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.

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