Friday, October 24, 2014


We have been here just over a month, with Glenn doing all the driving. As I have mentioned the streets getting out of our neighborhood are steep, narrow, and winding.  The town roads are great, but very busy.  Some downtown roads are narrow, and the blocks are not "square".  Some are one way.  Some road signs have Roman letters with Kanji and some have only Kanji.  Everyone drives on the left side of the road with the steering wheel on the right.  We use a GPS just about every where we go. Well, I got my courage up and actually drove from our house several blocks to the church. Glenn seemed quite nervous (with good reason). He was nervous for me (my comfort and fears), and for the safety of the car.  But I did it!  I would like to practice a few times, short distances.  We'll keep you posted.  I may or may not ever do it again.

Melody's first drive and Glenn driving to Miyazaki. 

This is the hilly neighborhood that we walk or drive down and up to get to the church.

Here is a photo of Japanese money.  It's pretty cool.  The value of the dollar is very close to the value of the Japanese Yen.  I don't worry about the actual exchange differences.  If the bill 1000 I just add a decimal point and it is $10.00.  It is pretty easy to figure purchases. I'm grateful for that.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Time Zones and Internet

The world has many time zones. The U.S. has four time zones.  Japan is all in one time zone.  How convenient.  The International Date Line goes down the middle of the Pacific Ocean, between Hawaii and New Zealand. 
The International Date Line makes Japan a whole day ahead of the States. We are a whole day older than you.  That should make you feel real good.  When you are sleeping, we are awake,  When you are awake, we are sleeping.  When it's Sunday night for you, it's Monday morning for us.  With "standard time", not "daylight saving time", when it is 8:00am Monday morning here, it is 6:00pm Sunday evening in Florida & North Carolina, 5:00pm in Missouri & Texas, 4:00pm in Utah & Idaho, 3:00pm in Washington, Oregon, and California.  It is kind of tricky setting up times to Skype family with the time differences and everyone's schedules.  The Blessing is that it can be done.  We are very thankful for Skype, email, and the internet.  Aren't we lucky to have modern technology?  We wanted to get a portable internet "hot spot" and pay a monthly fee.  We asked two other senior mission couples what they use. We are a little nervous to sign a two year contract, all in Japanese.  We have been in Japan four weeks and haven't signed anything yet.  The first time we went to the internet store it was closed a few days for renovation.  The next week we went they still weren't ready for contracts.  Next time the person who helps with contracts was gone.  Next time we took our Japanese friend to help look at the contract and ask questions.  It was really helpful but we didn't sign a contract because we decided to check with the Church Area Office to see if they had recommendations or advice.  So here we are still with no internet.  Hopefully soon.  We have another blessing though, we do have a "mission issued" cell phone for local use.  We have no other phone. 

Cockroach blessings?

We recently saw a couple of beetles outside. Unfortunately it made me dream of cockroaches the other night.  What blessing cand I find in cockroaches?  The blessing is that we don't have them in our sweet old house.  I keep on the lookout for them, but haven't seen any in the house.  I even bought more plastic kitchen storage containers to store food items.  I also keep a bowl of soapy water on the counter to wash our dishes immediately after we finish.  If I see any in the future, I will rush out and buy more "roach hotel" traps.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Typhoons and Genkans

We recently had two typhoons in 10 days.  I am always looking for blessings.  What is the blessing in a typhoon?  It is that each lessened and became "tropical storms" before hitting us.  The winds were really howling with bouts of rain.  It creaked and cracked the house at night, but the roof is still on and no water leaked in.  We closed the storm shutters on windows on the windy side of the house, which helped and made us feel more secure.  Sometimes people stay home, and it the storm is big enough they cancel activities.  The winds can feel like someone is "pushing" you and can be very dangerous.  The winds sometimes sound like ocean waves.  You can hear them building, rush through the trees, then pass. Over and over again.  It feels so wonderful when the storm passes, and becomes beautiful and clear again.

The Japanese (and many Americans) have a wonderful custom of removing their shoes at the front door.  The area is called the "genkan".  It helps keep the floors more clean.  Sometimes they provide slippers for guests or you can just wear your socks.  Glenn and I choose to wear our socks.  Luckily we both wear slip-on shoes.  the only time we wear tie up shoes is to exercise, or to take long walks.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014


As you can see from some of our pictures that we live near Sakurajima, an active volcano that spews ash every day.  A blessing for us is that they say it usually blows away from our town in the winters, and towards town in the summers.  We will be here two winters and one summer.  It hasn't been too bad, but one day I had to wear a medical face mask and use an umbrella.  It looked like rain but was actually ash.  We have had a lot of rain days, a lot of beautiful sunny days, and only a few ash days.  it is really beautiful here.  If you google earth, you can see Kagoshima City and Sakurajima volcano.

The Story Before the Adventure

We knew we wanted to serve as "senior couple" missionaries when Glenn retired and I took a leave of absence from teaching Zumba exercise classes.  When the time came to put in our papers, we requested "state-side 12 months".  We felt healthy, but I was a little concerned about my knee replacements and arthritis.  The Missionary Department asked if we would consider going foreign 18 months or longer.  We pondered, prayed, and received a peaceful feeling that all would be well.  We told them we would go anywhere they needed for 18 months.  Soon after that we got our call to the Fukuoka Japan Mission.  This is in southern Japan, far from Tokyo area where we had served as mission presidents 20 years earlier.

At this point the "fun" began.  We dusted off our Japanese language materials, and even set up Skype language tutoring with church MTC.  We found a little time here and there to study.  My best study times were waiting for oil changes, car repairs, or riding in the car while going places.  Glenn listened to Japanese Conference talks while running or other times.

One of the wonderful miracles was our daughter Gaylene, her husband Chris and their family volunteering to live in our home while we were gone.  Chris had just gotten a job back in Utah with BYU.  This makes a long commute, so we are grateful for their sacrificing to do this.  Our other children have rallied also.  Brett and Nicole live near our home and will help Chris and Gaylene with various aspects.  Justin and Lucinda, Maryann and Clark have given us a lot of love and moral support.  Maryann and Clark are helping us set up this blog.  That's a huge job.  We greatly appreciate each of them.  

While gathering shoes, clothes, and miscellaneous to take to Japan, we realized that it would NOT fit into the four suitcases we were allotted (each being 50 lbs. or less).  We had heard from other senior missionary couples that it is easy to reach the 50 lbs. limit before the suitcase was completely full.  We decided to go with midsize suitcases instead of the biggest.  So guess how many times I “repacked” the suitcases?  About six.  I did a practice “pack” with no success of fitting it in.  I tried again and almost succeeded, but was over the weight limit.  It was hard using a bathroom scale, so I finally bought a small hand-held luggage scale (best $18 I ever spent).  I pulled a few things out and tried again.  My motto became “simply and reduce.”  Finally we got it in.  I was worried that they would open to inspect them at the airport, then not be able to close it again.  Here’s another miracle.  The suitcases made it to Japan with no problem.  

Preparations were still needed to clean out closets and bedrooms so Chris and Gaylene and family could live in our home.  So we spent months sorting:  1. Keep.  2. Give away. 3. Throw away.  I became very creative in juggling boxes to store, and hauling things to DI.  It was actually very liberating to sort and get rid of things.  I recommend it to everyone.  

When Gaylene’s family moved in we had just under a month together to show them how to operate things around the house and yard.  We loved that time together.  We also had a little time with Maryann’s family, Justin’s family, and Brett’s family.  

There are the “Four F’s” which make it difficult for senior couples to serve a mission:  “Fear, Fitness, Finance, and Family.”  Those are all important but family is the most important.  It is hard to leave your children and grandchildren.  Another miracle for us is how wonderful and supportive our family is.  We love them, admire them, and thank them for that.  So we can leave knowing that they will watch out for each other (even though they are spread out in Utah, Idaho, and Florida).  

We spent five days in the Provo MTC.  It was such a special time.  We stood by the world map, pointed to Japan, and took the traditional photograph.  Even though the MTC chapel was full of senior missionaries they divided us into districts of four couples.  Most of our instructors were BYU students so we had a morning team and an afternoon team.  The apartment was like a hotel room (with no TV).  The staff was amazing, motivational, and inspirational.  The food was wonderful and delicious.  There were many buffet choices.  We were grateful for the fresh cut fruit at every meal.  The MTC was a great experience.  

Finally it was time to fly out.  We were really nervous!  Every step of the way on this journey we would say “We can call it off and stay home, or we can choose to go.”  Somehow we took courage and chose to go.  

We have been here several weeks.  Glenn is somewhat used to driving on the left side of the road—do you ever really get used to it?  We are getting used to walking down the hill over a few blocks, and then up the hill to the church.  We actually try to walk as much as possible.  We are grateful for a sweet house and are getting used to the different ways to cook and other things.  We are grateful for nice neighbors who say hello (konichiwa), and that we feel safe here.  We are grateful for clean water and an abundance of fresh fruit and food.  

The language is still difficult, but I learn a few words each week.  At this rate I should know a few dozen words by the end of eighteen months (Just kidding—I hope). 

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Week 4- Getting to Work

Us with President and Sister Gustafson at the Mission Home the Day After We Arrived

A View of the Volcano Before the Typhoon

A view with us.

A Wild Walk to Church in a Typhoon
A Nearby Historic Shrine
Looking Out Our Window During the Typhoon
Monday was preparation day and we spent some time cleaning the closets and also weeding the garden around the house.  We became good friends with little bugs and spiders and they gave us a few welts to remember them by.  Tuesday we picked up the district leader and his companion, Elders LeFrandt and Guisinger, and drove them to Taniyama, about a half an hour away, for a district meeting with two other districts, four sisters and six elders.  We learned a lot about what the missionaries are doing and some of the challenges and miracles.  Wednesday was our evening English class and Melody's class was fairly good sized, Glenn’s class was only two people, but we had some good experiences.  Thursday we made an effort to contact a couple of the people who helped us last week.  They were surprised to see us and we invited them again to church and to English classes.  Friday we walked around the parks and the shopping center downtown and greeted people.  Saturday was our afternoon English class for which we had a really good turnout.  We also had another first, as we needed gas and ventured out early in the morning to a self-serve station and asked for help filling our tank.  Simple, but scary thing!  Later at night we met a young couple who we have been teaching and took them out for ramen downtown and had a good discussion on families and the gospel.  Sunday was a big typhoon day but we walked to our meetings, missionary coordination meeting, then fast and testimony meeting, which was well attended in spite of the storm.  We had an all you can eat gyoza dinner at the branch president’s house, Kimata’s, with all the other missionaries and an investigator and new member.  They are all great people. 
So we feel like we are getting into a routine, but there are new and exciting and challenging things each day.

Week 3- Settling In

We have now experienced our first volcanic ash days this past two weeks.  The wind was blowing it around and even on days when rain was falling there was a dusty, gritty, dirt in the air.  People wear face masks, carry umbrellas, put coats or other things over their heads, put handkerchiefs over their mouths, squint a lot and just go about their business.  It deposits on the cars and streets, but eventually either washes away or blows away, or it has to be swept away.  We get it in our hair and on our clothes but it seemed to disappear eventually.
Ash Day

Closer look

Beautiful scenery in the neighborhood.

Zone Training Meeting with President and Sister Gustafson

Teaching English at the Volunteer Center
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A young woman who helped us said she felt a special warm and glowing feeling being around us and that the other woman for whom she was translating mentioned it too.  Maybe they feel the spirit in spite of our lack of words and being tongue tied.  At church meetings on Sunday a couple of people mentioned that we seemed very “Nihonteki” or “Japanese like”, which seemed like a compliment.  When Glenn was a young missionary he recalls President Watanabe telling him the same thing and felt it was a great compliment back then. It’s amazing how so many little things can feel like miracles to give thanks for.

Week 2- In Japan!

We flew out of Salt Lake Monday morning for LA, then Narita, and arrived in Fukuoka Tuesday night after what seemed like a never ending flight.  We were fortunate to run into a recently returned missionary from Fukuoka, Brother Koyama from Sapporo who helped us get from one terminal to the other with six suitcases in Narita as we changed airlines.  Truly an miracle angel, among others that night.  We were met by President and Sister Gustafson in Fukuoka and taken to the mission home to a very welcome and beautiful bedroom.  We trained with them and the office staff for a few hours on Wednesday and then were off in our car following the assistants in a van to Kagoshima, a four hour drive.  We arrived late at our home and were taken out to dinner by the district president and his wife, the Sano’s and then went to bed. 
Thursday we attended a zone training meeting by the zone leaders and then unpacked and tried to figure out how to work things in the home.  Friday we ventured downtown in the car to do our alien registration and register at the post office.  We were blessed with another miracle as we met a young woman  who walked us through it all and translated for us.  She went way out of her way. 
Saturday we taught English class in the city volunteer center and went shopping, another adventure on the winding and very narrow streets.  Sunday we were at Church for about six hours of meetings, were asked to speak in sacrament meeting and introduce ourselves (mom did a wonderful job in Japanese), and met many wonderful saints.  It has been a great week number 2 of our Mission. 

Sakurajima Volcano

Home Sweet Home

The airport welcome

The welcome basket in our apartment from the branch and district.

The Mission Assistants, Zone Leaders, and District President Sano and his wife.

Melody's Miracles:

Things were so busy, getting the house ready, finishing shots, moving our daughters family in and I had to repack our suitcases about six times to fit things in. We had some little miracles:  they didn't charge us for our second suitcases, none of the suitcases were over the 50lb limit.  The flight was long, leaving our house at 6:45am Mon Sept 15, and arriving (3 planes later) at 9:00pm Tuesday night (and all the time zones).  Miracle:  landed with good weather, had a good visit with our mission president overnight, more good weather for Glenn to drive us on the left side of the road, unload our luggage in the house.  It's been raining for days.  Kagoshima is pretty hilly.  We live 6 to 10 min from the church and walk down the hill, passed a couple of blocks, then up the hill to the church.  We choose to walk because the neighborhood streets are very narrow and winding.  The people are really nice and patient with us. 

First Morning Walk

This is the view from our home at sunrise of Sakurajima volcano with a plum of smoke. The morning is quiet and peaceful. I walked to the chapel to send email and then walk will back to our apartment. We have a zone training meeting at 10:00 today.

Hurrah for Israel!

And we are off...

Off to Japan!

On the way!

MTC Day 5

So we ended our last day of our week in the MTC with teaching, a testimony meeting, saying goodbye to our instructors Brothers Jacobs and Copans, and Sisters Fisher and Clegg, and to our district, the Hursts going to their own stake in Fruit Heights, the Lymans going to their own stake in the Wasatch Front, and the Andersons going to Argentina.

 Mom did a marvelous job teaching and everyone loved her hugs and compliments. They called our district they Enoch District so this is a picture of us being translated.

Our room was on the top left window of the Jacob Hamblin Building. It was a great week, but also great to get home and have dinner with all the family here. Now the final step is finalizing the suitcases for the long flight, deciding what to take out and leave on the plains to lighten our handcart. That's hard work.

MTC Day 4

This day was eventful but quieter. This is the sunrise that greeted us.

We got the pictures of our Senior MTC group for the week.

It was a good day.

MTC Day 3

We were jolted from our sleep at 11:30 pm by our fire alarms and dressed and ran out into the street. We were told a young missionary had pulled it not knowing what it was. We received a list of all of our group and took a picture. Our investigator today was an elderly woman who was very sweet and made our teaching experience quite positive. She agreed to read the Book of Mormon and pray about it. The work is true! Mom did a great job.

MTC Day 2

This is our view out our window.