This is Alex's Mom. We had a long talk with Elder Mueller yesterday, so I thought I would share some of what we talked about.
New Area, New Companion: His new area is Ueda. It is definitely smaller than where he has been since he arrived in Japan. He called it "rural". It is up in the mountains, not far from Nagano (where the Winter Olympics took place in 1998) so it is not as humid. His companion is Elder B. We got to "meet" him yesterday as well. He is American and English and his parents are currently living in Okinawa. Ueda only has a small branch, so there is a lot of time spent contacting people in the streets and less time visiting members.
Food: He says his favorite food is ramen. Of course, what we know as ramen here in the U.S. is not at all what they have in Japan. He also likes the Japanese curry (He says this is usually what the members make when they feed the missionaries) and Indo curry. He says his least favorite Japanese food is still nato, femented soybeans. He misses pizza the most. He successfully baked a cake in the rice cooker, so he's looking forward to doing that again. He is definitely eating rice with everything. He seems to like the food pretty well, but says that Swiss chocolate beats Japanese chocolate hands down.
Transportation: Alex loves the trains (no surprise, since he has always been a train nut.) He told us about how he and Elder B got on what they thought was the right train a few days ago. They fell asleep, and then when Alex woke up, he discovered they were on the wrong train, going exactly the opposite direction from what they planned, and they got off on the last stop just before leaving their mission. That was a close one! They ride their bikes A LOT. Alex's bike is not a mountain bike, but the typical bike that the Japanese people ride. The other missionaries make fun of his bike a lot :). But he likes it, especially the basket.
Living in Japan: He says he appreciates that our house is clean and misses that. He has been cleaning up his new apartment (Elder B has been cooking--split the duties). He misses his bed since he sleeps on a futon on the floor. We asked him about the crazy Japanese toilets. The toilet in the apartment has a heated seat. He has seen a wide range of different toilets from the "squat" toilet to the crazy electronic ones. He says the grocery stores are pretty good. Alex says that transfers are "the worst" part of being a missionary. They pack all their belongings up in their suitcases, take their bikes apart and put them in a "bike bag". Then, they call a service that transports their suitcases to their new area and the bike goes on the train with them. They travel to Nagoya, then to their new area. Maybe Alex will get to stay put for a few transfers. They have an ancient, virtually unbreakable cell phone. They spend P-days shopping and emailing home. The computer is at the church building.
Serving in Japan: They teach two English classes a week. They are free of charge and the Japanese people like being able to speak with native English speakers. The branch in Ueda only exists because of the the English classes that were started there decades ago. They are starting another class in nearby Saku. They are excited to have teaching appointments. They are pretty much just teaching Japanese natives in this area. In Numazu and Fuji, there were lots more foreigners.
He is doing very well and looked and seemed happy. His new companion is an answer to prayers and they seem to be getting along well. Thanks to everyone for your continued support and prayers for Elder Mueller!
We love Skype!
Alex sharing the kanji for "gospel". Translated, the gospel is the "sound of happiness"!
Introduction in Japanese.