Sunday, May 4, 2008

May 4 News

Dear Family and Friends,

We are in mourning. Our small Mac laptop that we brought with us died. With it went Jim’s diary (the original is still on the PC back in Payson), our budget stuff (only 2 months’ worth so not too terrible), and all the music we had downloaded to listen to over here. That is what we will miss the most. I will ask our daughter Christi to make some CD’s of the music we left at home and send those copies to us. In the meantime, it will be quieter in the office. The missionaries have a few downloads of Mormon Tabernacle Choir CD’s to listen to, so they will have to do for now. We just had a much bigger selection and other CD’s that we really liked to listen to.

Okay, enough of that!

I will call this email: IMPROVED UPON. I will explain:

When we got word that we were coming to Japan and started telling people about it, we heard from people who had been to Japan telling us that we would have to bring all kinds of things with us that we would not be able to find here: toothpaste, anti-perspirants, laundry soap, etc. However, upon arrival we found that they have Costco and Wal-Mart (called Seiyu here), plus lots of other stores and stuff (Gap, Old Navy, etc.) So there are lots of places to buy everything we could want. There are American foods that are hard to come by, and when you do find them, they are very expensive. But we are loving the Japanese foods so are able to deal!

We were told to be sure to ask for American toilets, as what the Japanese usually use are holes in the ground. Well, the holes we have seen are nice enough and ceramic, etc. But western toilets are all over—and improved upon. The one in our apartment is an example—it is called a Warmlet, because the seat has a heater in it! Boy, that has been soooo nice with the cold weather. We probably won’t use it in the summer. We have also seen toilets that have bidets (like in Europe), and/or can play music, and/or have different flushes. They also have a faucet at the top of the toilet tank so when you flush, you can wash your hands in the water over the toilet as it fills the tank back up. However, we don’t use it.

We have been doing yard work for the mission home and the church next door. They have tools here that we really like: a small scythe-like tool for weeding, quiet electric hedge trimmers, a large, enclosed dustpan that collects a lot of stuff and stands by itself with a tall handle so you don’t have to bend over. Though they do have regular brooms, they also use the old-style witches brooms (think Wizard of Oz) that are really quite effective.

Their subway, train, and bus systems all use the same cards: they have machines where you put the money on the card and then use the card at the beginning and ending of each part of your travel where the correct amount is withdrawn from your card. We just keep ours in our wallets and place the wallet on the readers and it’s all done.

When they have to remodel a building, they put up heavy netting all over the whole building to keep the dust and debris contained. It’s kind of cool seeing the netting all over the buildings.

The small side streets have no sidewalks. They simply put large white stripes along the edges of the streets to show where people can walk. Saves money and space, plus I prefer walking on pavement to concrete.

Well, these are just a few of the things we have observed. There are probably lots more. We have been very impressed with how clean everything is (there are old men who are out every Saturday cleaning up the little park across the street from our apartment), they recycle here, they bow so politely all the time, it’s just a very, very nice place to live.

Hope you are all well—Love, Elder & Sister Hartzell

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