We went to COSTCO right after I e-mailed home last week. It was just like the COSTCOs back at home. They had all the same American foods and everything on the foods was writen in English. It was pretty great. It felt like being back in America. Then, when we walked out of the store, it was pouring down rain. It felt even more like being back at home. I had used a black marker to color over all the logos on my backpack, and when the backpack got all wet the marker ran off and got all over my white shirt. That was a bit of a bummer.
The next day, my backpack had dried off, and, without even thinking about it, I just put it on and left the apartment. The marker got all over another one of my shirts. I was worried that I had ruined two of my white shirts, but when I washed them, the marks all came right out.
We have our own washing machine in our apartment but not a dryer. Nobody has dryers hardly. Everyone just hangs their clothes on a clothes line. Also, nobody has ovens. Everyone here have crazy high-tech microwaves. Our microwave has an "oven" button on it. It`s really cool. If you just hit the start button, it picked out a time for you, and it`s pretty good. If you just hit start on the washing machine, it`ll weigh your clothes and work accordingly.
Tuesday morning, I got out a paperback Book of Mormon. I spent my personal study time writing out my testimony in Japanese. I then wrote that on the inside cover of the Book of Mormon along with my name and phone number. Then, I went through and marked some of my favorite scriptures. Then, I prayed and asked God to either let me know who I was meant to give that Book of Mormon to, or let them know me. Later that day, we were sitting on some steps and talking to a guy we just met. During the conversation, someone just walks up to us out of nowhere and says, "Hey, I know you. You`re Mormons." It was really surprising because no one here has ever heard of the church before. Then he`s like, "Can I have your book." It was a miracle. God definitely answers prayers. My Japanese isn`t very good so I can`t speak well, and it`s very difficult for me to understand what people say. Therefor, at times, I feel a little useless, but this shows that there are things everyone can do. I put in a little effort in the morning and did all that I could. God saw that I was putting in my best effort and he helped with the rest. It was great. We found four new investigators that day. I now always carry a Book of Mormon with my testimony, name, phone number, and marked scriptures, and I now write little descriptions under all of the pictures that it has at the beginning.
They next day we met a member of the mahikari. You can just feel evil coming from them. They have devil powers.
The next day, we had our weekly planning meeting. It ended up taking way too long.
Friday, I ate octopus. The word for octopus in Japanese is tako (taco). It could easily get confused. The octopus was really hard and chewy. I didn`t really like it that much. It was a good experience though. Then, from the restaurant, I left with Elder Nakamura. We went on companion exchanges. I basically just swapped places with another Elder for twenty-four hours. I rode back to their place which is in the middle of nowhere. It took forever. By the time I got there, it was basically time for bed. The Elder I switched with (Elder Moffet) has a nice air mattress. It was pretty comfortable.
I then spent the next day with Elder Nakamura. He is Japanese and he didn`t speak any English the whole time. I`m still learning Japanese. So, it was very difficult to communicate. Kitarokko (the area I was in for the day) is in the middle of nowhere. There are pretty much zero people. The area is huge is space and has no big buildings. It`s incredibly hilly. It took forever to get to anywhere. I had to ride that other Elder`s bike, and it was just awful. My bike is brand new and very nice. His bike is falling apart. He`s known throughout the mission for being very clumsy and such (Elder Moffet). He`s gotten in wrecks on his bike about one bazajillion times. It was so junky. We had a good time anyway. That night, when I rode my bike home, it felt so good. I love my bike. It`s all white, and it`s really nice. Also, I found out that they don`t let you go through the drive-through at McDonald`s if you`re on a bike. I thought they would since it`s Japan and everyone rides bikes.
The next day was Sunday. We went to church, and it was good. I still don`t understand most of what`s being said. It`s so hard. But, Brother Ueda came to church. He`s a less active member that we talked to and asked to come to church. When we rode our bikes home, it was raining again. It`s about a forty-five minute ride home from church. That`s because we actually live in Amagasaki. We don`t even live in our own area that we work in. It`s a long bike ride to get to everything. There is a church building right outside our apartment, but it`s the Amagasaki building and we go the Nishinomiya building. That night Brother Ueda had us over for dinner. His house is so tiny. It`s smaller than my bedroom. His house is only one room, and a little closet sized bathroom. We sat on the floor and he put a newspaper down as a table. But, he fed us way good food. He gave us each our own package of meat that cost about six dollars each. We then put the meat in boiling water until it turned white, then dipped it in this way good sauce, which he clearly bought just for this meal. Also, he gave us each and box of sushi (another six dollars each). Most of the sushi was very good. A lot of it is just a hunk rice with a slab of raw fish thrown on top. It was so weird eating slabs of raw fish. Then, he gave us bottled water and cup of noodles (yes, they have cup of noodles here). His place is tiny and he has no money, but he still spent a tons to feed us. It was really nice of him. We talked to him for a while and now he`s going to start coming to church again.
I haven`t watched conference yet. They play it in the Stake Centers on the following week. So, this Saturday and Sunday I will go up to Kobe and watch it. I hear I`ll even be able to watch it in English.
The biggest holidays here are Christmas and Shogatsu (New Year`s same day as ours). They don`t understand what Christmas is or why we celebrate it, but they think it`s fun and the give presents and stuff. Shogatsu is like the Shinto/Buddhist equivalent of Christmas. Everyone goes to the shrines and stuff. They do some decorating for Halloween, but not very much. The stores sell Halloween candy, but nobody goes trick-or-treating. It`s not super big here. And, nobody celebrates the 4th of July. It`s so crazy.
The church pays the rent and utilities for the apartment I live in, and they put money on a debit card I have each month so I can buy groceries and stuff. They give me plenty to live off of.
I am taller than the average guy but not by very much. I`m way taller than all the girls though. The girls here are so short. The guys are almost normal height. I don`t usually play any sports on Preperation day, but there is a day coming up sometime soon when a buch of missionaries are going to get together and play some sports. I`m excited for that. I wish we played more sports.
Signing out for the week,
-Elder Isaac D. Swift