I should warn you right now, this is going to be one of the longest entries I’ve written in a while…but it’ll be the last long entry from me that you ever read in this blog. This is kind of where it all culminates.
That last post had been sitting there for nearly a month, collecting dust. Luckily, I’d nearly finished the recap already, so all I had to do was recap my 30-hour travel day, though I did leave off the awesome flight attendant on the Denver-Atlanta commuter flight who really had fun with her job and threw around little quips like:
“The cabin lights will soon be dimmed to enhance the beauty of our flight attendants.”
“If there is a change in cabin pressure, oxygen masks will drop from the overhead panels. If you are seated next to a child, or someone who’s acting like a child…”
“Thank you for choosing United Airlines out of all the bankrupt air carriers out there.”
“We’ll soon be coming around to collect trash, empty cups, (lists a few other things), credit cards…”
“Please take out the safety information card from your seat pocket and pretend to follow along. This will be your only inflight entertainment, so please watch closely!”
If I weren’t so jetlagged and wavering between misery and panic over the rather expensive and fragile doll I had to check in, I would’ve enjoyed it a lot more.
But I’ve now been back for nearly a month now. Man, how time flies! I’ve been pretty busy ever since I got back–playing catch-up at work, then moving into my own place (I walk to work every day! SWEET), now settling in and buying furniture and getting out and being social, and (as of today) wrapping up work on a big and visible project I’d been slaving away at for the last two weeks.
Oh yeah–I also got my first ever kanji tattoo request, passed on by a very embarrassed coworker of mine. The request was for a tattoo “in Chinese or ‘Asian'” of any of the following:
After I stopped laughing, I sent my colleague a link to Hanzi Smatter to pass on to this guy. It was the most tactful answer I could think of.
Despite my busy schedule, though, I’ve also been putting off updating because I just wasn’t sure what to write here. I knew that this trip would be the last major thing to report in this blog, and the task of drawing to a close (I hesitate to say “ending” or “finishing”) the blog chronicling the most unforgettable two years of my life is really, really daunting.
One thing I can say, though, is that I’ve noticed a marked difference in my attitude and viewpoint since the trip. I’d hoped for this to be a really sweet epilogue, and I’d hoped that this would give me the closure that the end of my JET contract–a pretty abrupt end for any JET Programme participant, no matter how you slice it–unfortunately did not.
And this trip did not disappoint. It was the perfect epilogue, the perfect way to achieve closure. It was as fulfilling as I could have hoped, and I have no real regrets at all. For every former JET who really misses Japan and the people you’ve met there, if it’s within your means, take a trip back within a year or two, to see JET and Japanese friends. Do it!
Every single day, some tidbit of my life in Japan comes to mind. (I also now use my futon set, as well as the circular paper lamps from Loft, so in their own way, they’re constant and quiet reminders.) But now my thoughts are fond memories to brighten my day, not emotionally weighty recollections.
And I’m no longer insecure about all this “successor” business. Life goes on. The only people shocked to see me were the ones who had no idea that I would be there–I got a very warm welcome from everybody, even passing acquaintances around town.
And you know what else? The farewell I received from my junior high this time was what I’d hoped for when I left last year. Even the welcome I received was surprising–teachers I wasn’t even all that close to greeted me warmly, one even clasping my hand in hers in a surprisingly emotional show and telling me how moved she was that I would come all the way back to visit Ikeda.
Upon my final exit last August, the room was mostly empty due to club activities, and nobody, not even I, realized that it would actually be my last time there before my departure, so all I received was a distracted “otsukaresama” and a couple of smiles…but temporal hierarchy seems to surpass emotional intent, and I regretfully do have stronger images of that final afternoon than I do of my own emotional farewell ceremony, which had occurred several weeks earlier, though I don’t mean to cheapen how emotional that ceremony was.
But now, my freshest memory of my junior high now is the vice-principal warmly inviting me to come back to visit as often as I wanted (I only wish I could, but the school will shut down before my next trip back), and all the teachers–all of them–standing up and smiling warmly and bowing. That alone made the money I shelled out for my plane tickets worth it.
My being gone doesn’t mean I’ve become inconsequential to them. Didn’t my eikaiwa ladies constantly give me updates on what my predecessor Dave and his family were up to? (Shizuko even continued to update me during this trip.) How many ALTs were there in Ikeda, in Miyoshi-gun, in western Tokushima before him? That didn’t bother me at all, that they kept referring to my predecessor. It didn’t mean they were hung up on him to the point of distraction when it came to me. And my being gone doesn’t mean that I was any less a part of their lives.
I will always have friends in Tokushima. Ikeda will always be my second home and will always have a very special place in my heart. I can return any time I want, and I know that I will go back again in the future. I know all of this beyond a shadow of a doubt now, and I will never forget these places or the memories they’ve given me.
But that part of my life is over. If it happens that I’ll live in Japan again, then great! But metro Atlanta is my home for at least the next year or two, and I want to really make the most of my time here, reconnect with old friends and meet new people and make the most of it. Without even trying, I’m suddenly able to let go, to stop always reminiscing and making references and looking over my shoulder at where I used to be. I’ll always carry it in my heart, but I’m ready and able to move forward, and since stepping off the plane in Atlanta last March, without even thinking about it, I already have been.
It took me a while to get here, and I’m glad it’s finally happened.
And now that this trip is behind me, with the exception of uploading my photos to Flickr, there really isn’t anything of substance that I can contribute to this site anymore. Its function has been fulfilled. I’m so glad I made the conscious decision in early 2005 to begin writing in here–documenting my thoughts almost daily has helped to cement them, and skimming old entries gives me a good window into that way of life, into that part of my life, and into how I’ve grown (so, so much) and changed over these years.
I may make further cosmetic updates, I may flesh this out into a whole standalone website on my time there. I don’t know yet. But I know that these daily (or weekly, or monthly…) updates are effectively over, and it’s better to end it swiftly and gracefully(?) than to just let it wilt away slowly.
To everybody who’s kept up with my adventures regularly or in passing, to everybody who’s commented, even to people who only have dropped in on very rare occasions…thank you so much. I wrote this for myself, documenting the good with the bad, so it did get long and weighty at times. But I also wanted to put new material out there for future ALTs to help them in the way that the websites of ALTs before me helped me immensely, and based on comments and linkbacks I’ve received, I think it has.
And if you have any questions about Japan or JET, you can comment on any of these entries or e-mail me personally any time. Even if the blog won’t be updating, I’ll still be around.