An update on my foot: it wasn’t a sprain, but a gnat bite. Ellie had the same issue, and neither of us can remember actually hurting our ankles at all. I asked my BOE staff and she did some research, and we both came up with the same conclusion. There’s this awesome OTC cream for bug bites called Muhi, specifically Muhi Ex for stronger cases like this, and it’s done wonders for my foot.

(And I’m currently burning copies of our musical DVD and just have the TV turned on, and they’re randomly interviewing girls on the street to find out whether or not they’re virgins. They’re also bringing in the girls who admit to being virgins to have some woman talk to them–I have no idea what on earth they’re saying, as I wasn’t paying attention and I think I’m better off not knowing–and at the end, the girls introduce themselves as virgins and do a brief self-introduction, as if to say, “I’m a virgin. Virgins eat this kind of food and listen to this kind of music.” It’s revolting that they’re making such a big deal out of something that’s such a personal matter, and that they’re being so immature about it! I did hear something like, “Oh, thank god, virgins still exist!” Of COURSE they exist! I’m proudly one of them. I’m not sure if this is better or worse than the “p.orn” (typed this way to avoid search engine spiders) I’ve found on late-night TV by accident, which consists of girls in underwear doing calisthenics, and random close-ups of their chests…I think it’s all equally cringe-worthy.)

So now that I’m a little more awake, I’m realizing that there actually was a lot more I could have said in that last entry–but I’ve had several people, including my dad, crack jokes about what a short-and-sweet entry that was, so maybe a separate entry is better.

Something that’s easy to lose sight of is that life doesn’t grind to a halt while you’re away. Stuff happens, people go places and do things and grow and change…it’s an inevitability of leaving a place for an extended period of time.

As we were leaving the airport, my parents let me know that our across-the-street neighbor, JoAnn Brandt, passed away in April. I’d been wondering how she was doing, since my parents let me know earlier this year that she’d been diagnosed with cancer. She didn’t go to the doctor regularly, so I guess by the time she found out, it was too late to treat it. This came as a nasty shock…she was a strong-willed, fiery Southern woman in her 70s, but still extremely active, very self-reliant, able to handle electrical and automotive issues on her own, intelligent and quick-witted, and very warm and caring. She was really involved with the seniors community, teaching classes to widowed women on how to take care of themselves and handle basic maintenance/errands that they’d depended on their husbands for previously, and even participating in a dance troupe that went to area retirement communities. I remember that one day when I’d gone by her house to ask her something, she invited me in and asked me to help her finish zipping up the back of this adorable black dress she was sporting for an evening out with the ladies. She always supported me, and she watched me grow up, since we moved into that house when I was in elementary school, and I’ve now graduated from university and my family’s still there. I always enjoyed going to her house and getting pulled into an inevitable hour-long chat–it was a thrill getting to know her and having her let me into her life. So to hear my parents talk about seeing her slowly deteriorate as time went on, and to come home and find that her lawn and flowers wasn’t in their usual immaculate state and that the house had been sold…it was difficult to absorb. The news of the cancer had given me time to prep for this inevitability–but it still was jarring to hear it.

The one thing I definitely didn’t expect when I went to Japan was people passing away in my absence. Then again, who really does expect that, and is it ever easy to deal with? Miss JoAnn (as I called her throughout the years) passed away in April. I also still think often of my good friend Adam, who passed away at the beginning of March–though I’ve come to terms with it, his death is still a huge shock, mainly because he was so young, only several weeks younger than I am. And my mother’s uncle, the father of the two second-cousins whose weddings I attended in December, passed away suddenly late last year. I wasn’t very close to him, but I was really looking forward to seeing him again after all this time–I have really fond memories of him from when we last saw each other in 2000-01, when my family was in India.

So…yeah. That’s one thing that’s never easy to deal with, no matter where you are, but I think being back home and around familiar people does make this news easier to handle.

Another sad inevitability is that your relationships with your close friends will also change. I’ve experienced a bit of a switch-up in the best-friend department–my best friend in high school and college no longer is anymore. It was a long transition that I think began months before I even left for Japan, but the distance and the challenges that this placement posed for regular communication between us finally sealed it. It was completely amicable–I still love and respect her, and we talk regularly, but things have changed and we both know it. I have several friends who I didn’t realize had come to assume the place in my life that she used to until this fell into place. It’s regretful, but it’s all right, and maybe it’s for the best.

On a similar note, I really am curious as to whether or not my friends noticed any change within me when we met up. I know I’ve learned a lot, but I don’t feel that I’ve intrinsically changed, and a year really isn’t that long–everyone seemed to be pretty much the same, but most of them hadn’t moved out of the metro Atlanta area. As much as things have changed at home–I’m wondering how different I’ll be once my two years here are done. I know I view some things differently now, but will I as a person have changed a lot? Will I lose more friends and family members, either through our relationship changing or through death? What else is in store?

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