“Did you make it back home?” a friend from the Christian retreat asked me.
My secondary school had asked me to teach the week immediately following the holidays — so instead of taking a 15 hour ferry home, I sailed for 20 hours to Yoron Island. Thankfully, my itinerary allowed for one night’s stopover in Kagoshima City, where the international Calvary Church welcomed me warmly as ever.
Bilingual fellowship bestows a double blessing on me: the relief of extending my scope of expression, and renewed opportunities to press my Japanese abilities. My friend Momoko broke down kanji for me before the service, while the hymn lyrics tested my hiragana sight reading.
Though the pastor preached on Hannah (1 Samuel 1) for Mother’s Day, he could not have chosen a more apt text for me. “Weep, pray, commit to God, have faith” — his sermon convinced me to give up worrying about the future and choose faith. “Decide to believe,” he said, and I realized I had been deciding otherwise until now.
After the service, Momoko lavished kindness on me: lunch in Tenmonkan (the city’s retail central), a stroll through the shopping arcade, and translation for sorting out transportation to the ferry port. I boarded in anticipation of more good food to come, courtesy of Yoronto Village, an exquisite hotel with elaborate dining not five minutes walk from the beach.
This week the students charmed me with their lively response to speaking Tic Tac Toe – where you earn your turn by racing to pronounce the longest sentence in English. One 11th grader stole the show by introducing his entire family and their hobbies. For the seniors, I showed off my kabuki theatre bento exploits in Tokyo, as one tiny token that something relevant might be found in their textbooks.
Every evening after school, I stroll to the beach where I can perch on frozen lava floes, dabbling my toes in the surf, virtually undisturbed but for an occasional fishing boat or surfer sighted from afar. The excursions have acquainted me with intriguing marine life, including the live shells stuck to the rocks four feet above the sand, and the spiny-armed starfish undulating in the tidal pools.
If I ever dreamed of complaining about my remote placement, such a view would silence me.