I have to admit, I had doubts.

I woke up my first morning here and thought, “Oh, I made a mistake.” I woke up my 2nd morning here and thought the same thing. But now I think it’s going to be ok. Here’s what I think happened:

1) Yesterday, I had my first Japanese lesson. I know I have been struggling with talking to people here. Not only is there an obvious language barrier, but even the people who do speak a little English speak with heavy accents. It has been so difficult to figure out when I am experiencing a “teaching moment”. Someone (like Oka-san, my host “mom”) will say a word or phrase in Japanese quickly followed by the English equivalent. Only the English equivalent doesn’t necessarily sould like English, so I think she’s still speaking Japanese. Then when she looks at me expectantly, I have no idea what I am supposed to repeat. It usually takes 2 or 3 times for me to get it. Frustrating, right? And on top of being frustrated, I feel downright stupid. Dumb foreigner! But now that I’ve had at least one lesson, I feel more confident that they sincerely want to help me learn. And more confident that I’ll eventually get it. Nihongo-ga sukoshi wakarimasu!

2) I went to a grocery store yesterday with my friend Yoko. She showed me all the different types of foods, especially the ones that looked “weird”. She showed me some of her favorite foods. I asked a lot of questions without being embarassed. I think I may be able to eat once I get out on my own now. Rest assured I will not starve.

3) I saw my apartment this morning and got to spend time with my roomate-to-be, Jima. I love knowing where I’ll live. I love my roomate. I love the prospect of being out on my own, that they are confident here that I am capable of living in Japan without them needing to drive me everywhere and tell me what to do and where to go next. I know that I’m not nearly ready, but now I’m excited about living on my own here.

4) I had lunch with Keiko-san and was able to talk frankly about things that concern me and ask her questions. And it was all in English; full sentences! She was extremely reassuring. She is a very understanding and helpful person, and I’m sorry she’ll be leaving in April, but I feel better knowing that she has confidence in me and, more importantly, in God.

5) I sat in on the Youth Nations Bible study this afternoon. It was great! The only difference between the students here and the students at New Song is that the students at New Song never speak Japanese. Also, I got to see Daichi and Mire (from the Partner Mission trip) there. Daichi as youth leader…hmmm….. But he did really well in the teaching time today, seriously. And I got to see Yoshi again, who came to New Song some years ago and worked in the Jr. High ministry with Jen Pulins (Sellers back then!). He was very attentive in translating for me. He is married and has a 3-month old baby now! It was wonderful to see old friends and wonderful to spend time with the youth here.

I think all these things put together have really helped me to feel better about finding my place here. I just needed to get used to my surroundings and not feel like such a foreigner anymore. I think this will also help when I’m teaching English. I’ll know from very recent experience what it feels like to not understand things, and what helps to learn new words. God is so wise! He has put me in the middle of a personal experience that will serve to make me a better servant in the long run. I needn’t have doubted for even a second.

On a completely different topic, I had dinner with the Iwahashis tonight – pizza! Real pizza, not octopus pizza. I had to laugh. At one point, Oto-san (“dad”) offered me some water called “Mahalo Deep Sea Water”. It’s from Hawaii. He poured me some and after I took a sip I said, “It tastes like regular water to me.” Then Oto-san took a sip and pretended to do the hula. It just made me laugh and feel even more at home. I guess many of the same things are funny no matter where in the world you are.