So we're finally on vacation here in the Cool Bay City -- and we've seen some of the Things That Everyone Should See -- been to City Lights Bookstore, Grace Cathedral, The Presidio near Golden Gate Bridge, Fisherman's Wharf, Chinatown...
Here's something I want to remember, though:
We were coming home on the cable car after dinner in Chinatown on Wednesday night. When I'm in Chinatown, I get this eerie feeling that I've been transported back in time and space, remembering a little of what it was like to walk through neighborhoods in Tokyo, peek in small shops, eat small pieces of roasted chicken on skewers.
After we jumped on the cable car, my husband gave up his seat to a woman. I heard her say "yokatta", when she sat down, so I knew she was Japanese.
I kept thinking I would like to talk to her in Japanese, but I couldn't even remember how to ask her if she was Japanese. Finally, I spoke to her in English. Between she and her husband, we could converse a little, and I did remember a few Japanese words. But I was frustrated by how much I had forgotten. I thought, "when I get back to Minnesota, I want to get a book and study up again, at least remember some basic phrases."
Anyway, she and her husband had been visiting Yosemite. They were from Tokyo and were in the United States for about a week. Before we got off the cable car, her husband took a picture of us. I remembered that these sorts of photos are called "kinen shashin."
The only thing I could think to tell her when we parted was, "Ki o tsukete", which means "Take care", or "Be careful."
It isn't often that I think about my experiences long ago as a missionary and teacher in Japan. Most of that time seems like it came from another life. I can't hold on to those memories and make them seem real and close. It's hard to remember that I walked those streets halfway across the world for a time. I am a Minnesota girl, and feel so parochial, so place-bound to the particular geography that has formed me.
Then, for a few moments, a shard of a bright memory will glisten. "I climbed Mount Fuji, once, you know." "I remember Shibuya station; there's a statue of a dog there." "Look -- there's a maneki-neko (a beckoning cat). All of the shops have them. It's for good luck."
"Natsukashii." (There's no place like home.)