Also we learned that part of the ritual of the beginning of spring was to visit the gravesites of your ancestors. I thought this was interesting because there are also some days in August (obon?) that are part of grave visiting.
Anyway, it doesn't really look or feel much like spring yet but we have heard that the cherry blossoms are out in southern Japan and it is not nearly as cold as it used to be. Also our friends took off their snow tires yesterday (a sure sign that it will snow again sometime soon!).
Maybe you are wondering what zone conference is or what we do at zone conference. OKAY . . . probably you are not wondering but I will give you the brief overview whether you want it or not (you do have the option of not reading this blog you know!).
Our zone has about 25 missionaries and once a quarter we have zone conference under the direction of the mission president. This past week we actually had two zones I think and it was not a typical zone conference since we had a visiting authority: Elder Ringwood, president of the Asia North area and a Seventy.
We picked up the sisters at 5:45 a.m. (!! yes you read right!) in order to get there by 7:30 a.m. Once there, we had a hymn practice for a special number we were singing later in the day. Then we had assigned places to sit or stand on the stage for our "official" pictures. Around 9:00 a.m. the Rasmussens (mission president and wife) and the Ringwoods arrived. We sang to them and then had "official" pictures taken:
Then before entering the chapel, we were able to greet and shake hands with the Ringwoods.
During the morning sessions we heard from the Rasmussens and the Ringwoods and had some practice "mogi" sessions. These are role play type practice in talking to investigators or potential investigators. Here we are mogi-ing:
The talks were all really great and the morning went by fast. At noon we broke for lunch. Some of the sisters in the Sendai stake made us lunch (which is typical) and before we eat, they line up and we sing them a song:
Lunch fare was huge bowls of rice and curry, salad, drinks and a plate of desserts (each person got a plate FULL of desserts!).
After lunch, more talking and instructions and some question and answer sessions. We finished up around 3:00 p.m. Really, the day goes by quite fast and the missionaries LOVE to see each other. Most of the time they remind me of a "missionary pep rally" at times! And YES, the photos are a part of all zone conferences whether there is a visiting authority or not!
Easter Eggs Again
So that same day we had our children's English class and we colored Easter eggs. We did not even have time to go back home so we were plenty early but to our delight, Okuda san made us some big bowls of ramen noodles which were delicious. Sorry no picture but you have seen bowls of ramen noodles before right?
This turned out to be a great activity which the kids loved. And at times it was kind of wild. Luckily we had a tarp under the tables because one whole bowl of dye ended up on the tarp--luckily it was yellow and Sister Fukuda who took the brunt of the dye was wearing black! We took so many pictures and it was hard to choose just a few:
Then we had an egg/candy hunt:
And a fun time was had by all:
*We made microwave popcorn for the weekly pingpong tournament and it was a hit since it is quite a rarity here. AND I had some salsa flavored popcorn that I had gotten at an international store here. It was really rather spicy so I didn't know how it would go over. But quite a few people liked it. And what did they think it tasted like?! Well, I heard one person say it tasted like kimchee and another said it tasted like spicy curry! Who knew that salsa was so international?!
*And remember I talked about the flagmen? When we were out and about this week we saw many of them. This one stood out particularly because as you neared the flagman, there were signs, flashing lights on the truck, two other flashing lights, PLUS the flagman who was VERY animated in his duties!
*Today at Church we had yet another Seventy visit our branch: Elder Aoyagi. He is one of the counselors in the Area Presidency. It is always fun to have them visit our branch because they are so personal and tell stories of their conversion, marriage, and other stories. We also had a linger-longer meal and a fireside-type meeting with him. The food was amazing and I am always surprised that there is yet something else I have never eaten before!
And it was Elder Aoyagi's birthday so someone brought a cake and we all sang, of course, "Happy Birthday to you" (with a Japanese accent!). Funny, I guess some things just don't translate!
*At zone conference, President Rasmussen gave us these statistics about our mission:
current young missionaries in our mission: 69
young missionaries going home by Sept: 29
new missionaries coming in by September: 90
total young missionaries in September: 130
*Because of these AMAZING statistics, it has caused quite an uproar here and all over the world. It is a wonderful blessing but the mission office is quite overwhelmed. We will have 60 more missionaries in the next few months and they all need apartments, furnishings and arrangements have to be made for their travel. New areas will probably need to be opened and there will be twice as many missionaries in each existing area. Also we do not know if this is a temporary surge or a permanent number of missionaries for the mission so that is hard because apartments are so expensive in Japan. The other "problem" is that we have to have "trainers" or senior companions for all of these new missionaries coming in. The missionaries coming into the mission in two weeks may have to be trainers by September and many of the new missionaries are American sisters or elders who need to learn the language fast!
*It is an exciting time to be a missionary. We are happy to be a part of it!