The district conference brought over 1,000 people from the Iwate and Miyagi prefectures, many from Rotary Clubs we had visited during our stay. We had many fun reunions with friends we had made during our travels: my host father from Miyako brought me a beautiful card, Satoshi from the GSE team gave me a handcrafted bookmark for a belated birthday present, and other friends came by too many times to count to fill my sake glass (I don’t think I will ever have to buy my own drink in Japan!).
I have always been very comfortable with public speaking, and have spoken before larger crowds before, but giving a presentation to 300 people in Japanese certainly ranks as my most challenging engagement. I liked it when the interpreter had to translate my bad Japanese into comprehensible Japanese.
This morning we attended the formal meeting, which began with about an hour of introductions. Although I understood only about one word in fifty, I enjoyed listening to a powerpoint in Japanese and was able to derive a vague notion of its content by the speaker’s manner and technique. Now I know how most people feel when looking at one of my financial presentations.
Our hotel has nice views of the Kitakami mountains, and I ran for an hour along the Kitakami River this afternoon, savoring the warm day. I met a few herons and ducks, but no dogs.
Yesterday, I had the experience that marks the highlight of my trip. On a walk through the neighborhood next to the hotel, I passed a playground. The children began yelling “hello, hello” and I returned with a few Konnichiwas. They followed me excitedly down the street, calling “hello,” and I stopped and gave them all Yosemite stickers and asked them their names. For me, the most lasting memory of my Japan trip will be the children’s beaming smiles and echoing laughter.
Tomorrow we travel back to Morioka for our final week.