This is Kobe, Japan.

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

Sunday, January 8, 2012

8 Jan 2012 (9 Jan in Japan) Sennan Japan

Week 79
Mission Log
I`m finally all grown-up now!  In Japan, you become an adult when you are twenty years old.  This morning I went to a thing called seijinshiki.  It`s a big ceremony for everyone that turned twenty in this past year and is now therefore an adult.  It was a lot of fun.  This ceremony is a very big deal in the Japanese culture.  All of the girls wore very fancy formal Japanese dresses called a kimono.  They often spend thousands of dollars on their kimono, hair, and everything they need to get ready for their seijinshiki.  It`s pretty much one of the most important days of their life.  Guys just wear a nice suit and get a good haircut.  There was a really awesome drum performance at it as well.  I`ll try to include some pictures from it.  I just found out that I can`t send any pictures this week.  Sorry. 
We had a Christmas/New Years mission conference.  It was a lot of fun.  We played a bunch of sports in a church that has a gym in it and we had a talent show.  I really wanted to do something for the talent show, but that required me to get a bit creative.  I found a piece of bamboo on the side of the road and took it back to the apartment.  I then used a bread knife to cut two foot long pieces out of it.  It was pretty difficult because bamboo is actually really strong.  I was quite surprised.  I then took an old tie and a wooden chopstick, ran the tie through the bamboo and made them into nun chucks.  I had to perform the next day with my nun chucks that I handmade from bamboo and an old tie.  Making it was probably more of a talent than the routine I used them for.  Everyone seemed to like it. 
It`s been pretty cold and it even snowed a couple more times.  No snow has stuck to the ground ever though.  I got a pretty bad cold in the middle of the week, but I`m pretty much completely better now. 
I`ll ask President Zinke about the ecclesiastical endorsement when I talk to him at interviews in a few weeks.  There will be plenty of time to think about careers and majors after I`m done here, or at the earliest, in March when I register for classes.  I have to focus on other stuff right now.  Tell Joshua and Rebecca congratulations on the new baby.  Thanks for sending to new camera cord.  Also, tell Nathanael congratulations on the new baby.  I got his card in the mail.  I also got the pictures that Dad sent and the package from Tianna, but I haven`t played the candy bar game yet.  
That sounds like a pretty interesting book that you got Dad.   I don`t know if the book already told you or not, but "shogun" is a Japanese word.  The "gun" part is not pronounced like a gun that you shoot.  The "u" makes an "oo" sound like in moon.  Shogun was the title that the leader of the samurai had back in the days when samurai ruled the country. 
Kita came to church this week.  He`s stull very funny.  Sister Kitagawa is doing very well. 
I have to get going pretty soon now.  I love you all and I am excited to talk to you all again one day.  Bye.  ;)
-Elder Isaac Swift

Monday, January 2, 2012

2 Jan 2012 Sennan Japan

Week 78
Mission Log
明けましておめでとうございます!That is Japanese for Happy New Years!  It`s read akemashite omedetou gozaimasu!  It took me like ten minutes to figure out how to switch the keyboard back to English after writing that.  They definitely do celebrate New Years here in Japan.  It is the biggest holiday of the year.  It isn`t just the first of the year though.  The New Years celebration last for the first three days of the year.  Everyone goes to old temples and shrines, visits their family, and rests from work for three days.  Often times, they will prepare a lot of food before the New Year so that the wife can rest for the three days and doesn`t have to cook any food.  Also, they use the same pair of wooden chopsticks for the three days for the same reason.  Family and your ancestors are very important here in Japan.  You`ll often spend a lot of time with your living family and go to shrines to pray to your ancestors during the New Years celebration.  It`s customary to eat mochi and soba (a type of noodle) during this time of year.  In order to make mochi, you put some rice in a big wooden or stone bowl, then you smash it with a giant hammer (like Thor) until it`s all completely smashed together into one texture.  You then break it apart into little balls and eat it.  It`s sticky and chewy, but it`s pretty good.  It`s kind of hard to explain what it`s like because there isn`t really anything like it in the United States. 
Last Sunday, Christmas was pretty fun.  It`s not as big of a holiday here in Japan as it is back in the United States.  Nobody gets it off from work.  It isn`t even written on the calendar.  Everyone knows what it is somewhat and they get into Santa and presents and stuff.  People don`t know about the real meaning of Christmas being about Christ at all though.  Most people have heard the named Jesus Christ, but don`t know anything about Him.  It`s probably similar to how most of us have heard the name Buddha but don`t really know anything about him.  Japan, being an island, was very isolated from the rest of the world for a really long time.  Therefore, their culture and even people`s way of thinking are completely different from that of people in Western countries.  We had church in the morning for one hour and then went and ate dinner at the bishop`s house at night on Christmas Day.  Members of the ward here gave us some Christmas presents (mostly junk food).  It was very kind of them. 
On preparation day last week, we went exploring.  There is a big building near the apartment that`s half missing.  It looks like one part of the building was just wiped out.  Then, there`s a door frame on the remaining part, but there is no door on it.  It`s just an empty door frame.  We went in and had a look around.  It was the creepiest place ever.  All windows, lights, toilets, sinks, and everything breakable was smashed.  Floorboards were torn up.  Walls had holes in them and doors were destroyed.  It was quite large and had several stories to it.  There was only the one entrance that we went in in the basement.  There was no other way in or out.  There were several dark creepy and weird passageways.  I don`t have any idea what that building was or what happened to it.  It was fun to explore, but at the same time, it was kind of scary. 
Yesterday, we met the coolest guy.  We were waiting at the train station to meet with one of our investigators that we had an appointment with, but he didn`t show up.  Then, some random 81 year-old guy walks up and starts talking to us.  When I brought up the church, he said that he wanted to go.  Since our appointment didn`t show up and the church was only a five minute walk away, I said to him, "Why don`t we go check it out right now?"  He agreed and we started walking toward the church building.  One the way there he randomly says, "Do you like sports?  I like ping pong.  Do you have a Ping pong table?"  Of course, we do have a ping pong table in the church.  So, we told him that we could play a little bit.  He got super into it and he was actually surprisingly good.  He`s very active and energetice for an 81 year old man.  After playing and talking some, he insisted on taking us back to his apartment to feed us.  He lived close by.  We ended up spending a while talking and doing things with that man (his name is Kita).  What`s really cool is that even though he loves to talk and would constantly be saying things, he would always stop to listen whenever we tried to teach something about the gospel and he would accept it.  He says that he`s going to come to church and he likes all the stuff we`re teaching. 
It`s snowed about four times now.  It snowed on Christmas Eve and on the Day after Christmas but not on Christmas Day.  Before Church on Christmas day, we had a baptism, though.  Her name was Mika Kitamura.  She`s in her thirties.  She`s engaged to a member of the church.  What`s interesting is that the member was a less active member, but through Sister Kitamura hearing the lessons and getting baptized he came back to the church, as did his daughter.  Now all three of them are an active member family.  They have a goal to be married in the temple. 
I`m very excited for this new year.  It`s a great opportunity to make a fresh start and to become better.  You can just choose to forget all of the bad things of the past and choose to live for the future.  Anyone can choose to change.  There is a wonderful bright year in store for all of us.  Let`s make to most of every moment of it.  Live for the future. 
-Elder Isaac Swift
P.S. No, I didn`t get the pictures from Dad or the card from Nathanael yet.