The topic was a trip to Europe and I took pictures to show Kaneko-san as he read my essay. I didn't know how to spell "punting," or even how it would be pronounced in Japanese, and I wasn't sure he would understand the Fringe Festival in Edinburgh. I included the pictures of my friend's wedding in a tiny town in Germany, the dancing in the garden, the old church and our ascent to the clock tower to look out over the city; the pictures of Cambridge and Edinburgh and London including the beautiful views from the hills of Scotland, the Firth of Forth, the international flags for the Olympics in London, and the classic fish and chips with peas (Kaneko-san was nearly speechless to see pictures of Cambridge University, "THIS is Cambridge Daigaku!? It is very famous University. It is my first time to see it!"); and pictures of Barcelona, La Sagrada Familia, Santa Maria del Mar, the markets and crowded streets. We didn't get to the lesson today, just looked at maps and pictures as he corrected various parts of my composition. It was fun to be able to give him a more complete picture.
I had been looking forward to this all week, known that it was coming. What I didn't know was that he would counter me with something even better. After showing him my pictures and talking about the trip, he reached into his bag and pulled out something he in turn wanted to share with me: a small album of pictures from his daughter's recent wedding and his trip to Hawaii. I don't think he had brought this on my behalf, I think it is something that goes with him in his bag everywhere he goes. And there in the pages was his daughter, beautiful and smiling gracefully next to her fiance, in front of a new church, on a hill overlooking a beautiful clear ocean, cutting a cake. There were pictures of Kaneko-san wearing a lei with a few other men, and pictures of his wife, smiling so happily under blue skies. How wonderful to see the world that knows him while I'm not there. A picture of Kaneko-san when we steps outside of my frame. These are the people that love him and take care of him and that he in turn loves and cares for. These living people that I've never met, smiling at the man behind the camera.
Maybe one day I'll meet them. But in the meantime I'll just have to know their world through this man that they love. To know the way that they are through the way that he is. I wonder if they carry a picture or two of him with them wherever they go, too. It wouldn't surprise me.