"Sashiburi!" "It's been a long time!"
Every time I see one of my Japanese friends after our summer break, this is the greeting that they offer and I respond in a like manner. And each time I feel like I'm operating the strings of a puppet to make my mouth and voice say it. We don't have this in English. If it's been awhile since seeing someone, we still likely just say "Hey!!!" with extra enthusiasm as we open wide our arms for a huge hug. Maybe we say their name, or "Oh my God!" Maybe, if it's been years, we'll say, "It's been a long time," but usually this comes a moment later in a voice of reflection on the time that has passed, not in the first greeting. While I understand the word and its meaning, the semantic place it has in a greeting is foreign to me. It takes a bit of work to get used to it, in the same way that a new vocabulary word needs time to settle in before I trust that it means what I've learned it means. Context. Practicing context. And this is the first time I've been able to practice this context. If I'd only been here a year, I'd not have had this opportunity. Sashiburi!