Saturday, December 22, 2012

One Year

As of December 21, I have been back in the United States for one year. One year–this is something that seems impossible. For the longest time my return home has seemed such a recent affair. “A few months” has seemed the best descriptor. How could so much time have passed? 

I meant to write about my return last year, but I was jet lagged. Then, I was busy. There was always something that seemed to come up. I found myself not recording this monumental event in my life, and regretting it. So, here is how my return went.

Month one: 
After a hectic exit,  a 15 hour flight and a 15 hour wait at Chicago O’Hare airport, I am off to a hotel. My flight was cancelled twice. One more night away from home. 

I arrive at the hotel a half hour before my parents are due to pick me up in Detroit. I have no cell phone, no US currency, and the hotel is charging for wifi–in other words, I have no way to call home, since I cannot pay for an internet connection. I explain my situation and get the fee waived. (Thank you, Crowne Plaza!) Then, a beautiful night’s sleep before flying home the next day.

On December 22, 2011 I finally reach home. Driving through the hometown I have not seen in 2 and a half years is surreal. Things I did not expect to change have, others have not. Most things are exactly the same. After a long absence, it is almost more jarring to find things as you left them than not. Things went on exactly the same without you. It is humbling. 

Month three: Adjusting is hard. I am still accidentally speaking Japanese to people on occasion. It probably sounds put on, but it just happens sometimes. I still bow occasionally, too. There is just something that feels right about bowing. It's embarrassing, but I did live in Japan for a long time. This is probably more normal than I realize–at least, I hope so. 

Month six: I still cannot get over 20 ounce bottles of pop. The bottles in Japan are 500 milliliters (about 16 ounces). No judgement; but my own transformation is shocking. I used to be a Diet Coke fiend–now, I do a double-take when I see a regular, US-sized cola. 

Month nine: Where did the summer go? It still feels like I just returned.  Yet, at the same time, my life there feels like a distant dream or some parallel life lived.  Pictures of Japan have this pull on me. Sometimes I ache to return. 

Now: I knew this day was  coming up for some time, but it did not feel real. My  life in Japan was certainly not perfect, but I had some priceless memories. A piece of my heart will always be there. 

I miss Japan's entrancing backdrop. I miss the mountains. I wish I could ride my bike along the Kamo River in Kyoto again, or go soak in an onsen. I so look forward to going to Japan again. 

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