It's been a killer good week in the beautiful city of Yamagata, the cherry capitol of Japan, the biggest city in the prefecture with the most ramen shops and ramens eaten per capita, the (alleged) home of Kendama (that cup ball thing which is actually the coolest thing ever, sweet pics to come), and the home of.... bucket pudding?
That's right. I learned three super sweet things this week unique to Yamagata. They have a giant pot of nabe (kind of like Japanese soup stew stuff) that is at least ten feet across that they stir with a backhoe that they do in august for a festival, a cool dance with those triangle rice hats at another festival, and they do something called bucket pudding. Which is where they make プリン (pudding - flan for everyone else) in a bucket, then flip it over onto a plate and pull up the bucket and it makes a massive jiggling dome of egg-yolkey goodness which loses all structural rigidity when someone takes the first scoop out of it and then it is basically a free-for-all of caramel flan eating. The bucket makes it approximately 17x more fun, and apparently it's a Yamagata only thing.
We got to see the dance on Saturday night, we had our ward talent show and it was amazing, the missionaries sang, there were some killer good musical numbers and kendama and fan dancing and stuff, and the Takahashi (高橋, it means tall bridge and it's like every third person's name here) family did that dance with the hats and it was amazing and hilarious. And we all ate taco rice. so basically a perfect day. I love this ward so much; they're all amazing and so strong.
So the thing about the lemons - we visited a couple this week, and apparently he isn't normally like this, but after the husband heard I was from California he started going off on Californians and how they can eat anything if they put lemon on it and made jokes about me eating his dog and then I made a Korean joke and from there the friendship was solidified. So basically he figured out that I'm secretly Superman (well technically senkyoushi (missionary) man, my glasses gave it away, and I draw my power from lemons because I'm from California and vitamin C is important and keeps you from getting scurvy. Like I said, I love the ward here and I love the members.
I've decided to call this segment "Things I wish I knew before my mission". Which is basically going to be stuff I've been learning, life lessons, all that fun stuff, things I'm basically learning/trying to learn/trying to improve, and collect my thoughts a little bit. This week I've been thinking about "Focusing on the Mark". We had a couple of talks last General Conference about it as far as doctrine and stuff is concerned, but I have been thinking about it in a slightly different context. I find myself sometimes thinking about plans after the mission, beyond just the big things like school and other just practical things. What I have realized is there is no point making plans for a person I basically don't even know yet. I'm still Jon, I still make obscure references and like boring repetitive electronic music and put way too much seasoning on my food, but my nature is changing, the kind of person I am. It's kind of hard to explain, and I guess I don't want to go into too much detail, but I'm not completely the same person I used to be, which is a really good thing. Everything we do as a missionary focuses on our purpose, we eat so we can dendo (proselyte), we sleep so we can dendo, we study so we can dendo, and we take p-day so we can get the fun things out of the way and have some more relaxing time so we can better dendo. We email family and friends so we can get a little bit of communication and then focus 100% on dendo throughout the week. Every second is spent focusing on our purpose; it's the first thing we memorize when we enter the MTC. It's the best. We focus a ton on setting goals for all sorts of things, and I find myself focusing on those goals, working towards them, and achieving more because of them. I really wish I had done a lot more of this before my mission, and I will most certainly be doing a whole lot of it when I get back from my mission.
I used to waste a lot of time. A LOT of time. I didn't really have any good goals, my goals were mostly along the lines of "figure out how to watch as much mindless TV and YouTube videos I can". So I internalized that goal, and if I wasn't working on that goal, I was avoiding other work so I could work on that. I had so much idle time where I wasn't helping anyone, improving myself, learning things, it drives me crazy now to realize how much time I threw away in stupid pursuits doing things I didn't even enjoy and being unproductive. I'm not saying we should schedule every fifteen minutes of every day, but I think that would be better than having no plan, no schedule, and no goals. So what kind of goals am I going to have when I get back? Well, for one, I want to be a conscientious consumer. Are the things I am consuming, the things I am doing, worth my while? Is this movie, this TV show, this book, going to make me a better, more cultured, kinder, or more Christ-like person? Is this food going to help me get SHREDDED? Am I using my time for something which will help me grow, learn, better myself, or help others do the same? Or am I merely existing, content with mediocrity and being a shadow of what I could be, a well-rounded, productive, happy, successful member of the human family whose dreams are being grasped? I haven't really figured it all out, and I am still figuring this out for myself, but I don't want to waste another precious minute of the time I have on earth in pursuit of that which is of no worth. I found a cool verse that kinda relates to this idea: Isaiah 55:2 "Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread? and your labour for that which satisfieth not? hearken diligently unto me, and eat ye that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness."
The purpose of life, simply stated, is to have joy. Why would we spend time on that which doesn't bring us joy? There are things that make us happy for a little bit of time, but don't bring that true, real, center of your heart joy that the gospel brings. For me, I know I can get that joy by starting and raising a family built on love, by being strong in the church and having a strong testimony, by knowing I am in good standing with the Lord, by serving and helping others, by working hard in my career, by making and sharing music I love with others. If I do all that, there isn't a whole lot of time to waste being mediocre or consuming mediocrity.
TL;DR (means "too long; didn't read" for you non internet-savvy people) Work hard, have goals, don't tolerate mediocrity in your life
My goal for this next week comes from Proverbs, 20:13 "Love not sleep, lest thou come to poverty; open thine eyes, and thou shalt be satisfied with bread." Sheesh, tell us how you really feel, Proverbs. Little bit of a slap to the face when I read that one, but then again, I'm on my mission to change, right ;)
Love you all,
Elder Orgill オーギル長老
Kendama - Elder Orgill's new obsession
Elder Orgill and his companion, Elder Barr from Australia
Another delicious Yamagata ramen
"Bucket Pudding" party