This is Kobe, Japan.

Monday, July 16, 2012

15(16) July Otsu Japan

Last post from Japan
Week 106
Mission Log
     It`s so hot all the time!  Elder Taggart is going to be staying in Otsu and getting a new companion.  You`ll be able to meet him when you come to Japan.  You probably won`t even recognize me though.  I might be way too different from before I left.  It still hasn`t really hit me that it`s over yet.  I still just go out and work and feel like I`ll be doing it everyday.  In reality, I only have about two days of work left, but it doesn`t feel like that. 
       These last two transfers went by so quickly.  Probably the fastest of any part of my mission.  I can`t believe they`re already gone.  I love Otsu.  I just want to stay in Otsu and live here forever.  I don`t really have that much to say.  I`m going to see you in a couple of days.  The person getting baptized in Otsu is named Yamada.  That`s actually a pretty common name in Japan.  I think that the rainy season is about done.  The rice fields are all starting to get pretty tall.  maybe you`ll get to see them harvested.  See you soon.
-Elder Isaac Swift

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Otsu Japan 8 or 9 July 2012

Week 105
Mission Log
It`s so hot today.  It was rainy for the whole week, but today is very sunny and hot.  I gave my bike away to a member that was in need yesterday, so I will literally have to run to the finish line.  My ministerial certificate signed by president Monson expired on June 30th 2012.  For the last week or so I have been preaching the gospel and administering in the ordinances thereof without the proper authorization.  Oh, no!  I don`t know if I should keep proselyting without the recommendation of President Monson. 
Business cards would be a good idea.  Everyone in Japan carries and exchanges business cards.  Even the missionaries all have their own business cards that the mission home makes for them.  Mine look pretty cool. 
Another schedule thing came up.  On Sunday, after church, we have to go to Otsu by 1:30.  I`m going to be performing a baptism then. 
I went and saw another castle on Monday.  It was Hikone Castle.  That`s one of the original twelve.  It was pretty cool.  I`ve been to quite a few Japanese castles now, so they aren`t really anything new or special when I go now. 
There was another cool lightening and thunderstorm this week.  I`ve got a train to go catch now.  Talk to you later. 
-Elder Isaac Swift

Sunday, July 1, 2012

1 July Otsu Japan

Week 104
Mission Log
This week marked two years on my mission.  It weird, as a kid, I was always taught that a mission was two years long, but I've been out for two years and still have three weeks left.  I`m not complaining.  It`s great out here.  I don`t have a whole lot of time to email, because I wasted all of the time by playing with the maps on LDS.org.  They've been updated so they are pretty cool now.  I even saw my own picture on it. 
The train pass does seem a lot better for the second half of the time.  I know all of the cheaper train lines around Kobe, Osaka, and Kyoto.  If you know the smaller companies well, they are much cheaper than JR.  I`m excited for us to hang out and do all this fun stuff.  We`ve got to see the sky tree when we`re in Tokyo.  I heard it`s the new tallest building in the world.  My friend (someone we baptized), goes to the Shibuya ward in Tokyo, and Elder S. who is going home at the same time as me also goes to the Shibuya ward.  It might be fun to go there.  There is a really big famous festival in Kyoto while we are there.  It is the Gion Festival.  You should be excited.  There will be more people there than you`ve ever seen in your life. 
I`ll write you again next week, and the week after. 
-Elder Isaac Swift

Pictures from earlier months

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Otsu Japan 24 June 2012

Week 103
Mission Log
I had a great birthday.  Thanks for the card.  I don`t feel twenty-one.  I still feel like I`m seventeen.  My driver`s license expired this week.  I hope that it isn't too much of a hassle to get it renewed.  Also, after getting home, I have to register pretty quickly so that I can vote in the big election.  I`m not registered yet. 
    To go from Kobe to Osaka cost about 400 yen.  From Osaka to Kyoto is about 600 yen.  From Kobe to Kyoto is about 1000 yen.  From Okinawa to Sapporo is about 30,000 yen.  From Umeda station in Osaka to Nishinomiya church is about 260 yen.  
      It`s still rainy now, but the rainy season will be done before you get here.  It will be the hottest time of the year.  It will just be really hot and really humid all of the time.  It probably won`t really rain at all.  Even at night, or if a typhoon comes, it still doesn't really get cold.  It`ll still be pretty hot. 
    I had a pretty interesting adventure on my birthday.  We left early in the morning to go to a training in Kobe for all of the trainers and trainees.  It was pretty good, and they gave us COSTCO pizza for lunch.  We got done at around four and it was time to go back to Otsu.  We were in a hurry because we had a couple of lessons planned.  We had English class at seven and two different families coming for lessons at 6:30.  We were planning on splitting with some members so that we could teach both lessons at the same time.  We rode the train from Kobe to Osaka.  Then, in Osaka, we had to switch trains.  We were hurrying through the stations because we didn't want to be late for our appointments.  I`m leading the way to the platform because my companion does'`t know where to go.  I see the train we want to ride and I get on it.  The doors close behind me.  I turn around to see my companion on the other side of the doors.  He got scared and didn't step on the train before the doors closed.  I watch him through the window as I ride the train out of the station, by myself.  Using the cell phone, I calculate that the next good train from Osaka to Otsu will leave at exactly 5:00.  I figure that if I make it back by then, I`ll be OK.  I get off at the first stop, run through the station and find a good train that got me back to Osaka at 4:56.  I expected to be able to meet back up with my companion there.  He was'`t there.  It wasn't 5:00 and he wasn't in the station.  That means that he had boarded some other train.  I get on the 5:00 train and ride to the church in Otsu by myself.  I arrive at 6:00.  I meet up with some members there and teach both families the gospel, by myself.  Because my companion doesn't have a cell phone, I can`t contact him or have any idea where he is.  He finally does find his way to the church building at about 7:00pm.  We then teach a normal English class and had a good time.  We had to walk from the church to the apartment, though, and didn't get back until 10:15. 
I have to get going before my companion wanders off again.  Talk to you later.  Bye. 
-Elder Isaac Swift

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Otsu Japan 17 June 1012

Entry 102
Dear Diary,
It seems like just yesterday that I was writing last Monday and the day before yesterday when I was writing two weeks ago.  I`m quite certain that time has sped up quite a bit.  It`s got to be a part of somebody`s evil plan to take over the world.  I`ll have to figure out who`s so that I can stop them.  I`ll look into it tomorrow.  Thought the week was extremely fast, there was also some good interesting stuff. 
We went on a fun adventure during preparation day last Monday.  There was a way famous historical site (Hieizan) in our area, but on the map it looked like it was in the middle of the mountains.  It was actually on top of a mountain.  We rode the train to the bottom of the mountain.  We then rode a cable car up the side of the mountain.  That was pretty interesting.  We rang a giant bell.  We walked around looking at all of the neat Buddhist stuff.  Apparently that mountain is the "Mother of Buddhism."  The top Buddhist guy used to live there and stuff.  There was a little cartoon map of the whole mountain at the entrance.  A little ways off, at what looked like the summit of the mountain on the map, the was what was called a garden museum.  We really wanted to go, but didn't want to pay for a shuttle out there.  We decided that we could just find the way and started going up higher on the mountain.  I figured that as long as we were going in an upward direction, we had to be going the right way, right?  We went up for forever.  The farther we went up, the more foggy it got.  .Pretty soon, we couldn't really see ten feet in front of us.  I started to hear some freaky animal noises, but we kept going.  Eventually, we actually made it to the top of the mountain.  There was a little pile of rocks and a sign stuck in it that said "Mt. Hiei Summit 848.3m".  I felt somewhat accomplished for having climbed the mountain, but also somewhat disappointed that there were not gardens or artwork around. While wandering around at the top, we saw a little path and decided to follow it.  It led to an empty parking lot.  I said empty because there were no people or cars in it, but it wasn't really empty.  There were about ten to fifteen monkeys walking around it it.  Some of them had babies.  They were climbing on fences and street signs and stuff.  It was pretty cool.  We even saw some jump into the parking lot from trees near the other side of the fence.  It turned out to be the parking lot for the garden museum.  It cost like ten dollars to go in.  So, we just left the way we came.  On the trip down the mountain, we saw a deer.  Fun day. 
I`m excited to go to Mt. Fuji and Tokyo with my family next month.  If we take the bullet train (shinkansen) then it would take about four and a half hours to get from Kyoto to Mt. Fuji.  It`s just that we have to take the bullet train from Kyoto to Tokyo and ride a normal train from Tokyo to Mt. Fuji.  It would cost about 15000 yen.  Is the shinkansen included in the train passes?  If we take the normal trains from Kyoto to Mt. Fuji, it`d take about seven hours and about 100 dollars.  Going from Mt. Fuji to Tokyo is about two hours and about 20 bucks.
      Sunday was Father`s Day.  Nothing really happened here in Japan for Father`s Day.  I think that most people were not aware that it was a holiday.  I have the best father in the world.  I hope that he had a great day in the U.S. on Sunday.  I`ll get to see him and tell him Happy Father`s Day soon enough.   I hope that my wonderful mother has a great day on her birthday that is coming up.  Normally, we have the same birthday, but because of the time zone differences my birthday will be the day before hers.  Isn't that interesting? 
I've got to get going.  If the evil scheme for time acceleration keeps up, then I`ll be writing again in a couple of hours.  Bye.
-Elder Isaac Swift

Sunday, June 10, 2012

10 June 1012 Otsu Japan

The Acts of Elder Swift
Chapter 101
1.  And it came to pass that the Spirit of the Lord revealed that Elder Swift was to remain in Otsu for a little season* for thus it was expedient for the salvation of souls.  Elder Taggart has remained as his companion, and they worked well in unity.  Through much study and training, they waxed stronger and stronger in the faith of the Lord and power in their teaching. 
2.  Upon receiving these instructions, Elder Swift went out with much haste to cry repentance unto all the people by land and by sea.  He taught nothing but repentance and faith on the Lord Jesus Christ to the people. 
3.  One the first day of the week, he went aboard the Michigan**, he unfolded the doctrines unto all whilst sailing through the Biwa sea. 
4.  The next day he traveled by bicycle to move quickly to every soul in the city.  While en route to an urgent destination, he was stopped by the guards placed in that city.  They asked for identification.  When asked for a phone number, Elder Swift handed the officer a gospel flier that had his phone number on it.  He then began to teach the guard of Christ and invited him to repent and come unto the Savior.  Being pricked by the Spirit of the Lord, the guard let Elder Swift and his companion go and gave them a promise that the guards of the city of Kusatsu*** would never stop the Elders or hinder their work again.  The work in Kusatsu has progressed since then. 
5.  Elder Swift then traveled to the University known as Ritsumeikan.  There were at that place a number of people who had sufficiently humbled themselves, and began to repent and come unto Christ.  Upon seeing those that had humbled themselves, Elder Swift felt great joy in his heart and began to unfold the Plan of Salvation unto them with much boldness and plainness that all would understand. 
6.  Though there were many who accepted the testimonies of Elder Swift and his companion, there were others among them that hardened their hearts and did not receive the truthfulness of the message.  One of those people soon came with soldiers positioned to guard the university.  After the guards chased off all who listened to to word, they then turned to contend with Elder Swift and his companion. 
7.  Ye cannot preach here.  Either cease talk of this Jesus that ye speak of or ye shall be driven from this land.  Because Elder Swift refused to deny or silence his testimony of Christ, they were cast out of that land.  While returning toward his quarters he found one named Kyota who desires to join himself with the saints of God. 
8.  And it came to pass that a great tempest came to the land of Otsu.  It began to rain throughout all the land and will continue in such fashion for nearly a month or so.  Thus passed the month of June among the people of Otsu. 
9.  Elder Swift continues to labor among these people with all his strength even to this day. 
*Elder Swift is to stay in Otsu for one more transfer cycle which is equivalent to six weeks of our time. 
**The Michigan is the name of a large old-fashioned boat that has a big wheel turning water in the back of it.  It sailed about through Lake Biwa, the largest Lake in Japan. 
***Kusatsu is the name of the city that borders the city of Otsu.  While the church building is in Otsu, the missionary`s apartment actually lies within the Kustsu city boundaries. 

Sunday, June 3, 2012

3 Japan 2012 Otsu

Week 100
Mission Log
The rice has been planted.  There are rice fields all over the place.  They are right in the city many times.  Basically everyone works on a rice field.  It`s not like a regular field.  It has a couple centimeters (things similar to inches) of water on top the field.  They also don`t plant just seeds very often.  They plant them as small little plants that are already half a foot tall.  I`m excited to watch them all grow.  By the time you get here, in July, they will all be very tall and almost ready to harvest.  They don`t get tall like corn or anything.  They get up to about your waist height.  They look pretty similar to grass right now.  It`s just a couple strands of grass put together in a clump.  Then, one of those clumps every couple of inches all lined up in a straight row.  Most people have told me that when they were younger, they planted the rice fields by hand, one at a time.  Many many older women are permanently bent over so their hips are bent at a ninety degree angle and their upper body is parallel to the ground.  They can`t stand up straight.  It comes from bending over to plant rice their whole life and from drinking too much tea (it weakens your bones).  Nowadays, everyone just rides a machine through the field that plants it all for them.  It seems pretty convenient.  Along the road that we walk from the apartment to the train station there are a few rice fields in a row.  The first two just look like normal rice fields with the little plants in straight lines and a couple inches of water.  The third one, however, has a sign that says "Tamagawa Elementary School's Practice Learning Field".  The rice is not in straight lines at all.  They are in weird clumps.  A lot of them have fallen over.  There are tons of big mounds of dirt and footprints everywhere.  It`s way funny and way cute.  I`m excited to watch them grow.  After they get taller, it`s cool to watch them wave as the wind blows through them. 
-Elder Isaac Swift

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Otsu Japan 27 May 2012

Week 99
Mission Log
I apologize for taking so long to respond to attempts to contact me.  I feel that too much contact with the outside world would blow my cover and jeopardize the entire mission.  Due to my isolation, I was not even aware that today is Labor Day, until I received an update of confidential information from someone who will for safety purposes remain unnamed. 
I`ve gathered a few others that I believe can be trusted and the six of us together are called a district.  I travel around and work with each one of them to accomplish various objectives.  This week, I spent a day or to in a place called Joyo, working with someone who, for the time being we`ll refer to as Elder Hale.  Afterward, we gathered together in a meeting building up on a hill in Otsu, and discussed sensitive mission related information.  It was probably one of the best district meetings that I`ve taught on my whole mission. 
In church one week, the organ player wasn`t there on time.  So, the person conducting the music just sang the first line so everyone would know the pitch and we sang acapella.  In the US people are embarrassed to sing in front of others, but no one is in Japan.  Everyone is just fine with singing anywhere, in front of anyone.  It doesn`t even matter if they`re a good singer or not. 
They`re attempting to drive us out of hiding by means of starvation.  Somehow, our money has "run out" and we weren`t able to go shopping for food last week or this week either.  Without money for groceries, they believe we will have to come into the open to get food.  What they are unaware of is the fact that we have a large supply of spaghetti noodle in the apartment and we can survive for weeks on eating simply noodles with sesame seed dressing poured on it.  We cannot let them win.  Endure to the end. 
If you are still debating on whether or not to by those train passes, I think we could probably get around fine without them.  We could ride all of the cheaper train lines and stuff.  Do you know where the hotel in Kyoto is?  If you give me an address or something, then I`ll know where it is. 
Congratulations on completing Mt. Si.    Sometimes I dream in Japanese, but usually in English.  Sometimes I think in Japanese even when I`m not speaking Japanese though.  When I`m planning out what I`m going to say for something, it always comes up in Japanese in my mind.  Like when I was planning out district meeting, I kept on thinking about what I was going to say in Japanese even though the meeting was in English.  I`m excited to go back and look at Seattle again.  
I must flee before it`s too late.  Farewell.
-Elder Isaac Swift

Sunday, May 20, 2012

20 May 2012 Otsu Japan

Week 98
Mission Log
This morning something that the Japanese people refer as Nisshoku happened.  At exactly 7:29 in the morning the moon moved directly in between Otsu and the yellow sun, blocking much of the sun`s light (a solar eclipse).  I seized this extremely rare opportunity.  Enduring the pain and likely causing much damage to my eyes, I stared directly at the Nisshoku and was able to break the spells and amnesia that was placed on me.  I quickly located a facility where I could make contact with the outside world and send this update to you.  I haven`t fully confirmed the security of this location yet.  So, I will still be using the code name Elder Swift and I will have to keep contact brief. 
I`ve encountered one set back in the mission.  My daily planner seems to have gone missing.  It contains all of the highly confidential information about my mission and the plans that I create and carryout throughout each day.  I`m at a loss as to what to do now.  I may need to acquire a new planner and start all over again.  I"m worried that allowing this confidential book to fall into the hands of the enemy could be quite detrimental to the mission, but do not fear:  I`ve written it all in a code language that I refer to as nihongo (Japanese). 
I`ve become much more proficient in communicating through this code.  It`s become quite natural.  When I hear a message come to me in the code language, my brain is able to simply comprehend it normally now.  It is now longer necessary to focus, concentrate hard on what`s being said, or translate it back to English in my head. 
Mom and Dad:  I`m glad that you are excited to come out here and get me.  It was very nice to be able to talk to you last week.  If you are able to find out the name of the train station that is closest to Mt. Fuji, then I don`t think it will be that much of a problem trying to get to it.  Mt. Si is a pretty difficult hike.  Good luck.  That theater is called Takarazuka Kageki.  Takarazuka is the name of the city.  Kageki means opera house or theater.  It might just be called Takarazuka Opera or Takarazuka Theater.  I think it would be all in Japanese, but they would have English pamphlets and stuff explaining it.  The story is Romeo and Juliet, so it probably wouldn`t be that difficult to follow.  I worry that it might be too expensive or that tickets would sell out to far in advance.  Also, there are no actors, only actresses.  I`m excited to see you again soon.  I can take you all around anywhere in this mission just fine probably. 
I cannot remain in one location for too long, or else they`ll catch on to me.  I must get moving now.  I cannot say exactly when I will be able to contact you again, but do not lose hope.  I`ve got this mission completely under control.  I`ll work something out.  Until then.
-Elder Isaac Swift

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

13 May 2012 Otsu

No email this week, just a great phone call!  Isaac is doing great.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Otsu Japan 7 May 2012 (8th in Japan)

Week 96
Mission Log
I`m having a great time here in Otsu, Japan.  It`s a very beautiful place.  Lake Biwa is just a massive body of water.  It feels like we`re close to the ocean, but really it`s just a lake.  On Saturday we went to a Barbeque that was way off in the mountains.  It was at a camping place that was about an hour and a half drive away.  We went on a hike and saw some beautiful waterfalls in the mountains.  It was very nice. 
Elder Taggart is doing a great job.  He wasn`t in the MTC for very long, but he studied Japanese in high school quite a bit, and he is very good.  He`s working hard and pushing himself to do new things he may not be used to.  I'm glad that I am able to be his companion. 
I`m excited for the Mother`s Day phone call.  You are supposed to call on your Mother`s Day.  It will be the day after for me.  I should get the phone call on Monday morning around 9:30 am my time, if that is possible with your schedule.  That should be Sunday afternoon for you, I think.  The phone call is to be no longer than 59 minutes according to the mission president.    I`m excited to talk with you.   
Thank you for the letter that you sent.  I hadn`t gotten mail in a while and it was very uplifting.  I didn`t get to see the really big moon.  It was cloudy here.  
Last preparation day, I met Elder Gardner and his family.  We ate some ramen together and then went to go see Kinkakuji (the golden pavilion) and Ryoanji.  It was my first time seeing Ryoanji.  It was a beautiful rock garden.  It`s a field of raked pebbles with fifteen large stones artistically placed in it.  I heard that because of how they were placed, you can`t see all fifteen of the stones at the same time, and according to legend, if you find how to see all fifteen of them at the same time, you will reach enlightenment.  I thought it would be difficult at first, but I soon discovered how to view all the stone simultaneously and I have now unlocked the secret of enlightenment.  It`s pretty nice. 
Yesterday, we had a zone conference.  We have them once every three months.  Everyone sang happy birthday to me and I was presented with a package of Tim Tams.  I was pretty happy.  During the training parts, I translated for the Japanese people.  It`s a lot more difficult for me to really absorb all of the things being taught or receive personal revelation when I`m translating.  It`s also really difficult to take notes.  The training basically goes in my ears in English, comes out my mouth in Japanese, and then it`s gone.  After the training, the missionaries that will be going home soon, stand in front and are able give a final testimony and goodbye message to everyone.  Since this was my last zone conference, I got to bear my testimony and give a final message to everyone.  A lot of missionaries get emotional and cry while saying things like, "I don`t want to go home yet!"  Instead of doing that, I just tried to teach everyone what I thought was something important for them all to learn, and was one of the biggest things that I learned on my mission.  I think it went really well. 
  I love you.  Talk to you next week.  Bye. 
-Elder Isaac Swift

Sunday, April 29, 2012

29 Apr (30 Apr in Japan) Otsu Japan

Week 95
Mission Log
We had a fun exciting week.  On Thursday, I went to the mission home to pick up my new companion.  His name is Elder Taggart.  He only spent nine weeks in the MTC.  He is from Edgewood.  He went to Puyallup High School.  He`s a very fun Elder and he`s working very hard.  I think we`ll have a great twelve weeks together.  It`s fun talking about things we both know like the fair, and telling everyone in Japan that we`re both from Seattle and we`ve actually seen Ichiro play.  Everyone`s really amazed about that. 
We've been teaching an investigator named Okumura Kazuya for a little while and just yesterday, he got baptized.  We first met him when his friend brought him to conference on the eighth.  He accepted everything that we taught right away, except for some of the commandments which he had heard about from a member and was already following before we taught them.  He quit smoking and drinking immediately, the day he heard about the Word of Wisdom.  He`s 25 years old and works at a place close to the church building. 
Today, we are planning on going to Kyoto seeing some stuff with Elder Gardner and his family.  It should be pretty fun.  I don`t know any information about Mother`s Day yet.  Preparation Day might be on a day other than Monday next week.    Today is a holiday. 
I have to get going now.  I`ll write again next week.  Bye!
-Elder Isaac Swift

Sunday, April 22, 2012

22 April 2012(23 in Japan) Otsu

Week 94
Mission Log
It was the best of times.  It was the worst of times.  I traveled the farthest I`ve gone from the apartment.  I spent the most time in the apartment.  I talked to the oldest guy.  I talked to the youngest guy.  I have so much time left.  I have no time left. 
This week went very well.  On Tuesday, we rode our bike way up North to a place called Katata.  It was the farthest I have ever been from the apartment.  It`s about three times as far North as I`ve ever been before.  It took hours to get up there.  We were riding along Lake Biwa the whole way.  It was a pretty ride.  My bike was having some slight problems the whole way there, too.  By slight problems, I mean that the wheel wouldn`t turn sometimes when I wanted it to, and sometimes it would turn on it`s own when I didn`t want it to.  It caused for an interesting bike ride way out to Katata.  When we finally got to the house, I started to get a bad headache.  I said a little prayer though, and rang the doorbell.  I ended up being ok throughout the whole appointment.  I had a headache the whole time, but it was at a manageable level.  The moment I stood up to leave, my head started to hurt way bad.  I got on my bike and rode around the corner without saying anything to the member.  After getting around the corner, I had to stop.  I couldn`t ride my bike any farther.  We slowly walked to a nearby drugstore where I got some aspirin.  It was pretty lucky that there was a drugstore right by us.  Even after taking it, my head was hurting much worse than it ever has before.  I`m not really sure what the difference between a migraine and a headache is, but I probably had that.  I wasn`t able to work any more that day and had to get back to the apartment, but the apartment was a several hour bike ride away and I didn`t even feel like I could ride a normal short distance on my bike in this condition.  We left our bikes there and took the train home.  I was in bed for the rest of the day. 
The next day, we rode the train back to Katata, and made the long journey back home by bike.  I don`t really know why, but I got quite sick starting on Tuesday and rested for at least a portion of each day all the way through Saturday.  I'm pretty alright now, though.  On Saturday we got my bike fixed and then rode much farther South than I`ve ever been before.  It was a nice trip.  On Sunday, we ate dinner at the house of a member whose wife isn`t a member.  The member remembered a story that I told during my talk the week before and said that he loved it so much and wanted me to tell it to his wife.  I was happy to tell it, and even so happy that someone liked my talk and even remembered it a week later. 
This morning we got a phone call from President Zinke.  He gave us some interesting news.  Elder Meyers is going to be transferring to a place called Hanayashiki to be companions with Elder Baily who was in the MTC with me.  I will be staying in Otsu until the end of my mission, and I will be training a new missionary once again.  I`ll go pick him up from the mission home on Thursday.  It should be a fun experience.  I`m very excited to train again.  Maybe he just keeps letting me try it again until I get it right one time.  I`ll try my best.  I`ve got to get going now.  I love you.  Bye. 
-Elder Isaac Swift

Sunday, April 15, 2012

15 April (16 in Japan) Otsu

Week 93
Mission Log
As of today, we can stop wearing our suit coats all the time.  That`s nice because it`s starting to get pretty warm on some days.  It`s not an unbearable heat yet, but I definitely get a lot more thirsty throughout the day as we ride around on our bikes.  I`m going to have to start carrying water bottles around with me again.  We still have to wear our suit coats at church or in any meetings, not when we are just out doing normal proselyting.  The birds and bugs are all starting to come back out for the Spring.  The Sakura (cherry blossoms) are still out and looking very pretty.  It`s a good time to be in Japan. 
I got a phone call at night before church and was asked to give a talk in sacrament meeting.  So, I gave a talk during sacrament meeting, taught an investigator a lesson during Sunday School, talked with another non-member during the third block, and after church taught a fireside about missionary work.  It was a whole lot of teaching stuff crammed into a short time.  There was another investigator that was supposed to meet with us just after that, but he didn`t come.  I think all of it went pretty well.  I pretty much just share stories, experiences, and parables when I speak or teach.  It seems like the easiest to understand.  Or, I draw diagrams, pictures, and Japanese characters on the whiteboard to help people understand.  The cool thing about Japanese is that I can explain gospel concepts to people by showing them how the word is written and talking about that.  It`s way easy for Japanese people to understand. 
We now split our English class into a beginner and advanced class each week.  My companion teaches the advanced class and I teach the beginner class which consist of only an investigator family that we have.  It`s a mom, dad, two little girls (9 and 7) and a baby.  None of them really speak any English at all.  So, I teach them something simple like animal names and then we just play games for the rest of the time.  It`s pretty fun, but also pretty hard.  In the other class they just have a conversation in English for an hour.  If you have any ideas of a game that kids would enjoy, please send it.  We played pictionary and a game with making animal sounds last week.  They were both pretty fun. 
Cool experience of the week.  We were teaching a lesson to guy named Okumura and the member that we had sit in on the lesson with us randomly starts going off about the Word of Wisdom, which we hadn`t taught yet.  He says, "We don`t drink alcohol, coffee, tea, or smoke."  He then basically starts interrogating the investigator.  "Do you drink?  Do you smoke?"  I`m thinking to myself, what is this guy doing?  I was a bit surprised,but what surprised me even more was Okumura`s answer.  He said that he did drink and smoke quite often, but he had heard a week earlier that we don`t smoke or drink in the church.  So, he quit.  That was way awesome.  It`s not everyday that investigators quit smoking or drinking before we even teach the Word of Wisdom to them. 
I think that`s all I`ve got for this week.  Keep loving life.  I`ll write again next week.  Bye.
-Elder Isaac Swift

Monday, April 9, 2012

9 April 2012 Otsu Japan

Week 92
Mission Log
Aloha from Kyoto, Japan!  Wasn`t General Conference the best!?!  I thought that it was wonderful.  I only was able to watch four of the five in English.  Everyone has to travel to the stake center in order to watch General Conference here.  The stake center is in down town Kyoto (the next prefecture over).  We had to take a train and then a bus, but we got there alright and had a wonderful conference.  After Priesthood session ended, we stayed the night in Kyoto with the Elders that are working there.  Then, we watched Sunday`s sessions.  They were all really good.  The Saturday morning session I had to watch in Japanese.  We had a family of five that is investigating the church come, and I went in to watch it with them.  It would have been nice to have been able to just let them sit with some members and form relationships with them, but basically nobody comes to the Saturday sessions of Conference here.  There were probably about as many English speakers as there were Japanese speakers on Saturday, and only the missionaries are English speakers.  It was kind of fun to watch one of them in Japanese.  I could understand everything just fine, so long as I was paying good attention, but when I wrote notes or was thinking about the investigators that were there, I didn`t really pick up what was being said.  I`m going to have to work harder on my Japanese.  After they left, I went upstairs and watched the afternoon session in English with all the other missionaries.  We also had an investigator come on Sunday, but there are plenty of members there on Sunday.  So, we just had him sit with some members and watched it in English. 
It got pretty hot today.  I have no idea what temperature it was, but I was wishing that we could take our suit coats off.  Usually some time soon after Conference, the mission president will announce that we don`t have to wear our suit coats around anymore.  That announcement hasn`t come yet. 
I`ve pretty much been in Kyoto for the last week straight, and had no time to work here in Otsu.  I went up there on Tuesday night and conducted a companion exchange with the missionaries in Fushimi.  That went through Wednesday.  On Thursday, we had interviews with the mission president in Kyoto.  That was pretty fun.  We just talked about my investigators and then did a quick temple recommend interview.  I now have a Japanese recommend.  On Friday I had District Leader Council in Kyoto.  Then, on Saturday and Sunday we watched general conference there.  Even today, on our preparation day, we went up to a famous temple in Kyoto.  It is called Kiyomizudera.  It`s a very beautiful place, and all of the cherry blossoms are blooming now, so it was a lot of fun.  Pretty much everyone in the mission went there today.  I even talked to the President and his wife there.  It`s just the place to be when the cherry blossoms are out.  I took a bunch of cool pictures. 
Nobody celebrates Easter in Japan.  Even the members half the time won`t know when it is.  It isn`t written on the calendar or anything.  I have to get going now.  Talk to you next week.  Bye. 
-Elder Isaac Swift

Sunday, April 1, 2012

1 Apr 2012 (2 Apr In Japan) Otsu

Silver Sand!!!
  Ginkakuji (The Silver Pavilion) in Kyoto.

This is Ginkakuji!!! All the above pictures.
The street in front of Gikakuji.  I bought a delicious bread thing with custard on the inside from a vendor. 
My companion, Elder Meyers
Me when I`m sick
Me when I`m better again
Week 91
Mission Log
April Fool`s Day passed by quite uneventfully.  I guess Japanese people aren't really the type to play jokes on each other.  It seems like most people know what April Fool`s Day is, but whenever I asked people about it, they all seemed like they had had bad experiences with it in the past.  Like, a joke had been played on them and things got out of hand.  The people I talked to didn't really seem to like April Fool`s Day very much. 
Last Monday, we went and saw Ginkakuji (The Silver Pavilion) in Kyoto.  It`s nice being in the Kyoto zone again so that I can go see an  ancient temple on each preparation day.  Ginkakuji (The Silver Pavilion) was actually built by the son, or some relative, of the guy who built Kinkakuji (The Golden Pavilion).  It has lots of beautiful, very neatly raked silver sand that according to legend turns into silver when it`s under the moonlight.  Unfortunately, the place is only open during the day, so no one can confirm if the legend is true or not.  I`ll just assume that it is. 
I also got sick for a while during the week, but I`m mostly better now.  I`m going to try to send some pictures now.
-Elder Isaac Swift

Sunday, March 25, 2012

25 March (26 in Japan) 2012

Week 90
Mission Log
It`s a beautiful sunny day here in Otsu.  The weather was actually pretty crazy for the past few days.  It would be really sunny one moment, but then rainy the next moment and get sunny again really soon.  It was back and forth between rain and sun for all of Thursday through Sunday, except Friday.  Friday was just straight rain.  In Japan, it always rains a lot at the change of each season.  The big rainy season is at the change from Spring to summer, but there is another smaller rainy season between Winter and Spring, Summer and Fall, and Fall and Winter.  Yesterday was pretty cold.  It even had some snow with the rain.  Today however, is looking like it will be very nice. 
Last Monday, we got my bike fixed in the late afternoon.  There are bike shops all over in Japan, but my companion and I both bought our bikes at a bike shop called Asahi, and we got insurance with it.  So, if we go to an Asahi, it is a lot cheaper to get it fixed and they always do a really good job.  Asahi is pretty much the biggest bike store chain in Japan.  Most stores around are just small self-owned businesses.  Asahi always has any parts you need and it`s very reliable.  The problem is that there isn`t an Asahi close to our apartment here.  There is one in Otsu City, but none in Kusatsu City.  We had to go all the way to Otsu to get my bike fixed.  On Tuesday, we had an appointment in the morning.  So, we were coming back for lunch after that, and my companion`s tire went flat.  We thought it was just a normal puncture in the tube and we were pretty close to the apartment, so we just walked it back.  After lunch, we picked up a puncture repair kit from the dollar store and began trying to fix his tube.  Neither of us were very good at fixing punctures, so we were having some problems and it was taking a while.  Eventually, we got the puncture fixed and we started to get going.   We didn`t even get out of the parking lot before noticing that it wasn`t just a normal puncture in his tube, but there was a big slash in his tire.  We ended up having to walk back to Asahi and get his tire replaced as well.  It was a pretty interesting adventure. 
I heard from someone that there was another earthquake in Japan, but I haven`t heard anything about it since then.  We didn't feel anything down here.  I didn't feel anything when the big earthquake last year happened either, but I did feel some of the aftershocks.  Nothing super serious though.  This area of Japan has been pretty safe.  I hope that some exciting stuff happens in the upcoming rainy season and Typhoon season. Typhoon is actually a Japanese word that is pronounced the same way, except without the "n" on the end of it. 
On Thursday, I went to District Leader training in Kobe.  It was fun to see everyone else from around the mission, all the district leaders at least.  The training was also very good.  I also ate at a Burger place in Kobe that is known as the "Burger Pit".  It`s a tiny burger shop that is run by a Canadian who lives in Kobe.  The coolest thing about it is that the burgers are made with Kobe beef (the best meat in the world).  They were pretty good.  On Friday I went on a companion exchange in Joyo.  That`s an area that I went on exchanges on a year ago, so it was fun seeing it again.  Finally, Saturday was district meeting.  We normally have it on Fridays, but this week had to be a Saturday.  It went pretty well. 
I think that`s about all of the exciting stuff that we did this week.  It was a pretty fun week.

-Elder Swift

Sunday, March 18, 2012

18 March (19 in Japan) Otsu Japan

Week 89
Mission Log
Otsu is a way awesome place.  It`s in the same zone with Kyoto.  It only takes twenty or so minutes by train to get to Kyoto.  The biggest lake in all of Japan is here.  It is called Lake Biwa.  The city of Otsu is really big.  If we go by one of the train stations in the early evening, there are more people around then you can count.  There are just tons of people everywhere.  I thought I was back in Osaka on my first day here when we went by the Zeze station around six thirty.  The church is really close to that station.  But, we don`t live in Otsu city.  We live in a city called Kusatsu and have to ride our bikes to the church in Otsu.  We have to cross over a huge bridge that goes over part of Biwa Lake.  Kusatsu is also a pretty big city though.  It`s easily bigger and has more people in it than most of my areas have.  It has two pretty big universities in it. 
Last night, when we were just riding down the street minding our own business, we heard this way loud noise like a gunshot.  Everyone turned and looked at us.  The front tire on my bike had exploded.  What makes it worse is that we were all the way out in Otsu.  I`m walking around for today until I get the tire replaced.  I knew it was going to happen sometime, because the back tire exploded like two months ago, and you could tell that my tire was falling apart just by looking at it.
Elder Meyers has been in Japan for about four months.  Otsu is his first area.  He is from Seretoga Springs, Utah.  He`s a way nice guy.  It should be fun to work with him this transfer.  I`m excited.  The ward here has about sixty members in it.  They were all very nice and friendly.  What`s funny is that on Sunday, a couple from Fushimi ward (Brother and Sister Hishii) was here because she has a stake calling and she was speaking here.  It was really cool to see them again. 
I`m going to go look at some classes for BYU now.  I got permission the other day to go on the BYU site.  I`m thinking about business management or something like that.  Do you have any ideas? 
I`m loving being here in Otsu.  It`s a wonderful place.  I`ll write you again next week.  Bye. 
-Elder Swift

Monday, March 12, 2012

11 Mar 2012 Sennan Japan (12 Mar in Japan)

Week 88
Mission Log
Hello, Everybody!  It`s another beautiful Spring morning here in Osaka, Japan.  In Kobe, however, it was snowing this morning.  What`s the weather like over there?  I wonder what the weather is like in Kyoto.  This morning, got a phone call from the assistants announcing the next transfers.  I will once again be transferring.  On Thursday, I will be going back to the Kyoto zone.  I will be in a city called Otsu.  It is actually in the Shiga prefecture (the one next to Kyoto), but it is very close to Kyoto, so it is one zone and one stake.  My old area, Fushimi, is going to be in the same district with me, and I will be the district leader.  So, I can go there on companion exchanges all the time.  My companion is going to be Elder Meyers.  I hope that it will be a lot of fun.  It`s sad to have to say goodbye to all of the people here that I`ve grown to care about over the last four and a half months, but I`m sure I will meet many wonderful people in Otsu as well.  Sorry that I don`t have a whole lot to say this week.  I`m working hard out here.  It`s hard, but it`s a lot of fun at the same time.  I`ll write you again next week.  Bye. 
-Elder Isaac Swift

Sunday, March 4, 2012

4 Mar (5 Mar in Japan) Sennan Japan

Week 87
Mission Log
Sennan is still going pretty well.  I`ve been here for quite a while now.  I`m on my third transfer here, which is tied for the longest that I`ve been in any area.  Next week Monday there will be another transfer announcement.  I wonder what`s going to happen.  I`ll probably go to one more area for the last three transfers of my mission.  I wonder where it will be. 
It was really warm all of this week.  I didn`t wear a coat or gloves or anything just like usual, but what`s not like usual is that I didn`t find myself wishing that I had put a coat or gloves on later in the day or at night when I got cold.  It was just really nice all week.  I`m pretty sure that winter is over and Spring has begun now.  It rained yesterday and it is still raining today.  I hope it doesn`t last too long.  In June is the rainy season.  Once that is over, it is super hot.  Even for a little while before the rainy season and all during the rainy season it is hot.  July and August are probably the hottest.  It gets really really humid in the summer here.  It`ll be fun. 
I`m completely use to sleeping on a futon.  It`d probably be weird for me when I try to sleep on a bed again.  I never really had any problem with them.  When I first got here, I thought the futons were just fine.  Some missionaries do take some time to get used to them though.  Some people don`t like them at first.  They aren`t as thick as that futon bed/couch mattress that we had back at home.  It`s like sleeping on top of a couple of blankets.  Did you say that we are staying at the temple one night?  Do they have hotel rooms at the temple?  I`m excited.  I want to go through the temple in Tokyo.  Kathrine got married?  To whom?  Malcom came back home?  When?  When is Tyler going on a mission? 
I`ve started teaching a lot of older people this last week or two.  Before, I mostly just taught people in their twenties or teenagers, but just recently I started teaching a bunch of people in their forties, fifties, and sixties.  I don`t know how or why that happened, but it`s interesting.  It`s completely different from teaching people that are around my same age.  Maybe I`ll try to find some more young people this week.  I`d really like to focus on trying to find some families that we can teach.  When a family joins, they can strengthen each other and the retention rate is so much better. 
I have to get going now.  I`ll write again next week.  Bye. 
-Elder Isaac Swift

Sunday, February 26, 2012

26 Feb (27 in Japan) Sennan Japan

Week 86
Mission Log
Everything is still super awesome here.  The members here are all really nice and they pretty much all speak English.  I never speak in English to any of them, but they would all understand if I did.  It`s really weird.  In most wards there is one or two people or families from a foreign country (like the US), but everyone else is Japanese and doesn't know English.  This ward is backwards.  There aren't any foreigners, but pretty much everyone seems to be able to speak pretty good English.  In part, I think it`s because there are so many returned missionaries here.  A lot of times, Japanese missionaries will end up picking up English on their missions, even if they serve in Japan. 
We had a zone conference this week where the mission president and the assistants came and gave training.  We`re trying to focus more on finding and teaching families now. Also, we changed the way we add up our numbers each week so that it`s a lot harder to find "new investigators" now.  The conference was in a church that is right in downtown Osaka.  It was pretty fun going into the big city. 
It`s gotten quite a bit warmer now.  It isn't even cold normally.  I don`t have to wear a coat or gloves anymore.  The only exception is when it is windy.  The wind is really cold, especially when riding a bike. 
I went back to Wakayama on a companion exchange this week.  It was really cool going back there.  There is a person there named Sister K.....  About twenty or thirty years ago, she went less active.  She didn't just stop coming to church.  She moved and changed here phone number to that the members wouldn't know where she lived.  About seven months ago, the missionaries ran into her while tracting, and they started teaching her.  She wouldn't go to church or talk to any of the members, but she was fine with meeting with the missionaries.  Elder Burhoe and I taught here many times.  Right before Wakayama closed, we told her that it was going to be our last Sunday and that she needed to come this week.  I think she always wanted an opportunity to go back sometime, but she just needed us to give her a little push.  She came that week and we were so happy.  Then, we left Wakayama and I didn't hear anything for three months because there were no missionaries there.  This last week when I went down to Wakayama on a companion exchange I went to her place and visited her.  She was way excited to see me and let us in right away.  I noticed right away that on a shelf by the door, there was a framed picture of two missionaries and one of Mary and Jesus that she`d taken from the Liahona.  Upon going in and talking with here, I found out that she has been going to church every week ever since that day she came with is.  She read the Liahona and scriptures all the time and she is working so that she can go to the temple again.  She was so happy when I saw her.  It was great to be able to see how she turned her life back around and how happy it made her.  It made me happy too. 
That`s about all I have for this week.  I`ll write you again next week.  Bye. 
-Elder Isaac Swift

Sunday, February 19, 2012

19 Feb (20 Feb in Japan) Sennan

Week 85
Mission Log
We had another good week.  I got to go on another companion exchange with Elder Kawamura.  It was cool because we were companions exactly one year ago.  We were working together on Valentine`s Day and reminiscing about what we did for Valentines Day last year.  It was also fun to work in his area.  His area is north of ours.  It`s closer to the big Osaka city area.  It was a crazy feeling to see big buildings all around and people everywhere.  Osaka is such a big city.  I always thought that Seattle was a pretty big city, but in comparison to the size of Osaka, it`s like nothing.  I can`t imagine what Tokyo is like.

The Bishop had us over to his house last night to have gyoza (potstickers).  Gyoza are so good in Japan.  I don`t remember them being this good back in the United States.  You`ll have to let me know.  Are potstickers in the United States any good?  I wonder if I`ll still be willing to eat them or ramen in the United States after getting used to how good it is here.  There are restaurants all over the place that are dedicated to just gyoza or just ramen.  Those are actually two foods that are eaten together quite often.  It`s because they are really both Chinese foods that Japan adopted from them. 
It`s gotten quite a bit warmer recently.  During the day time it isn't even cold most of the days.  It did snow just a little bit one day this week, but even while it was snowing, it didn't feel all that cold.  The days are all significantly warmer now.  But, once the sun goes down, it gets freezing cold super fast.  Riding a bike at night is unbelievably cold and my hands get painfully frozen each night, but the days are nice. 
That`s about all I have to say this week.  I`ll write you again next week.  Bye. 
-Elder Isaac Swift

Sunday, February 12, 2012

12 Feb 2012 (13 Feb) Sennan Japan

 Week 84
Mission Log
That`s funny that you heard men in Japan spend a lot of money on Valentine`s Day, because men actually don`t spend any money at all on Valentine`s Day.  It`s a little bit different from in the US.  In Japan, Valentine`s Day (February 14th) is the holiday where women get things for the men that they like.  One month later (March 14th) is a holiday called White Day.  That is the day where men get things for women.  Out of all the women they got chocolate or something from on Valentine`s Day, they give some candy or gift or something to the girl on White Day if they are also interested. 
There are going to be two missionaries moving into the Wakayama apartment on Wednesday.  I got to go down there and get it all ready for them.  It felt weird going back to Wakayama again.  I went and looked in the mailbox in Wakayama when I was down there, and it was full of ads for pizza and stuff.  Upon looking thought the ads a little bit, at the bottom of the pile, I discovered, to my delight, two letters addressed to me.  I guess they were delivered after we moved out of the Wakayama apartment and they had just been sitting in that mailbox for a few months.  One of them was a Halloween card from the Barkers and the Pollards.  I was very excited to get the mail, and at the same time thought it was kind of funny that I din`t get it for like three or so months.  
I've pretty much given up on trying to send pictures through an email from my camera.  I`m convinced that it can`t be done.  I`ll just have to send the memory card home again sometime like I used to do.  I hope that you are doing well.  I`ll write you again next week.  Bye. 
-Elder Isaac Swift

Monday, February 6, 2012

5 Feb 2012 (6 Feb in Japan) Sennan Japan

Week 83
Mission Log
I`m surprised that I kept addressing my emails in the exact same way each week for the past 82 weeks.  I just jokingly wrote that on the first week.  I didn`t know that I would be continuing it for a year and a half.  I might as well just continue it all the way to the end now.  The end of my mission just feels closer and closer all the time.  I don`t feel like an old missionary, or that I`ve been out here very long, but at the same time, it feels like I`m going to be going back home any day now. 
That cord you sent me to charge my camera looks like it can plug into USB as well.  So, I`m going to try to send some pictures home each week with the email if I can. 
Last preparation day, we went to a giant slide that`s in the mountains south from the church.  It was a lot of fun.  At one point, the slide goes into a big dinosaur`s mouth. 
It`s fun being back in an apartment with Elder Gardner again.  He`s fun.  His companion is named Elder Barney.  He is from West Valley, Utah.  He has blond hair.  He is about the same height as Elder Gardner.  He is brand new to the mission field. 
Four different less-active members came to church yesterday.  It made me so happy to see them there.  Something I love almost as much as seeing new members get baptized, is when I see a member who hasn`t been to church in a long time finally come back. 
I can`t get the pictures to work.  I`ll send pictures back some other time. 
Right when we left the apartment to go email today, it began to rain.  The rain got harder and harder.  It`s a good thirty minute bike ride to get to the email place, and I am now soaking wet and freezing cold.  It is a good thing that there is free hot chocolate to drink here.  This week was definitely the coldest week that we`ve had so far.  It snowed a couple of times.  It was painful to ride a bike outside. 
Everything is going well here.  The work is wonderful.  I love you and I will write again next week.  Bye. 
-Elder Isaac Swift

Sunday, January 29, 2012

29 Jan 2012 (30 Jan in Japan) Sennan Japan

Week 82
Mission Log
                                         American  New Year's Celebration with the mission.

Another great week back here.  It is still quite cold.  Even though it gets light earlier in the morning and stays light later into the night than it used to, it doesn't seem to be getting any warmer.  The cold is especially hard because we are outside all the time on foot or riding our bikes around.  Plus, I got tired of wearing a big bulky coat around while I`m trying to work.  So, I just deal with the cold now.  Japanese buildings don`t have central heating.  There is just a little heater that heats up the room it`s in.  We have one in the bedroom and one in the first study room.  The other two missionaries are in that room.  Our study room doesn`t have any heating.  It's not uncommon for me to be able to see my breath during study, and then to get distracted by watching it and playing with it. 
This morning we had the transfer announcement.  I am going to be staying in Sennan and I will be staying with my same companion, Elder Singleton.  The other two missionaries in our apartment will be changing though.  Elder McKellar is going back to Australia.  Elder Stanford is going to Nara to be with Elder Murray.  In their place, Elder Gardner is going to come here and train a new missionary.  I`m really excited to be with Elder Gardner again.  He was my companion back in Uwajima. 
Things are awesome here.  The mission is great.  It`s such a wonder opportunity to learn and grow myself while giving all my time for others.  It`s so easy to see the Lord`s hand in our lives every day out here.   It`s really hard all of the time, but the Lord supports me.  See 2 Nephi 4:20-21. 
The time is flying by so quickly.  My interview with the mission president went pretty well.  It seems like I will be able to register myself online and that the ecclesiastic endorsement will be taken care of.  I see some people with tablets, but it doesn`t seem like a lot.  Everyone has smart phones. 
Thanks everyone for all of the support and encouragement that you give from back home.  I`ll write you again next week.  Love you.  Bye. 
-Elder Isaac Swift

Sunday, January 22, 2012

22 Jan 2012 (23 Jan in Japan) Sennan Japan

                                           An investigator's car with my name on it.

                    A big pink gorilla that towers over the city of Sennan.  We named her Larry.         

                                                 Destroyed building we explored
                                               Rice that`s half way to becoming mochi
                                                               Making mochi    
                                                                 Cooking dinner
                                                     The train station from the outside.
                                                       A big train station in Osaka.
                                    Seijinshiki (20th birthday party)    It was a fun special occasion.
                                              Girls wearing  dresses called  kimonos.  
                                            The drum performance was really cool.
                                                      The sign says seijinshiki
                                              Me at the ocean on a really stormy day.   

                                                 Pokemon center in Osaka.(2 above)
                   I`m eating a food called taiyaki.  It`s in the shaped of a fish and it `s full of custard.

Week 81
Mission Log
I`m sorry that I wasn't able to send an email home last week.  Elder McKellar is going home soon.  So, he got permission from the mission president to go and see Kyoto on preparation day.  I took him up there and showed him around all the good places.  It was really cool to go back there.  I haven`t been there since this time last year. 
In the United States, Japanese restaurants have the chef cooking food right in front of you.  There aren't really a lot of places that are like that here, but there are a lot of places where there is a heat plate or something on your table and you cook the food yourself.  They`re pretty fun.  Maybe, that`s too dangerous in the United States, so the chef comes and cooks it in front of you.  The restaurant does'`t want to be liable. 
I think BYU Idaho will be great for Caleb.  Did he have to pick out a major? 
I have an interview with the mission president on Friday.  I will ask for my ecclesiastical endorsement then. 
There`s some great news.  Two things that I thought might be lost forever are now back to how they should be.  I got the camera cord and was able to charge my camera with it.  I can finally take pictures from it.  The other thing was my right shoe.  I`m on my last pair of shoes already.  The soles started to tear off of my right shoe.  It was nearly completely gone and I had no idea what to do, but I was able to go to the 100yen store (dollar store), buy some multi-purpose glue, and fix it up as good as new.  I hope it holds for another six months. 
I was very surprised to hear about Nathanael and Mary-Anne`s baby.  The picture looked way cute. 
I`m going to end the email here and try to send some pictures.  You`d probably like pictures more than me writing stuff. 
-Elder Isaac Swift