Saturday, April 21, 2018

Trip to Japan



Disclaimer: We got a new computer a year ago and a new camera as well. Since then, I've struggled to download/upload photos, organize them into these elaborate folders, and then find them again to put on the blog. The old way was easy peasy and the new way is complicated. Even the hubs has trouble...so much that he bought some extra photo program... So, this is not my best post and these are not my best photos, but I figured I should throw something up on the blog to document Japan in some way.

We left for Japan on Saturday 31 March. We flew from SLC to Denver and then took a 787 Dreamliner to Narita in Tokyo with United. We lived. Our friends, Sag and Yuki, picked us up at Narita which was more than generous considering they live 2 hours from the airport. We stayed at their home for 2 nights. I hadn't seen them since one of their trips to Utah, but I also saw them when they visited in Hawai'i. Sag was a missionary with me in Japan. He helped me get my meishi printed up when I first arrived in Fukuoka. Later, we served in Kagoshima together. And after that, Kumamoto. Yuki is the most lovely, strong, amazing person ever. I consider them to be a "power couple" in the church. Sag is bishop of his ward. He is still so Sag. They are darling and I hope they come to stay with us sometime. Basically, they fed us dinner and we went to bed, but not without flipping through the mission scrapbook. It was the nicest thing after that long, long flight to have some friendly faces there to pick us up, feed us, and take us home. They had two varieties of Kit Kat waiting there for Ken to welcome him. So thoughtful. All of this on Sunday 1 April, Easter Sunday, and General Conference! I cannot count their generosity. I posted pictures of them on Facebook (maybe someday I'll get all the photos from all the cameras for this one trip).

The next day we drove into Tokyo and drove around the temple. It's closed for renovations. We parked at a church site and walked to the train station. We took subways, the bus, a train, and a boat that day. They took us to the Imperial Palace, which you can't actually see...but the grounds are lovely, and then to a tower called Skytree. I remember Ken saying, "This is like visiting the White House. We had 360 degree views of Tokyo, the world's largest metropolitan area. After that, we went to Asakusa, the oldest temple/shrine (honestly, I can't keep track of which are Buddhist temples and which are Shinto shrines...apologies) and the market there. Then they took us to Osho's for dinner, the same restaurant chain they had back in Kagoshima back in the day. Karaage chicken. We also went to the supermarket to buy some onegai (requests) for other people. I told Sag and Yuki I needed to pick up a certain brand of mabudofu (mabodofu?) for Eric kun and then Sag went all Jewish mother on us by insisting we take Koala chan and Super Lemon back to Eric kun as well because Eric LOVES them. I loved watching this unfold because Sag loves Eric so much, as do I, and the Japanese heart of friendship cannot be held back from sending gifts and love. Once you've made a Japanese friend, you can count on them for anything. Loyal to the end.

On Tuesday 3 April, we said our goodbyes and Sag took us to the eki (station) in Yokohama to get on the bullet train (shinkansen). We felt confident about everything, but he insisted on buying a ticket so he could accompany us to the platform and ensure we made it onto the correct train. I really hope I have a chance to pay these people back. We rode to Kyoto, looking for Mount Fuji along the way, but couldn't see it for the smog (same situation from Skytree). At Kyoto station, we grabbed some lunch and then headed out to find our hotel which was a short walk, about 5 minutes. Thank you, GPS. There was a post office there, so I stopped to buy and mail a postcard to a former student, a sixth grader, who called out to me in the hallway one day, "I hear you're going to Japan! Send me a postcard!" So I did. He gave me a thank you note the other day...with a dollar bill inside...??? Our hotel room was predictably small, but wonderfully air conditioned, a reprieve from our first couple of days in country--warm and humid, sweating all the time. We were not wearing jackets and Sag and Yuki kept asking us if we were cold. Nope. Not cold. We dropped our luggage and went out to play. We boarded a Skybus, a double decker, and it was a sunny day, even cool with the breeze generated by the speed of the bus. We had earbuds for the ridiculously poor English transcript, however, this sweet ride allowed us to get the lay of the land and see several temples and shrines...and sakura, the cherry blossoms. When we returned to the eki, Ken asked if we could go back to an area we saw on the tour in order to walk amongst the sakura. And so we did. We are Team Kyburz and as Ken stated on the trip, "You translate, I navigate!" So we bought tickets for smaller trains and got off at one station in order to walk all the way to the next station along the river, in the late afternoon light. It was beautiful, soothing, and picturesque. Mr. Six Foot Three was so grateful to stretch his legs after feeling cramped since he boarded the airplane. It all soothed his soul. And as if that weren't blessing enough, right near the next train station was a McDonald's! So he ordered a McTeriyaki Burger with Fries and found it to be quite tasty. When we got back to Kyoto Station, we looked at some of the restaurants, but decided that we would just grab some snacks at Lawson, a favorite convenience store (konbini) from living in country years ago. He got ice cream and I found some nikuman and rice balls. Oh, and Banana Cream cake.

The next morning, we caught another shinkansen to Hiroshima. If you go to Japan and plan to take even one train ride say from Tokyo to Kyoto and back to Tokyo again, it's completely worth it to get the Japan Rail Pass. You have to buy it before you leave the states. They send you a voucher (ours arrived Fed Ex from London) and then once you get to the Narita airport, you go down to the JR office in the basement and they give you your pass. You can make reservations if you upgrade to Green Car which turned out to be really slick and very nice. There's plenty of room for your luggage, the seats are way comfy, and you can charge your phone en route. We also road the bullet train in the regular cars without reservation--no chargers, but we lived. The shinkansen is so fast. I remember riding trains for HOURS between cities, but these bullet trains are incredibly swift and smooth. I highly suggest the JR Pass. It was worth the money! Also, the signs at train stations are in Japanese as well as English, so Ken could have gotten around without my help...it's just that my ability to speak Japanese really made things go smoothly. So we got to the Hiroshima Eki and stashed our luggage in the the coin lockers there--sweet! Travel really is so easy in Japan. Then we took a little street car (small train on railroad tracks) through the city to the Dome. The Peace Memorial Park is a World Heritage Site and we had a lovely couple of hours walking around there. Yes, quite somber. We toured the museum and I became so weepy. It was the photo of the three year old cute, chubby boy and his warped and melted tricycle that really got to me. I'm not political and wise and learned about international affairs, but my heart is drawn to other humans, especially children, and Hiroshima really hurt.

We got back to the eki and took the shinkansen to Kumamoto, my "home town." I loved all of my cities while living in Japan, but I served in Kita Kumamoto as well as Kumamoto and spent the majority of my mission in that city, therefore, Kumamoto is Home. Sachiko, Ken has met her several times as she visits here frequently, picked us up at the station and drove us around: cemetery, 100 yen store, out to eat, the mall, supermarket, etc. and then home. She built her own house several years ago. The one I visited before (her parents' home) was destroyed in the 2016 earthquakes. We enjoyed sleeping again on futons which are of course, on top of the traditional tatami mats (bamboo). Ken was getting to compare and contrast this Japanese home to Sag's and Yuki's. I can't believe we only had one night in a hotel!

On Thursday 5 April, Sachiko took us to Aso-Kuju National Park, the site of the active volcano known as Nakadake. We saw so much evidence of the earthquakes. The volcano had been acting up lately, so the photos show how close we were able to get without inhaling noxious gasses. The rest of the park was beautiful and there was a sakura festival taking place near a 400 year old cherry tree. We ate takoyaki (octopus), yakisoba, yakiniku, and toriniku, and ice cream.

We returned to Sachiko's home that afternoon to change clothes. She took us to the eki and we rode to Fukuoka eki to catch a taxi to the Fukuoka Temple. Before the taxi we grabbed some KFC. Ken had been a good sport about all the strange Japanese food, so I never minded his requests for American fast food. This temple was built in 2000 on the site of my old mission home. It was great to do a session there, see all the changes, and run into the temple president, Tashiro Kyodai. At Sachiko's suggestion, we asked if they could call a taxi for us, but Brother Shibata stepped in and dropped us off at the eki, which saved us 1700 yen. He is 75 years old.

On Friday 6 April, Sachiko drove us to another national park, Unzen-Amakusa National Park. Amakusa is several islands connected by five bridges. Ken had to touch the water of the East China Sea. It was rainy, but we didn't care...we got out to walk here and there. On the way back, Sachiko showed us the seaweed farm--in the water. They plant the seaweed seeds onto sticks in the water and grow it in the winter. The harvest had just finished. They harvest and dry the seaweed and then package it for selling. I never knew all the sticks in the water were a seaweed farm. By the way, Sachiko is the nicest ever and we will never be able to repay her. But we will certainly try.

That evening we had dinner with the Saruwatari Sisters, Kyoko and Katsue. They have both been to my classroom here in Utah. They are the nicest people and enjoyed meeting Ken san. We all exchanged gifts (they requested mint chocolate, Jell-o, and Kool-Aid). I hope they will also come stay with us.

On Saturday 7 April, our last day in country, we stayed around Kumamoto. We went to both churches where I served. We walked to the kamitori and the shimitori to meet Kumamon, the mascot of Kumamoto. He hugged us and everything. We went to Suizenji park...so beautiful...and to Kumamoto Castle, heavily damaged by the earthquakes--will take 20 years to put it back together again. Then we met Nitta Takayasu Kyodai for dinner. I tracted him out with my "spiffy" door approach back in the day. He was on the phone with someone but wanted to know more. We had no idea he had been studying with the Jehovah's Witnesses for quite some time. While still holding the phone and saying, "I'm not busy," I taught him and told him we'd be bringing a couple of guys back with us the next time (we weren't allowed to teach single men). I looked at all the elders in my district and decided that Weeks Choro (Eric kun) was my best bet, so I handed Nitta over to him. Nitta told me he remembered me "loaning" him a copy of the Book of Mormon, saying that I'd come back for it. When he saw me again, I told him he could keep it a bit longer. And of course, finally, I told him to keep it. I remember none of that. Nitta got baptized, served in the Kobe mission, married a member in the temple, they've raised four children, two of whom are also returned missionaries. He serves on the high council and his wife serves as stake Primary president. This is the fruit of my mission. When I came home, people asked, "How many people did you baptize?" And I truthfully answered, "None."

On Sunday 8 April, Sachiko took us to the Kumamoto station for the last time so we could catch our last shinkansen to Fukuoka. From there, we took the subway to the airport. At the airport, we got on the shuttle bus and made it to security. We flew to Narita where we had to go through security again. From there we flew to San Francisco where we had to go through security again. And customs. And from there, we flew to SLC. We drove home and forced ourselves to stay awake until 8 or 9 pm. The jet lag has lasted two weeks. It's been a bit rough, but I wouldn't have traded it for the world. I loved speaking Japanese again. And eating all the foods. And seeing my old home. And some old friends. I can't believe I got to go back. I loved being a tourist as well, but for me, it's all about the people. It is such a pleasure to see how strong they've been all this time in the gospel. They are ganbatteiru!"

My cup runneth over. Blessed. So blessed.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Emailing in Kanji and Measuring the Luggage

So here's an email I sent to one of Japanese friends: 日本語お学びます。漢字は難しいです!頑張っていきたいと思います。Jodyわかりますか? Sent from my iPhone

My sentences aren't rocket science or anything, but I kind of can't believe I figured out the Japanese keyboard all by myself! Two of three alphabets are listed there! He replied to this saying he can understand my Japanese and that the Kanji is good. We'll see how well I do in actual conversation after decades have passed with little to no practice. At least my husband should be impressed.

A friend is also vacationing abroad for Spring Break. She's packing 5 outfits for 12 days. I'm packing 3 outfits for 9 days. My friends have washing machines, so it should all work out.

Our first hosts asked us how big our suitcases are. They feel like their Prius is pretty big, but wanted to make sure we could actually fit everything in their car. So we measured: length x width x height. I took him seriously by answering the question, because our other hostess, who owns a Corolla, got into my Corolla last time she was here and said, "Okii!!" I laughed. She said, "SO BIG!!" If she thinks MY Corolla is spacious...then we may have to adjust our thinking about the cars and how much they can hold. Hence, we measured the luggage! In centimeters.

How do you prepare for your trips?

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Omiyage and Futon Surfing



Because we have excellent house sitters, several kind neighbors, a new alarm system, and a guard dog, I'm going to announce that we will soon be Futon Surfing! Yes! We're headed to Japan and it will be my first time back since my mission. K had a really hard time making this decision because he's slightly terrified about several things: being too tall for things, not being able to sleep comfortably, not knowing the language, and not liking foods such as seaweed, fish, and tofu. For Family Home Evening last week, we looked through photos and read through letters from my mission. When he heard my stories, saw my happy tears, felt the depth of my testimony of the Gospel as well as my passion for the people of Japan, he realized that we should have made this trip sooner.

And so...this brings up the whole topic of OMIYAGE. The Japanese are incredibly kind, thoughtful, and hospitable. They really roll out the red carpet when you visit. They sacrifice and treat you like royalty. It shames me to think how unhospitable I've probably been, all while thinking I was being a pretty good hostess. They give gifts (always with two hands and a slight bow) as a way of remembering you. Therefore, we are loaded up with gifts for the people we will be seeing, hoping they are decent enough. After consulting actual live Japanese people who live here as well as there, and looking around on the internet, we've done what we've been advised to do and we've gone against what we we've been advised to do. For example, Japanese people are not fond of too many American sweets because they are much too sweet. It makes them feel sick. They also have a hard time with brightly colored food dye. I don't know, it screams cancer at them or something...it's so foreign compared to the natural, beautiful way they prepare foods such as fruits and vegetables. They do like a little chocolate (like See's), however. So surprisingly, a couple of friends over there requested specific flavors of Jell-O and Hershey's mint chocolate cookie candy bar. Did not see that coming.

We managed to convince some of our friends to go against everything in their Japanese hearts and just come out and tell us directly what they'd really like to see us bring over! It makes the shopping so much easier. So, some of the things they are hankering for include: Levi's, Bath and Body Works lotions and hand creams ("hand creamy" they call it), dried fruits like blueberries and cranberries, taco seasoning, church materials such as stickers, New Testament coloring books, a toy replica of the Liahona, and temple recommend holders with colorful pictures of Christ. We threw in some cute chick and bunny Easter chocolate as well. Some of these friends say, "Bring the receipt and I'll pay you back." Whatever. We already know you are going to let us stay in your home for 2-4 nights and you are going to drive us around and show us around and feed us...whatever. There is no way you are going to reimburse us!

Here's what K doesn't realize (so please don't mention it to him)--we're not going to give everything away! Some of these items are actually for HIM! This guy HATES to fly on airplanes. He literally does turn green; I've seen it several times. I've also felt the hard hand squeezes when we take off, land, or whenever there's any turbulence. He recently went to the doctor for a prescription for these long flights because Dramamine doesn't do much at all for him. We've been to Hawai'i twice, so that's when and how I learned that purchasing some surprises for him to comfort him mid-flight is not a bad idea! He is tall, so the leg room thing is always an issue (we purchased more leg room this time). His heart melts a little when I pull something out of my bag like...Ghirardelli chocolate! So he thinks we're giving everything away, but the Chicken in a Biscuit crackers and some of the chocolate is really for him to carry around in his backpack or eat on the plane in case the whole Japanese food scene isn't working out for him (though I'm confident it will...they eat chickens and pigs too...and K likes ramen). I must say, we've been to quite a few Japanese restaurants, and he has tried and liked some things that actually have fish sauce in them, but I've, of course, never told him there's fish sauce in it, because that would ruin it for him. And you'd better not tell him either!

The tricky thing about Omiyage is we are taking some fairly small luggage because we won't be with friends the whole time. We'll be traveling by ourselves using our JR Rail Passes and hauling our suitcases with us, so we'll just be wearing a lot of the same clothing over and over again. Which is fine. And hopefully we'll find something fun, Omiyage, to bring back. We happen to have a missionary from Japan serving in our ward at the moment and so I asked him if we could bring something back for him. He asked for ramen. He declared the ramen here in the US is..."interesting." He is really craving instant, dried, real, Japanese ramen. "I don't care what kind! ANY kind!" We can do that!

Saturday, March 17, 2018

One Hundred Scout Trainings

It all began on 6 November 2013 when I took my first Youth Protection Training for my BSA (Boy Scouts of America) registration. Little did I know...

Today I completed my one hundredth Scout training (Journey to Excellence). Some trainings have been online and some have been face-to-face. I've attended University of Scouting twice and I have a Bachelor's Degree in Commissioner Service. But you know what? There are so, So, SO many people who have waaaaaay more training than I. They may be obsessed.

This is why I think I keep training. I am imperfect. And I work with a lot of imperfect people in Scouting. They whine and cry that they "didn't know" and whatever, and then they can't recharter. The only thing I have to do with rechartering is getting the Journey to Excellence form turned it. The rest of it is OUT of my hands. I'm not even allowed to touch the packet. Who knows where that thing ended up because one of my packs STILL isn't chartered! Dropped balls.

After dutifully driving to the council office the other day to pick up no less than 2,307 Scouting for Food Door Hangers for the Cub Scouts to hand out...and counting them out according to the number of front doors in each ward (which took time and plenty of phone calls to ascertain), the older Boy Scouts did NOT pick up the donated food today! I got three phone calls about that! "Who picks up the food?!?" And all the Boy Scout leaders are like, "I never heard/knew about this." Really? You didn't go to Roundtable? You didn't get three emails about it? You haven't taken your Leader Specific Training? You didn't get a door hanger? Really? Can you sense my frustration today?

Boy would I like to clean house. But that's not my job in Scouting. It's not really my job to tell people off, tell them to find a little grit, and tell them to do the online training. THEN you will KNOW, people! You will have a CLEAR understanding of your Scouting duties! You will stop passing the buck.

So I just take all the training and print out my little certificates. That way I can look my Committee Chairs in the eye and say, "Not only have I taken all of the training for MY position as Unit Commissioner, but I have ALSO taken ALL of the training for YOUR position." Same for Cub Masters. Same for Den Leaders. Do not try to tell me you're too busy.

I just asked my husband to check the front door to see if our donated Scouting for Food had been picked up today. The food I packed up this morning with happy thoughts. The chicken, the tuna, the Spam, and other things that could keep someone full of protein and whatever else. Nope. It was never picked up. So he put it back in the pantry and said, "Good effort, Jody."

I'm a terrible leader. If I were a better leader, folks would do their training.

Monday, March 12, 2018

I Wanted to Name Her Ruby

Some friends just had their third child and they named her Ruby. Ruby is the name we discussed should we have had a daughter (4 miscarriages). Ruby because it's two syllables ending in a "y" like Jody. Ruby because she would have been the most precious thing...even more precious than rubies. Ruby was my grandma's sister's name. And Ruby because those four letters are embedded in what would have been her last name, Kyburz (Ruby is spelled backward in Kyburz). Ruby Kyburz would probably have had brown eyes since we both do, and brown is dominate. But maybe not. I'm happy for these friends and they are wonderful parents. I'm glad they get to have their Ruby. It just reminds me that we don't. So there's a little mother secret leaking from my heart. That's all.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

My Snowshoes Have Seen Some Trail



Because yesterday was Professional Development, I was done with school at 3:00 pm instead of 4:00 pm and that made all the difference. I went home and donned my snowshoeing clothes so the Mr. and I could head up the canyon and hike up the Mill Canyon trail. It was a beautiful afternoon and I'm so grateful that in spite of my foot and knee surgeries, I am still able to enjoy these little treks. I'm shocked at how young and happy I feel out there in the snow, one with nature, compared to how old I'm looking in my photos these days, but so goes the way of things.

My snowshoes turned 19 years old in January and they are still in great shape! I have never had a single problem with the bindings. Go Tubbs! They were some of the best money I ever spent! I have hiked so many miles on those snowshoes and have created a lot of great memories first with friends, and then with my Darling Ken. My snowshoes have seen some trail!

Friday, March 2, 2018

The Way We Think

I'm constantly fretting about being a better housewife/domestic goddess/whatever, even though my husband could care less and never says a word. My life seems to take place mostly out of the home and it's really too bad I don't get any points for my desires to improve things in the home, but that's really tough to do when you're never there.

So the other morning before school, after my husband left for work, I thought, "I can at least do something. I can do one little thing. I know! I will clear off the kitchen table and make it all pretty for dinner tonight."

So I gathered my sweaters hanging over the chairs and the pile of mail we finally picked up and my church bag from Sunday. I put the box tops in their special place and returned the pen to it's little basket. I carried the water bottle to the sink and hauled the newly acquired books back to my TBR pile in the bedroom. Oh, and that wedding announcement from a former student...took care of that too. I was so pleased with myself. I washed the table well, refilled the napkin holder, set out a couple of place mats, arranged the salt and pepper shakers just so, and pushed in all the chairs so that everything look tidied and clean and ready for dinner.

When I got home in the late afternoon, a pit stop between school and church meetings, my darling was cooking dinner. He hadn't mentioned anything, so I thought I would ask, "Did you notice the elves visited our house and cleaned up the whole kitchen table for us?" I was surprised at what he said.

"I like it when your stuff is spread all over the table. It makes the house feel less empty. When I got home and saw the table I thought to myself, 'Jody's not here.'"

Such a doll! I don't deserve him! Who would have thunk it?