Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Golden Birthday in Japan!!

Hello again everyone!

I figured out how to attach pictures! Victory! They are of my birthday,

We will talk about that first since it only happens once a year... And this one was extra special because since I turned 23 on the 23rd it was my golden birthday. I never thought I would celebrate my golden birthday in Japan! It was fantastic.

Um, I have like negative time so we shall just do highlights:
  • So, it started out like a normal day, except when I went to go to the bathroom I discoveed that Masuda Shimai had decorated the inside of the door with cute little messages. It was super adorable. Oh and I opened Amber`s present! Thanks! I love it! And it`s still snowing here so I will definitely have plenty of opportunities to wear it.
  • When we went housing, proselyting door to door, the very first person`s door we knocked on was a cute grandma who let us right in and talked to us for 40 minutes. She probably isn`t going to become an investigator, but it was still fun and she was really nice.
  • We had Pizza Hut for dinner! I`ve been craving pizza forver, so it was wonderful. It was like a little feast. But kind of funny, because even though it was Pizza Hut I couldn`t even find a pepperoni or cheese pizza on their menu...
  • I opened my awesome package of presents from my parents... that were all wrapped in gold! Thank you so much!!!
  • On friday nights we have sports night where ward members and investigators can get to know each other and just hang out. We had a mini lesson with a really cool recent convert who is the same age as us right before it started at the church, so we all walked across the hall to the gym and when we got there the Elders who were already there excitedly handed her a little map of the gym with stars on it, and a message for me on the back that said something like find the treasures and receive a secret message. At each of the places where the stars were, there was a delicious cookie with a note. The three of us, Masuda Shimai, Sarasa San and I found the first two pretty easily, but the Elders are super good at hiding things so they had us practically crawling around the stage and jumping up to look on shelves to try and find them, It was fun! But we may have ended up needing to get some tips, haha. Oh and at the end all of the pieces together spelled happy birthday and had the Elder`s favorite scriptures written on the back of them. Then I got surprised again a while later, after going to the bathroom with Masuda Shimai. I opened the door to the gym to find that all of the lights had been turned off, and then a big spotlight was put on me and everyone sang happy birthday and we ate a cake and delicious jello mold that the members had made for me! I felt so loved that they would do all of that, espcially when I have only been here for like a week and a half. I think Masuda Shimai made sure something would happen, because she`s awesome. But she couldn`t ever surprise me with me standing next to her all of the time! Haha.
Super quick fun things from today -- I bought my bike! It`s an awesome purpley-blue, in case you were wondering. And it has a bell and basket. Win. And then after buying the bike we went bowling because it is two of the Elders in Atsubetsu`s last p-day.

We do lots and lots of missionary work and have fun doing that, but we`ve definitely been able to do a lot of other fun things too! And the ward members here are seriously so amazing. I think we have seen them every day so far this week, and they`re always giving us things. All six Atsubetsu missionaries even went to one member`s house this week where we had this huge Japanese BBQ feast. It was great.

Oh and another fun mission activity that we did that Masuda Shimai had the brilliance to come up with is that we went to the Mission Home with one of our investigators for a music activity with the mission president`s wife, because she loves music and so does our awesome invesigator, who is 18. We sang some beautiful church songs before teaching the first lesson. And when we asked if she would prepare to be baptized she said yes! There`s definitely still a lot to do before then, and in Japan you still need parental permission to be baptized before age 21 and her parent`s are really strict, but it`s so cool to be starting down a path that can bring so much happiness.

Well that`s all I have time for right now! I want to try and read some emails and maybe send more pictures, but the Elders have been waiting here for a while... The pictures should be self explanatory?

Love you so much!

Friday, March 23, 2012

A birthday in Japan!

Today is Natalie's birthday! Her first birthday in Japan. Her mission president sent us pictures from her first day too, so enjoy!
President and Sister Evans and her companion.
All the missionaries who flew into Japan together!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

My Life in Japanese, with Costco

Hello friends and family! I`ve survived almost a week!

I apologize if the formatting of this email is a little funky ~ the keyboard is set in Japanese and I can`t figure out how to switch it to English... because it`s written in Japanese. My life is definitely an adventure right now! I`ve been entirely immersed in Japanese. All of the signs are Japanese, the people are all speaking Japanese all of the time, including my companion. It`s kind of crazy and occasionally frustrating, but most of the time it`s fun because it`s like a giant game or something.

So much has happened and so much is different and my brain is so full of all sorts of different things that I don't even know where to start. But I think I am starting to get kind of settled in. The first night we had splits so I worked with Etchuu Shimai in the Atsubetsu area, and then since then Masuda Shimai and I have just been trying to contact people on the street and doing some housing (going door to door talking to people who are home). So far only a couple of people have talked to us, but if we find just one person it would totally be worth it. It`s good. We had stake conference this Sunday, which was actually a lot of fun even though I couldn't understand the talks. The people were super nice and friendly.  Masuda Shimai came home with tons of food and presents from people who were in the wards she served in before.  Everyone loves her! Me included.

The language is actually going better than I thought. I can't say much at all, and when we talk to people on the street it's pretty hard to be sure what I think they are saying is what they are actually saying, but I can understand my companion like 90% of the time (I think, haha), so I'm counting that as really good. I have only been here for a week, so I can't really expect to be fluent yet. Although I would love that so very very much! Even just so that I could read the labels of the stuff in our kitchen so I could cook something... I can't cook anything here! I feel so bad! I'm like a baby bird that just stands there and follows the big bird (my companion) around until they're fed.

Oh, but our big trip for this p-day was... going to Costco! Haha seriously. One of the ward members took us, which was awesome. So we spent the first half of today just eating samples and stuff. And I bought a block of cheese, because I like cheese. And now at least I can make a grilled cheese sandwich! Even though I don't think Masuda Shimai knows what it is. It'll still be good. But it was apparently a big deal because the Atsubetsu Elders who came with us had never been while on their mission, and Masuda Shimai has only been once with the mission presidents. It was pretty fun. And funny because it really is exactly the same as the ones in America -- the same brands and everything! The first day when we had training at the mission home everything was in Japanese, and then right next our chairs were -- Kirkland water bottles. It was like I hadn't gone anywhere!

The Elders (there are two sisters and four elders in Atsubetsu) are here waiting for the computers, so I better finish up. But I love you all!

Last note: the food here is absolutely delicious.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

I'm Actually in Japan!

Bonus email! It isn't p-day, but they decided to give us a few minutes today to tell you that we are still alive.
We made it! Everything went really well with the traveling and all of our flights. We had 8 people going to Sapporo, five gaijin (foreigners) and 3 Nihonjin (Japanese natives), with us the whole time and the Nihonjin were super helpful to have around once we hit the Tokyo airport. And we flew to Tokyo from Seattle with all of the missionaries going to Tokyo with us, so there were probably like 30 of us on the plane together. And we saw the Elders from our district going to Fukuoka waiting in the Tokyo airport, so the whole thing was like a party!
We got to the Sapporo airport at around 8:30 p.m. here (like 6 a.m. Utah time) and met our mission presidents, who took us to a Japanese restaurant in the airport for dinner. I couldn't eat a ton because my body was kind of confused about what time it was, but it was great! Especially because one of our teachers said his first meal in Japan was McDonald's, so... this was definitely better than that.
We spent the night at the mission home, and then today we've just had a lot of fun training meetings. We went to lunch at a Japanese BBQ type place, where you cook the meal yourself on a cool little grill, and that was the first time I really started to feel like I was in Japan, because Northrop Shimai and I were at a table of only Japanese speaking missionaries. It was fun! Before that it didn't really feel all that different here -- the airport looked like it could have belonged anywhere! But I always feel like I haven't actually gone anywhere different when I'm at the airport.
Also today I found out who my first companion in Japan is! Her name is Masuda Shimai, and she is super nice. I'm way excited to get to know her better. She's also a Nihonjin, so this will be a fun adventure with the language right from the start! Apparently there are only three Gaijin sister missionaries in the mission right now, and two of them and Northrop Shimai and I! The other two are both super new too, because it's Cooper Shimai, who was our Senpai, and the Krock Shimai (who is actually Australian), who was Cooper Shimai's Senpai, meaning she's only been here for 12 weeks. And then the rest of the sisters are all natives! It's pretty cool. And it will be so wonderful having a companion who understands the language perfectly and knows all of the cultural details of like. And hopefully I'll learn the language fast... Our first area is Atsubestu, which is in the city of Sapporo. It should be especially awesome because the new temple site is in our area! They haven't done much other than break the ground for it yet, but it's so exciting that we'll be working in the area right next to where it should be!
Ok, I should probably go because I think we're going to do a little proselyting in a few minutes until we have dinner. Wish me luck! It'll be hard... but good. You have to start sometime! And I feel like it'll get easier with practice. It's nice that we've had until today to start though, because apparently the Nagoya missionaries, who got to their mission earlier in the day, had to proselyte from the airport back to the mission home!
It's still so incredibly crazy to think that I'm actually here in Sapporo, and that I'll be staying here. And actually starting to do all of the real missionary work stuff. I don't think I can fully comprehend it at all yet, but I'm super excited. Ganbarimasho! I'll do my best. And it'll be an adventure!

Monday, March 12, 2012

The MTC experience

Natalie leaves the MTC today for Japan so here is a collection of pictures from her time there.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

3-10-2012 Email: The Beginning of the End

I only have two days from this moment left in the MTC. 24 hours. Two nights of (pretending to) sleep. Six meals. Two suitcases to pack. Not that I'm counting down or anything.

I'm so excited! These last few days have been great for getting me even more pumped up to go than before.

Our last day of normal classes with our teachers was Thursday, and it was actually pretty sad to see them leave because since we spent so much time together it felt like the teachers were part of our little MTC family (a couple of people may have cried, and since I'm a bad person I may have laughed at them a little inside. But it was totally sad to say goodbye).  It was exciting to hear some of their stories from the mission and look at pictures, especially of the real Iwane San and Saito San, who we have been teaching (see older blog posts). It's fun because since both of our teachers served in Sapporo, it's totally possible that we could meet the people they taught too. It's crazy and awesome to think that we'll be doing the same things in the same place in just a couple of days....

Yesterday we had our big prep day for leaving the MTC, and it was pretty fun. They jam packed all sorts of good, relevant information into like 12 hours of class. They had some fun interactive stuff including playing with iPads a little bit, which is always a win. We learned about things like the importance of setting goals, working with members, having faith and how to find people. Good stuff. We've actually talked a lot in the past couple of days about setting goals, and the power of expectations -- how we shouldn't let what other people say limit us. Brother Mills, who used to be a Mission President in Japan and is now in charge of all of the international MTCs, had an amazing chat with us about this. He talked about the four minute mile, and how it was widely accepted that no one could ever run faster than that. But then once it was broken, the expectations changed and a really short time after that it was broken again. A lot of times you change how you work based on what your goal is, or what you think can happen. On our mission we talked about how instead of focusing on what others have said or what we think, we should try to find out what is expedient in God, because if it's expedient for God he can make whatever needs to happen happen for it to be accomplished if we have faith.

Sorry this email is so short. My brain is a little all over the place. But I think there might be something exciting happening in the next few days that will make my next email a lot more exciting... It's so crazy that we'll be in Japan so soon! I alternate between being super exciting and a little nervous about being somewhere with real people who speak Japanese all of the time, but mostly I'm just super super excited to actually go there and help real people and apply what I've learned. It'll be hard, but I already know it will be the most amazing thing ever.

Nihon ni Ikimasu!
(Going to Japan!)

Saturday, March 3, 2012

3-2-2012 Email: Flight Plans!

It's official -- I will actually get to leave the MTC someday! Someday soon. Specifically, March 12. A glorious day.

All of us Japanese missionaries got our flight plans yesterday, and it was a moment of great joy. Only our district leader can open the mailbox, where our plans would be delivered, so we all followed him like excited little ducklings after dinner and were pretty much freaking out in hope and anticipation outside of the building watching for his return (they could have come Thursday or Friday). We were acting crazy enough that people walking by stared, and that was before we even knew if they would actually be there that day. Sarger Choro tried to pretend like they didn't come and it was a normal mail day, but that only lasted like three seconds before everyone swarmed him. Then we all joyfully skipped back to our classroom building where we all compared plans and continued to freak out.

It's just so exciting to have the actual plans in your hand! Especially when you've been sitting in the same little classroom for nine hours a day. We're going to Japan! And my flight plans are perfect, mostly because our flight doesn't leave until 11 a.m., so we don't have to leave the MTC until 8 a.m. (I know lots of people who have had to leave at like 3 a.m. or 4 a.m... Our roommates going to Kobe have to leave at like 5 a.m. I think. Ew.)

This week was also awesome because for our devotional on Tuesday Elder Holland, of the Quorom of the 12 Apostles, came and spoke! That actually means that now since we've been here we've heard from both Elder Holland and Elder Nelson twice. I've decided they are our official Apostles of our MTC stay. Having the opportunity to listen to Elder Holland again was naturally just wonderful. I took around a million notes since I'm a compulsive note taker so it's hard to pull just one good thing he said out of them to put on here, but he talked a lot about missionary work and letting it change you to make you an even better person, even if you were already fantastic before. He also talked about how important the Book of Mormon is, and how he is concerned that we don't use it enough. He said even though not everything we teach is specifically in the Book of Mormon, it all stems from it and is rooted in it. The Book of Mormon can change lives. It's awesome how you can learn something new to help you in your life every time you read it.

Ok I want to share my travel plans with my family so this has to be short. But life is good! And soon we'll be in Japan, which is awesome.

Love ya.


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