Saturday, November 26, 2011

Crazy Monkey Show

This week was full of reflection and Thanksgiving. Just when Emily and I thought we were finished with our Thanksgiving lessons, we had a huge Thanksgiving lesson with the English class we help teach with the missionaries at the Church every Wednesday night and a lesson on giving thanks at a Family Home Evening activity that happens at Church every Friday night that we were asked to do. You may be wondering what people do for Thanksgiving here in Japan. Seeing how Thanksgiving is an American holiday established by President Lincoln back in 1863, the Japanese people haven't really even heard of it. However, they also have a similar holiday on 11/23 every year called Labor Thanksgiving day (I think it is like the American Labor day). That didn't keep us from celebrating Thanksgiving this past Thursday though. We ended up inviting over our friend Tomomi and had steak, mashed potatoes, rolls, an asparagus dish, and pumpkin glory (a dessert Emily made that was kind of like cobbler... yeah, we made up the name). Nothing too extravagant, but it worked all the same. It was super yummy and it was the first time that Emily and I made steak. Glad it all worked out!

Other than Thanksgiving stuff, our branch has been very blessed. We have had 3 baptisms here in the last 2 weeks and the missionaries keep finding more and more cool people. We have one guy from our branch, Sei Kuwahara, that is leaving on his mission tomorrow heading out to the Provo Missionary Training Center. He is called to serve in the Nagoya Mission in Japan. We also had the Primary Program in our Sacrament meeting and it was so cute. Our primary is so small, but they did a great job. Emily also had the opportunity to help them out and play the piano for them during the program. The next thing on our list for Church is the Christmas party that we are planning for the Branch. We are so excited for the Christmas season and will be setting up some decorations around our apartment this next week!
From left to right for kids: Ryui, Yuho, Haruki, Marin, Karin, and Riho.
From left to right for adults: Sister Kuriki, Sister Kuwahara, Chizuko, and Emily.
Even though the Primary is small, they are still quite rambunctious! 

Lastly, I wanted to mention the fun time we had on Saturday with one of our other friends and her son, Chizuko and Harunobu. They invited us to go get crepes with them and there ended up being a little petting zoo set up right next to where they were selling the crepes. It was all outside, but they had a llama, a bunch of baby chicks that were all huddled together in a ball under a lamp to stay warm, and a monkey. The monkey wasn't actually there to pet, but to do a show. At one point of the circus like show, the guy running the thing asked for a volunteer to throw a ball to the monkey from the audience while the monkey balanced on a basketball. Emily volunteered and I actually caught it on video. Hope you enjoy! The monkey walked on stilts, jumped over high things, balanced on balls, and did all kinds of crazy stuff. We had a fun time even though it was stinkin' cold. bbbrrrr!! We love you lots and hope that everyone will have/had fun setting up for this upcoming festive season, Christmas!
Little baby chicks looked so cold...

There's Emily, Chizuko, and Harunobu.

Saturday, November 19, 2011


Happy Thanksgiving week to all our friends and family back in America! We definitely won't have a traditional Thanksgiving this year, but I'd still like to take some time tonight to count our blessings.

First, I'm so thankful that James and I both have good jobs and that we are able to live comfortably. My job with the JET Program has made it possible for us to have this great experience in Japan and jobs have just fallen into place for James. He even got another job offer today to work at yet another school. They love him! It has been great to get to know the students and teachers here. Below are some pictures of our English club activity this week: making fudge in a bag. I was so glad that it worked out better than last month's ice cream in a bag activity (which was basically a complete failure...)!

Second, I'm so thankful for the capacity to learn and progress. The student in the above picture has agreed to be my Japanese tutor for a couple months. Last week, she wrote out (in English - not an easy task for a Japanese high school student!) a five-page lesson on Japanese grammar with illustrations. She is pretty amazing, and her lesson has really helped with my Japanese comprehension. I'm also thankful for the opportunity that James and I will have to attend grad school in the next couple years. Although it continues to be a struggle to try and decide on a school to attend next year, I feel blessed that there are so many options open to us.

Third, I'm very thankful for the Church and the gospel of Jesus Christ that brings James and I closer to each other, to our families, and to the little branch of Church members here in Aizu Wakamatsu. Yesterday, the Relief Society sisters held an activity to officially welcome me to Japan. At the activity, we learned how to make sushi. There were about 15 women who came to the activity, but by the time we had finished all of our sushi rolling, you would have thought that three times that many had been cooking; there was so much food! Sadly, I forgot my camera and only got a picture of some of our pathetic-looking leftovers, but just trust me when I say that my Thanksgiving feast came early - Japanese style! The women in the branch have made me feel so welcome and loved. I feel the love of Christ through them, and I know I'll look back on this experience for years to come with sweet affection for the sisters in the Church who have prayed for me and served me with all their hearts. I'm thankful for them.

Finally, as always, we are grateful for all of you, your love and support. Our friends and family are such a blessing to us. Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

What are you thankful for?

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Missing Hawaii...

Like we have been saying for the past several months, it's getting cold. This week we are just about at freezing temperature with Wednesday at a high of 39 degrees. We are really missing Hawaii now. Not only because of the cold weather here, but we were also fortunate to be invited to a Hula performance this past Monday by one of the members in a neighboring branch, Sister Tsuji. Although she is Japanese, she loves the Hawaiian culture and actually manages a bunch of schools that teach the Hula to people here in Japan. Watching many of her students let our minds wander back to the memories of tropical weather, music and dance.
They danced inside this restaurant and it was really small. However, they did a really good job and it was fun to just reminisce in the music and mood.

To remind us even more of home, we decided to cook up some burritos/tacos this week. Instead of spending something like $8 on 8 tortillas, we made some easy tortillas from flour, salt, milk, baking powder and oil. They were super easy to make and tasted really good.
They were really awesome! Doesn't it look like it came from the store?

Every now and then I get asked to do American presentations to elementary and junior high schools to teach intercultural understanding. This past week I was invited to an elementary school that seemed like it didn't have too many foreign visitors. When I first got to the school, the teachers informed me that the students were very excited for the lesson. I just thought they were saying that to be nice. However, the 3rd graders I taught were full of energy and were constantly asking questions about America, Hawaii, and myself. One of the kids in my first class was so excited to meet me, that he asked for my signature in class. I told him I would sign something after we finished the lesson. After the lesson, I had every single kid line up for my autograph, some kids more than once! I was completely surprised and quietly thought to myself, "so this is what it must be like to be famous." Even the teachers were surprised by how excited the kids were. Definitely a day to remember... the one day I was famous. Haha.
These were a few of the kids. Once I started taking pictures, everyone wanted to be in them so they didn't really turn out that great.

This is one of the three classes that I taught. Just after I took this picture, I jumped right behind that front row in the middle of those girls and another teacher took our picture.

Although we do miss the weather in Hawaii, among other things, we really do love the different kinds of fun and interesting experiences we are having here in Japan. We love you all and hope that this post finds you in good health!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Pumpkins, Turkeys, and Everything in Between

Happy November everyone! Time is flying by; it's hard to believe that we have already been here for three months. There are definitely still things we miss about the States, but between our two amazing moms (one who sends us American movies and one who sends us American treats), we are still able to enjoy the luxuries of "home" while experiencing all that Japan has to offer. Below are some of the highlights of our week. 

Halloween party at Odaka Kogyou, the smallest school I work at. This witch is actually one of my favorite teachers that I work with. Her name is Miki. She is really enthusiastic and the students love her. How could you help it, really? Check out her hair. She is so festive.

We carved Japanese pumpkins. A little bit harder to carve than American pumpkins, but it worked out.

Bobbing for apples

This is the Halloween party with the English club at my main school. We decorated sugar cookies to look like ghosts. These girls love sweets! No wonder we get along so well :)

Our creation. This was the first time most of them (including the teacher) had ever carved a pumpkin.

Happy November! Can you tell what it is? It's a turkey! All of the teachers at school thought it was a chicken. No one here eats turkey, so they don't really recognize a giant cartoon version of one when it stares them down in the hall. And virtually no one knows about American Thanksgiving, so people were walking past while I was working on this bulletin board, making comments like, "Oh Halloween! Cool!" or "Christmastime, right?" No, no, no! Thanksgiving!

We took another trip to Tokyo this week with our branch to visit the Tokyo temple. It was a great trip. We ate lunch in this beautiful park.

We went hiking in the mountains with one of the members of our branch. We were so happy that we didn't miss all of the fall colors.

Amazing views from the top, above the clouds.

My favorite shot - doesn't the fog make it look so mystical?
Other than that, I have been plodding along on my grad school list. We are so blessed to have so many options (at least, I think it is a blessing - sometimes it doesn't feel like it!). Decisions are so hard for me, but I am proud to say that I have narrowed the list down to about eight schools, which range from Ireland to Oregon to Florida. If anyone out there has any insights about how to choose between eight good things, give me a call! Luckily, James has been really sympathetic and tough at the same time - exactly what I need in this kind of situation.

In the meantime, here is a talk that we shared in visiting teaching today. Hope you enjoy! Have a wonderful week everyone!