Monday, November 23, 2015

We made it!

There has been some changes made at the mission home recently.  The garden is looking beautiful.

A new window has been installed for the master bathroom.

We had lots of good byes to say to our sweet friends.

Our friend Yasuki from Walbro invited us to dinner.

We went to our Indo Curry place one last time.  BTW, our friend, the owner finally got his driver's license!

Some of our sweet little sisters surprised us with matching hats.

And our dear Sister Furukawa came by to tell us good bye and send us off with a sack lunch!

Then that last ride to the airport when it was our turn to leave instead of sending someone else off.  They say that when you go home, you will cry all the way to the airport, but you will not miss that plane!

All our connections were on time, without much to spare, so we were happy everything went OK, except when Alan had to remove his belt & suspenders to get through security.  Well, he's lost a few pounds!

Two of my sisters were able to meet us in Phoenix, along with Seth and Heather and her girls.  (Abby had made a pilgrim hat at school.)  Then, Nolan and his family, William, Chelsea & her boys and Sunny and her children met Alan at the Tucson airport.  It was a more emotional reunion than most since we heard the news of losing our dear brother.

On Saturday, they all worked at the aid station for El Tour de Tucson, an old family tradition.  We started doing this for a mutual activity with our old ward and just kept going and going.

Harmony & Kanela got to help former congress woman Gabi Gifford

Seth & I got there at the end of the day

Grandma hug attack!

Grandpa telling stories about Japan.  How did we end up with so many little kids?

Today we got to enjoy the primary program.  And it was a real treat to hear our Jacob bless the sacrament (in English!) and Michael helped pass.  We love our family!

Sunday, November 15, 2015

November 15, 2015 - Last Full Week in Japan

President and Sister Smith were in Korea this week for a mission president seminar.  So, we had the opportunity to pick up Elder & Sister Smith at the airport on Tuesday.

The Kusakas are in the Nagamachi Ward. He was one of Elder Smith's missionaries in the Nagoya Mission.

We discovered that the Smiths know our cousin Bill Hadfield who also served a mission in Japan.

We went out to the Kakuda factory for English on Thursday.  I had received an email from my neighbor back home and learned that she had worked at the Walbro office in Tucson a few years ago.  She sent me this photo of  some Japanese Walbro employees that came to Tucson in 2004 to see if I recognized any of  them.

We did not recognize anyone, but I took a copy of the photo to ask around.  It turned out that some of them are from the Tokyo office, but one of them is from the Kakuda office.  They found him and invited him to come and meet us.

What a small world!  He remembered his trip to Tucson.  He said he also has this photo from 2004.  They learned how to make salsa!

 They gave us some beautiful flowers!  Even some of our friends that have not come to class for a while came to tell us goodbye!

We took a little road trip to Yamagata on Friday to do some apartment inspections.  This gave Elder Smith a chance to practice driving on the wrong side of the road.  It's always exciting to ride with a new driver.  The fall colors were more lovely than the elder's apartment.

The elders were on splits, so we got to see one of our Arizona elders again.

While we were there, the sisters needed some help with their lights, so the senior elders came to the rescue.

And, we showed the Smiths how to get to Costco.  They needed a "few" things to help get settled.

Our Yamagata Sisters!

On Saturday, the senior elders took another road trip to deliver some bikes to Morioka and Tagajo.  The senior sisters decided to stay home and recover from the trip the previous day.  That evening,  President and Sister Smith returned to Sendai.  We all had a nice dinner together to welcome our new office couple.  The Smiths lost a brother recently, so it was a tender reunion.

After church on Sunday, the Tagajo ward had a lunch.

We were given another chance to tell our dear friends that we love them!  Did you know that crying can give you a headache?  Such sweet people.

It's so fun to see the Smith brothers together!

We had a couple more birthdays this week.  The last birthdays in our family for the year.

I love this picture of our Seth with Aunt Vonda!

And Heather's husband, Nate (aka Grumpy Bear) also had a birthday.  He's such a good daddy to our little girls.

We need to get our stuff packed and see if we can get everything to fit because we have a plane to catch on Friday.  We have many special memories of our time in Sendai.  Sayonara!

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Culture Day, MLC and other stuff

The Tagajo Ward Relief Society had a lunch on Tuesday in celebration of "Culture Day".  One of our elders needed to have his pants mended.  While I was working on them, some sisters came to join me.  We had a nice chat about something!

The sisters made beautiful bento lunches.  This picture was taken before they served the rice.  The food was beautiful and delicious!

Our elder from the last transfer is well enough to come to the mission.  The Smith's picked him up at the airport.  We delivered him and his companion to their apartment.

We're happy he made it to Sendai.  (He's the taller one!)

It was also time for MLC again.  Another "last" for us.

On Friday, the Sakamotos invited us for another barbeque.  We had a great time with them and the missionaries and their investigator.

Alan also had a little incident involving a personal transportation device (bicycle) and gravity.  He hit the ground when his bike slipped as he was moving from the road to the sidewalk.  He has some road rash on his hands and knees and will need to visit our friendly dentist this week.  We're grateful he was not hurt worse!

At church today, one of the sisters told me she would not be able to come next Sunday, so it was time to say "goodbye".  It caught me by surprise how much I will miss our dear friends.

We were excited to see this photo in our FB feed this week!  Our dear friend had the opportunity to translate for a certain American official in Astana Kazakhstan this week.  She helped us with some of our projects and at our church meetings on our first mission.  Since they were visiting the mosque, she had to cover her beautiful hair.

We missed some of our kiddos last week:

Watch out Danno!  I have a big hug I'm saving just for you!

And Nolan's little angels

This was taken when we were in Phoenix a couple of years ago.  It is my brother with his wife and my other brother's widow.  My brother has been having some serious health problems recently.  I have been thinking that I had the best big brothers anyone could ask for.  Once he had a flight to Tucson and had some extra time.  He invited me to bring the kids over to have a little tour of the plane he was flying.  The crew gave us peanuts and soda and we had a great time!

He spent some time in Okinawa way back in the 60s.  He sent us kimonos and Japanese dolls.  He was always trying to surprise us!  Love you, Warren!

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Visitors, Visiting Teaching, Family Home Evening, Iwaki, Halloween

While we were having staff meeting Monday, we had some unexpected guests.  Brother and Sister Higashi came by.  They live in Kyushu and served in the Sendai Mission Office a few years back.  They were here when the earthquake and tsunami hit.  When the young missionaries were transferred away from the area, they worked in Ishinomaki which was hit very hard by the tsunami.  They came to visit Sendai and we made new friends!

Brother Higashi is a konji artist!

He gave this to me.  It says "yume" which means "Dream"!

Sister Smith and I were invited to lunch with our visiting teachers at Sister Uchida's house.  When we arrived, our new friends were there too!

We had a lovely lunch and visit.  Sister Yamaguchi played the koto for us and Brother Higashi sang.

That evening was Family Home Evening.

The AP's taught a lesson

This is one of our new sisters serving in Nagamachi Ward.  She told about her grandfather who was one of the first native Japanese missionaries called to serve in Japan after World War II.  He taught a family in Sendai and baptized a beautiful young woman who later became a missionary as well.  Later, they married and had a family, including this beautiful granddaughter who is now serving in Sendai!

On Tuesday, we went down to Iwaki to deliver a bicycle and do apartment inspections.  We had not been down there since we helped the elders move back in June.  We noticed something funny about the curtains in the elder's apartment.  They had hung them with the pretty side facing out!

So, Elder A helped take them down.

These are our fine Iwaki Elders!

We spent a little time visiting the light house there.

They are working on the sea barrier here too.

It was quite beautiful.  And very windy up at the top.

As we travel along the highway, they are often (like every time) doing some kind of road work.  Sometimes they have human flag men to direct traffic and sometimes, they use this guy:

His arm never gets tired, unless his battery dies!

Here's a new poster at our Walbro factory.  The company was first started in 1950 in Detroit.  The company headquarters now is in Tucson, Arizona!

Michiyo (one of my students) has worked here for 30 years!  She must have started as a child.  Another student has recently taken an English proficiency test.  His scores were almost twice as good as they were a year ago.  He thanked me for helping him.  (He also has been watching Friends)

We have had some brick work done on the wall in front of the mission home.  It is looking good!  He is a very meticulous worker.  His next project is tile work in the bathroom in the mission home.

On Saturday we went to K's, an electronics store here.  The bank was having a little promotion and celebrating Halloween.  The game was on an ipad.  Our prize was a package of tissues.  Dang, I really wanted those pretzels!

Our Tagajo missionaries planned a nice Halloween party.

A few of our Eikaiwa kids came

And our elders did their Joseph F Smith imitations.

Hard to beat this one though!

Warning:  Grandma Alert!  Here's a few of our little angels.

Sunny's cute little Ana (Amber).

William's geisha (Karli), Dinosaur (Zyon), another Ana (Kanela) and Pirate Roberts from Princess Bride (Zackary).  Poor little Kanela is not feeling so good.

And Chelsea's little Damon and Dylan who said "Cheese!" but wouldn't look at the camera.