How I found myself speaking Japanese at a table in Qdoba:
Two weekends ago, we took Caleb to the farmers’ market. I quickly noticed a man and a woman, dressed in yukata (Japanese cotton robes, worn in the summer) and selling Japanese bread (“pan”). Of course we tried some, and of course it was delicious, and of course I had to say so in Japanese. They were excited, and John, the man, handed me a flyer for a Japanese language table that met every Monday night at Qdoba.
Initially, I was very excited. I had been praying for some kind of opportunity to continue my study of Japanese, which had severely lapsed since I stopped taking classes at the end of my junior year. But as the days drew closer to Monday, my stomach started to fall. I knew my ability to speak had declined dramatically. I was embarrassed. I told Guion that I didn’t want to go anymore, but being the good husband that he is, he told me, “You are not allowed to back out just because you’re scared. If that’s the only reason you don’t want to go, then too bad.”
So we went. I was terrified. Even after we walked in, I wanted to step right back out and go home. But we sat down with Chase and the other guy (whose name I forget) and I started fumbling out what little Japanese I could remember. Then John, his wife, Kumiko (from the farmers’ market), and Suzuko (a professor of African American studies at Chicago State University) showed up. They were all pros, and I did look like a stupid child, but I can’t tell you how my heart jumped to hear Japanese spoken again. It was like learning how to swim all over again. I started to remember certain forms. Even though my tongue felt like it was made of brick, I was so happy. I am planning on going back next week. I hope that if I stick with it, I may even be able to obtain the level I had reached in Tokyo two years ago. Maybe. Thanks for making me go, Guion. 心の底から感謝します。(I thank you from the bottom of my heart.)
Also, coworkers: I am really sorry for eating those lovely little Fuji apples every day. I know I sound like a beaver during lunch hour. But I can’t help myself. They are just that GOOD.
(Title translation: Learn humility.)