Sunday, February 24, 2013


So this week's post will probably end up being the odds and ends of some random happenings around here.  (Notice:  "this 'n' that," "odds and ends," and "random happenings"!)  Sometimes I think that my English has really gone down the drain since we have been here.  I can only speak in extremely simple sentences and alot of the time I can't even remember the word I want to use.  But I digress, so . . .

Winning Artwork

On Monday we took the sisters to the mall to see some winning artwork.  They were the winners from some art contest (or something like that!) at the elementary school level, and two of our boys in the branch were winners!  Actually that is pretty amazing because there weren't that many paintings--maybe a couple from each grade.  These boys are brothers and their mother is a junior high art teacher so they come by this pretty naturally I guess. 

First a painting by Kouta, age 12 (The white is not a reflection; it actually had those white streaks in it.):

And next, Yuuta's painting, age 9 (In his the white streaks WERE a reflection!):


The long-awaited transfer of missionaries came and went.  (They have transfer days every six weeks.)  Two of our three missionaries have been here since September which is VERY long in mission transfers.  So we were expecting some changes.  But guess what?  Sister Chikamori who has only been here since December was transferred and the others are still here!    Here is Sister Chikamori the night before she left:

The branch president and his wife brought food to our English class as a goodby gift!

Happy Birthday

So Kouta and Yuuta (whose paintings I showed you) also had birthdays this past week.  We had a Primary activity on Saturday on missionary work and afterwards they honored them with a small birthday party.  So what do you think you would EAT at a birthday party here?

We sang "Happy Birthday" (words on the poster) and had rice balls, mochi, and hot Calpis (weak citrus drink).  Here is Calvin showing off his rice ball:

The only complaint I heard was against those miniscule green peas in the rice balls.  Some of the kids don't care for them I guess but really they were so small and far between!

Even in the Winter

The sisters are pretty amazing.  Even in the winter and with snow still coming down almost daily lately, the sisters don their helmets and bike around:

More Painting Classes

We had another painting activity at the Church yesterday.  I am always in awe at these things because my skills are so lacking.  These were the models (for those who wanted models):

And these were some of the results.  First our branch president's wife holding her painting and her husband's.  (The branch president's is the one of the flower!):

Then their 12-year-old son:

And Tatiana Taylor's (she's American).  We laughed because hers definitely looked American.  Who would guess you can tell nationality from paintings of vegetables?!:

So China

I have to tell you this funny story.  The dollar stores here are filled with tons of things--all from China!  We have been to China (when Nate lived there) and we learned that China is the land of fakes . . . as in they copy anything and everything, every brand, every style, etc.  But -- sometimes their copies are not as wonderful as the originals.  This week I bought some fabric at the dollar store.  This was the tag that accompanied it:

I really loved the fabric but the disclaimer, in part,  says:  "Please be careful not to make this material get wet.  The color may fade.  Being made by natural material, this may shrink in the washor (sic) may look like it has scratches."  The "natural material" this is made of is 100% polyester!  Sad to say, I bought it anyway!

Saying Goodby to Sister Bohnet

One of the sisters that we got really close to here is Sister Bohnet.  Her mission ended this week.  When we heard that her father was coming to pick her up and spend a week here, we volunteered to spend a day with them and show them around Ishinomaki.  It was so fun!

We went out to eat, again at the all-you-can eat place:

 And then we took them here to Ishinomaki and showed them the park above the area that was hit by the tsunami where you get a bird's eye view of what really happened.

We then went through an area of houses destroyed by the tsunami that are still standing:

And believe it or not, as we got a little closer to this house we noticed something interesting:  there were still things inside that were intact, like dishes on the cupboard shelves!:

Almost two years, and the place hasn't been looted!

Anyway, we ended up going to Matsushima for a quick tour there before everything shut down for the day (at 5:00 p.m. everything closes).  And then we let them board the train for Sendai since it would be way faster than us taking them (and cheaper!). 

I want to say how impressed I was with Sister Bohnet.  Even though her mission was over, she was still a missionary all day.  She talked to everyone she could, gave out pass along cards, and became emotional when she saw the devastation of the tsunami to the people she loved.  If you are reading this Sister Bohnet:  thank you; you are an inspiration. 

And the best part:  Sister Bohnet is from Orem!  We will see her again!

Sunday, February 17, 2013


Some weeks seem especially busy.  This past week was one of them!

The week began on Monday (p-day) which began fairly normal.  We were invited to go to dinner at the home of a family in our branch (along with the sister missionaries).  It turned out to be a birthday party for two of the boys (ages 12 and 9).  The festivities began with dinner:  do-it-yourself sushi!  I had to SHOW you what happens when you have sushi in Japan.  It includes tons of sashimi (raw fish) as you can see:

It was so good.  Then the birthday cake.  Actually there were two.  One the mother had made was a chiffon-type cake with whipped cream and strawberries and the other:  a Baskin Robbins ice cream cake!  It was wonderful as you can imagine and the price I can't even begin to imagine!  I never buy them in the states because they are beyond my budget so I would assume that here in Japan they are even more pricey but -- oh well -- we enjoyed:

On Tuesday we had district meeting in Izumi about an hour from here.  We had a shorter than usual meeting, then the missionaries went into the city by train (trying to strike up conversations with people as they went) and did some streeting.  We all met up an hour or so later at CoCo Curry House.  It is a curry restaurant chain.  Actually Laura and Eric ate there in Tokyo I think when they were here and liked it but we had never been before. 

I ordered the curry noodle soup and then I pointed to a picture on the menu to Calvin and said it looked like something he would like.  He agreed and ordered it.  THEN a waitress appeared a few minutes later with a box with some pieces of paper in it.  She said since Calvin had ordered that particular item he was eligible to draw a paper and see if he won a prize!  So Calvin reached in and drew out a winner!  He got this spoon which was in commemoration of this restaurant chain being in the Guiness Book of World Records for being the largest curry restaurant chain (who knew?)!

Our district in front of the Coco Curry House Restaurant (actually there are a few in the U.S. -- mostly in California):

Tuesday evening we had institute class.  Wednesday morning our English study class with the sisters and Wednesday night English class.

Thursday we I got up early to make some French bread.  By about 8:30 a.m. we were at the Church baking, doing our walking exercises at the Church, and at 10:00 a.m. having study group with the sisters.  At 11:00 we went with Tatiana Taylor (who teaches English here in Ishinomaki) and Marie out to eat lunch at a pasta restaurant at the mall.  I had a WONDERFUL creamy lemon pasta with asparagus AND all you can eat bread (croissants, different types of rolls and breadsticks).  So much for the diet this week!

We did a little shopping and rushed back to get the sisters to take them around to deliver valentines to members and less actives in the branch.  We delivered until we were close to our children's English class in Miyato.  This was about 6:30 and English class began at 7:00.   Our project for the night:  bird feeders!  Here are some photos.  We made them out of milk (here milk and juice) cartons and the kids did a great job:

Friday more exercise at the Church, making chocolate chip bars for an activity on Saturday, and studying English with the sisters.  Also made donuts for the evening ping pong activity as a practice for my big cooking demo the next day.

Saturday morning we went to the handicapped temporary housing units where we do service the third Saturday of each month.  Mostly we do hand massages:

But I decided to also bring some balloons and do some balloon creations to see how that went (many of the people are handicapped--emotionally and physically).  It turned out good.  The people actually seemed to stay for a longer period of time and enjoyed seeing what I could make:

Saturday evening was the much anticipated (and dreaded) Relief Society activity that I had been asked to do!  We made cinnamon rolls and donuts.  However, beforehand, the sister in charge of the activity asked if I could get the people that came involved too--not just a demo.  So I decided that we could do groups--four groups, one at each table. 

I gave each group a glob of dough and had them make the cinnamon rolls!  It turned out really fun.  It was kind of chaotic because you must realize that I do not have the skills to actully EXPLAIN what to do and the others don't have the skills to UNDERSTAND my English!  But I did have the instructions written down in Japanese (thanks to the sister missionaries) for each of them to read.  But you have to understand also that these ladies had never really seen cinnamon rolls much less eaten one (at least not until we got here).  So this was an adventure and they had a great time:

And the looks on their faces when they ate the cinnamon rolls and donuts are worth a thousand words:

And, of course, they had to have a group picture afterwards:


We got another carton of eggs that are SOFT BOILED!  Really, if you wonder what they taste like:  they taste like soft boiled eggs.  I am not really into COLD soft-boiled eggs so I do warm them up a bit before eating them.  But the interesting thing about these eggs were that on the package they are labeled as "Radium" eggs.  With a name like that--well let's just say I would never really BUY them!:

And a fun thing that the sister missionaries have been doing is making a certificate of thanks and a candy chain with a sembei (rice cake) medallion to go around the necks of people they want to say thank you to.  Then they have the person stand as they read the certificate of thanks and the other sister missionaries hum this graduation tune and then make the presentation.  If that doesn't make sense, here are some photos of people with their certificates and medallions.  First, Mari:

And next, Ryoko:

It sounds a bit odd but the people here all love it and no one ever balks at having his/her picture taken!

And maybe that is a thought I will end with.  The people here are often shy or hesitant to initiate anything.  They will wait forever to eat anything until someone says you can begin eating (even refreshments at a church function).  They don't like to be in the limelight. 

BUT when it comes to taking photos that is something else!  Every event is a photo opportunity and NO ONE ever says NO!  In fact, in front of a camera, they come alive!  They even have the booths with the cameras that take a strip of photos that are enhanced to make you glamorous or whatever with different backgrounds, all over the place.  And EVERYONE I know has done it multiple times. 

Why is it?!  This is NOT an exaggeration:  I have probably been in more photos in the last year than I have in the previous THIRTY years!

Sunday, February 10, 2013


Happy Valentine's Day to all!  That actually means more than you think.  Here in Japan, they know what Valentine's Day is -- kind of.  It is equated to women giving valentines and especially chocolate to the men.  And then in March they have White Day where the men give back chocolate to those women who gave to them.  Or something like that.  The funny thing is that I made sugar cookies with PINK icing and sprinkles (and valentines) and gave them out this week wherever we went.  And MANY times I was told, "Thank you for the chocolate."  I honestly don't know why they said that.

And also, while I am thinking about it, last week our blog photos did not show up for some reason and we did not realize it until later.  Actually we do no know if they were up for a while and then disappeared or what but hopefully that has been rectified.  If that happens again, let us know!  It seems like we get these technical glitches happen fairly often.

Valentine's at English Class

This week at our children's English class we did valentine's cookies and they turned out to be quite a hit.  At first, the kids were quite hesitant and some blatantly thought that the frosting was gross (too sweet) but when they began the decorating, they had a lot of fun:

I don't usually put so many pictures but the kids were exceptionally interested in this project this week and had a good time!  I will say though that they are not as "over the top" as American kids when it comes to decorating and using frosting.  They go for the "aesthetic" look I guess.

Miyato Genkan

Saturday we decided to go back to Miyato to take some photos for a slide show we are thinking of making for our last English class in March.  We arrived just in time for lunch at the "genkan" which is a small restaurant next to the main building.  Actually it was our second lunch so we shared a fried oyster meal that was really good:

The director is really personable and is trying to bring the small community together with lots of activities and this small restaurant.  He always tries to talk to us in English and works seven days a week:

Fondue Party

You would be right if you think all we do is eat.  Later that night we were invited to a fondue party at the church.  Usually what happens is that the branch president and other members invite non members and less actives and we get together and have a good time.  This time it was fondue:

Sorry to say I am not that much for fondue (too greasy) but most people seemed to like it.  They even dipped french bread into the oil and fried it!  But that being said, this week I learned some new tricks with balloons so I thought I would try them on the kids that were there and they LOVED them:

Yes, I went to the dollar store and bought balloons and a pump (10 balloons and a pump for $1 or 20 balloons for $1) and learned to make dogs, giraffes, swords, flowers and hats!  I went online to figure out what to do and there are tons of tutorials and it isn't that hard.  The kids were amazed!

Sweet Sabbath

Can I just say that one of the sweetest things that has happened while we have been here in Japan happened today.  And really it didn't have anything to do with our being missionaries.  Our little branch of 35-40 members was visited by a General Authority of the Church.  Elder Yamashita who is a member of the Seventy came (we knew ahead of time that he was going to be in the area and was coming).  He and our stake president came around 9:30 a.m. (church begins at 10:00 a.m.) and stayed the entire three hour block, had a meal with us, and then we had a fireside with him from 2:00-3:00 p.m. 

We had met Elder Yamashita last year at one of the thank you ceremonies and also at a mission conference.  He is so personable and great to be around.  He is from Japan and went to the World's Fair in Osaka in 1970.  From there he joined the Church.  That was especially sweet since Calvin was a missionary at the World's Fair at that time. 

At sacrament meeting he got up and gave a great talk.  He got the kids listening when he began by asking who the current prophet was and what was the prophet's favorite food.  He then talked about President Monson and how his favorite food is chocolate.  And he talked about how President Monson had pulled him up close and told him how much he loved the Japanese people.  He had the entire branch captivated with his talk. 

Then we had our linger longer meal which was nice (Elder Yamashita on the right):

And then at the fireside, some of the sisters singing a musical number:

The "fireside" was one of those informal gatherings where we sat at the same tables that we ate at and Elder Yamashita got up and said he didn't have anything really prepared so he talked about his family (they have six children mostly in their 20's and 30's) and how they had worries and concerns like everyone else but that he had been blessed in many ways.  Then he opened it up to questions from the 30 or so people there.

The questions were things like, "What advice would you give to married people?"  "What advice would you give to us raising children?"  and "How were you able to learn English so well?"   His answers were so down to earth and understandable.  The spirit was so strong as he talked and everyone was captivated by the feeling that God loves us and we just need to keep on. 

I have to say, at one point he was talking about the Humanitarian Center in Salt Lake City and he turned to me and said, "Do you know where the Humanitarian Center is?"  And I was able to say, "Yes, I was a missionary at the Humanitarian Center!"  What a wonderful memory that was and humbling to know that Elder Yamashita knew who to turn to to ask that question.

Elder Yamashita finished by bearing his testimony and then needed to leave to catch a train back to Tokyo.  Most of the members followed him outside and waved to him as he and the stake president drove off, feeling filled for having been there.

Sunday, February 3, 2013


So we are into February!  And the beginning of February is familiar to Americans and Japanese.  February 2nd in America is groundhog day--the day that we believe a groundhog can tell us how long winter will last.  In Japan on February 3rd it is setsubun--the day you throw peanuts out the door to ward of evil demons.  Hmmm, who thought of these things and why do we buy into them?!


Those of you who know are family, know that we are into playing games.  So it was natural that when our district decided to have p-day together last week, I volunteered to bring some games.  The Japanese always seem to LOVE games but for some reason, they seldom play them.  In the past year we have come up with several games and I thought you might like to see some of them.

First, the "hold a marble with chopsticks" relay and usually the girls seem to have an edge mostly I think because the guys get too excited and are in too much of a hurry:


Next we played a "frog game" that I have pictured before.  Basically you launch these round frogs and see if you can get them into a grid of holes:

Next, a variation of jenga except there are different colors of blocks and you throw a die to see what color you must remove:

And finally "guru guru" which is a take-off of the leaning tower of pisa.  It is actually quite tricky and not so easy to do (as you will see). The looks on their faces say it all!:

So where did I get these games?  Two of the games I got at the local Toys R Us and one I got at the second-hand store!  (YES--the same Toys R Us).

Stained Glass Again

I have shown stained glass a few times before but I thought I would try it again at our children's English class (last time we just did fall leaves and this time I did cutsey pictures that the sister missionaries helped me do).  It actually turned out to be a good project again.  I never seem to know what will work with those kids and what flops!:

Some of you have asked about this project and I am planning on bringing home some of these paints later this year.  You can buy the paints at the dollar store for a dollar for the larger size (like acrylic paints) or there are smaller tubes which come in packages of five colors for a dollar.  So this is a very affordable project and would be great for YW, cub scouts, achievement days, etc.  For the kids I use plastic sheets which are actually plastic sleeves that come 14 for a dollar at the dollar store!  So put your order in if you want some.  Not sure if they are sold in the states but they say "glass paint" on the bottles and they are made in China.  You may remember we did them for a Christmas project and could probably become Christmas ornaments if you use your imagination!

Nabe Again

This seems to be a redundant blog but we had nabe again but this time it was such a work of art that I had to show the photo I took:

As you will recall, it is a bunch of veggies, soup base and meat cooked in one pot and then enjoyed by all:


Last month I had a conversation with a man which is a little unusual in and of itself since my Japanese is limited.  But this man who is a member in another branch was pretty persistent about talking to me and I found him rather easy to understand so it worked out well.  He was very interested in my background and I explained that my grandparents had gone to America almost 100 years ago to seek the American dream because they were poor here in Japan. 

He was very interested to hear about this because he actually thought that most Japanese at that time went to Brazil (hence the large Japanese population in Brazil).  He didn't really know that many Japanese went to America.  Then he was very interested that my grandparents settled in Utah and Idaho--not California or the Pacific coast.

As he listened to me he said, "So you might say that your grandparents were pioneers--and even missionaries although they didn't know it."  He explained that because they had gone to Utah, we had become members of the LDS Church and maybe it was not such a coincidence but God's plan all along.  And now we were back in Japan giving back to the people of Japan in thankfulness to my grandparents.

I have thought of that conversation many times and it makes me even more grateful to be here.


In front of our house in Utah in the winter there is a patch of snow that rarely melts because the sun hardly ever hits hit.  It is at the top of our driveway.  And usually the snow is piled up there from shoveling the driveway.  Almost every year, one of the kids builds a "snow cave" with that mound of snow.  So when I saw this just around the corner from us it was a flashback to home:

It is a snowcave which seldom gets sun and was made from snow that was shoveled from the street and piled up next to the building.  (The weather has been quite bearable this past week--it was in the 50's yesterday--hopefully that groundhog is right this year!)