Sunday, May 28, 2006

kyoto and the brown mcdonald's signs

kyoto: sunday, may 28 11:28 p.m.
utah: sunday, may 28 8:28 a.m.

now this is something kind of weird: i still remember my missionary apartment phone number. not a clue on how to get to the church, but i know the phone number--only in japanese, mind you.
looking for directions on how to get to church, i called the number, wondering if they were even in the same apartment six years later.

yes, but they are now sister missionaries.
that's little weird to think about, but not a lot.

so we had our directions, and left in good time, except that the lady standing in line in front of me was taking her sweet, very long time, while other lines had moved through everyone else who was there when i got there, plus severel more newcomers.
i could remember how to get to the station by the church, so we had to stop and ask directions at the kyoto station.
my sunday morning sabbath patience was being tested a little.

eventually we got directions elsewhere, and our comfortable space of time was now into the 'just gonna make it' zone. again, a hop, skip, and hurried train change and we were back in my area; southern kyoto, where me and elder reid kamakamapohaiheahola kapapa were in charge of preaching the restored gospel to all those who live there.
walking in the general directions the nice sister gave me, the neighborhood was looking vaguely familiar, but i still wasn't too sure where to go.
then, as we came to an intersection, we saw two nice girls walking their bikes.

suddenly, i was grateful that old lady in front of me had spent so long ordering her bullet train tickets....

and so the sisters walked with us to church.
'walked us to church' is perhaps more correct.

it was very cool to be back there.
actually, it was a very special experience.
i think missionaries generally remember the people more than the people remember them, and i was curious if anyone would still know me, or would they look at me and say, 'you used to be missionary here, right?'
the bishopric sitting up front were new, but all faces i remembered. and they all lit up
when they saw me. i don't think i even said my name, yet when the first counsellor opened the meeting, he recongnized 'elder, now brother, gustafson' as visiting here with his family.
yoshi visited with us. i don't think she knows much about the Church, but both of the talks were very good for her to hear.

afterward, i talked with some of the members, and among other things explained that neither becky nor yoshi were my wife. one of the girls had gotten married in march to a nice guy from peru who has lived in japan for the last twelve years; that's really very cool, and also a bit of a relief, since she had quite the crush on me last time i was here, and i was a little nervous about seeing her again.

in the hall i introduce mom to sister hishii, who is indeed one of the sweetest and nicest ladies on any continent. she had me translate some embarassingly kind remarks to mom about me as a missionary. but i'm glad mom got to hear that.

we asked yoshi if she would be interested in the missionaries explaining a bit about the Church to her, which she accepted. the sisters did a great job [hooray for sisters!], and when i shared my thoughts about the gospel, i think that really helped yoshi understand that this is more than just a place to go on sunday mornings. she left with a book of mormon [now available in a much lighter soft cover version....]

at some point here, i do have to admit something that i discovered over the last few days:
i can't speak japanese.
i'm getting great at asking for and understanding directions, but since we've had yoshi with us and the opportunity for more advanced conversation has presented itself, i have taken a look at what i have wanted to say vs. what i have said, and, if i do achieve over 40% success, i still sound really weird.
not going to get me down, but i need to study more.
me talk pretty one day.

our kyoto sight for today was kinkaku-ji, the golden pavilion, the older and much more famous brother to the 'silver pavilion' that we saw on friday. yet, as i said, i like the silver one better [even though it's not really silver]. this one really is gold, and it's
pretty dang to see. you pay your fee, walk around the corner, and bam!, there it is. and so you and everyone else takes a ton of pictures. we managed to hold a up a rather long queue of visitors so that we could get a family shot. if they minded, they were silently minding.

unlike the silver pavilion, once you see the gold building in all its splendor, that's about it. so we hurried out and hopped on a long bus ride to try and make to the hall of 1,001 statues before 5:00.

going from northwest kyoto to the central southeast on a bus can take quite a while.
and when the temple closes their gates at 4:30, well, we just missed it. we stare at the big iron gate for a few minutes, hoping that we could stare it down, i suppose.

we couldn't.

waiting in line for the bus again, i struck up a conversation with a pack of jr. high kids. kids in japan seem to be in their school uniforms every day of the week, and always on field trips. i don't understand it.
the leader of this pack was the spokesman, but couldn't speak very much english. his buddies, however, could do alright, and so i would answer his questions or ask him my own and his friends would translate for him as needed. it was an exceptionally entertaining way to pass the time as we watched four or five buses come and go, too packed to fit any more people.

we gave up and decided to walk.
down the block we saw a curry place. we never really ate the same food twice here, which is a good thing.
and for becky, a good thing is curry.
and we had a great lunch from a very friendly curry staff.

being americans, we needed our after-meal sweets, preferably chocolate, and made a beeline for the circle k just down the block.
they didn't have any 'morinaga' chocolate bars, my favorite, but they did have some very classy looking chocolate bars, available in 72%, 86%, and even 99% chocolate. the 99%
chocolate was 30 yen more for 30 grams less, which i took to be a sign that this was the good stuff. and i love dark chocolate, further reasoning that this must be great.

to quote my sister, 'boys are dumb.'

the first few moments of the bite was pleasing. it tasted like chocolate. i like chocolate.
yet, like some horrible joke store gag, the pleasing taste quickly fleeted, leaving a nasty taste, not unlike weeds. that unpleasantness soon gave way to the most awful, bitter taste i can imagine, which grew more and more intense. i had no choice to but grab one of dad's bite-size klondike bars and dispel the hell-born taste.
at least i amused everyone else.

and yet, there is a strange human tendancy, to see someone in pain and, when they say 'try this,' to try it.
are dumb.

is it wrong to say i felt somewhat validated in watching all them wretch in equal agony?
certainly, i was punished for buying on the sabbath.

out of curiosity/stupidity, we also bought the 86% and 72%. the 86 is still too intense for pleasantness, but the 72 is pretty good.
i still prefer dove dark chocolates, for those of you keeping notes.

finishing our trek to the station, yoshi pointed out that all the mcdonald's signs in kyoto are on a brown background and not the usual red.
i think i had noticed that, but never gave too much thought to it. afterall, this is japan; their toilets are either have control panels or are a porcelain hole in the ground; every kfc has a statue of the colonel out front who looks like he may come alive and kill you at any moment; weird-colored mcdonald's signs don't stand out in the big picture.
she explained that kyoto is such a historical and refined town that the yellow on red looks too cheap and gaudy, not presenting the image that mcdonald's wants. so they changed it to brown, to be more subdued and refined, hoping to harmonize with the vibe of the citizens.
that's kind of cool.

yoshi's bus left from the kyoto station, but she left her bag at our hotel [the bus leaves at 10:30 p.m., she sleeps on it all night, and arrives in tokyo at 7 a.m., just in time for work on monday morning]. i took this as a chance to have little 'me and kyoto' time, and volunteered to go back and get it while they did whatever they did at the station.

it was nice to be by myself, to walk the streets and ride the subways of kyoto.
this is my city.

i have no proof or even much of a genuine claim to it, but until someone challenges that, i will relish in the romaniticism of it all.

we spent the evening on the open terrace, atop the 12th floor of the station. low-lit and very beautiful, you can sit and look out over the city in its peaceful night time luminescance.

when it was time, we walked down to the subway, where i translated as she expressed her love and gratitude to our family for all that we have done for her. she calls mom and dad 'mom' and 'dad', and she does feel like our sister.

after all these years
they remember 'gustafson'
heart fushimi ward

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