I had first visited Osaka, Japan during my time on Semester at Sea and later decided to return and take on the challenge of making a life for myself—for the first time—in a non-English speaking country. When I landed at Kansai airport in Osaka the first thing I did after collecting my bags was to head to the information desk to see about lodgings for the night. While I was waiting in line I noticed a young Japanese woman wearing a purple and yellow Lion’s Club jacket and, interest piqued, decided to approach her and find out more about her story. We began talking and I quickly found out that the woman, Akiko, had just come back to Japan after a home stay with a family in Indiana.  She told me that the experience had been so wonderful, and she was so grateful that she wished that she could do something to ‘pay it forward.’ One thing led to another and before I knew it she’d graciously invited me to her home for the night. Even more amazing was that she and her family quickly became like a second family to me and that initial invitation eventually became a home-stay of almost two years!
To this day, Akiko and I have remained ‘soul sisters’ and have traveled to many wonderful places around the world together. She has also come to Iowa to visit my family on multiple occasions and quickly became a second daughter to them. I can’t help but be amazed by the connections and grateful for the rich blessings of my life that came from that one chance meeting—all thanks to that brightly colored Lion’s Club jacket and the courage to strike up a conversation—and the friendship that grew, bridging cultural differences and uniting two families across the globe.
Meeting my ‘Soul Sister’ in Japan

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