Eek!

I seriously didn’t mean to go nearly 2 months without posting. I remember times where going more than a week without posting was nearly inconceivable. Currently I’m doped up on Nyquil and about ready to collapse to work off the last vestiges of this cold that’s been kicking me around since midway through last week, but at the behest of the sweet anonymous commenter who asked me to post, and at the behest of my dad who’s bugged me about whether or not I’m keeping this up, here I go.

So, uh, yeah. Happy New Year!

I regret having to take down the gorgeous Japan-styled calendar from Loft which hung at my desk for the 3.5 months of 2007 that I worked in this job, but I have a styling planner that I use instead. (I have two calendars hanging in my cubicle, courtesy of Etsy. My job’s a creative one, but methodical enough to make me long for lots of pretty things.)

A lot’s been going on. I designed and sent out my own holiday cards this year, the majority of which went to Japan, to my friends and former students and colleagues and even to my old board of education and community center. I hope they all made it. I went to visit family in Ohio for the holidays and spent a lot of time with my friends. I’m still living with my parents–but very close to making a final decision about which apartment complex to move to, and hopefully moving soon. I’m looking forward to it.

In early December, I took level 3 of the Japanese Language Proficiency Test. I did better and worse than I thought I would, but I think I passed, and my private teacher and I have started working slowly already towards getting me ready for level 2 next December. I’m glad I’m keeping it up, but my conversation skills are definitely slipping. I also will be attending a meeting of a bimonthly Japanese/English book club in a couple of weekends; the book for this month is Nijuushi no Hitomi/Twenty-Four Eyes. The copy I have is all English, though…we’ll see how that works out. It’s an interesting read, about a teacher and some of her students from prewar, wartime, and postwar Japan, with very pacifistic overtones. It takes place in a village on Shodoshima (an island in the Seto Inland Sea, between Honshu and Shikoku), and there are references to locales in nearby Kagawa Prefecture on Shikoku, and to places in Kagawa-ken that I’ve actually visited (Tadotsu, Kotohira, Takamatsu, Yashima), though I haven’t actually visited Shodoshima itself. I’m enjoying the book so far.

I still think about Japan daily. In fact, today I got a nengajo (new year’s card) from an elementary school teacher I worked with, the principal at my Monday-morning school, the really lovely lady who took such good care of me when I was homesick my first year. I’m in touch with my former bosses through e-mail (one even offered to try to send me homemade osechi-ryouri, the special new year’s food; though it obviously couldn’t make it, it was a sweet offer!), and more occasional touch with several other Japanese friends, and in pretty good touch with several ALTs, but it’s already surprising who I’ve lost touch with. Conversely, Genna‘s still set on coming for a visit, and I’ll have to check in with Chalice and Joe. I also may be traveling out to California in April or so, where I have every intention of seeing Hannah, and I scored a really wonderful 45 minutes of phone time with Lindsay this past week (first time in nearly two years) while she was back in the US.

And as of this week, I’ll get a chance to revisit many of those people, because I’ve booked my plane tickets for 10 days in Japan in March! Immediately on the tail end of attending SXSW Interactive in Austin for business (I won a free membership, even; scroll halfway down the page!), I fly to Osaka and make my way to Tokushima in time to attend my junior high’s graduation ceremony, watch the 2008 Tokushima musical, and just see everybody and everything again. I’m really excited for this–it feels like an epilogue of sorts, to round all this off. Leaving Japan in August was…mixed. I’d come off that pretty bittersweet Hokkaido/Tohoku vacation and was ready for it to be over, but it really hurt to leave at the same time. I hope that this trip will be much more upbeat, and that I can come away with the knowledge that these people and places will always be there, and that while my time as a Japanese resident has ended, my ties to the country and the places and the people will still always be there. I can’t wait to see it all again.

The roller coaster of reverse culture shock

It’s a slow day at work, and I’ll be leaving within the hour to “work from home” for the rest of the day with my lovely work-issued Macbook Pro in tow for the long weekend. It’s been a while, and I’ve been wanting to write, but just trying to figure out what exactly to say. Japan’s done with, but the experience of JET and living abroad hasn’t left me totally alone yet–reverse culture shock is still in full swing. In the same way that I wanted to write about what it was like to prepare for this adventure and how I really felt over there, I feel like it’s important to talk about how I feel now that I’m back.

Until this week, I hadn’t seen any of my Atlanta friends in about a month. Many of them have left town, and the ones here have their own lives and schedules, and I go into work late to avoid traffic and end up staying late and coming home and just crashing, which doesn’t really allow for an active social life anyway. I went up to Boston a few weeks ago and had a great time hanging out with people (Georgia Tech friends, a really close online friend I’ve spent a lot of offline time with, and a friend from Japan, who’s a grad student there), only to come home and have my social life grind to a halt again. I started feeling more and more down and resentful about my living situation and this suburb and everything, since I still don’t really have a way of meeting new people to hang out with.

But seeing my friends, getting out and having that social outlet again, has helped me feel a lot better and really put things into perspective. It’s something I always try to do when I’m down–I try not to let negative emotions cloud my judgment and make me think that I’m so unfortunate and unlucky when I have so much going right in my life, but that’s what was happening. But I hung out with Moshe on Sunday, and Terry and Ryan Monday, and we’re doing an Indo-Western Thanksgiving with our group of Indian family friends tomorrow (after eating a Trader Joe’s Tofurky for lunch, which I’m ridiculously excited about!), and I’m having lunch and playing frisbee with my university orchestra friends on Friday, and we’re doing Japan Night on Saturday, with pretty much everybody in Atlanta that I know–dinner at an izakaya, then karaoke (at a place with a purikura/print club machine).

I still maintain, though, that the Atlantan suburban sprawl is pretty much devoid of any real culture, and I’m ready to get out of this town as quickly as possible. I’m looking at moving close to my office–if not for the really long commute times and huge gas bills (I just spent $47 filling up my car today) and high rent involved with living downtown, and the fact that most of my “extracurriculars” are just a few minutes from my office, I’d try to find a place to live that allowed me to walk around and have a lot of conveniences and fun things accessible, and that allowed me to meet people easily. But one nice thing about being up here: all the trees up here have given me some nice eye candy in the form of a dazzling fall color display on my drive to and from work.

The other thing occupying me lately (to the point that I’ve let my violin practicing slip again) has been studying for the JLPT, which is now 11 days away. I have no doubt that I’ll pass, but it’s not as easy to absorb new kanji and vocabulary as it used to be in school, though the grammar makes a lot more sense now that I have a real foundation to ground it in. I’m most of the way through my Nakama 2 textbook from college, and I have dozens of kanji flashcards scattered all over the place, which I’ll be memorizing over the long weekend.

And I’m almost totally certain that I’ll be back in Japan for a week or so this spring. I think I really need this. I may keep this blog occasionally updated till then, and have that sort of serve as my epilogue to this two-year adventure. We’ll see what happens.

It’s about time to pack up and head home, so I should sign off here. To any American readers, happy Thanksgiving! It’s really interesting that this was the week that I could see all my friends and have my mood be lifted like that, just in time for this holiday of gratitude and reflection on the good things and good people in our lives. I’m grateful for this timing of events, and for finally being able to see that everything really is okay. I have a lot to be thankful for this year.

Dilemma and decision

After long last, I’ve uploaded the last of my Japan photos to my Flickr account. It was an emotional occasion, too, as I tried to come up with some fitting words of closure and as I thought about what those photos evoked, and my last weeks/days/hours in Ikeda, in Tokushima Prefecture, and in Japan.

I’m also finally going to mail out a bunch of postcards to friends in Japan that I meant to send a month ago…oops. I hope that the friends whose addresses I have can do some reconnaissance and get me everyone else’s mailing address in time for me to send them holiday cards. I’m already wondering if I should go with store-bought cards, if I should order some nice greeting cards or nengajou/new year postcards online, or if I should try to figure out how to produce my own…?

Lately I’ve come to the realization that I really, really want to go back to Japan next year. I think I may try to do what Ellie did last year and come to see my kids graduate and to watch the musical (hopefully at the gorgeous Wakimachi Odeon-za), and maybe stay a few extra days and squeeze in a visit to Koya-san, which is traditionally how one begins the Shikoku 88-temple pilgrimage. I haven’t given up on my promise to myself to do it someday.

However, I hit a bit of a snag today, as I realized that the SXSW Interactive Festival is March 7-11, which is precisely when both graduation and the musical will be happening. Well, I don’t know their exact dates, but graduation is usually in the second week of March, and the musical takes place the first three weekends of March traditionally.

This is a big problem–my boss encourages all of us to go to a relevant conference every year and I’ve been wanting to attend this one for a few years now. SXSW Interactive, for those unfamiliar with it, is all about emerging web, wireless, and media technologies, issues, and studies (those of you who know me know that this is exactly what I’m into).

If it turns out that they don’t overlap after all, I could have a crazy 2 weeks next March and go to Japan as soon as I get back from Austin (or vice versa)…but if they do overlap, I have a very tough decision ahead of me.

Attn: Lee Johnson, former Miyoshi-gun ALT

Hey! Thanks again for the comment several months ago. It really made my day (and week, and month) to hear from former ALTs who lived in the same area, and to hear that former ALTs still have very fond thoughts of western Tokushima, as I do! I recently started chatting with Cory Hain, who taught in Yamashiro/Iya while you were in Ikeda/Ikawa/Mikamo. If you could e-mail me (andorus at gmail dot com), he’d like to get in touch with you.

I set up iGoogle recently, Google’s portal site, and created a Japanese Study tab, with the two JLPT kanji modules, kanji of the day, and Eng/Jpn news tabs. I really don’t know if I’ll have the motivation to study hard enough to have even the slighest chance of passing the JLPT level 2–I’d have to be living in Japan and studying on a daily basis for that to be feasible–but I think I’m going to sign up for it anyway, to have that as something to work towards, so I don’t let my Japanese slip. I still haven’t had success finding flat-out conversation sessions in town; I’ve found actual language classes, but I think I may just give in and sign up for an advanced one to keep me on my toes and to give me a chance to chat with people.

In other Atlanta-Japan news, my grandmother found something in the paper about a weekend of Japanese films next month at Emory University. I’d like to check those out. And next weekend is JapanFest! I’m hoping to head there on Sunday with some people.

The first of my last round of boxes arrived today, too…aptly enough, it was the one with a lot of my very nostalgic gifts, sign-cards, and thank-you letters from my students and teachers. And my Sudachi-kun plushie! I found the cloth flower Atagi-san made me, the brocade and ukiyo-e purse from my junior high teachers, the indigo purse from my Thurs/Fri elementary school, the laminated sheet with photos of me crying and going under the student arch during my farewell ceremony, and much more.

I also found the notebooks of class notes that I’d meant to leave for Caitlin. CRAP. I’ll be shipping those out to her tomorrow…

The feelings of homesickness for Japan really haven’t faded. If anything, they’re a little stronger every day. Japan works its way into my thoughts and makes itself relevant to whatever I’m doing or thinking about constantly. This morning, out of nowhere, the image of Yaemi and Terumi seeing me off at the bus terminal in Ikeda on my day of departure came to me and made me start crying in the shower.

What does help, though, is knowing that I have a cool, laid-back, and friendly group of coworkers. I can go to them with anything, I can ask them anything, and they’re more than happy to do whatever they can to help me out. I chat most with the guy right across from me just out of convenience, but he also has a design background and is a software engineer, and we get each other’s input on stuff, and he’ll very kindly pass over different links he’s found related to what I’m working on, or just cool graphical things.

The thing that’s a little awkward–but of course, everyone goes through this–is that my coworkers are all at least 10 years older than I am. I feel like I fit in really well, though, and I haven’t felt any sort of “seniority” complex at all, and it now works in my favoror that I’m used to being the lone female in a group of tech geek guys after my college days. (We were all joking in the car on our way to lunch today about how we all were made fun of in middle school, but now geeks are taking over the world.) It’s just tough because they all have families or significant others and aren’t really the hang-out-after-work types.

I also just don’t have nearly as many social outlets as I used to, and I live 30 minutes from the city, and the areas where I live and work are awful during rush hour. It took me a solid hour to drive into the city yesterday after work, when that trip should only take 20 minutes. I’ve really started feeling the pinch that comes with having previously local friends who now reside hundreds and thousands of miles away. The days of decent train systems and friends in neighboring towns are definitely over.

Slacker!

Geez, I didn’t realize it’s been three weeks since I last wrote in here! I’ve thought about it a lot, and I had some ideas for things to write, but now that I’m sitting at my computer, of course those ideas have all flown away.

I’ve been pretty busy lately, in part because I started my new job. No specific details online for obvious reasons (though my coworkers already told me that they Googled me during the interview process), but I’m really enjoying it so far. It’s an interesting challenge. I’m an interaction designer for a security software firm, designing user interface graphical elements like system tray icons and desktop icons and other non-iconic things. It’s an area of design I haven’t done a whole lot of before, but I’m starting to get the hang of it–it incorporates a lot of the general ideas I try to keep in mind when designing websites. I also have a great group of coworkers, and the environment there’s really nice. I’ve really enjoyed it so far.

I will admit, though, it’s been a little strange working in such an American working environment–one guy had studied some Japanese on his own and greeted me with an “ohayou gozaimasu” (good morning) once. But I actually miss saying “osaki ni shitsurei shimasu” when I’m on my way out, and I’ve even forgotten how to let myself into my boss’s office in English, now that I can’t use “shitsurei shimasu” upon entering and “shitsurei shimashita” on my way out anymore. I also have to stop myself from bowing to the people I’ve been meeting this past week. It feels so weird!

In other news, I bought a car on Saturday–a Mazda 6. It handles wonderfully, is gorgeous, has all these great features, and I love it…but then I started hearing this clanking sound Sunday night, like a soft drink can was rattling around somewhere to my right and in front of me. I took it in on Monday, but they were unable to duplicate the sound on their own, and the tech guy and I went for a drive today and still couldn’t hear it. I got my car back today, which is good–I’ve driven the loaner they issued me more than my actual car! Hopefully it’s nothing serious–especially since I have to drive a long way on Sunday to attend the wedding of a guy I’ve known for nearly 20 years, ever since my family moved to metro Atlanta.

I got hit with my first big wave of homesickness for Japan yesterday evening, as I was putting up more of my Japan photos on Flickr (I’m over a month behind, and still not quite done yet!), and after I put up an autumn-themed print I’d bought at Loft and several of the watercolor postcard prints of Ikeda that I’d bought at Gasping Lady’s restaurant in my cubicle. I’ve also been exchanging messages through Flickr with a former ALT in Yamashiro, the town bordering Ikeda to the southwest. It’s really cool that several people from the area still have fond enough memories of it to keep in touch with it and try to find out about it online.

To kind of combat the homesickness, I gave Hannah a call and we talked for about 45 minutes. Hannah used to live downstairs in our apartment building in Japan–she and I came in together and she left after a year. It felt really good to make all these references to Japan and our ALT community and have her totally get what I meant.

Oh, and the izakaya we went to for my birthday (it feels like it was ages ago, not just three weeks) was all right. It was pretty good for an American restaurant, especially considering that there isn’t a huge Japanese population here the way there is out west, but it still left something to be desired. I’ll have to try my luck again if I ever make it up to New York or out to the west coast.

I really miss it. There are some things I’m glad to have left behind, but on the whole…I can’t wait to go back.

It was bound to happen sooner or later

I was at our local YMCA getting a membership today. When I finished and went out to the parking lot, I promptly walked right up to the right-hand side of the car, opened the door, and got in, without even batting an eyelash. I sat there for several seconds and wondered why the wheel was on the left side of the car before it hit me.

A couple of people were staring at me, so I tried to play it off by opening the glove compartment and pretending to search for something. It wasn’t very convincing. I just hurried around to the driver’s side, got in, and left in a hurry.

I blame it on the fact that I had another completely random Japan encounter today! My second in two days! I was chatting with one of the ladies in charge of membership, and it became relevant that I’d been away for a couple of years. This woman had worked for Georgia State University and took groups over to Japan annually for eleven years.

Yesterday I was at the library picking up some books for my brother, and it came up that I’d been away for two years when I renewed my library card and realized that I had late charges dating back to 2005. (Thank god they don’t charge interest…) The woman behind the counter had lived in Japan around the time of the Tokyo Olympics and was married to a Japanese man and spoke fluent Japanese, and her daughter had done JET too. We spoke in Japanese to each other, which felt so good after speaking barely any these past two weeks. She let me know that there used to be a Japanese conversation group that had sort of fallen apart, but there was still an English/Japanese book club that met once every two months. She took my information and promised to pass it on to the people who run it.

And it’s now 1:00 AM on the 29th, and I just realized I’d left this sitting here for the last couple of hours, as I got caught up in playing online Scrabble with some friends (who are totally kicking my butt). Today’s my 26th birthday! It’s also the birthday of Michael Jackson, Bae-Yon Joon (Yon-sama), and Slobodan Milosevic. Happy birthday, gentlemen.

Not in Kansas anymore

A few people have asked me if I’ve stopped updating this journal, or if I intend to stop updating it. I will eventually, and nearly every other Tokushima ALT who’s left Japan has stopped already…but I started this before I came to Japan, to talk about my preparations and feelings, and I feel like this won’t be a complete encapsulation of my experience if I don’t talk about how I feel now that it’s over.

So far, three boxes (winter clothes and the first shipment of books) and my futon have made it home safely. I should have another six boxes of regular things and two smaller boxes of books on the way, but it should still be a few weeks before they arrive. I’ve ordered some design books to prepare for my new job, and they should be here any day now (and one art book by two Pixar artists and a friend of theirs, which arrived today: Three Trees Make A Forest, which is a kind of in-joke explaining the kanji for “forest”–Tadahiro Uesugi‘s work has such a wonderfully natsukashii Japanese feel to it). I’m hoping to buy a car in the next couple of weeks, hopefully in time for me to start commuting to work, and then it’s time to start thinking about moving.

But the honeymoon period is definitely over. In small ways, it’s finally hitting me that it’s over, that I won’t be returning to Japan in the next few weeks (or months), and that it’s time to start establishing things for myself here. I’ve spent most of the last week and a half just resting up and hanging out at home, since I had jetlag for a solid week and since most of my close friends have moved away from metro Atlanta. But the jetlag has passed, and I’ve gone out to see a few people, and I’ll be seeing more tomorrow when we get together for my birthday and more this weekend during DragonCon.

I’ve found myself stumbling in situations where I have to use English around strangers–it’ll get easier over time but it’s so strange that I’m having this problem to begin with. I guess I just got so used to using English mainly with people I already knew, so I’ve forgotten how to make small talk. Seeing my friends, and running an animation panel at DragonCon, will definitely help that along, I think. I didn’t realize how good we had it in Tokushima–nearly all the ALTs lived fairly close to a train station, and having my own car made getting out so much easier. Now, we don’t live anywhere near a MARTA rail station and I’m borrowing my mom’s or brother’s cars any time I go out, and most of my friends are too busy or live too far away to come out on a whim. There also isn’t nearly as much to just go out and see–no temples or beautiful natural drives untouched by traffic and the urban sprawl.

I know that moving out will go a long way towards helping me establish things for myself here. I’m feeling almost exactly how I’ve felt during my last two visits home–I’ve just snapped right back into the routine I always am in whenever I live at home, and I don’t do much for myself. I made some curry for the family one night, which felt familiar, since I’ve become a better cook these past two years out of necessity, and I’ve come to enjoy it as well. I’d like to do it more often, but I think I only will get that chance when I live on my own.

My homes in the US and Japan are two very distinct things for me right now, and I’m looking forward to the chance to merge the two in my own personal living space, with my futon, lamps from Loft (by the way, the little spherical paper lamps do work in the US!), wall decorations, and other little things that remind me in major and minor ways of the last two years. And of course, I’m looking forward to moving forward, to painting walls and framing/mounting my favorite Japan photos and decorating my place and settling into a place where I know I’ll stay for several years. It would’ve been nice to go to a new city, now that I have this insatiable exploration bug; I feel like I’ve already seen a lot of what Atlanta has to offer. But you never know, right?

More on jetlag

I’m really getting tired of waking up at 6 AM sharp daily and then totally conking out around 1-2 PM every single day for several hours. No matter what I do, I can’t keep myself awake, and this has happened nearly every single day since I got back. It’s nearly 6 PM and I’m still groggy–I went into my parents’ room and sat down on the bed and turned the TV on, and two hours later I woke up when my mom came in and shook me awake. I just got off the phone with Jen, who’s been in town since Thursday and is flying out tomorrow, and who I might get to meet up with tonight, and I was stumbling all over myself with grogginess- (and long-time-since-my-last-long-phone-conversation-)induced awkwardness. Hopefully I’ll be more awake if we do indeed get to do something tonight.

I’m definitely glad that I can finally get out and start meeting up with friends. I may see her tonight (and at least I could talk to her!), I’m seeing Ethan tomorrow…it’ll be nice to be social again. But they both have kept up with this blog pretty regularly, so it’s funny that I now have to kind of be careful not to be too repetitive–that’s the downfall of writing so much in here these past couple of years.

I wonder how much of this is jetlag-induced, but Japan is feeling like a kind of strange dream. I really can’t believe that it was only several days ago that I left! It feels like I’ve been in Atlanta for a really long time, if not forever. I’ve just snapped back into my old routine as if I’d never left. I’m looking forward to building some new ones that build off the routines I made for myself in Japan. Mom encouraged me to keep up my Japanese studies and to go for the JLPT level 2. I think I should register, and try to be ambitious. I know I won’t do nearly as well as I would have last year while I was still in Japan, but it’d be good motivation to keep trying, and maybe I can find language partners or groups to join where I can keep the language up.

From Atlanta, with love…and jetlag

It’s been exactly three days since I’ve landed stateside, and jetlag is still kicking me around. It usually doesn’t take me more than two days to get over it, but I woke up inexplicably at 5:30 this morning, decided to go for a walk around the neighborhood as the sun rose, and then was really wiped out (though we went shopping and I picked up a She-Ra: Princess of Power DVD! Score!) and dozed off on the couch for the second time in two days around 1:30, only waking up 3 hours later when my dad woke me up. I’m still feeling a bit sluggish, though the sleep and all the water I drank when I woke up both helped.

Yesterday, my dad woke me up bright and early at 7 AM (gee, thanks), and we went out to order me a new pair of eyeglasses, since I snapped the pair I’d ordered a couple of weeks before coming to Japan cleanly in two just 3 days before I returned to the US.

But on a positive note, the official offer for the design job came through last week! I haven’t responded yet–I’ll be doing so tomorrow, and calling to specify a start date and things like that. This is definitely good news, and totally balances out my misplaced cellphone 2 weeks ago, the speeding ticket I got on the river road last Sunday as Julie and I were returning from watching Awa Odori in the city, and the snapped-in-half glasses the very next day.

So that’s been Life After Japan so far. Leaving was tough. I cried quite a bit. Yaemi and Terumi, two of my eikaiwa ladies, came to see me off at the bus station. Chalice, whose floor I’d crashed on, very kindly drove me there, but returned home after I told her to please not wait to see me off since we’d had a late night. My boss didn’t come out but she’d been out sick on Wednesday, so I figured she was still ill. My JTE had let me know that she’d be visiting relatives on the other side of the prefecture for Obon and couldn’t be there either. Honestly, the fewer people that came, the easiest it was for me.

The flights weren’t a big deal–I didn’t realize that I’d evidently paid extra for EconomyPlus seats on United Airlines, which give me considerably more legroom than standard economy seats, but if I had a choice I would totally pay it all over again (Hamza’s theory is that we’re paying extra to have the same amount of legroom we used to have, before they decided to cram in as many extra seats as possible). I had a tight connection in San Francisco, and was witness to two of the guards at the security checkpoint cracking stupid racist jokes (Guy A: “Hey, Steve, how do you say ‘strange’ in Japanese?” Guy B: pause, stupid grin, then random “oriental”-sounding word)–I gave them a really disgusted look, and I was unfortunately in too much of a hurry to call them on it. I speedwalked/jogged to the other end of the airport to make my flight, and got there after boarding had started, and got to sit next to a really kind and friendly lady from Austell–a far cry from the last time I had to sit next to an elderly woman when traveling.

I was feeling pretty exhausted and emotional when I got to Atlanta, but upon emerging from the T Gates and making my way towards the standard arrival lobby (for the rest of the concourses), I saw my parents, brother, and Laura waiting for me, with flowers and signs! That was a really pleasant surprise. I talked to Hamza later that night, who said that he’d also wanted to come out to greet me (meaning, he wanted to drive two hours from Auburn to Atlanta just for this) but didn’t know if I would want a more low-key homecoming or not. I love my friends.

My grandmother was at home waiting for me, as was a south Indian fresh home-cooked meal. I slept about 12 hours that night, and my sleep schedule has been kind of wonky ever since. I hope it’ll be more normal tonight.

So, okay, I’ll say it–I’m still in denial that my time in Japan is now over. I feel like this is yet another visit home, and honestly, it feels like it could be, since I’ve come to realize that I’ve seen my family twice a year during my Japan “tenure”. At the same time, I know it’s over, but I think the realization will really hit home once I start my new job and find a place and buy a car and take those steps to make my time here more permanent. I’m looking forward to moving forward, but not to the associated emotions that come with finally letting these past two years go.

So long, farewell

My last full day in Japan is here.

I had such high hopes for this week, in terms of visiting places and stuff like that–I’ve been requested to revisit Hashikura Temple and chat with Miwako’s supervisor, who enjoyed the minute-long conversation we had when Genna and I went there, and I really wanted to visit the Awagami paper factory/museum in Yamakawa. However, it’s after noon and I’m still at Brian’s house, wrapping up. I inadvertently slept in a bit because I got home after 1 AM.

So far I’ve spent this morning evading the cats (keeping them from clawing up my stuff and each other, and keeping them from leaving the house), trying to clean up (and discovering that Yukino really doesn’t like brooms–she was growling at it), pack, and put my things into boxes. I now have to go return 2 boxes and buy 1 smaller one, for the few items I have left. I just got word that my first two boxes made it home intact! That gives me hope for all the rest, then, though it may still be weeks till they arrive.

This evening is dinner with the westie ladies who’ll be around, and Ikeda’s Awa Odori. Tokushima’s was a blast. Besides one guy being a jerk about the fact that I messed up during one set and it threw him off (give me a break, we aren’t a professional dancing group!) and a near-fight that broke out at the end of the night, it was a spectacular time, and I’m so glad that I’ll leave with those memories of a revitalized Tokushima City fresh in my mind.

Before tonight, I have to revisit my board of education to settle final stuff like utilities and payments (I’m really proud that I was able to successfully close my account and get a bank draft on my own, though doing the latter meant going to the main branch in the city, but that’s all right), pick up thank-you gifts for my boss and landlords, and write and give a note to the Paparagi mama-san, whose aunt made a really nice silk quilt wall hanging that I bought, and she wants to know more about me. I also have to go vacuum my car and dispose of all the temporary trash bags I’ve been accumulating as I’ve lived out of my car and my friends’ places, so I can prepare it for Caitlin.

At the airport, I have to look for my airport toiletries bag, which I think I packed by accident, and swap that out with the actual toiletries bag I’ve been using but can’t take on the plane with me. I hope I can find it, but if not, at the very least I have my toothbrush and travel-sized toothpaste, a small bottle of lotion, and a small enough deodorant stick with me at the moment.

I thought today would be pretty sentimental, and there’s still time for that to happen (I really want to find some time to walk around and take photos of stores and areas around town that I haven’t yet, and I hope I can, and to drop in on a few more people to thank them for all they’ve done for me these past couple of years)–but in the meantime there’s still a lot left to do. It hasn’t sunk in that I won’t be here tomorrow, that this is it. I don’t know when it will sink in–maybe only when I wake up at 5:30 AM tomorrow and take my bags to the bus stop. Definitely when the bus pulls up to the terminal. I’m ready, but thinking about leaving is making me feel like I have a heavy weight in my chest.

In case I don’t get another chance…okay, I just sat here for about 15 seconds, staring at the screen and hoping something would come to me. Nothing is. What a daunting prospect this is–I’m leaving my home in Japan for good. I’ll view it as a home in future visits, but I know I won’t be living here ever again. I’ve never experienced this sort of heavy finality with any of the transitions I’ve made so far–it wasn’t a big deal when I finished university because I was still in Atlanta anyway. But this, though…this is something else entirely.

Of course I’ll keep updating from the other side, about reverse culture shock and the like, but for those of you who’ve been reading, thank you so much for sticking with this blog and with me these past two years. Hontou ni osewa ni narimashita. My next entry will be from America, so I’ll see you on the flip side.