I really wanted to write about this on my blog sooner, but I needed a lot of time to process my million and one emotions. I’ve actually been starting and stopping this “Life After JET” post since September. I don’t think I’ll ever have it written exactly as I want it, but now that I’ve been back in Boston for over four months, it’s time to share the final chapter of my Awfully Big Adventure in Japan.
After Lesley and I did the sunrise Fuji climb, I flew back to Amami for one last weekend. It was Amami Matsuri (summer festival) and I really didn’t want to miss it. Especially because Ching forced me to but a yukata while we were in Kyoto (Hi Ching!) and I needed a good excuse to wear it before leaving Japan.
I guest blogged about the Amami Matsuri weekend over at Maranda’s Wind Through the Pine Trees blog. Maranda is a new ALT on Amami and she is lovely.
Spending one last weekend on Amami meant I got to see off Carson (our unicorn/fearless block leader/one of my favorite humans) at her airport goodbye Sunday morning, as well as my debate students at the ferry port Sunday night. They were headed off to the mainland for a practice debate tournament in Osaka. They made me a scrapbook of our year together and all the fun things we did in English club. I’m going to love it forever.
I left on Monday morning with a small crew of English teachers, friends, and even one student to see me off. It felt like just yesterday I was at the airport seeing off my predecessor and getting ready to start my journey as an ALT on Amami.
Confession: I cried harder saying goodbye to everyone on Amami than I did when I said goodbye to my parents and boyfriend on the morning I left for Japan (sorry mom.) I always knew I would be coming back home to America, but I won’t ever live on Amami as an ALT again. It was a different kind of goodbye.
My flight back to Boston wasn’t until Tuesday afternoon, so I spent Monday night in Tokyo with my good friend, Kazue.
Back to Boston
So after 47 hours, 4 planes, three connections, and one Delta computer system failure later, I made my great return to Boston around 10 pm on Tuesday, August 9th. Japan felt like a fading dream at this point.
But my boyfriend was waiting for me at baggage claim with a mini Amami sugar candy because he figured I’d already be missing my Japanese home. It reminded me of all the kindness my teachers, friends, students, and people in the community had shown me my last few weeks on Amami. Did I lose it all over again? Yes.
I only had a week to rest and recover until my first day of work in Boston as a college and career advisor for skilled immigrants and refugees. I had started seriously looking online for jobs back in June, and I was offered this job on a WhatsApp call on the Fourth of July around 4 am Japan time!
When people ask me “so how was Japan?” I’ve been saying that it was “magical.” I miss the banyan trees on the islands, free passion fruits from random obachan, the simplicity of life on an island, 500 yen yoga classes, singing karaoke until I lose my voice, my students’ laughter as it rings down the open hallways, and so much more. I even miss the things I used to complain about–like the guy who sold tofu early in the mornings and would whistle right outside my window and wake me up.
The ways I miss Japan now mirrors how I missed New England my first few months away from home though. I longed for the changing leaves, long weekends with my family or friends, and whole wheat bread.
What I realized
1) Gratitude is a beautiful thing. Whenever I’m wishing I stayed another year in Japan, I feel better when I focus on what I did rather than what I wish I had done. I’m just so grateful for the year I had on Amami Oshima. I said yes to everything (except for chicken sashimi) and did things I never imagined I would do (like scuba dive off of a coral island.) I couldn’t have asked for a better JET experience.
Photo cred goes to Yoda-San!
I’m also grateful for my life now. I’m grateful to work in a field I am passionate about. I’m grateful for my family, my boyfriend, and my friends. And I have two small nieces and a nephew who finally know me as their auntie.
My mom sent this quote to me the week I was leaving Japan. It epitomizes exactly how I feel about moving back home, and I’m sure if you have a traveler’s heart, it will resonate with you too. Chances are you’ve read it before:
“You will never be completely at home again, because part of your heart will always be elsewhere. That is the price you pay for the richness of knowing and loving people in more than one place.”