As we planned our trip to Japan, one of my great desires was to reconnect with a former student with whom I’d had a special friendship during our year here. It was Rie who invited us to spend a weekend at her second home at Onjuku and it was she and her classmates that I sang karaoke with. Unfortunately, she doesn’t use the internet and I had failed to get her mailing address before returning to Canada so we’d lost contact with one another.
Several weeks ago, I decided to email our supervisor at the English school where we taught to see if he could assist me in getting back in touch with her. He responded right away but, for privacy reasons, was unable to give me her contact information. That was perfectly understandable. What he did do, however, was let me know that she still attends the same Monday afternoon class that she did when I was teaching her. Reading between the lines, it was easy to see that if I showed up at the right school at the right time on a Monday afternoon, I would catch her there!
I couldn’t remember if Rie’s class met at one o’clock or two so the day before yesterday, we made sure that we were at the school by 1:40. The receptionists were happy to inform me that she’d be arriving soon for the 2:00 class. We decided to go for a walk around the area and come back in time to see her at the end of her class but as we left the school, who should be walking toward us but Rie! The moment she spotted us, her face lit up and within moments she had invited us to her home for dinner the following evening! After class, she also invited the other two ladies who had shared the class with her to join us.
What an evening it turned out to be! Rie is a multi-talented but genuinely humble lady. In her early to mid sixties, she continues to work as a tennis instructor four days a week. When we entered her livingroom two things stood out, a cabinet filled with tennis trophies and a baby grand piano! Urged on by her classmates, she played a bit of Tchaikovsky for us after dinner. What a dinner it was! We knew from past experience what a wonderful cook she is. This time, the main dish was vegetable tempura but there were also many delicious side dishes. Tennis, piano and cooking are but a few of Rie’s talents. She also paints watercolours, does Japanese flower arranging and has taught the tea ceremony.
We had an absolutely wonderful evening with all three women. It was so much more than I had ever hoped for when I wanted to reconnect! It was also a delight for me to see how much their confidence in English has grown over the past two years, especially Satomi’s.