Our wild and wacky year in Japan is almost over -- and not a moment too soon.
The past few months have been very difficult for both of us, as numerous blog posts have indicated. A few weeks ago when my daughter tearfully told me she wanted to go back to American by herself even if I didn't come with her, I knew it was time to go. The odd thing is that at the beginning of this month, I was planning to sign a contract for another year. But my daughter surprised me with the depth of her homesickness.
Around the same time, the managers at work told me that the higher ups thought it was inappropriate for my daughter to hang around at the school when I was working. That was a shock and disappointment. After all, one of the major attractions of this job -- and the only reason I ever consented to working five nights a week -- was the fact that my daughter could come to the school with me. She wasn't just a kid getting in everyone's way, but she had endeared herself to my adult students, was a playmate for the grade school kids and actually assisted me with the pre-schoolers. I wasn't sure if I even wanted to try to convince them she was an asset.
Then about a week later I became physically ill from all the stress. When you put it all together, it was a clear indication to me that our time here was over -- for now.
So now begins, for the second time in my life, the "last times":
- the last time we will see the cherry blossoms in spring (How prophetic that cherry blossom/Easter post with Wayne's translation of "life is fleeting")
- the last time I will dress Bonnie in her navy blue uniform, button up the huge round buttons, help her with the way-too-heavy backpack and say goodbye as she joins the kids next-door to meet the neighborhood "han" as they walk to school
- the last time we will go to the 24-hour grocery store next to our apartment (Hallows) and 10 p.m. and get milk for the next morning
- the last time I will go to the window during our break and watch the taxi drivers polish their cars or sit around smoking, talking and drinking coffee out of vending machine cans (see picture)
- the last time I will see some of the students who have captured my heart this year
- the last time I will muddle through some important communication concerning my daughter's education, broken heart, physical condition, etc in Japanese
- the last time I will drive the adorable mini car belonging to my company
- the last time I will go to Karaoke with Wayne and my students, listening to them sing in English and entertaining them with my Japanese repertoire
- the last time I will take my shoes off at the genkan
- the last time I will smell tatami mats when I come home at night
- the last time Bonnie and I will cut through the park near our house on our way home from the train station and I'll watch her run ahead so she can slide down the slide before I catch up to her
- the last time I will take a Shinkansen to Kobe and catch sight of my best friend, Kaori, waiting for us on the other side of the ticket gate (this one makes me cry as I write it)
- the last time I will watch a kid seriously take out an eraser and carefully fix the mistakes on his homework after I have corrected it
- the last time I'll see my daughter's artwork on the whiteboard at school. (We were singing a song about the letters "N-S-X", don't you know?)
- the last time I will be able to make a pun in Japanese and see if my students "get" it
My daughter is so happy to be going home, I'm afraid she will miss all these chances for a last time. Poor dear, she has no idea what she is going to miss in a few months. But I do. It occurs to me that I never expected to come back to Japan when I left it forever in 2001. So I can't take this "sayonara" too seriously.
In Japanese "sayonara" is something you say when you're going to be gone for a long time. "Jya, mata, ne?" is what you say when you expect to see the person again soon. Life is too strange and unpredictable for me to believe this is really "sayonara." So, as I am drinking in all these "last times," there is a small part of me that is thinking, "Jya, mata, ne?"