Friday, October 24, 2014

Tokyo

Last month Brian had back to back conferences in Japan and we decided that I would tag along this time to celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary.
Salt Lake City to Seattle then a 9 1/2 hour flight to Tokyo's Narita airport followed by an hour-long bus ride to our destination left me utterly exhausted. Our hotel felt like heaven when we arrived.
(view of Tokyo from our hotel room)
We only had one day to explore Tokyo so we decided to book a "panoramic" bus tour of the city. Our guide was full of interesting factoids.

  • 127 million people live in Japan--half the population of the United States. Yet, they live in an area the size of California.
  • 26% of the population is 65 or older and there are 5300 centenarians in Japan.
  • The two oldest people in the world live in Japan--a woman who is 117 and a man who is 112.
  • "4" is an unlucky number. It symbolizes death. There is no fourth floor in hospitals in Japan.
  • The Tokyo tower is similar in design to the Eiffel Tower but proudly stands 9 m taller.
The first stop of our tour was the Meiji Shinto Shrine. A simplistic explanation of the difference between Shintoism and Buddhism offered by our tour guide is that Shintoists worship nature while Buddhists worship idols. 
(barrels of sake wrapped in straw)
A Torii gate stands at the entrance to Shinto shrines. This "pi"-shaped structure symbolizes purification or passing from the secular world into a spiritual world.
Another important ritual before entering the shrine involves cleansing the hands and mouth. Grab the ladle (below) with your right hand and pour it over your left hand. Next, grab the ladle with your left hand and pour it over your right hand. Lastly, ladle water into a cupped hand and rinse our your mouth being sure to spit the water out.
Our second stop of the tour was the Imperial Palace East Garden.
I liked seeing an actual moat and the more than 400 year-old rock wall that surrounds the Imperial Palace.
The final stop of the morning was Senso-Ji--one of the most popular Buddhist Temples in Japan. We were surrounded by people and incense and red and gold.
On our way to lunch we passed Tokyo's famous Kabuki Theater.
We lunched at a restaurant overlooking Tokyo Bay then took a harbor cruise under the iconic Rainbow Bridge.
We ended our day at Tokyo's Statue of Liberty. That was certainly a surprise.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Boca Sur

Travis has been in Chile for more than three weeks now. He is serving as a missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Boca Sur which is basically a suburb of Concepción. From what we can discern, it is on the coast near the southern mouth of the Bio Bio River, hence the name Boca Sur or "south mouth". His companion is Elder L. from Texas.
Evidently, Boca Sur is the most dangerous city in his mission. Drugs, trash, and flea-ridden dogs abound. However, he says the church members are very kind and feed them lunch almost every day.
They live in the top floor of the blue apartment building.
They share their apartment with another set of missionaries.
I'll let the rest of the photos speak for themselves.
Elder L. with unrecognizable produce
A Restaurant Meal
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Boca Sur


Sunday, September 14, 2014

Mexico City MTC

Travis has been gone for over a month now learning how to be an effective missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He is currently in the Mexico City Missionary Training Center or CCM (Centro de Capacitación Misional México) and will be leaving for Chile soon.
These days he goes by Elder Woodfield. This name tag accompanies him wherever he goes as does his companion, Elder B.
(Elder W. and Elder B.)
(Elder B. and Elder W.)
They share a room with another companionship, Elder H. and Elder P.
(Elder H., Elder P., Elder B., and Elder W.--photo courtesy of  Elder B.)
(Travis has the bottom bunk--tight quarters for a 6'5" guy.)
(Travis' closet)
Travis says that they wake up each day at 6:30 am, eat breakfast, have personal study time for an hour, class for 4 hours (which includes Spanish, practicing with investigators, and Book of Mormon study). After lunch and some ping pong, they have more study time, then gym (usually basketball) then online language study followed by more study for a half hour then planning time. Dinner is at 5:30 followed by more class time and a small District devotional at 9:10. Bedtime is at 10:30 pm. This starts all over again the next day. Travis says it feels a lot like the movie Groundhog Day.
(Photo courtesy of Elder B.)
(Photo courtesy of Elder B.)
(Photo courtesy of Elder B.)
Once a week the Elders have a "Preparation Day" (or P-Day in the Mormon Missionary vernacular.) This is when they do their laundry, clean, email home, etc. Most recently they have begun a soccer tournament with other districts. A district is made up of several companionships.
(Travis' District on their very first P-day while visiting the Mexico City Temple)
The Mexico City MTC looks like a pretty amazing place to me, but Elder Woodfield is eager to fly to Chile and get to work. He has had some really rough days this past month, but also moments of incredible growth, understanding and joy. The type of experience he is having can't be duplicated in any other situation. We miss him very much, but we are so happy he has made this choice.