I'm wandering the crowded exhibit space, listening to the audio guide and taking notes - lost in my own world. The interview I just conducted for my thesis went well, and my brain is a whir. The exhibits are fascinating and -
A short middle-aged woman touches my arm and my train of thought is suddenly interrupted. One word, a simple question, but I am confused. The woman isn't wearing the red jacket or name card worn by all the exhibit staff and volunteers, so she isn't an employee. I have the vague feeling that I should recognize her face, but can't place her or come up with a name.
"Yes, my name is Sarah..."
I let my voice trail off into a question, but all the woman needed was affirmation of my name, and she all but hugs me as she bounces with glee and beams at me excitedly. When she finally notices my confusion she steps back and looks at me.
"I used to be a leader with a Girl Scout troop in Hirakata City..."
Now it is her turn to trail off, and my turn to bounce with excitement and hug her as my jaw dropped. Hirakata City Girl Scout troop?! Its K-leader!! Wow! My mind jumps back over a decade and fills with memories of my exchange year in Osaka, by far the best part of which was the time I spent with a local troop. Despite my lack of language skills the girls and leaders of the troop welcomed and accepted me. They encouraged me, challenging me to use my fledgling Japanese to lead songs and games. After meetings the other leaders (one occasional leader was a fellow university student, then there was K-leader, and then three or four women in their mid-sixties) would hold a meeting over tempura and noodles. I was dragged along every time despite being unable to follow the discussion in rapid-fire Osaka dialect. Hiking Mount Fuji in the middle of a rainstorm, attending a national camp, learning about Japanese festivals, learning about the tea ceremony, and all sorts of other wonderful moments flooded my mind as K-leader continued to beam and bounce in delight.
She asked me what I was doing now, why I was at this museum in a remote area a few hours from Osaka. Without really stopping for me to answer, she continued on in a rush, telling me how she hadn't been supposed to be one of the teachers on the school group she was with, how she had stepped in at the last minute when another teacher got sick. Then she began to tell me how she had recognized me. I hadn't changed a bit, she said. My face was exactly the same. But even more so, she had recognized my profile from behind - in particular my bum was what convinced her it really was me.
Should I take it as a compliment that a woman old enough to be my mother, who saw my 19 year-old ass and everything else in a Japanese hot-spring, says my rear hasn't changed in the intervening decade plus??? Either way, she was terribly amused by this, and showed her amusement and general appreciation of the correctness of her guess by reaching over and pinching that part that she found most recognizable...
We chatted a bit more, and I gave her my card so that she and the other leaders could be in touch and we could all get together next time I visited Kansai. Then she dashed off to find her group, leaving me and my somewhat sore rear to go back to my research.