I’ve been rockin’ and rollin’ the past month. Quick recap-the beginning of November I SAW MONKEYS! Yuko journeyed with me to Arashiyama to admire a bamboo forest and the beauty of fall. I’ve been talking about seeing a monkey in the wild since I arrived in Japan…so when we saw signs saying watch for monkeys-I was like a kid on Christmas morning. This is one of my favorite adventures so far.
We had sports day which consisted of all junior highs in Nishinomiya. It took place at Koshien Statium, where the professional baseball team, The Hanshin Tigers, play. Once again-we have nothing comparable to this in America. We got there by train. Students sit by grade level and perform by grade level. Each grade level does an athletic dance and there are relay races followed by awards for the fastest team in the city. I’m not going to say anything more about this because it is more incredible than my words can describe.
I had a presentation for Nishinomiya International Association.
I talked about the similarities and differences between Spokane and Nishinomiya. HOLY GOODNESS, there are an infinite amount. After I showed pictures and spent too much time talking, adults were able to ask questions. A few questions I got were: How do you deal with bullying in America? Do you own a gun? What surprised you most in Japan? After the presentation, I spent a day out with friends.
I have officially been redbull/energy drink free for three weeks and nicotine free for over a year! These both are huge accomplishments for me. I hear that people feel differently when they give their body what it needs. I don’t know what that means (because my body always feels the same) -but I’m trying to figure it out. I’m trying to nourish my body and be more intentional about what I put into my body. People say that after massages, adjustments, yoga, exercise, eating healthy they “feel” different. What exactly does that mean? My entire life I have felt the same after each of these activities. I have found acupuncture and massage to be the most relaxing (during) but my body itself, generally always feels the same. I will say, I have started taking some supplements and new vitamins and I am noticing that my dreams are more vivid and my memory is better. Something must be doing my brain some good.
In the beginning of November Sachiko helped me figure out my life. My acne has been the worst it’s ever been. Sachiko noticed how bad it was and asked, “are you ok, what’s wrong?” (We were driving to the post office to pick up a package [at the time I didn’t know it would be the best package I’ve ever received in my life] from my dad.) I told her, “I’m great-must be the food I’m eating.” She responded with, “Your stomach is bulging, your face is bad, I think you are stressed.” My first response was to laugh. Not because of her pure honesty about my bulging stomach and mass amount of zits…
but what could I possibly be stressed about?
I’ve had that said to me so many times you would think it is stamped on my forehead. I started to agree with the statement I’ve heard too many times “you have nothing to be stressed about, you are 28 years old, single and have no children.” After I spoke those words Sachiko said, “You miss home. Your family and the comforts of home. I know it doesn’t feel like it but I think that you’re holding a lot of stress.” Of course, I miss home but I’ve been so busy living that…I kind of avoid thinking about home. People ask if I’m home sick and NO comes out of my mouth quicker than I can formulate a better response. I don’t know what homesick is. Kind of like how I don’t understand what jet lag is.
[Side note* Stress is real. Everybody has it. I am 28, single, have a career and no obligations because of the choices I have made. People say that to me like it’s a blessing or I’m abnormally lucky to be ME. Stop yourself right there. I got myself to where I am. I’m 28 (because the birthdays keep on coming) and single because I refuse to settle. I don’t have children because I haven’t met somebody I want to have a family with, yet. Would I like children? YES. You may have made different life decisions than me, some by mistake and some on purpose. No matter who you are, where you’re at and what you want-that is up to you. It feels like people are trying to make me feel like my stress, anxiety and worries are inadequate [compared to what they could be]. Maybe you had a plan for your life and it is/isn’t turning out the way you imagined. I’ve never had a plan. My future changes with each day. My stresses are changing as I realized I can be in the eye of the storm where I am calm and everything around me is flying off the handles, out of control. But I have stress. We all do. But there is a difference between luck and hard work. I’m not where I am at by luck. I appreciate the life I live and the people in it. Don’t ever ask somebody what they have, to be stressed about if you’re only trying to make them feel like their issues are laughable compared to yours. I might be upset about almost missing a flight. It might be a huge deal for me. But maybe missing that flight meant missing out on time with people who I love. I could be late to the airport because I haven’t slept and I was at the hospital all night with somebody that I care about. Yes, it is incredible that I have the opportunity to catch a flight…because I’ve met people who haven’t had the chance to catch a bus yet. This doesn’t make it any less of a big deal for me. Comparing me to others doesn’t make my knees stop shaking, or my heart stop pounding.
Seeing a rainbow is a reason for me to dance and celebrate. I LOVE RAINBOWS. You may not see the magic in that rainbow but I do, SO LET ME DANCE.
People generally don’t try to downplay my happies or one up my happies…but when it comes to life challenges, all too often people try to downplay or one up my hurts. Nothing about two people is comparable. That is why you shouldn’t compare yourselves to others. Our problems, bodies, happies, sads, childhoods-you name it…ARE NOT THE SAME but the feelings we have are similar. Isn’t that the magic in life? Meeting people from different walks of life and connecting with people who have been through different situations but felt those same feelings?! Be gentle with people. We all hurt the same.)
No one can take away your pain so never let anyone take away your happiness
Ok back to the story-I arrived at the post office and I ran inside to grab my package (at 7:45pm, because the post office is open late but banks close at 3!!) and when I got to the car I joyfully opened it.
First, I saw a note from my dad, that only had 14 words but made my eyes well up, one blink and tears would be falling.
Next, I opened pocket number one to find photos that chichi printed. Photos of his trip here, the dogs, my brothers and mama. BLINK- tears ran down my cheeks.
I flipped through the photos and felt that beautiful pain.
Pocket number 2 had keychains since father lost my keys, this made me laugh.
Not to mention these came inside of a MINI ADVENTURE PACK.
I was happysad. At that moment I realized that I miss my people/animals far more than I acknowledge or notice. I’m pretty in tune with my emotions so I’m still not sure how this snuck up on me.
Around this time an English teacher told me that it was going to be a testing week. During exam weeks I do not have classes but I come to work and keep myself busy. I was told it would be a good time to take paid leave if I wanted to…
(Meanwhile…back home Phil [my brother] was visiting from Denver where he works for the airlines. He had just had the conversation about how he shouldn’t have given me flight benefits because I would never use them since I’m living in Japan…) However, without these flight benefits a trip home wouldn’t have even become a thought in my mind. Moments later Phil received a text message.
All I did was send one text to Phil saying, “I’m going to look at coming home next week”. Before I had put any real planning or thought into it, I received a flight confirmation Email. I got butterflies and another tear of happy ran down my cheek because I couldn’t wait to see my people and I didn’t have to debate going or not, my brother already booked me! This would have been days of, “what if? What about? What happens if? How can I?” Thank goodness Phil put me on a flight back to the USA just days before I would depart. [Side note: people say you don’t share your wishes with people. Birthday wishes, 11:11 wishes, shooting star wishes…but I’ve always been a firm believer in the more you share it with the more likely it is to come true. Like this thought of going home…sharing it with my brother is what got me home, he got me home. Thank you Phil, my heart needed that. Had I kept this thought to myself, I wouldn’t have gone anywhere.] I was beyond excited for a journey home to fill my heart up with all that I’ve ever known. So, I used my new mini adventure pack and flight benefits to take a quick trip home, to fill my heart with dog kisses, snuggles, a hug from my mama and a costco trip with chichi. Flights were filling up, so I ended up catching a flight the next day instead of in 3 days.
My first flight was (business class) from Osaka, Japan to San Francisco, California. Yeah, you read that right, business class. Business class is the new first class. Holy smokes. Drinks, slippers, warms peanuts, seats that recline into beds and auto tinting windows! I was a virgin to this kind of service. When I was handed a warm washcloth, I was baffled. I had to watch the people around me and follow their lead. On the way to California I started Avatar, napped for about 7 hours (I barely made it to bed the night before departure) and then woke up in time to finish Avatar and eat breakfast.
From California I went to Denver to spend a night with Phil. That was as adventure in itself, to say the least. My next stop, SPOKANE.
I was home long enough to feel the heat of burning bridges and excitement of building new bridges. The time I had with my friends and family was exactly what my heart needed. I didn’t get to see all the people I would have liked to, but I did get to see most of the ones I needed to. It was we were kids again (although Kate just turned 29!). We had sleepovers at my parents’ house, played video games, stayed up late and practically jumped for joy when mom got home from grocery shopping (waking us up from our couch nap after an unbelievably long night).
I had 2 amazing massages, much-needed acupuncture, (Thank you WELLNESS TREE) highlights and more hugs in that week than I’ve had in 4 months. I got to visit my previous students and the most loving staff. I spent most of Thanksgiving with my neighbor Liz, who I love dearly. She has been in my life since I can remember…maybe since birth. I also spent time with my family (2 out of 3 brothers) and started packing for my commute back home to Japan.
My trip home reminded me how loved I am.
My time at home has already come and gone. It’s hard to believe I’ve been back in Japan almost 48 hours. I started to feel a cold on Thanksgiving and by the next day, I felt like death. Phil and I both had (6AM) flights so we went to the airport together and shared a few laughs before heading our separate ways. The flight back was as glorious as the flight to Spokane, only this time my ears were hurting, my nose was running and my throat was feeling something fierce. I took advantage of the earplugs, hand soap and chairBED. I took $15 (airport) Sudafed every 4 hours even though it didn’t seem to help. I kept taking it just to keep myself from crying like a baby. I had 2 carry-ons and I picked up my 2 checked bags when I arrived in Japan. These bags were the largest suitcases allowed on aircraft and each weighed 70+ pounds. I was walking through the airport sweating from a fever or the intense workout I was achieving, happy to be back.
In the airport, I was back to being a foreigner, hearing Japanese and smiling. I remembered how nervous I was the first time I came to Japan, just walking through the airport was terrifying, then. This time, I was able to ask for help so that I could get out of the airport as quickly and smoothly as possible. I would be taking the airport limousine back to the closest train station and from there catch a taxi. I couldn’t have done that when I moved in here. GROWTH!
When I got to my mansion (apartment) I carried up each bag one by one. I thought about unpacking them at the bottom of the stairs, outside of apartment doors. I probably should have because carrying 70lbs up 2 flights of stairs couldn’t have been a pleasing sound to neighbors (between my squealing/grunting and the suitcase banging the stairs). I unpacked one suitcase, took Tylenol PM and hit the sheets because in 12 hours I would be riding my bike to work and I needed all the rest I could get.
I saw maybe 1-2 people cycling while I was in the USA. Driving felt strange, exciting and new when I arrived in the US. Coming back, it felt awkward getting on my bicycle. My bike seat didn’t feel the same, it felt hard and uncomfortable. I got kind of use to driving everywhere again. There was snow on the grown when I left Spokane. When I arrived in Nishinomiya the weather felt perfect. I text my friend Yuko and said “It’s so BEAUTIFUL OUT”. She said, “It’s getting cool”. I thought, what in the world-it’s perfect. DUH, it was perfect, I was still sweating profusely. Later that night I realized my apartment was the same temperature as it was outside which was COLD. The day I left I had all my windows open. Now I have all my heaters on.
Seeing the students in Japan made me as happy as visiting my students back in Spokane. It was refreshing to see their faces and here their hello’s. I missed being here. I missed the people, the culture and being a light in somebody else’s country. No matter where I am, I’ll always be missing someone, that is a part of loving. I’m empowered knowing that I’m never missing a “piece of me” because it doesn’t take another human being to complete the person I am.
This may sound strange, especially coming from a white person so take it or leave it. When I arrived back in America, I was overwhelmed by the amount of white people I saw. The diversity in America is the only diversity I had ever known. However, it’s not all that I know now, and it was a strange feeling noticing this.
Being in Japan has made my world so much bigger. I always knew I wanted to travel. I had no good reason for wanting to-I’ve just been drawn to it but too afraid. I’ve been to a few states in the USA. I noticed that people in Nebraska were more kind to strangers than people in Washington. I saw that neighborhoods in Arizona changed block by block rather than area by area. Denver has a faster paced life style. I’m always taking in similarities and differences between places and people. This is why I am supposed to travel. I needed to see that the world is so much more than the few states I’ve experienced. People are so much more than good and/or bad. Language is one way to communicate but communication is more than the words we use.
My world, heart and mind are more wide open than ever and all of these will continue to expand, if I let them.
For everyday, live and let live.