Today was the longest day I’ve had so far. It started with a Coming of Age Day celebration at Grace Chapel. Apparently, Coming of Age day is a national holiday here. It’s a day which celebrates all the young people who have turned 20 years old. Or maybe they will be turning 20 this year; I wasn’t quite clear. It’s sort of a “coming out” thing, only here it’s 20 rather than 16 or 18 or 21. The girls all dress in these beautiful kimonos and the guys wear suits. It’s a big deal, like a high school graduation for us.

Anyway, that was at 10:30 AM, followed by a pot luck lunch (again). The lunch was difficult at first because I came with Oka-san and Oto-san, but they were busy serving so I couldn’t sit and eat with them. I really felt out of place. Everyone around me was speaking Japanese and everyone that I knew was busy. Finally I just sat down at a table with people I’d never seen. If you know me at all, you’d know that this isn’t too much of a problem for me. But I didn’t know what to say here. I could introduce myself (Watashi wa Jen Hiru desu), but then what? But people were very nice and tried their best to use the few English words they knew while I used the few Japanese words I knew.

The person who saved me was Ai Horiuchi. What an angel! She came and sat next to me and it turns out that she is friends with Jen P. back home (by the way, I have to thank Jen for paving the way for me here. She has been so great about keeping in touch with friends here and so many of them use that as an opening with me. If I say I’m friends with Jen, I’m in!).

We sat and talked for at least 45 minutes. She helped me with my Japanese, and even gave me a phrase for the “impromptu” speech I had to make later that day (AGAIN with the speeches!). I’m sad that she will be at a different home church, but she gave me her info and we plan to get together at some point when I am able to find my way around.

After running into Ai, it was easy. I met Nozomi again (who visited and went with us to The Patio for those of you who were there), saw Keishi, Yuko and Daehong, and got to meet Yoshi’s wife and beautiful baby daughter. Plus, I met Daichi’s dad, who is just a STITCH and can speak English. So I ended up meeting a lot of new people and seeing some people I already knew and felt way more comfortable.

After the lunch we had a “convention”, which I guess is held once a year and consists mainly of a REALLY long sermon. Seriously, it was about an hour, and when you’re wearing those earphones so you can listen to the translator, it gets painful. This is also where I had to make my little speech, and I have to admit it was great when everyone clapped after I said my little phrase in Japanese 🙂

Tonight was the best part, though. It was Oto-san’s birthday party. He turned 68. The tiny house was filled with friends and relatives, but everyone was so friendly and really tried to include me. They all seemed like they were having the best time together. It was a lot of fun. And we had amazing sushi – it was the first time I’ve been hungry since arriving, and I could have eaten the whole tray.

After eating we went next door to Takami Kaido (a Grace church plant) and listened as Ryo’s daughters played their violins for Oto-san. Then all the kids sang a song. And THEN, Ryo and his friend-since-childhood Marko got up and sang a duet of Amazing Grace. Wow! I had no idea Pastor Ryo could sing at all, let alone as beautifully as he did. I was very impressed and can now understand where his daughters get their musical talents.

So though it’s been long, it’s been a great day. Each day I feel a little more at home. We’ll see if I still feel good about things when I see my classload 🙂