Sunday, May 24, 2009

Day TWENTY!!!!!! - im actually sort of sad about leaving. I have had SUCH a wonderful experience here. My heart truly has been changed in so many ways that i know will be very difficult to explain to you all when i get back, which is so sad. I so desperately wish everyone could have come with me!! The land is stunning, the people are beautiful and the lifestyle here is so good and polite and Ive absolutely loved it.
Today was a sleepy day. We went to church from about 10-1 and then ate another HUGE lunch afterwards, around 1:30. At about 3 we did a devotional meeting which consisted of mostly music (just two small talks) but even still it lasted over an hour and a half!! We were all pretty wiped out after that. Long day - and sadly, the members of the congregation weren't as social as in other places, so we didnt really make as many friends.

We ended up going to a different ward then we had planned because the government in Osaka has discouraged people from gathering in large groups so as not to spread the swine flu so all the church meetings in Osaka were cancelled! Oh well. We are all hoping that the USA doesnt quarantine us in San Fran. because we're flying out of Osaka....!!

The church members provided us with a bag of food for dinner, which was nice. We drove to a park outside the Osaka Palace to eat for about a half an hour. Rachel and I heard the sound of distant drumming! So we explored the park and found where it was coming from and Roger Brough and Matt Slack (a percussionist) had already found them! After they were done we introduced ourselves and i told them Matt was a drummer. He asked if he could play with them and they let him! Way cool but SO LOUD! I think my ears are still ringing!!

We got back to the hotel around 7 and Tiffany Allen and i just sat in our beds in our hotel room and talked for about an hour and a half about everything! She is so great. We also went into serious detail about analyzing how much time we had left here in Japan. As of now its about 33 hours and 45 minutes total - but only 19 hours, 45 minutes if you subtract the ammount of time we intend on sleeping during the next 2-ish days mushed into one :) It will be great to be in one location for more than 3 night in a row, thats for sure!!

See you soon! I think this is the last blog and final installment of my documenting this trip. CrAZY!!! Thanks for keeping up with me!! Have a great day!!

Annyeonghi gyeseyo and SAYONARA!

Cute baby at church.

Today was a beaaaUTIFUL day!

The japanese drummers!

Yay for Matt! He sounded really good :)

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Day 19


Today was pretty thrilling - - I will tell you why.

We went to the city of Nara and headed to Todaiji. Its another buddhist temple. HOWEVER, this one they call 'big buddha.' (Not to be confused with the popular game 'big bootie...') Anyway i was like 'yeah...whuteva. It cant be THAT big' but im telling you - this was one BIG buddha. Walking to the actual place was pretty cool too though because there are these giant herds of deer (not herds of giant deer..) that are all tame and domestic-afied and you can pet them and they'll touch you and follow you around and theyre fuzzy and cute and wonderful and my dreams of cuddling with a deer have FINALLY come true!! They were great. You could buy little cakey thigns to feed them. Lisa did but they were so aggressive in wanting to eat them that they were pulling on her sweater with their teeth and stuff...fer SWEET!

Anyway the Buddha was pretty fantastic!! It was GINORMOUS. The pictures really wont do it justice -but i totally cultureafied myself. I donated some change and burned an incense stick at the front (to start the purification process) and I definitely took part in something way cool. There is a hole in one of the 300 year old pillars and if you stuff your body thru it - the legend goes - that you will have good health for a whole year!!! The hole is the size of the big buddha's nostril, so the way i see it - you fit yourself up buddha's nose, and you wont get sick! I say...RIGHT ON, BUDDHA!!!

We ate at another grocery store/food court/market dealio like the one we ate at in Korea though this one was less extensive and fancy. Rachel and I pooled the moolah they gave us and had a nice lunch of edamame, cherries and some little dumplinger thingers and then topped it off with some good ol' Baskin Robbins!!!

After that we went to the venue and started to rehearse and crap. The venue was a little smaller but the acoustics were redeeming. We rehearsed for too long, i think. They were recording it so we took advantage of that killed some chops, thats for sure.

The concert tonight was SERIOUSLY amazing. We definitely peaked today and that was a wonderful feeling. Despite our lips being dead and shot (at least mine were...) there was a general sense of energy that hasnt always been present in our other concerts. Its too bad that its such a hard phenomenon to explain. For the first time, the people were on their feet yelling 'bravo!!' immediately, as opposed to after the 1st encore. When we sang 'Go Ye Now in Peace' to them, I saw many people dabbing their eyes (which looked a little funny over their face masks - which most people were wearing, maybe 95% of the audience) but nevertheless it was obvious that they were touched. We were touched too. Many of us began to cry and it was a very lovely experience. Im amazed by how much love I feel for these people who I dont even really know. Theyre so gracious, loving, kind and wonderful. I really hope to be able to come back here some day.

Im excited to be home, too. Our 2nd to last encore piece was the Stars and Stripes Forever and that just made me think of the 4th of July and i got excited...America is a great place to be :) See you the day after tomorrow!!!

We're just chillin' like ice cream fillin'....

Purification rituals! Hooray!!
He's huge.

I will be healthy for a YEAR!!!!

Our last venue for our FINAL CONCERT!!!

Friday, May 22, 2009

Day 18

Oh MAN. Day EIGHTEEN. Time flies when youre having serious loads of fun, i guess. Today it hit me that im actually kinda sad to be leaving (SHHH! Dont tell anyone!) Its going to be bittersweet for sure, but I think that has a lot to do with the fact that today was SOO amazing!!!

We got up and hauled all our crap to the station again for our last train ride! We got off in Kyoto and went sightseeing first to the Nijo castle. It was beautiful inside. We had to take off our shoes to walk around and as the signs said there was 'No Photographing.' The castle was built from 1603-1626 and the majority of the stuff inside is original. Granted, there wasnt much 'stuff' other than intensely cool paintings and decor. But i think the floors were original. Theyre called 'nightengale florrs' and were a security dealio. When you walk on the outer floors of the castle there is a very distinct squeak/squeal that sounds. Its not LOUD but its definitely noisy and soudns like squeaky metal rubbing against more squeaky metal. Back in the day it was a way to catch creepers and stop them from creeping!!
The gardens around the castle were glorious. There were bridges and waterfalls, lilly pads and moss covered rocks. I just about wet myself. Its in places like that where life seems pretty fantastic, afterall and i feel most in my element so today was pretty much nirvana for me.

The second place we went was the 'Golden Pavilion' (i think youll be able to pick pictures of that out pretty quickly..) and that, too, was intensely beautiful. If theres one thing the Japanese can do best - in spite of Toyota or Sony electronics - its gardens. The landscaping was breathtaking and the fact that today was a humid, rainy, misty day just made everything green and lush and lovely. I met some little friends at the golden pavilion. they pulled out a booklet and read these words 'Hi, my name is so-and-so - do you speak English?' then 'would it be allr ight for us to ask you some questions?' finishing with 'Thank you so much. This was an exercise for us for our english lessons. Thank you!' They were pretty cute and giggly. I was happy to meet them.

Lastly we went to this Buddhist/Shinto shrine/temple combo thing. It was, aaaas usual STUNINGLY gorgeous. The smell of the rain, mixed with the smell of the woods and the smell of the smokes and stuff they were burning was unbelievable. I took so many pictures - but i couldnt: help myself (and they all make for STINKIN GOOD desktop backgrounds for my laptop!!) Its amazing to see people worship at these places. Its so serene and tranquil. I cant even really explain how touching and glorious it all is.

Walking from the temple back to the bus was fun because there are TONS of shops on the way so, naturally, we shopped and that was good. Stuff all starts to look the same after a while, though. Ah well! I got some last minute good gifts for folks.

We hopped on the bus and drove from Kyoto to Osaka and stopped along the way at a rest spot for some food at a restaurant. They treated us very well there - its the cleanest rest stop ive ever been to!! After we got to the hotel (a sheraton) and i REJOICED! heres why:
1. Tiffany Allen is my roommate again. she rocks.
2. FREE INTERNET AND BUISNESS CENTER!!! (the angles are singing for me, i can hear it!!)
3. ...we walked in the rooms and there are....soft beds. I think this will be the first night in 3 weeks that i will be sleeping on a bed that ...SQUISHES! what joy and rapture filled my soul upon this discovery!!

Have a great day!!! :)

The Nijo Castle!! So huge and pretty!!

Big guys in the moat. Say AAAAAWWWWW!!!! (He's saying 'I am monsterfish. ME HUNGRY!')

The most beautiful garden in the world. Kelsey, a flute player, was quoted to say 'This puts Versailles (spelling? Sorry!) to shame. When i went, it was crap. cuz it was the summer and everything looked dead.'
Can you guess?! its the Golden Pavillion!! (hmm..what we gonna call this buildin', eh?)

Oh well...y'know. Its me and the ...i cant remember what its called. Just to prove i was there!

The cute English students!
This is the Buddhist/Shinto place.
The view was not to be believed! Even on a gray day!

The Shinto area had a 'matchmaking' corner with a lot of good tokens for love/marriage/relationships and stuff. They had this dealio where if you can get from one rock (where the other similarly dressed people are standing in the background) to the other without any help and with your eyes closed, you will undoubtedly have your 'love wish' but if people have to help you (i.e. bear to the left!!!) then you may need a little advice along the way, but you will eventually get your love wish and if you miss it completley for you.

So ive been learning about him, and it turns out that Buddha is a pretty cool guy. He gets it, you know?
More views....

The temple again...

Shopping, heeeey!

I don't know what this little gremliney guy is but...he was everywhere, it seemed. Even in this candy store (full of free samples HOORAY!!!)

Love you all

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Day 17

Guys. I slept for 10 hours last night. Oh joy, my life is so complete - and i may just get a ton of sleep again tonight! AH! Gloroius. Its really helping me to heal from my lil' illness thiang ive got going on here....

So today was a good day. We went to the Nagoya Palace (built in 1613, destroyed in WWII and reconstructed in the 50s, and is still undergoing reconstruction today!! and spent some time there. Twas a very cool place - very beautiful. It sits really high above the city so you can really see a lot and its quite lovely. I took tons of pictures.

We went to lunch at this cool buffet-like place only there is a huge grill thing in the middle of your table - not unlike Shabu Shabu, but its not filled with water. So you grab a tray and some dishes and fill it with rice, veggies, curry and raw meat. I only took one piece of beef. There was something yucky and unapetizing to me about looking at a wall of shelves of ..dead and picking some up and cooking it. A little at a time - sure! For a family of 4 - sure!! But trays and trays and shelves of raw meat was just not...yummy. But the veggies and soups and noodles and junk were delicious so i was satisfied. Also the dessert was abundant. So was my sweet tooth.

We got to the venue early. It was on the bigger side, but the acousitcs were not so hot. I was nervous today because Dr.Don announced that i'd be singing again (which has been the norm - i have sung at pretty much all but 2 or maybe 3 concerts!!) but ive been sick and my voice sounds very tired, but the other leaders said it sounded just fine and i felt okay about it anyway so ....all is well i suppose!!

We rehearsed for a little while and had about an hour and a half to chillax before the concert. I went with Rachel across the street 1. To avoid dinner (we were so full from luch!!) and 2. to see the beautiful park across the street. I went a little nutso with pictures there but i couldn't help it, it was SO GORGEOUS. I wish there was a park like this in Provo!!

The concert went well. It, like the other Japanese concerts, started at 6:30 instead of 7:30, but for some reason Dr. Don indulges in playing MORE music because of the earlier start time - so at 6:30 we started our two hour and fifteen minute long concert (19 pieces total - including the 3 encore pieces...) It went well. Nothing too special. But afterwards the members of the church who were there really wanted to meet us. They were SO gracious and kind, it was a joy to meet with them. Later, our leaders explained that Nagoya is a big-time hub of automobile stuff and has taken the hardes hit economically in Japan so it was really impressive for there to be as many people as we had a the concert. One family wrote us a note about how much they liked the concert and told us how their daugther, in 9th grade, had some serious tests to take today and tomrorow but she:s a clarinet player and really wanted to come to this concert. The note explained that they prayed that she would be able to study hard and do well on these tests so the daughter woke up at 3 am this morning so she could study enough AND come to the concert today. They said it really mean ta lot to them that we would come so far and they have no doubt our music would make miracles happen in this area. Crazy!!!!

The next few days should be interesting. We are scheduled to do a lot in Osaka, however - thereare about 230 cases of reported swine flu symptoms/incidents and EVERYONE in the city is wearing masks. Task A. Get all of wind symphony masks. Schools and stuff there are closed as well because they're paranoid. Task B. Cancel activities with high schools and middle schools. They dont think anyone will come to our concert unless we provide masks, but all the masks in osaka are sold out. Task C. Prevent cancellation of our final concert by importing 1000 masks from Tokyo to Osaka for the audience members. Task D - do not conctract swine flu. (But we're not too worried - apparently people here are uber paranoid.)

Soooo anyway - not much else is new. We have another late start tomorrow morning so it will be nice to get some extra sleep again. We are just doing sight seeing and such in Kyoto and then going on to Osaka - nothing too intense (other than more bullet train acition YEAH!)

Enjoy the pictures! I love you all!!

Lunch time!!

We watched this 9-minute presentation about the Nagoya palace. It was definitely in 3D and our 'tour guide' was an animated version of one of the dudes that ruled over Nagoya a few hundred years ago. At the end of the movie he gave a shpiel about how he hopes the palace can be restored and we can all, someday, meet there again together. Then he vanished in a whirlwind of sunshine-icons and daisies as he said 'farewell!' Man..leave it to the Asians...
There are these giant gold dolphins on top of the palace. You can kinda see them in the next picture. They were supposedly to protect against fire...too bad WWII got in the way of that one....
This is the Nagoya palace. And me.

Bahaha. We had fun with this one.

There was a BEAUTIFUL rose garden in the park across from the venue!

Apparaently 'Amazing Grace' is the girl on the right's favorite song! Her mom said it made her cry tonight! They were really nice people.

I met a friend in the park. So. Cute. (And nice to boot! Reminded me of Bonny..gee, i wonder why...)
A small taste of the beautiful park in front of the venue (the big building in the back.)

The Venue!!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Day 16

Hey everyone! Wow the time sure is flying!! I've only got 4-ish days left!! WOAAAAAAAH.

Today was another interesting day...we woke up and had breakfast at the hotel - which was 100% japanese. Yay for seaweed wrapped rice and miso soup in the morning!

We traveled to an elementary school to see the TKWO play for a little assembly they were having. Needless to say, the concert was fabulous. They played some kid-friendly pieces and ended with a ROUSING rendition of "Tequila!" Oh joy. The children were adorable, and it was fun to watch them. In general, what they say is true about Japenese schooling because i've seen first hand that the elementary aged school kids CAN sit thru classical wind ensemble assemblies and not squirm, chat, or giggle. I'm sure you'd say i'm crazy for saying it - but it's true, my friends. They were also wearing some interesting clothes. Note the pictures below.

The members of the TKWO were again very gracious to us. They were happy to see us again, recognized us, waved to us and some came to talk with us again. We have all been so stunned by how welcoming and warm these people are. Lisa Christensen keeps saying she just needs to move to Japan "where people are...nice." We were all guessing that had this been some high-profile American ensemble they might have acted differently. Who knows! It was great to build a little bit of a relationship with them. Interstingly enough, we learned today that one fo the reasons they were so kind and willing to meet with us is one of the directors (not conductor, but guy in charge of the ensemble's doings and such) dated a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day saints back in the 70s, and she helped him to quit smoking and she was a great influence and basically changed his life. Soon after, he came to Utah for a day or two and had such a positive experience at temple square that he expressed the desire to do whatever it took to give us the same hospitality and graciousness that he felt in SLC. Cool!

Sadly, it feels like most of what weve been doing here in Japan is traveling. When the bus came to get us we drove back to the hotel, picked up our bags and lugged it thru the train station again for another 4-6-ish hour ordeal to get to Nagoya, which is a beautiful city. On the way we were able to catch glimpses of Mt. Fuji! Hooray for Japanese landmarks and stuff!!

We got - can you guess? Burgers and fries on the train. The members of the church have been providing lunches for us here. They'll meet us at the station and drop off bags of food (which is so kind and great!!) seems to always be burgers and fries. I've had more "American" food in Japan then i've had in America in a long, long time. There is some mild frustration among the group, actually, that we're not really getting to experience the culture here in terms of food (or sightseeing, for that matter - tons of time spent on trains!) Oh well. It's beautiful and it's very easy to appreciate everything here since people are so kind and helpful and such.
We got to Nagoya, dropped our stuff off in the hotel (which is a little bigger than last nights, but i think it's a higher star hotel because this internet in the front lobby is costing e 100 yen per 10 minutes! POO! Oh's worth it :) ) and we went to eat in the marriott (the twin marriott towers are pitured below!!) and that was pretty delicious. Now, its ten minutes to 8 and we have FREE TIME! Which, luckily, means a shower and sleep and hopefully healing 100% from my dwindiling sickness. Bleh!
Thanks for reading this blog, by the way.

Have a lovely day!! Love you all!!



Tequila!! Hehe...he's a horn player.

(Man, whoever designed this shirt took the words RIGHT out of my mouth :) )
Though i love the gorgeous dress for parties,
I love the boy-like everyday style
I want to bold even the clothes of the usual times cool
But it is my style not to decide too much well.
Boy-Like Everyday Style.

Never bend your head, guys. Never, ever bend it.

Nagoya at night :) So purdy.
The twin Marriott towers. We ate dinner on the 13th floor here.


Waiting to get off the train, HOORAY!

Mt. Fuji, a sad attempt to capture it's greatness. I promise, it's lots bigger.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Day 15

From yesterday:
The busses here have pull out seats in the aisle so all 50 ore more people are crammed into one bus. It rocks.

The venue from last night.

The ward made us great food and a lovely cake!!

Ridin, ridin, ridin' the train!

Hey everyone! Today i actually have something of worth to speak of!..kindof.
Most of the day was spent traveling. (Though we did stop at a 100 yen store/(dollar store) for an hour and it was AMAZING - 3 stories and fabulous in full glory and spleandor!!) We had a great experience getting around on the trains. Its INTENSE, people. The trains run like clockwork. We timed how long the door was open on the train that came before the one we had to get on and the doors opened, and exactly a minute and thirty seconds later the doors closed and it left. When you have 50 or more people, the prospect of loading all people, their luggage/duffle bags and all "carry on" baggage onto one of these trains AFTER all the other people going about their day have emptied it - in one minute and thirty seconds - well, that's just a little daunting.
The trains are quite pleasant, though. They're clean and smooth and i quite like them.

The land is GORGEOUS here! We look out to see rolling green hills and rice patties and glorious sights! Its really so lovely - i wish you were all here to see it with me! I cant describe it!

Anyway - toinght we had a reception with the TKWO-Tokyo Kosei Wind Orchestra. Theyre really good. I was not prepped at all to meet them and didn't really know where we were going when they were like 'okay, were going to a reception thing!!'
Seriously, they're world renowned and the BYU music library, for instance, probably has at least a hundred recordings of them in our library. Theyve been around for about 50 years, i believe. In fact, i think they said that this year was the 50th anniversary.
Sadly, of all events to leave it - i forgot my camera and left it in my hotel room (which is SO WEE! If airplane bathrooms were converted into hotel rooms- these would be IT. Theyre teeeensy and i love/hate them. Mostly hate because the bed is like a hard plank of wood, but that seems to be the norm in this country.)
Anyway after eating some good shrimp pizza, lemon cake, and raw salmon - we sang " Go Ye Now in Peace" to them (as we usually do as a 'thank you' for the people who we meet and who we interact with) and they were SO TOUCHED. I was amazed at how many people were crying as we sang - and i have to admit, i felt a very loving spirit there, stronger than ive felt yet on this trip.

After that we went shopping. Its crazy- the train stations here are not just train stations, they're huge, serious-deal, multi-leveled, mall-multiple hotels-train station-food court-restaurants-reception hall hybrids. Theyre seriously intense. So ti was fun to shop and bop on our way back to our hotel rooms (in the wee hotel which has much better, though not fabulous, computer access in the lobby.)

Thats about it for today! We get to see the TKWO perform tomorrow so taht will be fun!
Only 5 nights left till i can give out my ROCKIN SOUVINERS! Woo hoo!

Our tiny little room! (Complete with roommate, Tiffany Allen!)

Beautiful country!

Gasp! this picture does it no justice...its breathtaking. Too bad were zooming past it at like, a hundred miles an hour!

Ha. This was from last night...but..i couldnt resist posting it. Japanese people do funny things with English and 'priveat' doors at hotels...