Letter sent 3 August 2010
I had the biggest Japanese moment the other day. I was flipping through an English Book of Mormon and for a moment I thought it was defective and was missing Alma 1-50. Then I realized I was flipping through it the wrong way! (The books in Japanese read backwards from English)
We were at a free community Japanese class when a lady brought around ocha or tea candy. So I declined and explained the word of wisdom and how we don't drink tea, coffee, alcohol, or smoke, etc...and she was quite startled by this and somehow she found out I was allergic to milk as well. For the first time I got annoyed at someone about my allergy / wow - in Japanese.
Well, I've been out here for three months about and yet I still can't understand simple sentences spoken at a reasonable speed. It feels like even though I've been out here forever I'm not understanding any better. My companion has worked with the ward mission leader to get me more practice lessons with the members and so now about twice a week I get half hour sessions of hacking through lessons just to get told my Japanese is terrible and I need to practice more!
Well anyways, I had another disgusting food encounter. We were at the park where previously we ran into the old men who taught us how to play Mahjong. Well they were there again (I think they're there all day every day) and they called us over. So we go over and one of them says "Oh! You've got to try this, it's really good!" He gave us each this thing of clear translucent noodles covered in soy sauce which he just dumped on it. I took one gulp and got a mouthful of soy sauce and noodle juice and nearly threw it up everywhere. I took a second to fight back my gag reflex and then considered what on earth I was going to do with these noodles from the old man whose name I still don't know. I pretended to eat a little longer and then we excused ourselves and said we had stuff to do. I tried casually to carry the noodles away at my side so they couldn't see them. Well - apparently all of those years practicing magic didn't do anything for my slight of hand and one of them yelled out "Hey! He's taking them with him!" They all laughed and I quickly walked away and dumped the noodles in a bush. We won't be going back to that park if I can help it.
I decided to give in and buy a Japanese pocketbook style wallet. Japanese money doesn't fit into American wallets to it always gets crumpled on the edge that sticks out. Normally I'd be adamant about not using such a wallet as in my mind they are reserved for women, but hey, when in Rome....
Love to you all,
p.s. The guys in the parade with the tattoos were only wearing shirts, not shorts. I was serious when I said only shirts.
p.p.s. I was unlocking my bike and my head was right next to the seat when a praying mantis popped out from underneath it - scared me half to death! Pictures of it are included.