Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Christmas in Chile

This will be Travis' first Christmas away from home. He is over 5700 miles away serving as a missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Chile. . .where it is summer.
The holiday season began for Travis with a baptism.
and a companionship change to a trio.
There's been Christmas kittens and lots of good food.
There's been gatherings and singing and mission partying.
Travis and one of his companions bought a small Christmas tree at the street market in Boca Sur complete with decorations and lights for their apartment.
For a short time they had a full apartment again when Elder I. joined them, but transfers followed a week later.
Now Travis has a brand new companion whom he will serve with for at least six weeks if not longer--Elder G. from Brazil.
On Monday Travis sent us this picture of another sunny and bright baptism day.
Boy, do we miss having our missionary around during the holidays, but he is happy and doing so well. I'm looking forward to my most favorite present of all--a 40-minute Skype call from him at noon on Christmas day!

Merry Christmas!

Enjoy this short video from my family to yours:

Monday, December 8, 2014

Nara, Japan

It's about time I get back to blogging about our trip to Japan. With Osaka as "home base" we took the Shinkansen to Kyoto then loaded a tour bus and traveled an hour or so to get to Nara. Our half-day tour began at Todai-ji (Eastern Great Temple Complex). This area (Nara Koen) is known for it's 1,200 or so tame deer that roam the area freely.
It's pretty crazy and fascinating at the same time. Our tour guide showed us how the deer have been taught to bow before receiving any food from visitors.
Eventually we pulled ourselves away from the deer and ventured further into the temple complex.
This 16-petal flower is a symbol of the Emperor.
This structure houses a 53-foot bronze statue of Buddha.
A gold-leafed wooden disciple sits beside him
while four menacing guardians stand in each corner of the temple.
A curious activity within the great hall is for tourists to crawl through a hole in a pillar that is the exact size of one of the Buddha's nostrils. It definitely gives perspective to the size of the great statue. (Blurry photo, but you get the idea.)
As we exited the temple these school children approached us and asked if we had the time. I proceeded to pull out my phone and tell them the time, but they seemed confused and repeated the question. Eventually, we figured out that they were asking if I had time--time to answer a few questions. Of course I obliged. They asked me where I was from, what food I liked best in Japan, etc. It was a sweet interaction. They then asked if they could take my picture, and of course, I took one of them.
Our next stop of the morning was Kasuga Taisha (a Shinto Shrine).
This shrine is famous for the more than 2,000 stone lanterns that line its pathways. They were gorgeous.
I'm extremely grateful to be able to travel with Brian every once in a while and explore such places in the world.