Saturday, April 29, 2017

Sunset in Tsuruoka

Goodnight, dear Tsuruoka!  We love you~  May God bless you!

Monday, April 24, 2017

Branch Young Single Adult Easter Activity

On Saturday before Easter, Ken and I attended our branch's Young Single Adult Activity.  Remi is the YSA leader.  We introduced her to two non-member young single adults several months ago.  She has since texted with them and both of them were coming to the activity, so she wanted us to come.  It was held at our church in the kitchen.  She had it so well organized. 
This is Remi.

This is Miki who we met in our Sakata eikaiwa class.  She speaks very good English.

This is Yuki who we met at the Volunteer Center.  She got a job, so she no longer comes to the Volunteer Center, but we have kept in touch with her and even taught her a few lessons.
Yuki is an artist.  She gave everyone she met that day one of these cards that she designed.

One set of elders came for the first half of the activity and the others came for the second half.  Here they are making the pudding.

Elder Bates, Elder Terry, Ryohei, Katsumi, Yuki, and Miki

This is Elder Jensen added in.  We colored Easter eggs.

We made pudding in the microwave that used a lot of eggs.

I think because they have never done it, the Japanese people really enjoy coloring Easter eggs.

We then cleaned out the shells of those eggs from the pudding, put a wick in, then poured wax in to make little Easter candles.
At the same time this activity was going on, the Relief Society was meeting across the hall in the Relief Society room.  They learned about family history (in Japanese, of course)  When it was time for the "Japanese Tea Party," Imi thoughtfully came and got me so I could participate.
This is sakura time.  During sakura time, a very common treat is dango- a sweet Japanese dumpling.  This treat is especially available during this time.  It was good.  They served seaweed tea and rooibos tea with it.  The seaweed tea was very salty.

More mochi treats with soy powder on them. 

After the tea party, many of the sisters came into the kitchen and put decorative shrink wrap covers on boiled eggs to give to everyone who came to the Easter program the next day.

This was Imi's idea.  She brought all of the supplies to make it happen.

The eggs with the wraps.  You put them in hot water and the wrap shrinks around the eggs.

The finished product.  A beautiful basketful of eggs.

Creative Yuki fashioned a candle out of leftover candle wax and colored rice.

Back at the YSA activity at the other end of the kitchen:  After the candles hardened, we used permanent colored markers to decorate the shells.  It was really fun. 

This is Elder Matthews

My creations

Both activities were really fun.  I think everyone had a great time.  Happy Easter!

Friday, April 21, 2017

A Big Oops! And a Miracle!

On Thursday, we were supposed to do a second Easter party in Sakata.  We made all of the same treats, games, etc. expecting a repeat performance.  I baked more cookies and boxed them up.  Ken was filling the cupcake papers with the dessert, so I took the car keys and took a big load of stuff out to load in the trunk.  I put it all in the trunk and slammed down the lid.  It wasn't until a few minutes later when Ken asked for the keys that I realized what I had done- locked the keys in the trunk!!!!!!!!
Now what?  We had no idea how such problems are solved in Japan.  We didn't have a spare key.  We did have some time to work with as we had planned to visit several people in Sakata before the party, but what do we do?
We started by offering a prayer- a plea for help.  We then felt to call the Satohs in the branch.  By no small miracle, they were both home. Imi hadn't left for her evening job yet.  They weren't sure what to do, either, but they said they would talk about it and call us back.  In the meantime, we called the mission home.  They did have a spare key there, but they are in Sendai and it would take at least overnight to get that key to us.  They really didn't know what to do, either.  The Satohs called back to give us two suggestions they had come up with: 1) Call the Toyoto dealer and see if they could help.  They had actually called them and they said that if the car was old enough, they could maybe help.  On newer model cars, they could not. and 2) Call a roadside assistance service- Japan's equivalent of AAA.  We are not members, but they thought they might would do it for a fee.  Then, as we were talking, Imi had another idea pop into her head:  Sometimes car insurance has a rider on it that covers roadside assistance.  We could check to see if we have that.
So, 1) We called Toyoto.  Our car is too new.  They couldn't help us.
2) We called Japan's AAA- It was very, very expensive, but they could do it. 
3) We called the mission home back and asked about the insurance.  They didn't know, but they gave us the number of the insurance company.  Ken called them.  They said they would check if we had that coverage and call us back.
While we waited for their call,  4) Ken decided to walk to the local police station to see if they could help.  They said they couldn't.  But on the way home, the insurance company called back and said that, yes, indeed, we did have that rider on our insurance.  They arranged for a business in the next town to come out and help us. 
We called the elders to tell them we weren't going to make it.  No party tonight!

This is my "I am an idiot" face.
Soon, a kind man arrived and broke into our car.

And opened it and pulled the lever to open the trunk!  Yea!  Blessed relief!  We thanked him and thanked him and showered him with gifts (party treats.)
By now, it was after 6:20pm.  Eikaiwa starts at 6:00 and it's 40 minutes away.  So we hauled all the stuff back into the apartment, made a big plate of treats for the elders with an apology note, and took it and put in on their apartment door.  We also returned stuff to the church.  We then went to Hotto Motto (Japanese fast food) and got our favorite, chicken nan ban and took it  home and watched a movie!
After her work, Imi called to find out what happened.  We thanked her profusely and told her that her insurance idea saved us.  That is when she told us that the insurance rider idea had just popped into her head while we were talking.  After we got off the phone, we offered a prayer of thanksgiving.  Our prayer wasn't answered how we expected it to be, but it was answered through Imi.  Thank you, thank you, dear Imi!

I have to add a couple of things:
1)  I appreciate Ken.  Even in that most stressful moment when we realized what I had done, he didn't attack or berate me in any way.  Those are the moments you see the true character of your mate.  I am grateful for mine.
2)  While Ken was making the phone calls, I decided to do a "brother of Jared."  I had faith that God could help me get in that car.  So, like the Brother of Jared, I came up with a plan:  With a coat hanger, I fashioned a key.  I then asked Heavenly Father to make it work.  I stuck it in the keyhole of the trunk.  It did not work.  I had faith that God could make that hanger work as a key if He wanted to.  He didn't want to.  I guess I do not have the faith of the Brother of Jared  . . .yet.  
I shouldn't have told that part.

Sakata eikaiwa Easter party will be a week late! 

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Tsuruoka Eikaiwa Easter Party

When we first arrived here a year-and-a-half ago, our branch President asked us to be in charge of the "American parties" at English class.  I am not all sorry to say that this Easter party was our last.  Some "lasts" are and will be hard.  This is not one of them.  Hosting parties is not my forte.  But, I think we've done okay with the assignment. The idea of the parties is to teach them a little bit about American culture and to have fun together.  Japanese people know very little about Easter.  Very little.  We wanted them to experience coloring eggs.  They are fascinated with anything colored (frosting, etc.)  It is difficult to find food coloring and it only comes in a powdered form.  The usual liquid way of dying eggs would be difficult in this type of setting, so I googled it and found you could do it with rice.  You just put some rice in an enclosed container with the food coloring.  Since ours was powder, we added some vinegar.  It worked really well and the people really enjoyed doing it. 

We made saran wrap candy balls to unwrap.  While one person unwrapped, another threw dice to get doubles.  When they got doubles, it was their turn to unwrap.  It was really fun and everyone got at least a little bit of candy or a prize.   
This is actually the ball we made for the Sakata party- but the Tsuruoka one was just like it.

We then played old-fashioned musical chairs.

The little girl was the winner (mostly because the older one let her win.)
I didn't get pictures, but we also played Pictionary/Charades with Easter words.  We had refreshments . . .
And colored more eggs.  Everyone really liked this activity.

Again, I didn't take a picture, but we also showed a church Easter video.  It was a fun, successful Easter party.  As you'll see in an upcoming post (foreshadowing here,) this was NOT our last party.  Because of an unfortunate event, we still have one more Easter party to do in Sakata . . . and then we will be done.  Not sad.