So, I just figured I'd post about an amazing experience I had yesterday. My fiancee and I went to this small すしresteraunt nearby. We'd been there a few times before, and love it more each time we go. The reason: it's owned and operated by a very friendly, down to earth 日本語 couple who lived in Japan most of their lives. It's an authentic experience, like stepping into a restaurant in Japan. But more than that, I discovered that many family and friends of the owners frequent there, and it's a great place to take in some real Japanese.
As I ate, I listened to conversations (though 未[not yet] able to understand most of it). But that wasn't the coolest part. When I finished, I told the owner's wife 度も有難うございます。 She responded どういたしまして, and I understood it without thinking about it!
I know, it's a simple, small - microscopic even - conversation, but it was my first. It felt great, and I received much praise for attempting it. This definitely gives me motivation to keep at it. :)