Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Volcano, Earthquakes and A Typhoon

Sakurajima volcano is still on a level 4 alert holding pattern.  It is hoped that the alert will go back to level 3, the level it has been in for quite some time.  We hope so too.

There have been a few small earthquakes within the volcano.  There have also been a couple of larger medium size earthquakes just off our coast.  Luckily, these have not caused problems and we haven’t felt them. 

The other big news is that we were a direct hit for Typhoon Goni.  We had a lot of severe wind and rain all night.  Our house creaked and groaned.  At times we heard loud thumps, like someone was “body slamming” our house, but it was just heavy wind and rain.  We only had a little water leak with the big windows by our front door.  For a short time this morning, about 6:00 a.m., we were in the “eye of the storm.”  It was totally quiet, with no wind or rain.  I quickly went for a walk and took a few photos.  There were branches and leaves, and an occasional tree tipped over.  One of our neighbors carports got blown off, and others have damage.  We were grateful that there wasn’t more damage. 

The storm has moved on towards our mission headquarters in Fukuoka.  We are left with rain throughout this day. 

The protecting tarp from the last storm was blown off.

Our neighbor's carport was blown off.

Leaves and branches by the big taxi office, up our street.

Leaves all over cars and house windows.  Notice the "pond" that's forming around our car, from all the rain.

Before the trees were trimmed, they would hit a couple of lower power lines.

Out landlady and her son came to trim the trees a week a go.  They ended cutting down all the front bushes.  We were sad to see them go, but are grateful that we still have power. 

The typhoon swirling over us.

These are the weather charts we check every day.  We also use KSL Vortex weather app. 

A view of the volcano just after the typhoon was leaving us.  We are still having rain, but it now feels like a normal day.
This is such a beautiful and interesting place to serve.  We feel thankful to be here.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Emergency Preparedness and Sakurajima Volcano

Here in southern Japan, Kagoshima City, is the very beautiful, interesting Sakurajima volcano.  We can see it from one of our windows.  We can see it from many of the roads.  We can see it from the waterfront where the ferries come and go.  The best view is up on the hill by our chapel.  We take pictures of it almost every day.  It seems new and different every day.  The days we don’t see it, and don’t take pictures, are heavy rain days. 

It’s a very active volcano, the most active one in Japan.  It spews big beautiful clouds of ash several times a day, which sometimes blows out to sea but usually blows toward land, and us.  There are times we have to dust ash off our car. 

Strain meters installed in the volcano a few years ago usually register the “alert status” at about a level 3.  Recently the Japan Meteorological Agency has raised the alert status to a level 4, on a 5 point scale.  They say there have been new earthquakes and rapid inflation of the volcano similar to the 1914 eruption which caused death and damage.  They temporarily evacuated some of the people living on the volcano island.  If there is a big eruption the ash could also severely affect Kagoshima and other nearby cities.  The strain meters have shown changes.  They suspect magma is rising in the volcano.  They say we can watch the volcano on a webcam.  As of today the swelling magma has slowed, but we will be on alert for the next two weeks. 

Our local church members and our mission president have reminded us to have a good supply of water, extra emergency food, and some money on hand.  D&C 38:30 “but if ye are prepared ye shall not fear.”  The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints has taught us for many years about emergency preparedness and self-reliance.  (See https://www.lds.org/topics/emergency-preparedness?lang=eng )  Most of us have purchased and prepared extra water storage, food supply, and first aid kits, and other things. 

When a disaster strikes it’s too late to prepare.  The time to prepare is now. 
Very visible eruption.

Less visible eruptions recently.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Today I Got Lost

Our neighborhood is very interesting.  It is hilly and has winding roads.  There are lots of forks in the road.  Every day I check the weather app and look out the window.  If the weather and ash are ok, I go for a thirty minute brisk walk.  I usually stick with familiar neighborhood streets.  Today I decided to venture further on roads I had not seen before.  At first there was a steady climb up, then a dip down, then a hill, a curve, and many forks in the road.  As I walked these unfamiliar roads I tried to look back from time to time and remember what the direction home looked like.  I really enjoyed the new view, and the roads I chose were a little less busy with cars.  There were a few people out walking their dogs, or taking their garbage to the “gomi” spot.  I greeted each one, “Ohaiyo gozaimasu” (Good morning).  I walked a little further than I had planned.  I looked at my watch and it was past time to retrace my steps.  Oh, now there’s the challenge.  For some reason the roads looked totally different to me in each direction.  Even down in the town.  Maybe it’s the lighting or something.  It always looks different to me.  That was true this morning.  If my walk was straight up the hill, then I would return straight down the hill.  But here, the road goes up and down.  When I came back to the forks in the road they didn’t look familiar, even though I had walked by them minutes earlier.  So, I was faced with choices, do I turn left (hidari), or right (migi), or go straight (masugu)?  Is this the place I have to go up the hill a little, or is it where I go down the hill a little bit?  So many choices.  It is always wonderful to have choices, but not when you’re feeling a little lost.  I said a quick prayer, “Heavenly Father, help me to use good judgement in making choices, knowing which way to go, who to talk to, and what to say.”  In my inadequate baby Japanese I asked a lady at a stop sign, who luckily had her car window down, “Where is the big taxi office?”  (Oki takushi ofuisu) and pointed this way or that way?  She answered “Wakarimasen, sumimasen,” (I don’t know.  I’m sorry).  So, on my own, I took more wrong turns, hoping they were right.  After a couple of more streets I asked directions from a man who was outside for his morning smoke.  He didn’t speak English, so he ran into his house to grab a pen, paper, and a cell phone.  Again in my baby Japanese I said “Oki Takushi Ofuisu . . . watakshi no uchi→nishisakamoto-cho.”  I pantomimed “Taxi office, my home.”  After looking at his cell phone map he motioned me to follow him.  I apologized for inconveniencing him “Ojama shimasu, sumimasen.”  We briskly walked several blocks with a couple of twists and turns.  At an intersection, he pointed the direction.  I thanked him, “Domo arigato gozaimasu” and we both went our ways.  I could probably never find his home again to take him a “thank you fruit bag” but wish I could.  So, I followed the road, which now seemed familiar at times, and finally came to the big taxi office and parking lot full of taxis.  I had a moment of panic because from this particular corner it didn’t look the same.  When I turned the corner and saw the other part of the taxi parking lot I felt relief at finally seeing the part I actually recognized.  At this point I was a few blocks from home, back into familiar territory.  In the future I need to carry our little flip phone and a paper with my address on it. 

At home I thanked Heavenly Father for the help and guidance to know what to do, and for the kind man who helped me find my way home. 

In life there are many twists and turns, ups and downs, and choices.  It is important to turn to people who have our spiritual well-being in mind, such as Heavenly Father, our church leaders, our parents, our teachers.  It is important to be open and in tune with their guidance, and to take appropriate action on their counsel.  We are so lucky to have so many that care about our temporal and spiritual well-being.   

P.S.  Another small miracle occurred.  I asked Glenn to walk back with me to find the man’s house.  I wanted to give him a thankyou note and bag of nuts and crackers.  Somehow I was able to retrace my steps and find him.  We found his home!  He was very surprised to see us.  What a nice family.  A happy ending to my morning adventure.
 A fork in the road.  Do I go left or right?

Three forks in the road.

Choice:  do I go left up the hill, or right, down the hill?

This is a less busy road, new to me.  You can see how the neighbor hoods are built on hills. 

Another fork in the road.  Left, uphill, or right, downhill.
This is the unfamiliar view of the large taxi office.
This is the more familiar view of the taxi office (opposite corners) on our street.
This building had multiple apartments.  The blue car on the end doesn't have room to park so they tore off the front door, and back the car into the entry genkan.
Another view of the torn front door.
The kind man who helped me find my way home.  We covered part of his face for privacy reasons.

Another view of our wonderful volcano, Sakurajima.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Bus Ride and Birthdays

Monday July 20 was a day off for most Japanese.  That is the day the church branch members charted a bus for the Temple trip.  Glenn picked up our four Kagoshima elders at 2:00 am (yes, I said 2:00 am), and dropped them at the church so they could email their families.  Monday P-day is when they email families, clean their apartments, do laundry, get groceries, and other tasks.  About 3:50 am we packed the six of us into our car and headed to the parking lot next to the bus.  It was so fun to greet all the church members.  Even though we all looked tired, we looked happy.  We six missionaries chose seats towards the back of the bus.  Each on the bus brought sandwiches or food to eat “breakfast” on the four hour ride to the Fukuoka Temple.  Glenn usually does all our driving (on the left side of the road, with the steering wheel on the right) so it was enjoyable to sit back and let someone else do the driving.  The temple was able to handle three branch groups:  Satsumasendai, Taniyama, and Kagoshima.  It was awesome to meet together.  We knew many people from each group.  After arriving at the temple, the youth and newer converts went off to do baptisms for the dead (see New Testament, 1Corinthian 15:29).  The rest of us split up to do two sessions.  The church members all had assignments as, temple workers, babysitting, laundry, and cleaning/maintenance.  As a matter of fact, around the world we all do volunteer cleaning and maintenance of our individual chapels.  Service makes us happy, and it saves the church a lot of money.  About 3:00 pm we all boarded our busses and cars to head home.  Our bus ticket covered an evening “bento”=box lunch meal (meat, vegetables, rice).  “Oishikatta deshita”=It was delicious.  The ride home was enjoyable with talking, laughing, a little singing, and a few testimonies.  It was really special.

A few days later on Sunday, the church branch held their monthly shokujikai=pot-luck dinner.  Three months in a row I have prepared two large bowls of tortilla salad.  People seemed so happy that I brought it, and said they really like it.  That makes me so happy.  The first few months after we arrived, I was too shy to fix anything, so I brought fruit or Japanese crackers.  I am really glad we can contribute something.  They had three of us come to the front so they could sing happy birthday to us.  People asked when my birthday was. I said “Kyo. Party wo  domo arigato gozimasu,” which means “Today. Thank you for the party”.  I can’t understand very much and can’t speak very much, but they are so kind and patient.  We usually communicate with a mixture of a little Japanese, a little English, hand and face movements, or I grab Glenn to translate.

We are very thankful for these members.  It is truly amazing that we can go to any LDS church anywhere in the world: Asia, Africa, the Americas, Europe, etc. and feel right at home.  We had a beautiful British/Jamaican woman attend our Sunday branch meetings.  We hugged each other and felt instant love.  I often hug the branch sisters and say “aishite imasu”=I love you.  Somehow they see the good in us and love us freely, in spite of our limitations.

I am thankful for the Gospel of Jesus Christ, for the restored Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, for a modern living prophet that speaks prophetic words today.  I am thankful for you all, awesome family and friends.
The early bus ride to the temple.

The Fukuoka Japan Temple

 Loading the bus to go back to Kagoshima. 

The Church Shokujikai Pot Luck Lunch.
My chicken tortilla salad.
 Dear branch friends at the Shokujikai wishing me a happy birthday and loving my salad.

On my birthday we were invited to tour this Japan Coast Guard ship docked because of the typhoon.
On board the ship.

Another view of our volcano.