As I think about this fact, it reminds me of my own arrival in the mission field. We were in the mission home in Sendai, Japan, for three days and then, at breakfast, if I'm recalling right, we were given our individual assignments. I was sent almost as far north as someone could go--to the city of Aomori. I had three different trains to travel on by myself. That, of course, meant two transfers.
I took it as a personal challenge to speak with anyone that sat near me. I also learned quickly that the Japanese nod when someone speaks to them to show encouragement and that they do a little "uh" kind of sound, sometimes referred to as the "affirmative grunt" when they're listening to someone else speak.
These are all things I remember from sitting on the trains that day all those years ago. I believe the date would have been around July 20, 1989.
I pulled my three suitcases off the train and looked around for someone to come to retrieve me. There had to be a white face somewhere, but no. There was not.
Oh, my goodness! I had made a wrong transfer. I was SURE of it.
The next quandary....what to do with the three suitcases. There was no way I was going to be able to haul all three at the same time. It was then that I remembered that I was now in a much safer country than the one I left. I would take one at a time, leave it at the top and go down for the next. In all of this, I would hope and pray that what I'd heard about Japan was true--my things would be safe and untouched.
I began by hauling my smallest bag up. The stairs were SO narrow and there were so many of them. I left it at the top and went back for the middle-sized suitcase. As I neared the bottom step, a porter rounded the corner and asked if he could help me; at least, that's what I deduced.
He grabbed my biggest suitcase. It was HUGE. I felt bad that he had chosen that one and tried to trade him for the one I was carrying. No go.
As we hauled them up the stairs, he started to fall behind just a bit. I wanted to come across as polite and grateful, so I decided that I'd better say something. I picked my brain for just the right thing. It was decided. I was going to say, "It's heavy, isn't it?"
The words came out: "Osoi desu ne?"
I was so proud of myself, but the look on his face told me that something was wrong. What could it be?
I thanked him the best I knew how with "Arigatou gozaimasu" and worked my way around the corner. There, at the bottom of another flight of stairs, was my companion and a couple of Elders. I was SO glad to see them. I hadn't taken the wrong train after all. PHEW!
I quickly looked up "osoi." It's meaning: "slow."
Instead of saying "It's heavy, isn't it?" I'd said, "You're slow, aren't you?"
Such an auspicious beginning....STILL kicking myself.