Thursday, December 25, 2014

Holiday Season

We have really enjoyed the past few weeks from Thanksgiving leading up to Christmas.  There are so many more opportunities to share the message of the birth, life and mission of the Savior during this time.  Christmas can be seen all over in the stores and on the streets, and in many homes and apartments with trees, lots of lights, and Santa and his little elves everywhere.  The music in the stores and on the streets is a mixture of the songs of the Savior’s birth that we love and often sing in Church, along with the usual Santa Claus songs.  But crèche’s, nativities, and manger scenes are not to be found anywhere.  We have loved sharing that side of the Christmas message as we visit with people, teach, and visit senior citizen centers.  The Church members here also planned and carried out a very nice Christmas open house on the Tuesday before Christmas, since it is a national holiday (the Emperor’s birthday). 

On Christmas Eve we had our weekly English class which only had a few people, but was a lot of fun as we talked about Christmas symbols and two of our young missionaries dressed up in Santa Claus outfits and we all went out and walked around the streets singing Christmas songs with a ukulele, shaking hands, waving at people, and wishing everyone a Merry Christmas.  People seemed to love it and loved having their pictures taken with the two Santa’s—there were only a few Scrooges on the streets.  Our English class students were very brave and patient to be seen with us.  We came home that evening and found we had been given a “heart attack” on our front door by some anonymous friends from the church (that’s where they tape hearts and love notes on your door).  We were so touched.  They are so kind and give so much and we feel like we have so little to give them with our limited language and other skills. 

People have been so generous giving us all kinds of fruit and things.  The kaki (persimmon) is one of the most frequent things we get, especially from our good friends down street who run the little mom and pop grocery store you saw in an earlier picture.  This past week they also had kinkan (cumquats) which was a Deja vous for someone from California.  I have good memories of Sue, Honey, Lori, Rich, and I eating cumquats on a sunny afternoon.  When I bit into that cute little cumquat, it took me back to my childhood.  We also love all the mikans (mandarin oranges) and ringo (apples) and dragon fruits that seem to be so abundant.  There are some fruits that seem to be unique to the islands here and we have a hard time learning their names in Japanese or English.

There has been some snow here on the hills and on the volcano and although the temperatures are not too low the humidity makes the cool air seem quite cold, especially since central heating and air conditioning aren’t used here.  When its 40 degrees here the chill factor puts the “feels like” temperature at like 30 degrees. 

Our grandchildren have been so good to send us cute pictures and notes for both Thanksgiving and Christmas and we have loved sharing them with our friends here. 

This next week we move into the big holiday for Japan, New Years or Oshogatsu where everything seems to shut down.  We are excited to watch the traditions. 

Snow on the volcano.  Brrr!

Cumquats, mikans, etc.  Yummmm!  Nice gifts!

We love the grandchildren's little love notes and cards. 

Our surprise Christmas "Heart Attack" from anonymous Church friends.

A box of Christmas surprises from our Church friends.  How fun!

This luscious cake was part of the gifts from our Church friends--wow! 

English class night with the elders playing Santa Claus on the streets of Kagoshima. 
The people loved having their pictures taken with them!

Some of the beautiful decorations on the streets. 

Amazing delicate lightings. 

Santa had to leave quickly Christmas Eve to go on his runs around the world. 


Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Winter Has Arrived

We had a wonderful Thanksgiving week with some activities with so many friends from English class and from the Church.  While it wasn’t turkey and mashed potatoes and gravy, it was close—chicken and rice and gravy.  We had some fun games and shared a film on the Savior’s birth, since this is the opening of the Christmas season.  They loved it. 

While we are in a tropical land of palm trees and volcanoes, and it is warmer than other parts of Japan, we also faced the reality this past week that it can also get quite cold and may even be icy and we may even see snow here. 

We have enjoyed sharing the tradition of decorating our Christmas tree here, and other family Christmas traditions with our friends here.  In the absence of grandchildren to do those things with we enjoyed an evening with enchiladas, Christmas music, and an old BYU Motion Picture film “The Gift” on the spirit of Christmas giving.  Thanks to these friends we are feeling at home while still far away from home. 

This week we also got to attend a special meeting in Fukuoka with about 200 other young missionaries, and a few older couples like us.  Wow, what amazing strength, faith, and dedication to the Lord these young people have.  Many of them rode buses or trains for several hours to be there and to return the same day, and then also for nearly five hours they were riveted on the messages and the instruction they were receiving on how to be better servants of our Heavenly Father during this special season.  They are great examples to us.  While this isn’t necessarily an easy experience here, it is a great soul stretching experience for us.  We are blessed in so many ways. 


Decorating our Christmas tree with our friends. 
Didn’t they do a great job?! Thanks you two!
We stopped at a rest area in the mountains on our way to inspect missionary apartments about an hour away from us, and saw this somewhat ominous sign warning drivers about driving near snow removal trucks.  What does that mean?
We were a little surprised to see these bags of snow melt on the hilly road near our home.  What does that mean?
Yes, that is snow on the top of the volcano.
What does that mean?