Anyways, this week was insane. I’m only in the Provo, Utah training center
(MTC) for 12 days and I’ll be leaving for Japan on Monday! I’ll actually be going through the Portland airport so I get to see Oregon one last time before going abroad.

Kira & map

The first five days of the MTC were honestly very difficult. We have to wake up at 6:30 or 6:00 every morning and be in bed by 10:30 (read: actually 11:30) and are in class or studying or practicing teaching every day. As soon as I arrived and was guided to my room to deposit all by bags, I was led to a classroom of nine people doing introductions in Japanese. Four of them were full Japanese, two were half, one had studied since middle school and another Chourou (Japanese for Elder: what we call the guys during our missions) had lived there for a year but he ended up switching to a class that is here 9 weeks to study instead of the 12 days that we’re here. And then there was me.

Zone Shimai   
The sisters from our zone visiting the Provo temple. We didn’t actually even go inside, we just took pictures…

After the fifth day however, I had finally adjusted and heard enough inspirational speakers to undergo a complete attitude change. After Sunday everything has continued to get better and better. I also had to undergo a serious attitude change. Suffice to say, I’m a lot more open to learning, and a lot less cocky now about my abilities. I have a long long way to go. I’m learning all the vocabulary I need and becoming more and more fluid in speaking and teaching in Japanese. And, most importantly, I’m not falling asleep in class. That’s key.

We also have time every day to work out so I’m been using ab workouts from my days nordic skiing and I’ve been playing a lot of volleyball, kickball, running etc.

MTC Zone    MTC District
Our zone! Reppin’ the Stanford Earth Dept. | Our district, 6 of us going to Tokyo South and 3 going to Kobe

Because the shimai douryou (companions) need to stay together all the time, and I happen to be in a group of three shimai, we end up going to the bathroom a LOT. It’s a throwback to middle school days when giggling girls could never go to the bathroom, or really anywhere, alone. So that has taken some getting used to.

Bathroom cleaning
Look we did service one time! Aka cleaned bathrooms….

I’ve also had a lot of funny experiences teaching the language when I’ve accidentally misspoken. A few gems:

– Daikon tea (a root vegetable)  vs. president
– Everyone has different sandwiches to deal with vs. everyone has different struggles
– A male genital body part vs. the population

One day we were watching a youtube video in Japanese and put on autogenerated subtitles in English. It was hilarious and some of the best phrases were “have courage to be cute,” and “really thank actor teeth.”

District shimai

Besides everything educational, being in the MTC has been a cultural shock in and of itself.

For example, it’s clear we’re not in California anymore. The food waste and lack of recycling and overwatering was initially shocking. However, I went and talked to some of the kitchen workers and found out that although shimai and chourou (the missionaries) put their plates on conveyer belts with food and plastic and all, behind the scenes they actually separate things out and use the food waste for fertilizer. So that was slightly more reassuring. I think though, that if I didn’t know that this happens, then most likely other students don’t either. I actually believe it’s a better method to have students separate out food waste into compost bins and plastic into recycling bins themselves, to instill those behaviors outside of the cafeterias. But that’s just me.

Nearly all the food in the cafeteria has meat in it (even the kale salads have bacon bits!) and I’m trying not to overload on carbs and sweets though almost everything falls under those two categories. This means basically that there are several days that I don’t end up eating much at all so the hidden blessing is that I’m losing weight (?). Just can’t wait to be in Japan on Monday! Come at me rice and fish and tofu and vegetables. I’m ready for you!
Overall, this has been amazing experience so far. I’m learning to work and study harder than I ever have and I’m quickly picking up the language and growing so much internally as well. I can’t even imagine where I’ll be at in 18 months.

District 1

Ok, I can take a hint

I don’t have much time so I’ll keep this short. Being at the MTC I’ve rediscovered a spiritual connection that I forgot I had and I’ve been humbled a lot. I’ve also completely changed my attitude thanks to a talk by Elder Bednar on “Turning out when the natural man would turn in.” That just means that in situations where one would normally be selfish, a Christ-like person turns outwards. And that’s something I’m really working on doing.

Second, when reading my scriptures, I’ve realized how direct God can be in answering thoughts, concerns and questions, almost eerily so, and mostly when I didn’t ask for it.

One morning, after decided I needed a change in attitude, I prayed to find a scripture relevant to me that would help me improve who I was and develop more into a better person. I flipped through my scriptures and landed randomly on an unmarked page, Doctrine and Covenants 23:1-2. Years ago, probably middle school I must have highlighted a passage, and also changed the name of Oliver Cowdery to my own. The scripture read basically that “[Kira], you are blessed and under no condemnation, but beware of pride, and make your calling known to the world,” So here I am, making my calling known: I am Kira Smiley, and I am serving a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints for 18 months.

BUT wait there’s more:

Today was our personal day – meaning we have time to relax, do laundry, work out, get haircuts, etc. Halfway through the day, however, we hear an announcement on the loudspeakers that all women were to report to building 17M for a meeting. my douryou and I were all confused, but excited because the twelve apostles (leaders) for the church were here for a conference and we thought there was a chance that someone would come talk to us. Unfortunately it was not to be.

After some preliminary announcements they said that all the sisters from our brand new building had to move out to the old building for the remainder of our time at the MTC (for us, until this Monday). The reason? They found a SINGLE bat. That’s right. Hundreds of shimaitachi (Japanese for “sisters: female missionaries”) had to evacuate the entire building and move across the campus because of one tiny bat. So that happened.

Paper cranes
Bored during class: I learned to make paper cranes from the Japanese chourou!

Also, on a sadder note, we were on our way to class and I saw a tiny baby bird on the ground who had fallen out of it’s nest. It was crawling around to get to safety and breathing hard, clearly scared. I know you aren’t supposed to touch them or their mothers won’t feed them anymore (or at least that’s what I was taught). And I was too short to help, so I told one of the teachers, who said he would tell the custodial staff.  When I got back to the spot the bird was gone so either they helped it or they killed it. I hope it wasn’t the latter option. :/  I keep thinking about it and I don’t know what I could have done differently. Maybe stayed to make sure the bird was alright? I’m not sure….

MTC district shimai
My douryou & I with our zone leaders. They just left on Monday for Japan and everyone cried. Not actually, but you know, the sad feelings existed. 

Lastly, today I got to discuss nuclear power (specifically Fukushima) and renewable energy with one of the Japanese shimai. It was really interesting to get her perspective even though I really struggled to find the right words since I have no experience discussing those sorts of topics in Japanese. But never fear, I asked her afterwards to write me a vocab sheet of clean energy and climate change and fossil fuel related words and phrases. So next time, I’ll be prepared!

That’s all for now,
 Smiley Shimai

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