Monday, April 24, 2017

Head-butt - week 35

Well hi diddly ho there neighboroonie! (reference to Ned Flanders from The Simpsons)

So I found out this week that my spirit animal is not actually a rhino (insert big nose joke here) like my MTC district predicted, it's Ralph Wiggums. Why? Because I ended up doing a lot of stuff which made me look really goofy this week, but I choo choo chose to make the best of it. If you're keeping up with all the Simpsons references, nice. I might make a bunch of weird references to things most of you won't understand in my email today, so just humor me with this one.

This week was, simply put, "flippin' sweet". It seems like everyone is happy because Sakura (Japanese cherry blossoms) is in full bloom and Japanese people STRAIGHT UP LOVE their Sakura. There's this thing called 花見 (hanami) which basically means watching cherry blossoms (not noses, different hana unfortunately). It's also very quickly heating up, and I have no idea how to deal with warm weather, so we'll see how it goes.

So onto the gnarly things that happened this week. We have our weekly missionary meeting up in Kitakami, which is about a half hour away by train. This week's train ride was eventful as always. Last week (I forgot, cut me some slack homes) we were delayed for a solid hour coming back to Ichinoseki because there was some suuuper gnarly wind, so they just stopped the train until it calmed down a little bit. Except they stopped it on a slanted part of the track. So the train was already over at an angle, and was then buffeted relentlessly by the wind. This week was no less exciting because I saw SIX WHITE PEOPLE! With Sakura in full Blume, there's a bunch of people visiting Tohoku, including the "bustling metropolis" of Ichinoseki. Just kidding they were all on the train. But nonetheless, I don't know how to act around not-Japanese people or how to talk to them, so it was a thrilling experience. I also sat next to an old guy who was a bit on the intoxicated side, and we actually had a lovely conversation which started with him telling me and Elder De Leon "すわりなさい" (That's "sit" in command form). Also, while getting on the train to come back, I was deep in thought and started to walk towards the escalator, when I noticed "hey, it's gonna be pretty awkward when I have to pass those guys riding the escalator up two abreast". Then I thought for a second, and realized that I was about to walk down the up escalator. Elder De Leon is still laughing about that one.

We went with a member to teach a less active this week and he's a total bro. His probably 90 year old mother was there too, and she crawled into the room to get to her seat at the kotatsu. Just crawled. Then, she offered me green tea no less than 17 times, I had to be on my guard the whole time. The whole lesson went super well and we were able to build a good relationship with him, and right at the end, everybody is saying thank you and bowing and stuff, and I give a nice deep seated bow and "THUDDD" I hit the top of my head very loudly on the edge of the kotatsu (Japanese table where you sit on the floor around it with a heater inside and blankets around the edges). And everyone busted up laughing. Grandma was ON THE FLOOR laughing. Granted, she was already on the floor to begin with, but you get the picture. I mumbled something about how I'm still learning Japanese culture and I thought it was customary to hit your head on the kotatsu before leaving. My head didn't even hurt, but just for you, mom, (and my remaining brain cells) I will be wearing my lovely bike helmet at all times from now onward ;)

It doesn't help that following that, I asked Elder De Leon "What's that rock and hand kanji right there?" And he gave me a dumb look and said "Iwate". Which is the prefecture we're in. Which is a kanji I have read a lot before. Which I probably should have been able to guess by the fact it was right next to the kanji for "prefecture". So needless to say, "the mocking is getting worse". But don't worry, I'm just giving him easy ones before I throw heat back, his pastrami and bagel jokes can't hold a candle to my fresh roasts.

Speaking of roasts, we've gotten into tangents on food and barbeque with our English class a lot recently, so we've decided to have a barbeque party. One of the students works at a pig farm and she's going to get us the hookup on some quality pork, and we're gonna ghetto cook that in the rice cooker and make pulled pork. My cooking skills just keep increasing, I have no reason to go out and eat when I can make whatever I want at the apartment for a fraction of the price. Made gyouza (pot sticker/dumplings), butadon (pork over rice but waaaaaaay good), tortillas, aburasoba (literally means oil noodles), hippari udon (山形 (Yamagata) specialty represent fam), Thai green curry fried rice, and a bunch of other stuff. We're quite possibly the best-eating apartment without a Japanese elder in it.

For my "thing I wish I knew before my mission" this week - I want to talk about something pretty simple. It's the simple statement - "God is in the details". I have faith, faith in God, faith in Jesus Christ, faith in the truthfulness of our message, faith that God hears my prayers, but sometimes those big things don't translate all that well to the little things. Sometimes it seems hard to believe the person living behind that next door might be someone God has prepared for you when you've just experienced hours of nothing but rejection. Sometimes I find myself believing the lie that there is NOBODY in this city who is ready to hear our message. That's straight wrong. God has his hand in EVERYTHING, he has a perfect plan for all of us, he knows our gifts, strengths, and weaknesses, and places us and guides us perfectly. God doesn't just care about and control the big things in life and the world, He hears and answers the prayers of EVERYONE, from the most dignified and important-seeming person all the way down to the most humble and insignificant-seeming child, He loves us and cares about us and blesses us and puts trials and blessings in our path to shape us into the kind of people He wants us to be. If we have faith in the big things, we can have faith in the little things too and know that through His help all things are possible.

Love you all lots and hope you all recognize some of the little blessings this week!

オーギル長老 (Elder Orgill)

Monday, April 17, 2017

Tongue-Twister Transfer (and tortillas) - week 34

Why hello there...

How are you, everyone? I hope you're all doing just lovely, I certainly am.

So this last week I transferred from Ishinomaki to Ichinoseki, which I'll be real, is a bit of a tongue twister. It's kind of like when you're writing the date on a paper and you keep putting the date as 2016 instead of 2017 and everybody gives you hard time about it, but I'm adjusting haha. My new companion is Elder De Leon, from the majestic state of Texas. But he doesn't do missionary work in cowboy boots, so I'm a little sketched out on his authenticity. He's trilingual in English, Japanese, and Spanish, so I've been picking up a bit of Spanish this week (nah just messin, he's just been correcting my pronunciation of 'tortillas' and 'queso'). Needless to say, it's a party.

This week has been pretty uneventful, the main activities of the week were finding and me mourning the loss of my beloved jar of garlic due to lack of room in my luggage. Ichinoseki is pretty small and pretty rural, it's a bit of a change, but I love it and its gorgeous here. Sakura season is starting up here, and I kind of freak out every time I see a Sakura tree. It's like the whole city is just splashed with happy light pink fluffy stuff. Pretty dang cool.

We got to go to Kesennuma yesterday with the branch president to visit some less active members, and it was pretty sweet. The drive there was super nostalgic, it was a two lane road the whole way there through a bunch of hills and stuff and reminded me of a motorcycle ride I did, we passed through some places that were いなか as heck, but it was pretty cool.

So visiting less active members yesterday, we went to visit this one and we knocked on the door. I could see in the sliding glass door that somebody was lounging on a couch reading a magazine. He straight didn't budge. Knocked again. He put down the magazine and didn't do anything else. Rang again, he sat up and started reading the magazine sitting up, looking almost right at us, but didn't even get up to say anything. I decided we would out-awkward him - nobody pretends they didn't hear the door to get out of talking to Elder Orgill! I start staring directly at him in an attempt to make eye contact while my companion started writing a note, and after probably five minutes at the door he finally looks up, notices us, and promptly makes his way to the door to tell us his daughter (the member) isn't home. And that he has really bad vision and hearing, so he didn't hear the door. So yeah, I tried to out-awkward a deaf guy who didn't even know we were at the door. It was pretty hilarious. But that's not the first time something like that has happened, we get hardcore ignored and people with lights on and everything just don't come to the door because they like avoiding confrontation. News flash, it's more awkward to avoid people when they know you're home than to politely tell them you don't have any interest.

So my thing I learned a bit more about this week is the concept of perfect obedience and the power of keeping our word. I'll start out with an example. When I was a kid, I was obedient, but not perfectly obedient. My mom would tell me to do the dishes, clean my room, do whatever, and 95% of the time I would obey. But every once in a while, I would not just choose not to obey, I would GIVE MY WORD and then not follow through with it. There were times where I built up a lot of trust - and then with one little mistake I would shatter all of that trust and have to start over from the beginning. It's like a streak in guitar hero, you mess up one note and you gotta start all over. We can't pick and choose what we're obedient about and when we want to follow through on our word if we want the full trust of others, especially the trust of God. So just food for thought, think about whether your word really has power or not.

Hey, love you all and hope you're all straight killing it.

Elder Orgill / オーギル長

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Summiting もやし山 (bean-sprout mountain) - week 33

Hola 皆さん! (Hello everyone -- a nice mix of Spanish and Japanese ...)

Life is full of surprises. Including getting transferred after only six weeks in a new area. After buying a full rack of spices and a metric ton of garlic and Korean miso.

Yes, it is true, I am leaving behind my beloved 石巻, the land of the rolling stone, and heading northward to Ichinoseki. I will miss the (very strong) ocean breeze, the total lack of hills, the smell of the kamaboko (a fish cake which is made locally) and paper factories, the stunning sunsets, my very well equipped spice rack, and most of all, my beloved companion Elder Kudo (and his cooking). But, I'm super super stoked on him because he's BECOMING A DAD. By which I mean he's training a new Japanese missionary, and he's going to absolutely kill it. In a good way. My English has gotten significantly worse this transfer, hasn't it? But my Japanese has grown leaps and bounds. I can finally banter with people in Japanese, which is approximately 93% of my communication, so you can see how big of a game changer this transfer was. I'm getting waaaaay too sentimental on this. Anyway, peace 石巻 (Ishinomaki), hello Ichinoseki and my new companion Elder De Leon. Funny enough, I made the offhand comment to him one time "hey, how fun would that be if we became comps". Well, we're becoming comps, so it's gonna be a party.

Warning: If you don't want to read about food, skip this paragraph. Quick recap on some of the cool things of last week, Y'all probably saw the pictures, but we went to the beautiful Matsushima last P-day and it was AMAZING, we took a bunch of pictures and I ate grilled sea pineapple and an oyster burger and a big tuna meatball-ish-thing on a stick. It was a party, I don't know, a picture says a thousand words so just look at the pictures and imagine me narrating in my deep voice but talking a little too fast since I'm really excited and yeah you get the picture. Other fun things this week was eating Jiroke ramen and the gyouza party we did. You may ask yourself "What is Jiroke ramen, and how can that be fun?” Well, let me tell you, hoo boy. It. Was. Crazy. I go into this ramen shop I got recommended by one of our Eikawa students and order from the weird vending machines that give you tickets. None of the bowls of ramen look that big, and I wanna go hard because if it's worth doing it's worth overdoing. So I go with the normal ramen. Add another 200 grams of noodles because that's not that much, right? Then I figure I need extra chashu, which is like Japanese ramen pork stuff. Then I get the vegetable bakamori - a stupidly large size for the vegetables on top. I order with extra garlic and wait. Let me explain - Jiroke ramen was invented in Tokyo (maybe? I don't know this stuff) by someone who was bored with normal ramen that didn't have a stupidly large amount of bean sprouts on top and hated thin ramen soup. So he (or she) made it, and made it with a MOUNTAIN of vegetables on top, and everybody loved it and it got super popular. Back to the story. They bring out this ramen, with a bowl the size of a bathroom sink and a mountain of vegetables on top that reached the knot of my tie as I sat at the table, topped with an ice-cream-scoop size ball of garlic on top. I began to dig into it; the bean sprouts were delicious, crunchy, refreshing. I tried the soup - うめ!(~delish!!)  Incredible! Brothy, thick, the flavor of soy sauce and pig bones blended together perfectly in a thick, creamy flavor ばくはつ (explosion). After ten minutes of bean-sprout management and eating as fast as I could, I finally found my first bite of noodles - thick, but still with a little bite to them, and not too thick as to weaken the flavor of the sauce. The chashu was also spectacular. Could it be... could it possibly be? Had I found my perfect ramen? I ate on, but I soon felt myself starting to get full. I pushed on, but soon the pressure became too much, the two kilograms (not even an exaggeration, probably ate about four pounds of bean sprouts) was too much. I couldn't be disgraced, I couldn't disappoint my ancestors and then embarrass myself in front of the bandana-wearing ramen-bros that made my ramen, but it finally proved too much. After the final push, a final attempt to eat as much of the remaining noodles and bean sprouts as I could, I finally had to accept defeat. A wave of sadness rushed over me, I had embarrassed my family... And then I remembered - "Oh wait, I'm a missionary and life is good and I just ate a really good ramen and Elder Warner would gladly eat the rest of my noodles for me", and I loudly declared "余は満足じゃ” (The king is satisfied (with some implications I can't really explain but it is what a king would say after a feast)). Anyway, that was a super long story, but long story short: Good food makes life better, quantity isn't always better than quality and life is good.

Yeah, anyway we also had a gyouza party last night where we made a bunch of Japanese dumplings (or "potstickers") and cooked em up and it was pretty sweet. This apartment has been a straight party and I'm gonna miss these guys. Speaking of which, me and Elder Warner went on splits this week and the first person we talked to turned into a new investigator! He's a straight stud and told us about this experience he had back when he was working on a ship where he fell off the boat or something and for some reason or another they couldn't pull him up, so he held on and swam for three days and they tossed him down onions and carrots to eat. There are really cool people with really crazy experiences everywhere, but I am so blessed to be able to meet them and learn about their lives here in Tohoku (Northeastern Japan). So cool.

So we watched General Conference this week and hoo boy, what an experience. First off, shout out to Elder Stevenson for talking about the 日本仙台伝道部!! (Japan Sendai Mission) Yeah! Fukushima! I've been there! General Conference means SO MUCH more as a missionary; this is like our Super Bowl. For y'all non-mormons out there, General Conference is where we get to hear prophets speak to us what God wants us to hear. How cool is that? I don't think we as members appreciate quite the significance of that, we sometimes approach it as a week to watch church in our pajamas while eating cereal and popcorn. It can and should be a revelatory experience for all of us. I ain't gonna spoon feed y'all my notes on all the talks and everything, but I do want to talk a bit about something in general I took away from it - if you watched General Conference and didn't feel a need and or desire to change SOMETHING, you dun goof't. You did something wrong, because every single speaker testified something about the eternal principal of change, of progression, of CONSTANTLY and CONSISTENTLY making ourselves BETTER. Every one of them issued a commitment and promised blessings predicated on the keeping of that commitment, and those men DO NOT LIE. The Gospel, the joyous news of Jesus Christ, his Atonement, his resurrection, is a message of change - we can all change and be better and overcome faults and weaknesses and sadness and anything and we don't have to stay the same. I never understood how significant that is, and I still don't understand it fully, but I will end this very simply. My message to the people of Japan is that of change, through changing and becoming better and becoming more like Christ, we will feel joy. I have changed, I have seen others change, and because of that I have felt joy. Pick something you want to change, some attribute you want, something you want to become, and do it. You will feel joy.

Elder Orgill – (オーギル長)

Bonus: he created his own captions this week!!

Monkeying around


"More accurate"

"Ready for glory"

"Glorious to behold"

"Romance begins"

"But ends in heartache"

"The King of Kansai" (western Japan)

フワフワフワフワ (Fuwafuwafuwafuwa(onomatopoeia that means fluffy))

"We made 90" -- Japanese gyouza/potstickers

Monday, April 3, 2017

Photo bonus - Matsushima

Matsushima is one of the very scenic areas of Japan. It is close to Ishinomaki and the missionaries were able to travel there on their day off.

Obligatory food picture

Very early cherry blossoms

The syrup is in the duck - week 32

Knock knock

Who's there?

アーすみません、私たちは近くにある教会のボランチアの物ですけれでも、今みなさんに少しだけイエスキリスト、また人生の目的についてのメセージを    教えています。申し、よろしければ、玄関先で少し話してもよろしいですか? (... his standard approach when going door-to-door trying to invite people to listen to his message)

Elder Orgill, here, at your door, bringing spiritual enlightenment and funny stories. Put on your seat belts everyone, this week was wild. Also, my grammar might be a little weird, my English usage this week has consisted of frantic journal brainstorming, words I don't know in Japanese, muttering to myself while looking in the mirror, and swindling Elder Houston out of a carton of milk for a sakura daifuku (cherry blossom-flavor stuffed mochi treat).

Have you ever had a crazy idea and just thought of a stupid answer to a reasonable question and then just decided to go for it? Well that happened on Sunday. 工藤長老 (Elder Kudo) and I were talking about what we could do to get the standard of excellence (mission standard for number of lessons, commitments, whatever, basically a yardstick for how hard you're working). We were thinking about what we could do and "Hey, what if we just got nine lessons today and found two new investigators?" Long story short, in a mission where most companionships average between 1-3 lessons a day, where my previous record was 6 in one day, we got 9 lessons in a day and were able to find two new investigators, which is pretty gnarly for Japanese missionaries. 工藤長老 (Elder Kudo) and I were especially exhausted all day, but we put in work until the very end and found two new investigators in the last half hour of the day despite not a lot of success earlier. The things that happened were definitely not coincidence, the Lord definitely guided our day and we were able to exercise faith and see miracles because of it.

So Saturday was the first of April... Missionaries aren't supposed to do pranks and stuff, but I wrote a contract with the other pair of missionaries and basically consented to any pranking that didn't consist of destroying my physical property or putting me in excessive pain, and hoo boy, they delivered. Their primary focus was confusing me, and along with a few other little confusing things, Elder Houston made me pancakes for breakfast and delivered them right as I was waking up. He walks in, singing "Happy fool's day" (to the tune of Happy Birthday but 830000x better) with a pancake covered in candles and a rubber duck in the middle. Bleary-eyed, I sat up and took my pan-cake and blew out the candles. The gears in my brain just started turning a little bit and I was able to get out the word "" Elder Houston promptly responded with "The syrup is in the duck". It was. He put pancake syrup in a rubber duck. And after I squeezed the syrup from the duck and began to eat, I realized it was unusually spicy. Unusually VERY spicy. He put my ghost pepper sauce in the pancake. So in the end..... (Insert DJ Khaled saying "Congratulations - you prank'd yourself").

This week was a straight party with splits too - after Zone 大会 (conference), Elder Marshall the STUD and I got a chance to go out for an hour and 伝道 (proselyting) and have some solid bro-chats during an hour of straight rejection. No sticking around to chat for us, we got straight to putting in work. Also, Elder Okamoto spent his last day of missionary work with Elder 工藤 (Kudo) and I, he's a powerhouse and I hope he is working as hard finding a wife as he did finding investigators as a missionary. This mission is like the Costco bakery, just surrounded by STUD muffins for days.

Didn't go out to eat this week because we were broke until the first of the month, but I DID make a 山形 (Yamagata) specialty, Hippari udon. Recipe is as follows - Get natto (fermented soybeans) and dump it into a bowl with chopped green onions, katsuobushi (dried fish flakes), a raw egg, and a splash of tsuyu (soy sauce mixed with dashi (japanese fish broth)), and mix all that goodness up. Boil udon (really any noodles are fine, use what you like), get it cooked to your liking, drain, dump it in the bowls, mix that goodness up, and just slurp that stuff down, it's delicious. Might need more tsuyu. 🍜️🦍💯🏋🏼👌🏼🌋🔱🇯🇵🍒🏔🦑🐉🐲🗾

Oh yeah, I forgot to mention, I don't know how to use Emojis. Also, got a sweet chance to lift some weights with my main homie Aizawa from Kamisugi and ya boy can still hit 85 KG bench yee which isn't too impressive until you remember that used to be my max before I went to SNAP CITY.

So on a more serious note (lemme flip that マジ (serious) switch right quick), I wanna talk about one little thing for stuff I wish I knew before my mission (a lot). It comes from Zone Conference, where we talked a bit about when Elder Holland visited. He quoted a French poem, which reads "'Come to the edge' he said. 'No, I'm scared.' 'Come to the edge' he said. 'No, I'll fall!' 'COME TO THE EDGE' he said. So I went to the edge. And he pushed me. And I flew." If we never jump, never even come to the edge, we will never know the incredible potential we have. Do gutsy things, get in over your head, let yourself be pushed, and most of all, rely on God. As President Uchtdorf said "The thrill of flying begins with the fear of falling". I definitely had the fear of falling at multiple times so far on my mission, the "oh gosh what am I doing I am the least prepared, least able person to do this, maybe I should have never done this, maybe I should still be at home listening to house music", and those are my times of biggest growth and precede my times of greatest joy. There are a few of you who are not currently on missions and are thinking about it, maybe preparing a little bit, maybe there are people pushing you to do it. Just come to the edge, I promise you it will be the best experience of your life.

Love you all, have a lovely week and DONT SPOIL GENERAL CONFERENCE (the church holds a meeting twice a year where all members can hear from our top leaders - link here) FOR ME I DONT WATCH IT UNTIL NEXT WEEK! (because of the time difference, he has to watch it a week later)

オーギル長(Elder Orgill)
Missionaries at Sendai Zone Conference

Another panorama ... lots of new construction since this was all devastated by the earthquake

It wouldn't be complete without a food picture ... an investigator takes them for ramens every week

This is my "intellectual" face/glasses

No explanation needed

Death-sauce pancake - April Fool's Day

"Not a morning person"

Sakura and edamame daifuku treats

Gooey goodness - literally custard inside of mochi

Amazing pano of the factory, industrial A E S T H E T I C