Sunday, July 19, 2015

Building a Wardrobe

Ok, first I will tell you what I wish I had done. Then I will go through pieces of clothing individually and tell you what you need and what you don’t. I'll also leave the comments open so if you have any questions ask away!

In Japan, they have these beautiful shops called recycle shops. I love them. Most sisters do. They are full of cheap clothing (if you find the right one) and it is still in excellent condition. I would get skirts for the equivalent of a dollar here. Now that isn’t every shop but you can still find pretty good deals at an average one. The other great thing about Japanese clothes is that everything is modest. Well, not everything. But I had no problem finding modest skirts and shirts and dresses even. There were three other stores I absolutely loved too; Honeys, GU and UNQLO. Honeys has a skirt that just about every sister missionary ends up with by the end of her mission. A-line, beautiful colors, twirls really nicely and depending on your height hits between mid-shin and just above the ankle. GU and UNQLO have the best shirts. I love their button downs. But, they have great sales. You can get shirts and skirts for around $5.00 American
What I wish I had done was bought clothes for DI and salvation army here for the MTC, and brought some cute things from home too, then at the end of the MTC sent home the cute clothes and brought the DI clothes I wasn’t attached to to japan. That way, you have cute clothes for picture days in the MTC and then you are completely unattached to the other clothes and can just get rid of those clothes as you buy clothes in Japan that are actually cute and modest and much cheaper than anything modest in America.  
So, my suggestion is go out and buy cheap clothes from second hand shops for the mission field, and bring a few cute things too for the MTC and if you want the field too or just send them home. Then, when you get into the field go shopping! BUT, do not buy everything all at once. Make it a mission long process, otherwise you will end up with things you don’t really like and won’t have money for things you love later on.
OK, time for individual pieces..

-You only need one blazer. It is too hot for blazers most of the year. I found mine at target. They lasted my entire mission and were more of a boyfriend cut so they were comfortable too.

-G’s. I had them for summer and every other season. You want cotton or dry-lux in the summer. It is just too hot for anything else. You WILL get heat rashes. And those hurt! I had thermal bottoms too for the winter. Wore them every day. They were the best. The tops are cut a little high so It makes them hard to wear.

-Don’t bother with thermal underwear. Get thermal G’s and fleece lined tights. Fleece lined tights will be your best friend during the winter. You can get them in Japan, but if you are tall they won’t. They don’t stretch like normal tights.

-Do not bring lots and lots of shoes. It takes up space and it’s a waste of money. You will walk right through your cheap shoes. My wing-tips (oxfords) from clarks lasted my entire mission. And so did the black flats I got from lands end. BUT, they both had more of a pointed toe and so I began to develop bunions. Buy shoes with a wider toe/ rounder toe. Round toed shoes aren’t as cute but they are a lot better than bunions and misshapen feet. My feet do not look the same as they did when I left on my mission. My parents had to send me shoes half way through. They got clarks which lasted till the end and then were given to my last companion because they still had a lot of life left in them. Loafers are nice too- As long as the toes aren’t pointed.  Slip on shoes are the easiest. In Japan we take our shoes off at the door.

-Winter boots. You want a pair of nice winter boots. I got timberland riding boots. They lasted through two winters of walking and the tread didn’t even begin to look worn. Those were power house boots. My shoe purchases can be seen here.

-Rain boots. Get rain boots! You can find them in Japan pretty easily unless you are a size 8 or bigger. Then it gets a little harder. I had Hunter packable tours. They cracked less than half way through my mission. But, I would buy them again. They were the most comfortable rain boots I had my entire mission. I went through three pairs.

-Bring lots and lots of peds! But try and get the ones that feel more like tights than socks. I’m convinced part of the reason my feet look so terrible is from restricting socks. You can find them at target I think. I got all of mine from old navy. They were too restrictive. And, as you wash them they get progressively smaller and more disfigured.

-Boot socks. I brought way to many pairs. You only need one or two. If you wear them over tights (which you will because it is so cold) they shouldn’t get smelly.

-Tights. Tights are your best friend. I love tights! I brought lots of colored tights too. Make sure you bring muted colors. Aqua blue or neon orange are not appropriate. I brought dark red, dark green, a muted mustard, navy and gray. I also had a few patterned ones. Don’t bring fish net styles though-that’s trashy and not professional. I also really like stockings. If you are tall, bring your own. You won’t find them in Japan.
*I really loved honeys black tights with a higher denier. I wore them all the time. They were the best and soooo comfy. I got a size LL.

-Exercise clothes. I brought enough tops to work out every day. Guess what girls, chances are you will not go out every day. I only had a few companions who wanted to do that. I would only bring two or three exercise tops plus one t-shirt. And then pring a pair of yoga pants and capris. I got mine at Wal-Mart I think they were Danskin. They are great. I’m actually wearing my capris right now!

-If you want to buy jeans go get a pair at a second hand shop. I didn’t wear my jeans once in the field. But I loved them, so I had to carry them around the entire time.  Everyone wears jeans on p-day in the MTC though. It was a special treat.

-RAIN SUIT!!! You absolutely want one of these. And do not go cheap. You will regret it every day of your life during the rainy season. I got mine at L.L. Bean. It was a little on the pricey side but it lasted and stayed waterproof. I had a few companions who had water-resistant suits (that is NOT the same as water-proof) and one who’s suit decided it didn’t want to protect her from the rain by the end of her mission. Each piece at L.L. Bean is around $70 but they are guaranteed. Waterproof pants are also great in the snow. I used my pants almost all year round. DO NOT GO CHEAP ON YOUR RAIN GEAR.

-Bring a winter coat. I had one that had two layers. You could zip them together and wear them as one warm winter jacket or zip them apart and use the inside layer as a spring jacket. It wasn’t the prettiest thing but it worked great. I gave it to another missionary when I left, it was still going strong.

-Bring winter scarves; Big, warm, thick ones. And gloves. Make sure they are water-proof. And if you are prone to losing gloves you should probably bring an extra pair. And don’t forget hats, or head bands. Those are a must. Head bands work well with helmets and hats are great for streeting.

-You want sweaters. Sweaters are the greatest in the winter and the summer. Bring a few. And then get some more in Japan. They have cute sweaters. I loved sweaters for layering in the winter. And in the summer, I would bring one with me to appointments and put it on when we got to someone’s house so no one could see my sweaty pits.

-You don’t need two pairs of pajamas. One set is fine. Sweat pants and a t-shirt are fine too. Or you can use the workout clothes that probably won’t get used for anything else.

-BIKER SHORTS. These are a must. I never wore them and there were some days I wish I had brought them. It makes riding a bicycle sooo much easier. Make sure they go above your knee. Way above your knee. You look pretty goofy when you can see your shorts hanging down past your skirt.

-Bring shower sandals for the MTC and then ditch them. You won’t use them in the field.

-don’t bother stocking up on hair ties and such. You can find them pretty easily in Japan. BUT, if you have blonde hair or use blonde bobbypins, bring lots. Those are REALLY hard to find.

-Bring accessories. Belts, scarves and necklaces. But don’t go overboard. Just bring a few of each. I brought way to many scarves and could only wear them for a small season. The rest of the year was just too hot. You can wear them at the end of fall and for a few weeks at the beginning of winter. Then, once winter gets going you want nothing but big, thick, warm scarves. During spring and summer it is just too hot for scarves. You can also find really cute accessories here. I loved the necklaces here. Also, if you go to Forever21 in Japan their accessories get market down to a dollar or two. Great deal!

-Polar fleece jacket or sweatshirt. You’ll want this in the apartment at night and during the winter. It is cold!

-Make sure you have a WATCH!

-layers/ shade tops are a must. You can also buy these really nice tank tops at GU and UNIQLO that work great during the summer. They are designed to let heat out. And during the winter they have a line called Heat Tech. It keeps you warm. Both are pretty great. And they come in basics. Shirts, tanks, turtle necks…

-During the summer you will want loose fitting tops. They are more breathable, and you are less likely to get pit stains. Linen is also really great during the summer. Summers are hot, hot, hot. It is really humid.

-The rest of the year you can wear just about anything. I brought basic long sleeves that could be layered with a sweater and scarf and that was my winter wardrobe. I also loved layering with button downs. You can get the cutest button downs in Japan.

-Dresses. Dresses are wonderful in the summer. This dress was great. Lasted my entire mission and was passed onto another companion. Japan recycle shops are also full of vintage dresses. They have $7.00 dress shops that sister missionaries love. We all had vintage dresses.

-Skirts. I love pencil skirts BUT they do not work on bicycles. Nope. Even if you can do it it end up ruining them. Structured pencil skirts start tearing at the split and jersey pencil skirts will develop this odd bulge where the fabric gets stretched over the bicycle seat. But, I would bring at least one for Sundays and special occasions when you want to loot nice. A-line skirts are the easiest. A more narrow a-line skirt is best for bicycles. They don’t require being clipped up. Bicycles are dangerous! They eat skirts. Missions are NOT the place for maxi skirt. Don’t bring them, don’t wear them, don’t be that sister missionary. Skirts are really easy to find in Japan.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

To Bring or Not to Bring

Ok, as a return missionary I can tell you what to pack and what not to pack…if you are going to the Japan, Tokyo Mission.  I will do a separate post for sister’s clothes. There were so many things that I did not need to bring, that I did, and then lugged around my entire mission and then quite a few things I wish I had packed and didn’t and then had to have my parents send me. And that, folks, is expensive .

Ok first DO PACK…
-A pedigree chart (family tree) with pictures too! Or just make sure yours is up to date on the church family history website. We have ipads so you will be able to access it. Familysearch lets you upload pictures too! So if you have them, add them. Pictures make a very boring family tree a lot more interesting and it gives you something to talk about. Family and Ancestors are very important in Japanese culture so this gives you common ground to build on.

-a CELL PHONE. I had friends who told me to do this and it worked great for both my brother and I. Go out and buy a cheap pay-as-you-go phone and put some minutes on it. Then have your parents send it to before you leave. MAKE SURE THEY ACTIVATE IT.  At the airport you are allowed to call home. Everyone wants to use the phone and there are not that many, so you end up waiting in line for a good amount of time and you don’t get to talk to your family for very long. If you have a cell phone you can talk to your parents without having to wait or get off for someone else. It worked great for me!

-Compact umbrella. Go to walmart. They have small umbrellas that are durable and cute! The brand that is the best is TOTE.

-FITTED SHEETS. They tell you not too, I didn’t and it was the biggest pain in the butt. A twin size fitted sheet will fit around a futon just fine. Flat sheets need to be re-tucked in every night.

-TOOTH BRUSHES AND TOOTH PASTE. Bring enough tooth paste and tooth brushes to last your mission. Dental care is not one of Japan’s strong points. You will have a very hard time finding good  tooth brushes (they all look like children’s tooth brushes there) and an even harder time finding good tooth paste.

-DEODERANT. It doesn’t exist in Japan. Japanese people don’t need it. They just smell good all the time. Bring lots. Maybe 4 or 5 sticks.

-first aid kit. But don’t spend lots of money on one. The only thing anybody ever uses really is band-aids and Neosporin. You want strong bug repellent. The mosquitos are vicious. They are black and blue and big and leave scars after they bite! I also found having hydro-cortisone cream really useful. It takes itches away from ANYWHERE.

-sunscreen. I didn’t use much and wish I had. The sun will take its toll on your skin. You are out all day every day during the summer and the sun is strong. There is sunscreen in Japan, but I had a lot of companions who didn’t think it was very good. I don’t know how true that is though.


-If you have a special prescription for medicine you need to bring enough for your mission with you (If it cannot be bought in Japan). If your parents or a doctor tries to send you medicine it will be confiscated at customs, burned and you will never get it.

-bring your own helmet and lock for your bicycle. It will save you $30-$50.00

-what we call a Shokai book. A book full of pictures of yourself and your family! Get one made at shutterfly or a similar site. Albums are bulky and heavy. Put lots of pictures of you and your family and friends. You want things that make you look normal. So trek and EFY…not really the best. Those don’t mean much to anyone who isn’t Mormon. Pictures of you splaying sports, going on vacation and anything with Disney is really good. Baby pictures are fun and having a picture of your baptism opens up conversations to church. If you are artistic include pictures of your art. Pick pictures that you can talk about.

-Make-up. It’s expensive in japan!

-A bathrobe for the MTC. It makes traveling between your room and the bathrooms 100 times easier. 

-If you are particular about pads, tampons and panty-liners bring your own. LOTS. Also this is a side not but girls, use panty-liners or else your G’s get nasty fast. Smiley face stickers are nice too.

-Disney stickers. They are fun to give to kids but hard to find. Other stickers are easy to find..but Disney Princess stickers are hard to find.

-You will have an ipad in the Japan, Tokyo mission. Something I am so glad I had was a SD card converter...I don't know if that is what it is called. Find (and buy) the tool that allows you to take photos from your SD card and transfer them onto your ipad. It comes in handy when you want to send pictures home or when you want to share photos with others.

-Your driving record. It costs money to print and if you go to my mission, and are not a Japanese Elder, you will probably never drive a car.

-True to the Faith, Our Search for Happiness, Jesus the Christ or Our Heritage. You will have an ipad on which you can access all of these. They take up space and way a lot and quite honestly you probably won’t read most of them anyways. True to the Faith is great. But use it from your ipad.
-In your call packet it says to bring “pens, pencils, a notebook, highlighters, and any other materials you think you may need for taking notes and writing letters. “ You do not need to bring a whole supply box full of these things. Bring a few pens and pencils to get you through the MTC. You can get letter writing materials at the MTC in the bookstore or in the free bins placed around your living quarters. And once you get to Japan their writing supplies and stationary is better than anything we have in America. And cuter too.  American pens also do not really work on Japanese paper and vice versa. Weird. Also, if you bring a notebook for taking notes, bring a SMALL one. A Large one is heavy and you probably won’t fill it all up.
-Clothes hangers. They will be in every apartment and I want to say they were in the MTC as well. They take up space and weight! Maybe bring a few to have in the MTC and then you can just leave them there when you leave.
-SUNGLASSES. You can’t wear don’t bother bringing them.

-Passport holder. I still do not know what this is, but it was not missed. I got along just fine without it.

-You don’t need anything special for voltage/plugs. Our appliances work just fine in Japan. And I think will work ok when you get home. So far I’m ok.

-wind-up alarm clock. Those cheap alarm clocks are…cheap. Don’t bother bringing or buying one. Chances are someone will have one in your room at the MTC and then once you are in the field you will never use it again. We all use our phones as alarms. 

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

What You Need to Know About the MTC Based on What I Remember...

Quite honestly, I don’t remember much from the MTC (Missionary training Center). It feels like it was eternities ago.  I spent nine weeks there, during the winter. I was lucky enough to spend thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s there! So, the few I do remember must be the most important things to pass on. Here they are:

MTC food is disgusting. I repeat, disgusting. I did not have normal bowel movements for the majority of my time in the MTC. That was not fun. The day before I went into the MTC I went to Wal-Mart and bought snacks. My favorite snacks I brought were fruit snacks, pop-able popcorn and cans of fruit.
Things to keep in mind:
-If you bring cans of anything make sure they can be opened WITHOUT a can opener, you probably won’t find one at the MTC or in your room
-While can-openers are not redly available, microwaves are, making any microwavable snack (or meal) a possible
-You spend all day every day in a class room. It is nice to have snacks.  Make sure they aren’t messy and don’t leave crumbs because those snacks are not allowed

2.       I brought a polar fleece blanket and it was wonderful! They don’t provide you with much bedding. In my zone there were a comforters that who knows who left that got passed around as missionaries left the MTC for the field.  

If you are going into the MTC during the winter it is bound to happen. It’s cold, a lot of people aren’t used to Utah’s horrible weather and you are interacting with lots of lots of people in close quarters and touching things hundreds of other missionaries have touched.
My companion and I were fortunate enough not to get sick while we were in the MTC. And I’m going to give all the credit to Doterra oils. I would rub On Guard onto our feet every night (haha) and we would take little pill capsules too with a mixture of oils I concocted to keep us from getting sick. It worked!
Want to know my secret blend??
-On Guard
-Oregano (just a little)
**And I would add Frankincense into mine because it makes my body happy

4.       The MTC book store has everything. 
Don’t bother bringing lots of pens and pencils and notebooks and what not. Not worth it, or the weight it takes up in your suitcases.
Unless it has changed, this is what the MTC Book store has:
-All the greeting cards you could ever want. I actually bought a few to send to people once I was in the field. I wish I had bought more. Some of them are pretty funny.
-A very LARGE variety of highlighting and scripture marking toold. They’ve got crayons, colored pencils, markers, dry highlighters, pens in every color and more
-Office supplies like pens (ball point, felt tip and liquid), pencils, markers,  flashcards (in multiple sizes and key ring options), boxes to put your flash cards in, loose leaf paper, notebooks, binders, erasers, scissors, rulers..there is a lot.
-Scriptures and scripture cases and other gospel related materials in a variety of languages as well as study books and tools for some languages. The more obscure your language is though, the less they have. The Japanese section was ok.
-Journals. They have a pretty nice journal selection.
-Candy and Snacks
-Toiletries, stockings, hair spray and shampoo, pads and tampons, and a few odd things like a tongue cleaner. Basically it’s like a mini drug store. They don’t have every brand of each item but they have enough to get you by.
-T-shirts and MTC clothing!! I recommend the MTC sweatpants. I don’t remember how much they cost but I wore mine almost every day of my mission. Best purchase ever.

-SD card converter. I don’t know it’s official name but you put your camera’s SD card in one end and then the other end plugs into the USB port of a computer and then you can send pictures home! I’m guessing it probably comes in handy in the field too.
-MTC sweatpants or a sweatshirt or shirt. Get something to remember your time in the MTC!
-If you are going English speaking or are learning a more common language like French or Spanish buy things like the Book of Mormon easy reader, a miniature hymn book for yourself and maybe a few to give to investigators too, and a smaller version of your scriptures in whatever language you are learning. They give you a standard size book of Mormon..that is heavy and a pain to carry around. Get a small triple combo. 
If you are going to someplace like Japan then…

-Mini hymn book in Japanese and maybe one or two for your future investigators (they were always out while I was at the MTC)
-Small triple combo in Japanese

7.       Tell your parents about Dear Elder. It’s free and it is sooo nice to receive letters from family and friends. Cookies are pretty great too.

8.       The MTC has some deal with UPS or Fedex…or whoever. The point is YOU CAN SEND PACKAGES FOR DIRT CHEAP from the MTC. So, at the end of your stay, when you realized you over packed or you want to send home your letters you got, clothes you won’t wear, or study materials or books you got send them home. It is soooo cheap. And so worth it.

9.       HAVE FUN. Relax, don’t freak out. The MTC is not as bad as you might think it is. It’s actually pretty easy. It’s the easiest part of your mission, but then  in some ways it is also the hardest. Just remember to be obedient, find ways to serve your companion and others and always, ALWAYS seek the spirit and be obedient to the Spirit. Do that, and you will be fine.