Thinking of my beautiful friends in Japan today – former host families, college roommates, professors and expats. Especially my friend, Mina and her son, Io, who arrive for their visit to Charleston a week from tomorrow.

Io

I fell in love with Japan by accident when as a junior in high school, I heard an announcement on the intercom saying that applications were available for an overseas exchange program. Months later at the age of 16, I packed up my bags and without a cell phone or an email account, left home to live with a new family, knowing only two Japanese phrases: “Nice to meet you” and “May I have a lunch?” I lived in Sendai, the town now so devastated by the tsunami.

I attended high school in Sendai for two summers, then before starting Guilford College, requested a Japanese roommate. Mina – my roommate – became like a sister to me. We spent time living with each other’s families, and when I spent my junior year abroad in Japan, her family in the countryside was my home away from home.

Mina and Io at school field day

I don’t have contact with my host family in Sendai, but my heart is reaching out to them. I know that Mina is okay, though still scared, and I’m counting the days until I see her for the first time in 10 years and meet her four year-old son.

Io and the Tokyo skyline

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