In 2001, at the tender age of 21, I said goodbye to my friends and set sail for a small town in a rural part of Japan. It was the second time I had ever flown anywhere. I was to be a sensei, an educator, an enlightener, a bringer of English to row after row of bemused Japanese teenagers.
My two years in Sanyo did much to form who I am today. They awakened my love of language, my thrill at the challenge of life out on a limb, my addiction to culture shock. They also taught me a great deal about the kindness of strangers. A small group of kind-hearted people welcomed me warmly into their lives and homes in a way that I will never forget.
One of these people was Keiko Tsuno, town councillor and de facto head of an affectionately boisterous household of fifteen, swelled on most evenings by friends, homestay students, and wide-eyed young English teachers. She was a force of nature, always on the go from work to pickle-making to sign language to pottery to cooking for half the town most evenings, ending the day with “Any time, please come in my house!” She somehow found the time to help me beyond measure.
On October 18th 2009 my friend Keiko said goodbye, after a long battle with cancer. She will always be in my heart.
From here on October 30th 2009.