Tuesday, January 08, 2008

leaving is never free

i'm reinstalled in japan.
however, for the next month i will be immersed in the roiling pot of What Should I Do In The Immediate Future? in other words, should i renew my contract for another year in japan or leave when my current contract ends (July)? everyone in JET is currently steeping on the same subject. you experience highs and lows with new significance: your trash gets rejected because you didn't sort it right and you write off the whole country, "I can't deal with this!" then your neighbor gives you a bag of her fresh garden tomatoes and you have a great night of karaoke with friends and you wonder how you could ever leave.
i won't enumerate all the things i have to sort out for my particular road, but i will tell you that schools' staffs can change significantly from year to year. every april teachers are shipped off to new schools, usually after they've been in their current position for three years. no one knows until then if they will stay or go. then there's a quick exodus and influx, and school begins anew.
as i'm sure you know, the people around you can make or break a job. my very favorite japanese teacher and friend could be ripped from my side in three short months, or she could be mercifully left in my life. i'm like a child waiting to hear if i've been orphaned. i know for certain my friend harue will move and get married at that time. a few months after that, most of my non-japanese friends will also disappear into the Rest of Their Lives. i've been trying to imagine just how lonely i'd be if the worst happened, if i was left almost completely bereft of these friends; the idea haunts me. i really need these people, especially so far from home. i know new people would come and take some of the sting out of the transition, but dear friends are always irreplaceable.

the night before i left to return to japan, mom and i watched neil gaiman's Stardust. for some reason, losing my imagination in that fairytale world for a few hours briefly reminded me of how terrifying it was to begin this adventure. japan once again felt very far away, and i felt very small. but i dutifully got on all those planes, and somewhere in the middle of the three-day travel twilight zone, i felt my courage returning.

regardless of the hell you went through to get there (the bermuda triangle of flights between denver and san francisco, broken baggage carousels, mysteriously absent skywalk operators who leave you stranded inside a tin can with sweaty travelers slavering to get out, four-hour delays due to freak san francisco typhoons, et cetera), arriving in japan is always amazing. even though you feel as though someone stored your body inside a cardboard box for twelve hours, you finally arrive at a spotless, efficient, kind, orderly, safe, colorful, magical island of fun. they turn your suitcases on the baggage carousel with white-gloved hands so you can easily find them, they usher you through the now-required photo and fingerprinting line quickly and with none of the humiliation you would no doubt experience if trying to enter the US, and you are out the door and on the ferry in thirty minutes flat.

as i walked to school today, my first day of class this semester, the refreshing, chilly breeze lifted the hair off my forehead and i looked up to the sourrounding mountains as i often do, and all i felt was grateful. i never would have believed i'd be lucky enough to get an adventure like this...in the midst of a land so unfamiliar, another home.

but leaving is never free, and i miss this mightily.