So I was shipped off from Urayasu to my new area with new companions. My companions are Sister Barton (my MTC companion!) and Sister Nagata (a Japanese sister who has served in this area for 5 months). Being in a trio is quite the experience. Between squishing the beds, the chairs, and all of us getting on our shoes and praying in the genkan while we leave - not to mention the bike gang we make when we do go out and streeting feels like a 3 woman assault on unsuspecting Japanese grandmas. But it's great. Both my companions are stellar missionaries and I am so excited to learn a lot from them. The title also refers to our area situation - we are over two areas, Kawagoe and Sakado, with two different wards (meaning twice the meetings, English classes, bishops, members, investigators etc.) In order to get to Sakado, it takes 3 hours to bike (don't worry, we don't bike - in the summer we would literally be fried and never make it). We walk for 10 minutes to the station, ride the train for an hour, and then walk another 10 minutes. Both wards are incredible, but you can imagine that this is a little exhausting. Sister Barton said that we need an apartment in Sakado and I thought she was joking but now I very much agree.
WE'RE NOT IN KANSAS ANYMORE
Or rather, this area is more like Kansas than my last area but...you get the point. It is VERY different. There is actual grass and RICE FIELDS and wow. Coming from the city, it is just a very different energy/lack of energy. That's why I love going on the trains because it feels like home with all the people. Also, the church building is HUGE and super nice! Like it's a real building! It is just really different - but going to church on Sunday was wonderful. I love the ward members and it really has the same feeling anywhere you go.
(first off - I apologize for any misinformation in my past emails. Those cultural things were based upon where I lived in Japan and so, because I moved, some of the things might contradict. But please believe I am not a liar.)
- People in Japan are very clean people - so it shouldn't be any wonder that their cars are also insanely clean. I have NEVER seen a dirty car in Japan. If a Japanese person saw one of those cars that was so dusty that someone writes "wash me" - I think they would have a heart attack. They wash their cars almost every week - not to mention I have never seen a fender bender or anything of the sort.
- Cars here are very compact and square styled. They sort of look like the front was just squished in too far. They also have car parks which go straight up and down. I was incredibly confused about how this works, because the car has no where to go or no way to get it down once it is on the highest level. BUT really, the whole structure goes below ground, and then you drive your car out. (obviously, right?)
- (departing from the car theme) Bananas go bad here incredibly fast. No they are not different bananas - just because so many things are imported to Japan, that when you buy the bananas, they are probably a couple weeks old. So literally eat them the day you buy them or freeze them or make banana bread. (needless to say, I have made a lot of banana bread).
SWIMMING (don't worry I didn't go swimming - I am an obedient missionary...)
Ever since chemotherapy, my body has been recovering and is often tired because of the stress of missionary work. Luckily, I was allowed to adjust my schedule to accommodate more sleep (most of the time an hour, but on really bad days much more). But received a call from the mission president a week ago. The mission office has told him that I need to follow the normal missionary schedule, with no extra sleep breaks, or return home for further recovery.
I have chosen to continue on my mission and follow the normal schedule for as long as I am able to (while keeping a close watch on my health). This has been a difficult decision and even more difficult to follow through. But I have been so grateful for my family's incredible support. My uncle Ben sent me this email that I would like to quote: (sorry it is long but I promise it is GOLD)
"When I was participating in triathlon, my biggest obstacle was swimming. It wasn't so much that I couldn't do it, I was just really bad at it. It turns out that swimming is a sport where being more muscular or just trying harder doesn't help. I used to laugh when I'd go swimming at the gym and these huge muscle dudes who could lift hundred of pounds with one flex of a pec, would jump in the pool. They'd churn the water so hard I thought the pool was going to run out of water. 25 yards later, they'd drag themselves out of the pool completely exhausted. I'd laugh to myself, and make another turn towards yet another 200 or 400 yard set. Even though I wasn't the fastest swimmer, I'd at least learned some things about efficiency and could out-swim those guys any day of the week.
What you really have to work on is your body position in the water, and streamlining yourself to be as efficient as possible. When most of us swim, our hips are down lower in the water, our legs are down lower than that, and we basically turn ourselves into a big anchor. We try to drag ourselves through the water mostly by thrashing our arms and legs a lot, but we're moving through a medium that is 90 times denser than air. To make matters worse, we're so focused on trying to get to the finish line that we keep our head up, eyes on the target. By raising your head up, your hips drop even further and the whole anchor effect gets even worse. And we quickly run out of energy.
One of the most important keys to swimming is that you have to put your head down and look at the bottom of the pool. When you do that, your hips and legs shift up to the surface, and all of a sudden, swimming becomes much easier, because your body is in a more streamlined position. There's less drag, less resistance to the dense matter surrounding you.
I know you've been given what for most of us would be considered an overwhelming challenge. I know you've come a long way through your diagnosis, treatment, and getting back out on your mission in record time. Don't worry about reaching the finish line of 18 months. Put your head down and streamline your effort, serve from one day to the next. Put yourself in the Lord's hands, rely on Him to get you where you need to go every day, to see the people He needs you to see. He will give you energy to do what you need to do, for as long as He needs you to do it in Japan."
I know the same thing applies to all of you - Heavenly Father will help magnify your efforts in whatever you do FAR MORE than what you actually do. Thank you so much for all you prayers - you don't know how much they help.
LOVE YOU!- Atkinson Shimai
p.s. pictures to come separately
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<b>Japan Tokyo Mission</b>