Dear Family and Friends,
First of all I have to wish Dad a happy birthday and congratulate him for becoming an ojii-san. I don`t think there`s really a Japanese birthday song. They just sing Happy Birthday in English with a heavy accent usually.
Well I`ll start off with what has gone on this past week. On Thursday (Thanksgiving) we had zone conference which was really good. Everyone learns new things every zone conference. Also for lunch that day we had some mashed potatoes with turkey gravy, rice, and one slice of pumpkin pie. It was really good, I just wish there had been more. After zone conference we rode the train back to our area and found out our bikes had been towed away. That was a little annoying. It`s really hard to understand Japanese parking rules. No longer will I assume it`s safe to park in the middle of a long line of bikes. Since bikes are our main means of transportation we didn`t get much done until the next morning when the towing place was open. It takes forever to walk places.
That incident brings to mind the garbage rules. Garbage here in Japan is confusing and really strict. Garbage is supposed to be divided into burnable/unburnable/cardboard/plastic/cans/glass and maybe some other ways too. A couple weeks ago we returned to our apartment and found our garbage bag sitting in front of our door. Apparently we put it out on the wrong day. I`m not sure if they checked the cameras to see who it was or just assumed it was the stupid foriegners. Another missionary was telling me that the same thing had happened to him before, but it wasn`t their garbage so he just put it over on the outer part of the gate by their door. A few weeks went by and the apartment manager got sick of it and told them to take care of it. They informed him it wasn`t their garbage (It had alcohol bottles) and he said `oh... alright I`ll take care of it`
We`re teaching a Brazilian family right now. The Dad speaks Portugese and Japanese but the Mom who is the main investigator only speaks a little Japanese (Less than me) so it`s hard to teach her. Unfortunately I don`t have any time to learn Portugese right now. The family did come to church on Sunday which was good. The ward had their primary program this last Sunday which was good.
Now to the questions:
- Did I do anything for Thanksgiving? Zone conference and had my bike towed
- Am I getting better at the Language? Yes, but really slowly
- Do I still teach English Classes? Yes. The English classes are actually a common thing in Japan. Almost every area has one. We have little flyers for them that we give people often. English Class is only once a week and goes from 7:00 PM to 8:15 PM and then from 8:15 to 8:30 we share a short spiritual message. We do find investigators this way.
- Are my shoes/socks/clothes holding out? Yes, for the most part. The sole in one of my right shoes is messed up though and will need to be replaced.
When will you find out the scheduling for my Christmas Phone Call? Well it will probably be on P-day which is Tuesday here and Monday Evening there. I`m thinking if possible, the best way/cheapest would be for you to call me at a specific time with Skype. It`s pretty expensive to call internationally so if that`s possible it would be preferred. I don`t know for sure yet but there`s still a couple more weeks.
I guess now I`ll describe a typical day (Yesterday). At 10:30 AM we left the apartment and visited a nearby house (3 minutes) we had been to before. The person was busy so we quickly set up an appointment for later in the week to return and teach a short lesson. After that we went housing. This time we went to a neighborhood really close to the apartment but up a hill. We went from house to house (Or kekko box to kekko box). Most houses in Japan have a little intercom thing in front of the gate or by the door instead of a doorbell. People will normally pick up a phone (sometimes with a camera) and speak on the intercom. Normally it takes about 10 to 15 seconds for them to say kekko desu (No thank you), ii desu (I`m good), iranai (I don`t need it), nothing, isogashii (I`m busy), rusuban desu (Nobodies home, it`s a Japanese thing I guess), jikaan ga nai (I don`t have time). Those are the usual things we get. While walking from house to house I observed the gardens and tiny yards. The Seven Dwarves are the most popular front door/Garden figurines here I think. Bug catchers are pretty popular. One garden had little bamboo spikes to keep cats out. A few had a row of water bottles next to the gate that are meant to scare cats away. A couple gates had signs by flower pots that said in Japanese `The flowers will die so don`t let your dog pee`. Someone`s family name was the Japanese word for Exit.
After housing we returned for lunch and ate spagetti. Spagetti is a dangerous food to eat... The sauce likes to get on shirts and ties. We then left the apartment to see if we could visit an old former investigator who only speaks Portugese. It took about 30 minutes to get to his apartment (Japanese addresses are a pain to find, streets don`t have names or numbers here). We think he moved back to Brazil. After that we rode our bikes to an eki (Train Station) and streeted there for about 30 minutes. We got tired of that eki so we went over to our usual eki and streeted for a few hours. That evening we tried to visit someone we had met housing before but he wasn`t home yet. After that we returned to our apartment, made some phone calls, ate dinner, planned, and went to bed.
I may have mentioned this before but there are a lot of vending machines in Japan. Like at least one every block you walk. Some have hot drinks in them as well. Cigarrette vending machines aren`t uncommon to see. Smoking is fairly common in Japan, I don`t know why. In grocery stores the cashiers put your food into a different basket and give you a few bags so you can put it in bags at a nearby counter. It`s a little troublesome having to do that.
Japanese sinks don`t have garbage disposals. The drains in sinks look like a garbage disposal but there`s a net that catches anything besides water. We have to change that about once a week.Anyways I`m out of time now. Take care everyone! Please write and have a good Christmas.
Elder Andrew West
PS Happy Birthday Dad. :)