the story of japan and me

{Photo by Jacquie Pender}

Wednesday afternoon,
after climbing 100 bite-sized
(and unexpected) steps
I arrived
red-faced and breathless
at a neighbouring
Yokohama school.
The signs were all in Japanese
and I needed some help
finding the room
for my meeting
and the Counselor
who was expecting me.

The students,
all girls,
moved swan-like
through the school grounds
in pairs and trios.
Holding hands,
they floated slightly above the ground
like characters in a Chagall painting.
Dressed in light blue
cotton dresses
and straw hats,
they channeled
Anne of Green Gables.
Cuteness personified.
Not one of them
however
spoke English.

The littlest girls
stared
and
giggled.
Perhaps they’d never seen a woman
so pink
or so round.

The older girls shushed them…
and then came closer
forming a wonderful ring
of curiosity
around me.
They smiled
and waited.
I repeated the name
of the Counselor
I was meeting.

A bouquet of girls
ran for their teacher
who appeared,
smiling shyly.
She didn’t speak English
either
but motioned for me
to follow.

At the the main office
four administrators
emerged like toys tumbling
out of a closet.
We all bowed.
And then we bowed again.

I pronounced the name of their school.
It was a statement,
not a question.
They looked at each other
with widening eyes.
Solemnly they shook their heads.
“No.”
I was at the wrong school!

I started to laugh
and then everyone laughed
and we bowed and laughed
again.

Graciously,
an administrator walked me
outside and pointed
oh-so-gently
across the street
to the school
where I was expected.

“I’m very sorry”
I said.

“Please do not be sorry.
It is no problem.”
she replied.

This is the story
of Japan and me.
(Mistakes
and grace
and forgiveness.)

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