Rana was fluent in Japanese.
Her high school had a good Japanese language program, and Rana joined it enthusiastically. She discovered that she had a natural and strong ability to learn foreign languages.
I think that the Japanese program was the highlight of her high-school experience. So much so, that Rana invited the instructor to her graduation dinner, and the instructor came.
Rana made some friends in Japan through chat groups on the Internet. Rana was also extremely frugal, and she’d saved a lot of money. It was enough that, upon her graduation in 2004, she bought plane tickets and flew to Japan. She stayed several weeks, alternating between surfing her friends’ couches and staying in inexpensive hotels, including the famous Japanese capsule hotels. She emailed me a few photos while she was on the trip. I’m disappointed that I can’t find those messages in my Gmail. I know I didn’t delete them.
When she returned, she gave me a five-yen coin as a souvenir of her trip. She told me it was a good-luck charm. The Japanese for “five yen” is go en (五円), which is a homophone with go-en (御縁), which translates to “luck” or “fortune,” but also roughly to “good relationship,” especially one formed after a serendipitous encounter. That neatly describes how Rana and I came to be and stay in relationship, when I appeared in her mom’s life when she was seven. What a touching little gift.
This coin famously has a hole in the middle, so I stuck it on my key ring. There it’s stayed. When I bought my Volkswagen four years ago and swapped keys on my ring, I photographed the ring with the coin prominently displayed and texted the photo to her. She was pleased that I’d kept it on my ring all these years.
Rana would have been 37 today.