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.

Transitions and tears

I started this list a few days ago, but ever since I got back from my trip, it’s just been go-go-go, nonstop. I’m at Julie’s house right now (spent the last two nights here, and the three nights before that at Brian’s, and am heading back to Brian’s tonight, to watch over stuff while he’s in India)–I need to finish doing laundry and head out to run many errands around town (make a copy of her key, go to my BOE and talk to my boss about all sorts of stuff, hopefully close my bank account, finish packing and shipping my things). This is what I’ve been up to…

  • Hakodate – ika odori (squid dance), rude rude rude people
  • cool train in between Hakodate/Aomori, with exclamation points on the sign board when we entered the undersea tunnel connecting Hokkaido and Honshu
  • Aomori (canceled hostel stay at the last minute) – Nebuta Matsuri was FREAKING AWESOME!
  • train mishap, slight layover at Morioka shinkansen station
  • Sendai – awesome! Sendai Mediatheque (masks, interactive and traditional art/media exhibits), the nice view of the city from Aoba-jo, spending two days with my wonderful professor and her wonderful family, taking in the really neat Tanabata Matsuri decorations
  • return Osaka-Tokushima bus ride – sat next to an older woman who looked startled/horrified once she realized I’d be sitting next to her, and then proceeded to STARE AT ME FOR AN HOUR STRAIGHT
  • saw a really sweet teacher I work with give me a big wave and smile in Tokushima Station, which made me feel much, much better
  • got home, cleaned my place, my landlord helped me pack out of there
  • stayed at Brian’s 3 nights, got used to keeping his cats out of my things
  • greeted Caitlin, spent ~6 hours 3 days in a row taking her around, helping her out, taking her to all the schools and city hall and giving her a driving lesson
  • went out to lunch with two of my favorite eikaiwa ladies (they already said they’ll gladly come to America for my wedding, haha)
  • went to a farewell dinner (which kind of ended up being the westie post-Group-B-arrival meetup) thrown by the head of the Miyoshi City International Society, then up to the castle/pirate ship park in Mino, where we watched the stars; I saw 11 meteors
  • canceled my cellphone account, finally
  • had a man, a bus driver who recognized me from his routes in Ikeda, pay for my lunch at Paparagi
  • went up to Nishiyama with Chalice and her mother and Julie
  • said goodbye to many teachers, to friends, to my lovely eikaiwa students, to my wonderful JTE
  • cried quite a bit
  • went out for what might have been my last round of karaoke in Japan
  • went to watch Awa Odori in Tokushima City last night, on opening night–today’s Packing And Shipping Day, so I don’t know if I can make it out again tonight…I’ll be dancing in the city tomorrow night and spectating in Ikeda Wednesday night
  • called my parents today for the first time in a while, and probably for the last time before I leave

It’s Monday morning now. Three mornings from now, I’ll have left Ikeda and Tokushima and will be in or near Osaka. Three full days–that’s all I have left in Japan. The number doesn’t mean much to me right now, though. But the reality of the situation is sinking in–dealing with my suitcases and remaining parcels, seeing how Caitlin has begun to redecorate what used to be my apartment, and all the tearful farewells I’ve gone through and will continue to go through. It’s just impossible for me to fathom that this past weekend was my final weekend in Japan, and that next Saturday and Sunday I’ll be in Atlanta.

I’ve thought a lot about what sorts of things I should write in this entry, since it may very well be the last entry I write while I’m still in Japan. I’m coming up blank, though. How do you sum this all up? What can you say to properly capture something like this in words?

I think I may have to do some paper-journal writing and then come back and post it here. I really need to get going–so much to do in such a short time. At least I’m out of my apartment, so that’s one big stress behind me.

The trip thus far

I’ve had my fill of going out this evening, as I ventured through the crowds gathered for the Port Festival and was witness to the rather strange Ika Odori (squid dance), and dealt with copious amounts of staring (some by wide-eyed kids, some very appraising and disapproving/disdainful sneers by adults), people acting as if the gaijin speaking Japanese was the most hilarious thing they’d ever seen, and people (at the front desk of the hotel) keeping up very basic and bare-bones conversations and looking at my alien registration card that states I’ve been here for two years and then complimenting me in simpering and overly obsequious tones on how wonderful my Japanese is. Yeah, I’m really enjoying Hakodate so far.

Anyway, since I doubt I’ll have any opportunities to get on a computer for an hour or so again to type out this entry in full before I leave, I may as well deliver the bullet points right now.

MONDAY (2007 July 30):

  • the wallet/bus fiasco
  • train to Okayama, shinkansen to Kobe (probably my last shink ride in Japan)
  • doria lunch (with ZUCCHINI–the first time I’ve eaten zucchini in two years)
  • caught my plane, slept the whole time, woke up as the plane hit the tarmac in Sapporo
  • went to the hotel (super-tiny Toyoko Inn room, right next to the elevator), meant to lie down for an hour and then go out, and ended up sleeping from 5:30-6:00 PM all the way till 7:00 the next morning

TUESDAY (2007 July 31):

  • phone calls to my boss and landlords about apartment/internet stuff (my last keitai calls… *sigh*)
  • amused by how many college students were around, because my hotel was across the street from Hokkaido Daigaku, and especially amused that I think they thought I was one of them
  • went to Sapporo Art Park, visited the Museum of Contemporary Art (saw Modigliani paintings/sketches and African masks), had lunch, walked around the sculpture garden (too much modern/abstract work; there were a few human statues that I liked)
  • got a stamp that refused to dry–even 4 hours later it was still more than half wet
  • Engrish sightings: “SWEET / INVITATION / a body of fascination” (on a shirt) and “Chesty” (name of a boutique, printed on a bag)
  • spent 2 hours (and a fair amount of money) at the 4-story Sapporo Loft
  • saw an older woman with bright lilac hair
  • Italian food for dinner, hung out in Starbucks afterwards

WEDNESDAY (2007 August 1):

  • 2 weeks and a day till my Japan departure, 4 weeks till my 26th birthday
  • totally misread the train schedule–wanted to visit Shiraoi, a town with a lot of Ainu (indigenous northern Japanese tribe, like the Native Americans/First Nations people) artifacts and whatnot, but I read the time the train arrived in Shiraoi and thought that was the time the train departed from Sapporo, and I soundly missed it
  • just barely made an hourlong bus to a small Ainu museum/exhibit outside Sapporo–small but very fascinating; I was really enthralled by it
  • went to a restaurant called Delhi for dinner–run by 2 Japanese people, serving “Indian-style curry” (not exactly, but still tons more authentic than Masala in Tokushima is)
  • wandered around, ignored lots of staring (1. gaijin, 2. solo), holed up in another Starbucks for the night

THURSDAY (2007 August 2 – today):

  • caught a morning train west out of Sapporo, sat next to a girl around my age and we had a pleasant conversation about the world and Italy and Japan
  • got off at Toya Station, after seeing Showa-Shinzan (volcanic peak formed in WWII; Showa = that particular imperial reign, shinzan = new mountain) from the train
  • caught a bus, got off at the Nishiyama Crater Promenade (part of the Usu-zan volcanic complex), walked around several very active craters belching volcanic steam into the air, as well as ruins from that eruption, including a fence and a patch of road that looked like they’d been treated like accordians, scorched and half-buried phone poles and signs, a heavily-dented car, and more, all of which was really amazing and eerie to behold…the Nishiyama crater and others were formed in a big eruption in 2000
  • caught a noon bus to Lake Towa, which was when the cellphone fiasco began (the last time I saw my keitai was at 11:54 AM, when I was checking the time as I waited for that bus)
  • went to the volcano science museum, which I was very happy with
  • as I left around 1:50, prepared to eat lunch and then catch the ropeway up to the top of Usu-zan, I noticed that the bottom pouch of my bag was hanging open, so I closed it, and when I got to a cafe around 2 PM, I took inventory of my belongings, which was when I realized my keitai was missing
  • retraced my steps to the volcano science museum, and the staff totally went above and beyond in terms of helping me look around the premises, calling the police to see if anyone had turned in a phone, and putting me in touch with DoCoMo to suspend my account (and on top of that, they gave me a free pack of Lake Toya postcards, even though I was the one imposing on them!)
  • as I was leaving, I noticed the same pouch had come unzipped AGAIN! I zipped it and looked through my stuff right there, but nothing had fallen out
  • I bought 5 bottles of tea and brought them back to the museum for the workers as a small thank-you gesture for their wonderful show of kindness (and got a totally strange/clueless look from one employee who was there but hadn’t been present when the keitai thing went down, heh)
  • retraced my steps back to the bus terminal, but no phone–checked with the lady at the terminal, but no phone
  • had coffee, went back to Nishiyama, had the bus driver wait for a minute as I got out and looked around the bus stop, but no phone
  • realized as we were heading back to the train station that I could have asked the lady at the bus terminal to figure out which driver was driving that route at that time and ask him to check his bus…but it was too late in the day, a thunderstorm had swept in, and I really needed to move on
  • caught the train to Hakodate, checked into my hotel, dealt with idiot kids cracking up at my Japanese at the Sunkus as I bought dinner, dealt with staring at the Port Festival/Ika Odori, ate, came back to the hotel

And as for tomorrow…I was really set on going to Osore-zan, this geologically active area that is believed to be the place where the souls of the dead reside, but I’m tired and I’ve spent so much money on accommodations and especially on train fare so far (much more than I anticipated; the train fare from Sapporo to Hakodate was 2-3 times what I thought it would be), and it’s pretty far out of the way. I should have rented a car–probably less money, definitely easier to get around. I think I may go to Aomori, hang out there and try to catch part of the Nebuta Matsuri (big float festival), and then head down to my hostel just outside of Hachinohe. We’ll see, though.

Lost my cellphone

Checking in from my hotel in Hakodate in southwestern Hokkaido.

At some point between noon and 2 PM today, when I was in the vicinity of the Usu-san volcano and Lake Toya, I lost my cellphone. I lost it in precisely the same way that I nearly lost my wallet before I even left–the bottom zipper of the backpack I borrowed came mysteriously open on its own. I tried to recover it, but it’s gone.

For the next 2 weeks, the only way to reach me is via internet. If any of you tried contacting me via my cell at any point past noon today, please e-mail me at my personal address, or comment here to reach me. My land line is no more. I’ll be canceling my cellphone account entirely (it’s just suspended at the moment) when I return to Tokushima. I’ll have internet access nearly every day from here on out–maybe not tomorrow because I’m staying at a hostel, but definitely from Saturday onwards until my departure. And I’ll be staying with Brian and Julie alternatively, so you can contact me at their apartments in the evenings.

It could have been worse, since I only have two weeks left, but I’m still feeling really irresponsible right now, and I have a lot of people to contact in these next two weeks. This trip has been a comedy of errors–in mainly silly ways, up until now. I hope it gets better after this.

This doesn’t bode well for the week

I’m off to a great start on this trip so far. (No sarcasm whatsoever.) I got to the bus terminal at 7:52 for my 8:00 bus, and went for my wallet to buy a bottle of water–only to realize that 1. my wallet wasn’t in my backpack, and 2. the bottom-most zipper on the front of the bag, which opened onto the main section of the bag, had fallen open.

I managed to get a refund processed on my bus ticket JUST in time–as I talked to them about it, the Kobe-bound bus pulled in. I retraced my steps back to the apartment, wondering what I would do if someone had made away with my wallet or where to look in case someone had found it and turned it in.

In an incredible stroke of luck, it had fallen out in my genkan (entranceway to my apartment). I can catch a 9 AM train to Okayama and a shinkansen over to Kobe and arrive only a half-hour after this bus would have, and still not be in any danger of missing my flight.

It sucks, because I was hoping to get 3 solid hours of sleep on the bus (or as solid as you can get on a bus ride) after pulling an all-nighter to clean my apartment, and now that I’m back I’m fading fast. But I can sleep for an hour and a half on the train to Okayama, keep myself awake for 3 hours to get food and get myself to Kobe Airport, and then I can sleep another 2 on the plane to Sapporo.

Have a good week, guys!

Going effing crazy

I feel like pulling my hair out for not starting on all of this sooner. I have 1.5 days left to pack everything up and clean clean clean clean–AND I have to go to school in the morning for speech contest help, AND I have plans with Sally tomorrow night (postponed from Friday); it’ll be the last time we see each other.

Today’s going to be very long. I need to unplug my ethernet cable so I can listen to music without getting distracted by the web, especially since I sent out the mass “hi, I’m returning home so here’s my contact info” e-mail and have gotten 10-15 responses so far. Those are a great way to say hi to people you may not think to talk to otherwise, but replying each message also takes 5-10 minutes, so…

General checklist of stuff to do…

  • generally pack my suitcases, so I know what I have to ship still
  • pack boxes, ship them (I’ve sent 2 large boxes of winter clothes and 3 medium-sized boxes of stuff and 2-3 boxes of books so far, as well as my futon via airmail, and I’m still not done. Oof!)
  • hit up the 100-yen store in Mikamo (since our new one doesn’t open till Monday, which is when I leave for Sapporo–I almost wish I weren’t going!) to get new cheapie plastic stuff to replace the cheapie plastic stuff that has miraculously lasted these past 2 years but is grungy and cheapie enough that I can throw it out guilt-free
  • vacuum and dust, scrub the kitchen counters and sink, tackle the bathroom, clean off the porch and washing machine
  • make sure all my important documents and papers (like my pension book and info on how to get my pension refund) are somewhere safe and accessible, and packed into my carry-on
  • consider shipping my smallest suitcase back to the US, unless it’s cheaper to just check it as an extra piece of luggage (I have 2 big pieces of luggage to be checked, and two carry-on suitcases, and my laptop goes in one–AND my violin, which I will not under any circumstances check)
  • find a cylindrical cardboard tube so I can roll up my posters
  • take down artwork and cloths off the wall, but photograph the apartment before I do!
  • buy a “housewarming” gift for Kanno-sensei, one of my Japanese professors from my Georgia Tech days; I’ll be staying at her house (with her mother and brother) for two nights in Sendai
  • pack for my 8-day Hokkaido/Tohoku trip next week (shit, I keep forgetting about this)
  • copy Lonely Planet Hokkaido/Aomori/Miyagi pages, bring plane and bus tickets
  • find people to claim my spices and lentils and stuff
  • toss out perishable goods
  • sort non-burnable trash and toss it into the bin, since Wednesday is moenai gomi day
  • pack stuff I don’t have time to ship or deal with into the car, because I still will have a week in Tokushima after I get back, spent crashing either at Brian’s or Julie’s
  • stop writing this freaking list and GET STARTED!

Oh, yeah. MOM! PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE send me that list of things you’d like soon! I still have no clue where to find a doll, and I need to know what size tea strainer you’d like!

Okay, one quick note before I go…it has been suggested to me on more than one occasion that I open the floor to questions. I regret not doing it earlier, but I hope you knew that you were free to ask me questions anytime, and many of you have done so!

If you have any questions about the JET Programme, Tokushima, Shikoku, life in Japan, life in Japan as a foreigner, life in Japan as a woman, life in Japan as an Indian-American, or anything else, ask away! I’ll answer them eventually. I’ve answered many of my friends’ questions already, but I’m of course always up for answering more! I just don’t know when I’ll respond, but I swear I will.

Two endings in one day

So yesterday, the two-year anniversary of my arrival in Japan, also marked the end of my JET Programme contract, as well as being the day I read the final Harry Potter novel, on loan from my awesome JTE. (Don’t worry, there are zero spoilers in this post. I was completely spoiler-free leading up to yesterday, and I definitely wouldn’t spoil anybody who doesn’t want to know anything yet.)

It feels…strange. The work that brought me to Japan is nearly complete–it’s officially complete already, but I’ll still be going in to my junior high to assist with speech contest stuff (and to give thank-you presents to the staff), and I may have to go by one elementary school to ask if they could try putting their photos of the closing ceremony on my USB drive again because the versions I have are incomplete. And I may get to take Caitlin around and introduce her to the shougakkous–but I really don’t think we’ll have time. She arrives on the 8th, the first several days will be spent securing her gaijin card and contract and apartment stuff and cellphone and the car transfer and everything else, then she’s off to orientation for 3 days, and then I leave.

I think I should take the time to go on my own just to photograph the schools, though. I didn’t really do that before. I may also ask if they’d be okay with e-mailing me class photos for the schools where I wasn’t able to take a group photo of our English classes. I also will be going back to my junior high this week to help with speech contest stuff (it’s been essentially all on me to translate the speeches: one kind of made no sense because half the content, including the title, was totally irrelevant; the other had some pretty complicated Japanese and dealt with some very serious themes, so we want to talk to the kid to make sure we get exactly what he’s trying to say as I/we translate his speech).

I have five days to finish packing and cleaning. At this point, I’m not sure if I have more or less stuff than I anticipated. I definitely will have to send at least 3 or 4 more boxes home, probably more, in part because the boxes available at the post office aren’t very big. Hamza suggested visiting a liquor store, and I thought he meant that I should drink to make the process speed along, not that I should see if they have particularly big boxes–whoops! But it’ll be good to get it all done with by the time I leave for Sapporo on Monday, and to know that I won’t have to rush to finish it all up until the day I leave the country.

I also talked to my landlord yesterday about the end-of-term stuff, and to my boss. Water, gas, and electricity are all taken care of. I need to go to the local DoCoMo cellphone store to make sure I know the process for canceling my phone at Kansai Airport. I also need to figure out what to do about my land line and internet access. And today will be the day that I finally trek (or drive, heh) over to the KuroNeko Yamato takkyuubin (package delivery) place to inquire about shipping my futon. I feel bad for putting it off so long and hope it won’t be too late.

I’m meeting Kirsten and Sally for dinner tonight–it may be the last time I see Kirsten, and we both came in together, Group A in 2005, and sat down next to each other in the Tokushima section at Tokyo Orientation in the massive ballroom where all 1000+ new Group A ALTs were sitting. We haven’t seen each other a ton, but she was definitely the person who got along with everybody. She’s already stated that she’s taking a tour of the US and would like to come visit, so I’ll be looking forward to that. It’s…weird, associating these people with non-Japanese settings. Kirsten will always be the Handa ALT to me, since our 2 years have overlapped almost precisely. Genna was always the Yoshino ALT (since I wasn’t very close to her predecessor, though he was a nice guy). Last year, Joe was always the Nishi-Iya ALT. Ben and Julia were the Anan folks. Ellie was the Miyoshi ALT. But instead, I get to associate them with Southampton and Kansas City and Toronto and Vancouver and Edinburgh.

Something that’s definitely changed–the idea of flying 4-5 hours across the US to visit friends on the other side of the country doesn’t seem so daunting anymore. Considering how much closer they’ll be stateside than they have been for the last 2 years, I’ll welcome it!

It’s also strange how the end of the HP books has coincided with the ending of my time in Japan. (Book 6 came out a week before I left for Japan, and Book 7 has come out just prior to my return.) This almost feels like I’ve caught the Hogwarts Express (a.k.a. two Northwest Airlines flights that are ~14 hours cumulatively) to come here, and I’ve learned all these strange and fascinating and wonderful new skills and facts and languages and cultures…and now the year’s ending and it’s time to take the Hogwarts Express (a.k.a. two United Airlines flights that are ~14 hours cumulatively). There was no great enemy to try to defeat, other than culture shock and intolerance, but the way I felt after finishing book 7 in the week hours of the morning really parallels and acts as a foil to how I’m feeling about leaving Japan. Funny how that happens.

A day of many tears

Today’s been very emotional, and I’ve shed many tears, but it’s not quite over yet.

This morning were the final ceremonies at my primary and secondary base schools, my junior high and 1.5-day elementary school. They had a separate ceremony from the end-of-term ceremony in my honor at my junior high, including all the students forming a massive arch for me to go under. The 3rd-year teachers came together and bought me a present on behalf of all the teachers, and the principal presented it to me, but it turns out the 1st- and 2nd-year teachers haven’t actually seen it, so I’m bringing it to our enkai today. It’s this beautiful brocade of cloth…though I have to admit that I’m not sure what to do with it.

Immediately after that ceremony finished, I ran to the elementary school. This went more smoothly, in part because it turns out there was another teacher who’d only been here for a year as she filled in as the 2nd-grade teacher for a teacher who was on maternity leave but who’ll be returning in the fall. I also played the violin at this one–I ended up playing for the whole school and for the preschool kids and for their parents. I’d played at all my other shougakkous and didn’t want to leave these kids out, and it ended up getting bigger as time went on. I did five songs on my own, four from various Studio Ghibli films (Tonari no Totoro, Mononoke Hime, Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi, and Hauru no Ugokushiro, and one piano-violin duet with the other departing teacher. The teachers afterwards presented me with a gorgeous indigo-dyed cloth and purse.

I spent my afternoon hanging out at my junior high (I must’ve been pretty unobtrusive, because my JTE had told me she would call me if I was out with the details of our enkai tonight, and suddenly my phone rang and it was her, so I look up, straight at her, and go, “Uh…Sensei?” She lifts her head and stares at me for a couple of seconds, and then our whole cluster of desks bursts out laughing), then getting started on my pension paperwork, which required me running home, and then I picked up some cookies for the 1.5-day shougakkou (since I kind of forgot to bake them a cake) and went back in, where I had a great conversation about music and communication with the principal there. (I love her voice. She has such a calming, melodic voice and demeanor.) We then had our “saigo no aisatsu,” our final farewells, where the principal spoke on behalf of the gathered teachers, where I said a few words (and of course thought of many more I could’ve said as soon as I left), and then, blinking back even more tears, I stepped out of the staffroom, took my indoor shoes with me, and left.

And now I have to go get ready to be picked up in just under a half-hour for our junior high enkai, where I’ll be expected to give another brief speech and where I know I’ll start crying again. Hopefully this’ll be better than previous enkais. I’m actually looking forward to it.

No longer in danger of mooching off my parents

I’ve been in the middle of an interview process with a company in suburban Atlanta. The interviews have gone pretty well so far, and we’ve had some good conversations–they seem like a great group of people with a lot of mutual respect, and it’s a successful company as well.

I had a day-long headache yesterday that just refused to go away (I took a half-day off work and had to skip the enkai of my 1.5-day shougakkou, which I honestly regretted), and when I was well enough to finally get up and make and eat dinner, my stomach started bothering me too. When the time for the interview came around, I had to ask the guy if he was up for rescheduling, which he was very cool about.

I woke up this morning (after sleeping about 10 hours, which means I’ve slept around 14 hours out of the last 24), and had an job offer in my inbox! They decided the fifth interview wasn’t necessary after all, after how well the four so far have gone. I’ll be calling them tonight to discuss the details of the offer.

I’m really glad I’ve taken today off to get my affairs in order. I’m planning on packing a lot, going in to my BOE to discuss stuff with my boss, and driving out to the city to ship some packages (and treat myself to something very indulgent), before I make the call about the job. YES!