As luck would have, Fukunari-Sensei is in London this month visiting her son and his family to help with their soon-to-be-born new baby. I had sent her an email earlier in the week to suggest that we meet while we were in London and this morning we awoke to find a voice message from her. After enjoying a lovely breakfast served to us by our hosts, some of Andrew's relatives who had attended the concert the night before, we headed into central London to meet with her for a tea.
I was wearing a very conspicuous cello on my back, and knew what Fukunari-Sensei looked like, but somehow Andrew was able to pick her out of the crowd before either of us noticed one another. Walking with her in London was something very special. The pace of her unhurried step matched with the briskness of the London gait, her patient waiting at all the traffic walk lights while others took advantage of a break in the cars, her courage in being in such a foreign place with all the energy and security that I knew of her in Japan. Here she was in a country closer to my upbringing, not my home, but at least one in which I could maneuver in language, and still she was my teacher, still my guide, still a model in a foreign world.
We found a chocolate cafe in a nearby mall and Andrew got a flapjack for us to share, some black tea and chocolates. She started to drink her tea without milk, but added a bit after we did, almost as a sign of politeness rather than preference. She took bits of the flapjack that we divided, and the chocolate. I asked her if she liked the English food and she complimented the bargain prices at the grocery store. We chatted about places to see in England and she invited us to come to her home for dinner the next time Andrew came to England. When we had to leave to meet a friend for lunch, she contentedly and graciously helped the meeting come to a close and stayed behind in the mall to look for clothing for her grandchildren and the new arrival. We bowed farewell and left her alone, more than capable of dealing with a day in a very foreign place.