to make us both more Japanese:

And the four of us girls:

And For You Skeptics

A while back I said I had made some "norens" which are room-divider curtains.  Carolyn wrote and said they looked like oversized pajama pants with no elastic.  So I decided to show you a photo of one hanging in a member's home which is actually really nice.  It is an embroidered sheer with some flowers on it and the back curtains are tied to make it look really nice:

What an eventful week!  Stay tuned for more this coming week.

Sunday, June 17, 2012


Oyster Service

Yesterday we spent the day doing oyster service.  Interestingly enough, this was in Omotehama where we went to a thank you ceremony a while back.  The Church donated (among other things) some rope.  Then a week or two later we were back and Calvin was cutting the rope into lengths.  This week we were back again and this time we were using the rope to help with growing oysters.

It was a cool, drizzly day but we were prepared with light jackets, boots and gloves. 

We began with rope and some shells that had oyster eggs on them:

And yes, they are as gross and they look!  The egg part looks like a big glob of snot with little specks in them.  Not being an expert on oyster reproduction, I can't really tell you how those eggs got on those shells except that they were in the ocean and somehow the eggs attached themselves to the shells. 

Next, there were long lengths of rope that were first UNWOUND a bit:

And then we placed the shells with the eggs on them every few inches apart in the rope:

When we had placed the shells into the rope, the rope was REWOUND by the same machine that went into reverse.  After that the ropes and shells  were stacked on a pallet:

From there they were taken on a boat out into the bay (not too far away but far enough we couldn't really tell what was going on) and somehow tied to something where the oysters will grow for two years!  The shells act like rocks and the oysters cling to them and grow.  Maybe in the fall we will be a part of the oyster harvesting.  Who knows?!

At any rate, I am now even more interested in the "all you can eat" oysters in the fall and winter.  The oysters here are supposed to be some of the biggest and best.  Also, I am a fan of shellfish so this should be right up my alley.  When we were on our cruise last fall, I probably ate escargot 8-10 of 14 days we were on the cruiseship!  Okay, so snails wouldn't really be considered shellfish, but you get the picture.  I do like mussels, clams, and scallops . . . and oysters, although my history of oyster eating has been limited.

We finished the day wet (it started to rain pretty good by the end of the day),  dirty with debris from the shells that was flung in our direction when the machine wound the rope, smelly and tired.  But it was an experience not to be forgotten!

More Foliage

So this time up the mountain, we realized how green and lush everything has gotten:

And not only that but the purple lilac-looking trees were gone (my brother Brian said he thinks they were chestnut trees) and now there were white flowers on large bushes next to the road:

Mission Call!

Marie (pronounced Mar-EE-AY) in our branch has had her mission papers in for six weeks or more and finally got her call!  We were in institute class on Wednesday night when her mother called her and said it had come but it was at the post office (8:00 p.m.).  So she couldn't get to it until the next morning.  But she promised to let us know the next morning.

The next morning at 9:00 a.m. she called and asked if she could come over with her call.  We said SURE!  She was here within a minute and a half.  And she had NOT opened her call yet and was going to open it with us in our apartment!  We asked about her family being there and she said no, they couldn't get together until the weekend so she was opening it at our place!  Here we are with her call (both crying):

She is going to the Japan Kobe mission!!  She is so excited.  And actually that is a great mission.  It has Kobe, Osaka, Nara, Kyoto, Okayama (where my ancestors are from) and other great places to go to!  Our district leader was saying tonight that Kobe and Tokyo were the missions everyone wants to go to in Japan.

Church Today

Church today was also an adventure.  We usually have around 30 at our sacrament meeting and today we had 74!!  The reason:  a young adult group from Tokyo was in the area doing service this past weekend and came to our branch for Sunday meetings.  We actually thought they were only coming for the sacrament meeting (last hour) but they showed up for the entire three-hour block.  We barely had enough chairs for everyone.  They were all wearing their Helping Hands service t-shirts and after the services we had a dessert bar set up and they lined up chairs and gave everyone shoulder massages:

Notice how much Calvin was enjoying his!  Apparently for their service, these young adults, among other things, gave massages to some people in the temporary housing units.

Also Marie was able to announce her mission call to everyone at Church (she kept it a secret to everyone except us and her family).  And she even knew some of the young adults from Tokyo!:

And may I mention that our branch knows how to do a bang-up job of a dessert bar!  Tons of food and so good!

Not much else in the way of news but we have a full week of activities scheduled (zone conference, stake conference, English classes, and a discussion, among other things) for this week.

Hope this finds you all well!

Sunday, June 10, 2012

10 JUNE 2012

This week has been a little slow, but I will have to qualify that.   Calvin was recovering from his backache so he was glad for some "home" time.  But we did have two English classes, an institute class, a sewing project at the Church, and linger longer after Church (always an event not to be missed).  Also, I was glad not to have too much to do because I was asked to give a 15-20 minute talk next week (on the blessings of Paul's missionary journeys!) in sacrament meeting  and then we were asked to take up 15 minutes in district meeting this week on setting goals.  Both are to be given in Japanese!  So yeah, we had PLENTY to do! 


Just as a random thought, I thought I'd show you what is just outside of our apartment (and all around Ishinomaki):

There are at least 25 wires coming from this one pole alone.  Also they go every which way and and a bunch go directly into the apartments and there are other poles closeby.  I wonder what happened when there was 3 feet of water here during the tsunami.  Why didn't people get electrocuted?  So far (knock on wood) we haven't even had a power outage!

Making Curtain at Church

Friday we went to the Church and helped make norens which are curtains that hang as room dividers in Japan.  We made these as a stake project for the temporary housing units.  They hang on a rod as you enter the homes or as room dividers.  Being the seamstress that I am I have to say, that Sister Usui (standing in blue) just bought this Juki machine and it must be pretty nice.  It has a zillion different stitches and is electronic.  Mine (which I don't have any objection to) only does a straight stitch!

This is the finished project but unfortunately it is not being held straight so it looks like it is pulled funny.  It is not.  It just hangs from the top.  And it hangs down straight.   I hadn't really noticed them before in the homes but since we started making them I have seen them and some of them are pretty nice--like curtains and some even have sheers behind them and ties to make them look cute.  I have plans to make more in the future since the branch has a ton of fabric and they said I could have it!

Mr. Donut Strikes Again

I know I talked about Mr. Donut last week but we were at the grocery store this week and there was seriously this huge commotion and sometimes 10 people in line at the Mr. Donut stand (it must be a traveling phenomena).  I was AMAZED at how people were drawn to the line!:

The only other line that rivels this is the line at McDonald's at the food court!

These are the stacks of "dozen boxes."  The special price is that they are on sale for 100 yen (around $1.25) but they are normally around 136 yen I think (around $1.60) and if you buy a dozen they are 1000 yen ($12.50).  The workers were very busy!

Church in Ishinomaki

I took a few pictures at Church today.  Our Relief Society lesson (Notice the writing on the board--can you tell what the lesson was about?)   Today was actually a real treat because there were four of us sisters who spoke fluent English (one from Washington, one a sister who was born in Japan but has lived the past 40 years in Boise, one from Tonga, and me).  So when we broke up in groups to discuss parts of the lesson (we did have some English manuals!) we had an English group and that was so much easier than usual.  And we had an English group in Sunday School as well.

And the shokuji (meal) afterwards:

It was actually REALLY good today.  We have this once a month and the men and women take turns bringing the food.  Today it was the women's turn and there was curry/rice, noodles, chicken, pickled veggies, lot of other goodies and tons of desserts.  It's basically a potluck lunch.   The men were first in line because they were celebrating Father's Day (yes I know if it not until NEXT week but who's keeping track?):

And the sisters next:

Notice that the sisters know how to REALLY dig in!

Obsessive Compulsive?

So I mentioned at the beginning of this blog that we were asked to give a 15 minute presentation on goals.  One of the hardest things since we have gotten here for me has been setting goals.  NOT because I am not good at setting goals but because I can get obsessive about setting goals and so at home I don't usually even make a daily list of things to do unless it's really urgent because I get so uptight about completing the list.  So I find it better that I just list a few major items or not make a list at all.  Here in the mission, they want you to plan everything.  You get a daily planner, weekly goals, monthly goals, district goals, zone goals and mission goals.   Not to mention listening to General Authorities, Church leaders and others tell you what to do.  I already try to get everything done without setting goals.  Take for instance last night when I was baking cookies for Church today, while listening to the scriptures we are supposed to read for this week's institute, and crocheting hotpads at the same time!

So I thought I'd leave you with this quote from Elder M. Russell Ballard on setting goals and let you be the judge, am I compulsive for not?:

"I am so thoroughly convinced that if we don't set goals in our life and learn how to master the techniques of living to reach our goals, we can reach a ripe old age and look back on our life only to see that we reached but a small part of our full potential.  When one learns to master the principles of setting a goal, he will then be able to make a great difference in the results he attains in this life."

Sunday, June 3, 2012


It's true.  The days, months, and years fly by.  Not just this year.  It seems like only yesterday . . . well that's another story.  Anyway, June is already here and I am already dreading the heat of summer (and here it includes humidity!).

Service One Again

On Thursday we again found ourselves at a service project.  One of the districts in our mission had a project to clean up an investigator's yard--well what used to be her yard.  She lived in a very heavily hit area of the tsunami.  We have been to this area before and it is pretty much totally destroyed.  When we got there we found a lot with not much rocks, pieces of tile and glass, and a few weeds and other small items of trash.  There was another group of people also helping and we ended up putting in about 4 hours of service clearing out the above-mentioned items.  Kind of as a sidenote, I have really come to love the ceramic tile roofs in Japan.  The one in this photo is on a house across from our church.  I always think it is so beautiful:

It's hard to tell from the picture, but there are also ornate tiles on top of the triangular arches on the roof and the tiles are really thick and heavy (ceramic).  So I have come to see the power of the tsunami when we pick up pieces of tile like these:

(You know, you love the hat!)  Anyway, many of the tile pieces are this size.  Many are much smaller, and some larger.  Hardly any survived whole.  Notice the ground.  By the end of our day, the lot looked really nice, or at least was free of debris. 

Here we are having lunch:

The lady that we were helping provided a great lunch (rice, marinated cucumbers, salad, drinks, jello cups, etc) and some of us brought a few enhancements that added to the food.  We are the yellow shirts.  The blue shirts were another group who came to help.  The house was completely leveled except the genkan (tiled entrance) was still there--the floor, not the rest of the genkan.  But it is only a tiled flooring about 3x4 feet.  But I did find a few things lying around still in tact:  a child's toy car, a bag of marbles, and a cereal-sized bowl made of glass!  Really I don't think anyone else found much of anything--I found them kind of hidden in some bushes.

And true to any Japanese service project or whenever you get together for that matter, you MUST take a picture before you leave of EVERYONE:

The only downside to this service project was that Calvin has a hard time letting the young missionaries do the heavy work so he has been recovering from a backache ever since then!


The rest of this blog is going to be bits and pieces that I can't figure out how to connect.   First, remember how I said the hillsides were full of sakura (cherry blossoms) a few weeks ago?  Well, this week something new came out.  I am not sure what they are but they look like lilacs but are trees.  They are all over the hillsides growing wild:

And next to the roads (especially farther away from the city), there are tons of rice paddies.  And they are under water!  The two fields farther away:

We will keep you updated as they grow!


We thought we might go out for breakfast this past week because we thought it sounded good (you know, pancakes, eggs, omelets, etc).  We could only find one family restaurant open at 7:00 a.m.  This one is open 24 hours I think because it is next to the gambling halls.  Anyway, our breakfasts from a breakfast menu (about 5 choices) served only 5:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m.  Calvin's:

And mine (I doubt it would help if I mentioned that it came with a RAW egg that I dumped into the rice with some soy sauce):

So much for breakfast . . . .

Mr. Donut

One of our members came into institute class last week very excited.  She had found Mr. Donut donuts at the grocery store and they were ONLY 100 yen apiece!  They were actually really good except that the chocolate frosted ones aren't really frosting.  More like a waxy cocoa that is not sweetened that the donuts are dipped into--but they look really nice.  And there were some that were called "churros" that were just that churros but bent into kind of a triangle shape the size of donuts.  Apparently Mr. Donut used to be a big thing here but the tsunami wiped it out so this was exciting news that Mr. Donut was back.  And they were the best donuts I have eaten in Japan:

So you may wonder how much these two dozen "inexpensive" donuts really cost?  Well, my calculator tells me that in American dollars they cost just over $30!

English Class

I may have mentioned that we have a new English class which includes children and adults.  I have to admit I was a little skeptical about this at first but things are looking up.  The kids are getting used to us and vice versa.  Plus last week we had about 10 kids and 5 adults so we now try to do a combined class for part of the time and then separate for the last half.  A couple of weeks ago we read Green Eggs and Ham which was a hit and then this past week we read Big Dog Little Dog.  We were able to get both the English and Japanese versions so that was helpful!

Last week we talked about families so the kids made "family trees" with pictures of their family on them:

So who couldn't love these little boys?!

In Conclusion

Not much else happening.  The work continues and we continue to be around some of the best people in the world.  One thing that happened this week was in our English class at the Church.  We were talking about the world and I asked what they thought that Americans thought about the Japanese.  One of the men (about 55 years old) who speaks really good English said, "Well before the tsunami other people thought we were just people who ate rice and they really didn't know about us.  Now they know that we are real people, that we are honest, don't loot, and are hardworking."  I saw tears in some eyes as he said that.  They are proud to be who they are and are determined to get back what they have lost.