Happy New Year from the Land of the Rising Sun

This week was full of early mornings and good friends. On the 30th we had a late Christmas conference for half the missionaries in the mission that consisted of some inspiring talks and a testimony meeting, seeing old friends, Mexican food, and a crazy gift exchange. I saw the senior couple missionaries walk in with inconspicuous black bags and immediately knew I had to get whatever they were holding. So I did everything in my power to exchange gifts and end up with the black bag. And my determination paid of because I GOT IT! And in that bag contained the warmest scarf you ever did see. As the Japanese would say, yatta!

The winner of the gift exchange was Masaki Chourou though. He ended up with this monstrosity:
Apparently it’s been around for years, cycling through gift exchanges and was originally hidden in a closet for one of the senior missionary couples to find. Luckily they survived the resulting heart attacks. 

On the train heading over to kichijouji the Hermanas were talking to someone on the train who asked how old the were. At the same time, they both accidentally responded “90” instead of “19”, which confused poor woman to no end, and was hilarious. I was trying not to bust out laughing from the other side of the train. 

Earlier in the night on New Year’s Eve we had English class, and provided donuts for the brave souls who for some reason thought English was important enough to make it a part of their New Years festivities. 

On New Year’s Day, we woke up at 4:40 and headed off to the ocean to see the first sunrise of the year. It was gorgeous, and I could just feel the solidarity of probably over a thousand people on that beach welcoming new beginnings, new goals, and a new trash calendar. 
Actually, joking aside, I saw something that at first didn’t make any sense, but later I found to be incredibly profound. A young man and woman were walking hand in hand towards the beach in the morning, the man leading his significant other to watch the first sunrise welcome in the new year. As we passed them, I realized she had a cane – she was blind. Why would you bring someone to see the sunrise who can’t even see it!? Then I thought about it for a while. That young woman probably had a special experience that no one else could. Wouldn’t she be able to feel the anticipation in the air, the excitement? When the sun finally broke over the horizon, wouldn’t she be able to feel the sudden warmth, hear all the cheers and voices, and experience the actual start of the new year with an intensity that no one else could? We all saw it… But I think that woman could feel it. 
After the sunrise we crossed the bridge over to the island and had one of the most successful kubarikai’s (handing away English class flyers) of all time. I went through four large stâcks of flyers and was called cute by more young men (and some women) than I could count. But hey, as long as it brings them to Eikaiwa, whatever works right? 
A new year also means cleaning! We spent almost five hours purging our entire apartment to bring it to a state of celestial glory. Äiti, you’d be proud. Sanchez Shimai only made the washer explode once:
On Saturday we went to Our Brazilian investigator friend’s home to make Argentinian and Mexican food, and finally got to meet her husband! It was a great time and he really warmed up to us. The rest of the week we were also well fed, and had dinner invitations almost every night. I will never have to eat again. Good thing Sunday was Fast Sunday… 
On Sunday we also set up a calendar and are starting to help one of the people we’re working with to quit smoking. It’s a slow process, but she’s very eager. 

Finally, this morning when I woke up, Castañeda Shimai informed me I had been talking in my sleep. Apparently I was teaching about “what to expect when meeting with the missionaries” and “Who is God?” For Buddhists, all in Japanese. I don’t have any recollection of this but I guess practicing teaching in my sleep can’t hurt!  




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