Sunday, February 26, 2012

Almost Cried...

Lots of things have been happening here this week and the days seem to be getting shorter and shorter. We managed to make it down to the Tokyo Temple this week, Emily had a fun sushi making Relief Society activity, I finished the school year with half of the college students I teach, and I gave a talk at Church on Sunday. Where to begin...

On Friday's I have been team-teaching at Aizu Techno Academy. This past Friday was my last class with the students who will be graduating. In class, we took time to write messages for everyone as we passed around cards with each person's name on it. It was a lot of fun to read some of the comments. As I was leaving class, the students had prepared a separate card ahead of time with comments on it and it almost made me cry... When I looked over at Troy, the lady I teach with, she was covering her face so that no one would see her crying. Seeing her made me want to cry even more. I'm sure as the school year wraps up here in Japan, I'll be shedding some tears. Luckily, I just found out that I will be teaching at the same schools next year until Emily and I decide to go back to the States.
This was the card they surprised me with it. Sorry that it isn't the best quality.

This is my card that we passed around class. Sorry that it is upside down, couldn't figure out how to make it the other way. To highlight a few since it might be hard to read, we have, "Glasses very much!! Thank you!", "Thank you! hope and confidence", and my favorite "You are very wonderful men!! nice men :)". We didn't concentrate on writing at all... :P

Whenever I saw boots lined up at the schools I teach at, I always wanted to take a picture... I finally did. Even at schools people take off their outdoor shoes and put on their clean indoor shoes. 

Here are all the participants at the Relief Society activity. I came just in time to take the picture... and eat tons of food. :)

They made these rice balls with different stuff at the activity for a festival called Hina Matsuri which is pretty much Girl's Festival. This is one of the ones Emily made.

This is the guy Emily made.

This is the happy couple... So cute! The body is the rice ball, the head is a quail egg, the yellow stuff (egg I think) are the clothes, the orange stuff (carrot) for a hat?, the black stuff (seaweed) was for hair, and sesame seeds for the eyes.

The following are some of the ones that other people made. Some of them are really good. As I was looking at some of them, I was trying to figure out why some of them looked more Asian than others... 

This is some kind of somen noodle soup. It was super yummy! It may look like ramen noodles, but somen noodles are a lot thinner. Other things inside the soup were seaweed, boiled egg, corn, bamboo, some kind of mushrooms, rice cake, and crab. Some of those things might not sound that great together, but like I said, it was yummy!

I'm sure all of you wished you could have heard me speak on Sunday, but all I will write is a story that I shared. My talk was on the Holy Ghost. One of the stories that I shared, is very special to me. It is a story that demonstrates how the Holy Ghost prompts us to do things sometimes even if we don't understand why. I know that when we always follow the feelings we get from the Holy Ghost (even when we don't understand), we will always receive blessings that Heavenly Father has prepared for us. 

Back in November 2009, I started dating this girl named Emily. We had known each other for almost a year at this point and had worked together as resident advisers in the dormitories at BYU-Hawaii and also worked together in the BYUH Student Association. Anyways, I started liking her after our first date and starting thinking about what was going to happen if we started to date seriously. I was graduating a month later (December 2009) and already had plane tickets back to California. I prayed to Heavenly Father many times asking Him what I should do - Should I come back to Hawaii? Should I try to marry this girl? Should I give up? - All these questions where in my prayers. Just before I left Hawaii, I received my answer. I felt the Holy Ghost whisper to my heart that I should come back to Hawaii. I didn't get any impression that I was to marry Emily or not at that time, but I did know that Heavenly Father wanted me to come back to Hawaii. I was so confused! I had no job lined up, I had no place to live, and actually, I had no girlfriend. Logically, there was no reason to go back to Hawaii except for the nice beaches, sunny weather, and that there may be a chance that things could work out with Emily. I really wanted Emily to be the reason for going back to Hawaii... Since we all know the end of the story, we know that it was for Emily. Yay! This is a great story that illustrates a time when I was directed by the Holy Ghost even though I didn't understand why, and how I was blessed for obeying that prompting. I know that Heavenly Father has given us the Holy Ghost so that we can have extra help and direction in our lives and that when we follow that direction, we can become even more happy.

I hope that everyone has a great week and that the weather is warming up like it is here! Much love!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Valentine's Surprises Continued...

On Valentine's Day morning, I opened my closet to grab a pair of socks and found a present from my cute hubby instead. The present turned out to be, ironically, some new warm socks, chocolate, and gift certificates to go skiing, to an onsen (Japanese hot springs), and out for dinner. He also surprised me with these beautiful flowers. Can you say spoiled?

We were both lucky enough to have shortened work schedules on Tuesday, so we were able to spend most of Valentine's Day together. I used my gift certificate for a romantic dinner and we ate sauce katsudon, one of our favorite Japanese dishes. James was obviously very thrilled about his dinner (see face below).

During work that day, I made my first visit to a special education school in our city. I only taught four students, but it was definitely one of the best days of teaching yet. The students were so eager to learn and to practice their English.

I stayed and ate lunch with the whole class (below). The lunch period in Japan (especially at this school) is different from most schools in America. Before lunch, every student washed their hands and put on an apron, a bandana, and a face mask. Then a few students grabbed the food and utensils from the cafeteria and brought them back to the classroom where other students prepared the trays and arranged the desks into a big table. Everyone sat down to eat, but no one touched their food until everyone had been served, seated, and said, "Itadakimasu!" (a phrase they use before eating; literally, "I will partake."). To me, the lunch period was a microcosm of Japanese society as a whole - harmonious unity and hard work without complaint.

Last night, Kana, one of my students, and her mom came to our house for dinner. Kana has been the most diligent member of our high school English club and she and I have gotten to know each other well over the last six months. We introduced them to tacos with homemade tortillas. Even though eating the tacos was a bit tricky for them, they seemed to enjoy the food. Kana's mom is a dental hygienist, so we had some funny conversations after dinner as she quizzed us about our brushing and flossing habits and inspected our teeth. She then presented us with a gift - two new toothbrushes!

We hope you all had a fun Valentine's Day. Love to all of our family and friends!!!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

The Festival of Candles and Surprises

We had a blast with date night this week. This past weekend was the Festival of Candles at Tsurugajo, our local castle. We decided it would be fun to go with some other people, so we had a little double date with our friends Steve and LaNae. We weren't quite sure what to expect when we first arrived. The entrance was lined with candles in little huts in the snow. As we approached the inner grounds of the castle, we were amazed at the images that flashed across the side of the castle. There was a projector displaying all sorts of designs. We took a few pictures of them trying to figure out what the display was for. Although we never found out, Aizu is famous for candle making/painting, and we guessed that the designs were those of candles made in Aizu. We followed the rest of the people there to the other side of the castle where many more candles were lit. We took a walk around and were about ready to head out when LaNae suggested we take a different exit. As we continued to new areas, we discovered copper cans that had holes punched into them so that the candles inside of them would glow fancy designs. Although they were made by junior high school students, some of them were pretty extravagant. We had a fun time and were glad we got to experience something unique to the Aizu area.

Thought this one  was pretty interesting. Looks like the head of  a characterized chicken or duck.

Some of our favorite designs of the copper lanterns.

I think the snow flake one was our favorite.

Although you can only see about 20 here, there must have been  close to 200 of them.
As for the rest of the week, I'll highlight a few of the other things that happened with pictures.

This week Emily received a present from one of her students...  Erasers disguised as sushi!

In preparation for Valentine's Day, Emily did a special lesson with her high schoolers and made some valentines. She then sent the 250 valentines her students made to the Kapiolani Medical Center in Hawaii. One of the reasons I love her ; always service oriented. :)

When I got home from meetings today, I came home to a surprise. In Emily's words, Valentine's Day had come early. This was probably the only way she could surprise me with decorations because I usually leave the house after her and get home before her.

The picture doesn't really do it justice... but she had cut out a bunch of hearts and had letters on the back of them to form a secret message. The message led me to the closet where my beloved 6-pack of Dr. Pepper and 2 packs of Tim Tams awaited me. So awesome!

Not only did she surprise me with decorations and Dr. Pepper, but she surprised me with my favorite meal, clam chowder. 

We went over to our Branch President's house the other week and his wife had made this yummy apple pie like dessert. Emily for the recipe and made it with LaNae earlier this week. It was sooo good!

We love getting out and going for walks, even though it can be quite cold sometimes. 
We love you all very much and hope that you are doing well. Have a good Sunday and a Happy Valentine's Day on Tuesday!!!

Monday, February 6, 2012

Who Wants to Read to Me?!

"Who wants to read to me?!" James has heard this phrase over and over again in the past couple weeks, and though he never shows it, I'm sure it makes him want to pop my head off sometimes.

But I LOVE it when he reads to me!

He loves it too...until his eyes stop working and his throat gets scratchy.

We have been reading books together since before we were married, and have found it to be one of our favorite bonding activities. So far, we have read Three Cups of Tea; Cry, the Beloved Country; The Five Love Languages; The Go-Giver; and probably more that I can't think of right now. The book that has both of us addicted right now is The Black Magician trilogy.

It's so nice to snuggle up with a steaming cup of hot chocolate and escape the craziness of the real world for a little bit. James has a great reading voice and makes just enough accidental word-switches to keep us alert and entertained. And reading new books means we are more likely to have quality (and more educated!) conversations during mealtimes or train rides. It also moderates the amount of time we spend watching movies, 'cause we sure do love them guys too! That's a whole different post, though, as is my grammar usage.

Needless to say, it's a tradition I hope we continue through our years together and adapt to our family situation over time. Please, please comment if you have any suggestions for books we should read together!