Friday, July 24, 2015

Birds, Butterflies, and Insect Bites

Recently, after visiting a family we home teach monthly, we noticed a hawk flying around.  We were near a picnic area by one of the sea walls (which keep back the water in stormy times).  Standing by the sea wall we were able to get a better look, and saw two large hawks.  We happened to have some bread with the groceries in our car trunk.  Yay.  We put out a few chunks.  The two hawks took turns swooping down to snatch the bread.  We laid out a long trail of bread crumbs along the top edge of the wall, then stepped quite far back.  It was amazing to watch their swift skill.

There are so many interesting birds here, many that we have never seen before.  Some make very odd sounds as they communicate to each other.  One day men were working in the woods near our home. The birds, mostly large black crows, were upset and were swarming overhead.  It was quite spooky.  This went on for a couple of days, until the workers left. The birds all settled down again.

With the flowers continually blooming, we see a lot of butterflies. Big black ones, with a little bit of color.  Sometimes it feels like they deliberately swoop by our heads.  At times we have to dodge them.  This is mostly in our neighborhood with all the shrubs and flowering plants.  We don’t see as many down the hill in town. 

Like most communities, we have a lot of insects.  Once or twice a week, Glenn rakes leaves and pulls weeds.  It is a jungle at times during the summer rainy season.  Most senior couples in Japan live in apartments.  We feel lucky to live in a house, but along with it comes the yard work.  He doesn’t have to be out in the yard very long, when he notices he has gotten bitten by something. He ends up with multiple bites.  In the spring, he could work in the early morning, when the insects were asleep.  With the heat of the summer, the insects are active all of the time.  He sure is brave.  As for me, I’m content to do the inside chores, like cleaning the toilet or the food trap in the kitchen sink.

This is such a beautiful place to live.  No matter where people live around the world, they can find beauty.  The Lord created some amazing places:  mountains, deserts, beaches, brush lands, caverns, rivers, lakes.  Nature is amazing.  We need to take time out of our busy schedules to look around us.  We are so blessed. Japan is beautiful, and so are the people.  And being missionaries is amazing.       
 On one of my walks I found this interesting fellow.  He must be a guard cat.  He and I had a staring contest.  He won.  He must be related to Garfield.

Looks like the hawk will pick up the ferry boat.

The hawk swooping down for the bread on the sea wall.
The hawk's beautiful graceful flight.
One of the big black butterflies on one of the large flowers.

Up close and personal.  This butterfly kept returning to the side of our house.  
Some of the beautiful flowers in our neighborhood.

Another unique flower.

Glenn "swells up" after his many bug bites.  Just kidding.  His shirt was catching the wind.

Another view of our active volcano.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Dinners, Spiritual Messages, and Games

People are curious about what we foreigners eat for meals.  We decided to have them over to let them see for themselves.  We have hosted quite a few dinners, and Family Home Evenings (FHE), with community friends, English class friends, and church members.  When we host other people, we usually fix my adapted version of chicken enchiladas, chicken tortilla salad, and cut up fruit. At home we might call it taco salad, but in Japan if you say “taco” they hear “tako” or octopus, so I call it “tortilla”.  Sometimes we fix chicken curry vegetables over rice, and cut up fruit. I prefer to make the enchiladas and tortilla salad, because it’s fun to serve something that many people haven’t tried.  People seem to like it (or at least are too polite to say they dislike it). 

We have done Thanksgiving dinner\FHE, Christmas dinners, Birthday dinners, Young Adult  FHE dinners, Friendship dinners, and “Thank You” dinners for those who help a lot of people. 
After the meal we have a short gospel message, then play a game.  We usually keep it within one hour to 1 1\2.  We have enough chairs for ten people, but could squeeze in fifteen with borrowed church chairs.  We only have room for two cars in our driveway, so people have to park on the narrow street, or at the church and shuttle over. 

The people we work with are so wonderful and hardworking. We wish we had the space, energy, and conditions to do more dinners.  We like to “serve” them, because they serve others is so many ways. 

A fun dinner with Akemi and her parents.

Cilantro is called Coriander in Japan and is hard to find. 

I make the chicken enchilada's ahead of time and sometimes stack them in the fridge.

Making a big bowl of cut fruit.

We prepared for fifteen and ended up with a fun group of six.
My chicken enchilada and tortilla salad.

Yummy curry vegetables and rice. 
We played a family home evening game called "Don't Eat Pete."

 We give short lessons like this segment from the April 2015 General Women's Conference. (And its even in Japanese)
P.S. If anyone would like to deliver a Papa Murphy Veggie Pizza, we'd love it!
Just kidding. 

Friday, July 3, 2015

Triple Zone Apartment Inspection Adventures

Sometimes my heart is so full of love, it feels like it could burst and send off beautiful fireworks.  That’s the way we feel working with the missionaries, the members, and the Kagoshima community.  A few months ago our mission president and his wife asked us to visit and inspect missionary apartments in other zones.  We ended up inspecting our regular Kagoshima Zone, and Kumamoto Zones 1 and 2.  Three zones!  We really need some new senior couples to replace the ones that finished their missions and returned home.  We felt honored and thankful that the president and his wife and the Lord would trust us with this assignment.  We prayed, pondered, and mapped out how we could get it all done.  We made phone calls to seventeen apartments to tentatively line up appointments, then had to call them all back again to finalize them.  They were so good to adjust their schedules so we could accomplish this task.  Just talking on the phone we felt so much love, admiration, and appreciation for them, even before ever meeting them.  We received permission to stay in the empty Kumamoto Senior Couple’s Apartment.  We drove there after our Sunday block of meetings and spent the night.  We got up early Monday morning to go to Kumamoto Zone 1, which consisted of twenty elders and sisters.  We not only mapped it out, but also typed it all into our GPS unit.  Some apartments were more difficult to find.  They were behind buildings and down narrow streets and the GPS only got us nearby.  Somehow we did it.  The missionaries did a great job of cleaning.  They also made us feel loved and welcome.  We rewarded them with treats:  Salsa, cheese, flat tortillas, bags or Doritos, and fruit.  We went back to Kumamoto the following Sunday evening also and spent the night in preparation to inspect Kumamoto Zone 2, which consisted of fourteen elders and sisters.  These were all a lot further away, one the other side of the island of Kyushu from where we were staying.  They also adapted their schedules so we could accomplish this assignment.  We split up our Kagoshima Zone inspection visits into several days.  We also made a commitment to not miss teaching our English classes twice each week, visit our part-member and less-active families, teach Zumba, and attend our mission and district meetings and our regular Sunday meetings.  We were blessed in so many ways, but especially with safety as we drove over 2,000 kilometers (1,242 miles) much of it on unknown roads.  Our missionaries are great!
Kumamoto Stake Center is to the left and the Senior Couple Apartment is the high rise to the right.

Inside the Kumamoto Senior Couple's Apartment.

Senior Couple's Kitchen.

We went through a lot of toll booths and we had a lot of rain.  

Missionary Kitchen--nice and clean.

Orderly Missionary Futon and Clothes Closet.

Another Missionary Kitchen and Food Pantry.  They use a lot of little shelves for storage.

Typical view from many of the missionary apartments.

This costal stretch of highway had a lot of fog and these were road protectors.

More road fog protectors.

An interesting pedestrian bridge in a coastal fog.

Steam coming from hot springs scattered throughout the hills in Beppu and Oita.

We travel through a lot of long tunnels, some several kilometers long.

The rain is a blessing to the rice farms found along all of the highways. 

One of the interesting things we see along the streets on our journey.