And that’s how I found myself sitting in my truck staring at the water down by the river eating an Arby’s roast beef sandwich…

I’ve been feeling very confident these days. Everything has been going really well. Ellie has been napping great, behaving at the grocery store, and even having fun at swim class. We’ve been playing outside, porch sittin’, going for walks, and having play dates. She’s just been so much fun lately. We even went out for pancakes the other day, just the two of us, followed by a little stroll downtown with her holding my hand as we walked. So with everything going so great lately, I felt like I could handle anything. Japanese school? Bring it!

We had been talking about signing her up for a Japanese story time class for some time now. I looked into one during the winter, but when I was embarrassingly late, I just skipped it and never tried again. More recently, Aya found a Japanese class for babies and toddlers that was once a month, and there were two classes left before the summer recess. Perfect! Let’s do this!

If I survived swim class to the point where I almost enjoy it, Japanese school would be no problem. But there were a few things about the class that I was curious of but didn’t look into much. For one, the class was two hours. Two hours? Our story time at the library is only thirty minutes. What were we going to do for two hours!? I just assumed maybe there would be a long playtime or something. But like I said, I didn’t put much thought or worry into it. (Like I normally would.) Two, the class was going to be all in Japanese. I don’t speak Japanese or understand it. I know a few words, but nothing really to carry a conversation by any means. Again, I didn’t really think much about it. For some reason I was assuming since the class was here, in the U.S. that of course at least a portion would be in English, right?

Japanese school was held at the Birmingham High School about an hour away and started at 10:00am. My morning routine needed to be swift for us to be there on time. Aya had set everything up with the school people so all I needed to do was bring Ellie, the paperwork Aya had already filled out, and a check. No problem. But the first sign I saw that led me to believe that maybe I wasn’t prepared was when Aya e-mailed me the map of where to go. It was a map of the Birmingham High School, but everything was written in Japanese, other than Aya’s hand writing that said “park here.” Uhhhh, okay? With some last minute panic setting in, we finally left at 9:15am. We were going to be late.

I’ve been to Birmingham before, many times actually, but only downtown Birmingham. The further and further I went, the bigger and nicer the houses got. It was like being in a fairy tale. All of the houses had perfectly landscaped and manicured lawns with storybook facades. People were jogging with double-wide jogging strollers, walking their dogs, all with designer sunglasses and Bebe jogging pants. I felt a long way from home, and under-dressed. When I parked in what I thought was the student parking lot, I thought maybe there was a doctors’convention going on. There wasn’t one single junker in the whole bunch. This is the high school, right? And I don’t know if it was a half-day but as we parked and were walking in, there were a ton of students coming in at the same time. All wearing Abercrombie T-shirts and flip-flops and then me, carrying a baby who was wearing sunglasses. I couldn’t tell if I felt like the old guy with a baby, or the transfer student who had a kid. Not only was I at a new unfamiliar place, but I was late. Getting close to extremely late.

I found a student at a help desk in the lobby. Maybe they could help me, I thought as I handed them a map with only Japanese writing and explained that I was here for the Japanese baby class. “Uhhh, maybe you should go to the main office.”

After finding the main office and getting directions I found myself standing in front of a black door with big red letters that read, “Japanese School of Detroit, No Students Beyond This Point.” This was seeming less and less like an innocent children’s story time. What was I getting myself into? After a big gulp, I opened the door and started down the stairs.

to be continued…

To continue reading to part two, click here.


  1. Whimsically yet carefully chosen words to depict the “great divide” that exists between that tiny island nation and the United States of A. Growing up there, feeling like I was a misfit and something was substantially missing for me to be me, being able to call USA my home now is a true blessing. That is why I am very conscious about “Perfect moments” you wrote before. (That is still my favorite piece 🙂 Nowhere is perfect and I am NOT against anything. I am glad to be a part of your journey like this and get to have the luxury of truly thinking.

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