On Friday, March 8, the Consul General of Japan in New York, Shigeyuki Hiroki, came to the Queens Library at Peninsula.

Our libraries in the Rockaways have had a rough time since Superstorm Sandy, which sent a huge storm surge through the plate glass windows of four locations, ruining books, furniture, electronics and wiring. Queens Library at Seaside, where I am the library manager, is still undergoing repairs.

At the Peninsula Library, we brought a mobile library to serve the community until temporary trailers could be delivered. We expect the main building will be open later this year, but in the meantime, we do our best in a much smaller space.

Japan has faced really bad natural disasters in the past, like earthquakes and tsunamis, so the Consul General wanted to help! In preparation of his visit, we here at Peninsula did a nice origami display. We also made a sign in Japanese that said, “Welcome to Queens Library” with a picture of a Japanese Bobtail, which is a special cat from Japan.

When the Consul General came, he was so happy to see the origami and the signs! The Consul General also brought his friends, including some executives from some major Japanese publishing companies, as well as the wife of U.S. Rep. Gregory Meeks, Simone-Marie Meeks!

I was talking with Ms. Kumi Shimizu, General Manager of Kodansha USA Publishing, who translated my name Kacper Jarecki phonetically into Japanese. Evidently it means “Evil Devil.” I was so surprised!

The Consul General gave a really nice speech. Tom Galante, the Queens Library President & CEO, also gave a nice speech. Then the Japanese Consul gave the library such a nice gift: $10,000 and 200 books to help rebuild. That was such a generous present, and everyone from the library was so thankful!

Then it was time to go, so we said, “Sayonara,” which means “goodbye” in Japanese. In fact, the Consul General told me before he left to study Japanese, so I signed up for Japanese classes at the Japan Society. Taking those classes was so much fun! I even met another staff member from Queens Library there! And I met the head librarian of the Brooklyn Historical Society. I also met lots of business executives and an artist. When you try something new, you always get to meet cool people. I was so lucky!

Learning a new language is so exciting and rewarding! Queens Library has lots of cool books and multimedia items about learning a new language (I know because I have borrowed a lot of them). Queens Library also has a fun website where you can learn languages online for free — including Japanese!

If you want to help our libraries in the Rockaways recover, head over here to learn what you can do.