Thursday, June 1, 2006

Moving On

I leave for the airport in two hours, and would you believe I'm still dealing with crap from my $#@&*! company? I admit it's making it easier to walk away.

So many things have happened in the past two weeks that I've been tempted to write about, but most are too difficult to explain. The meaning is personal and probably not easily understood by someone not standing in my Birkenstocks. I've been scribbling notes down so I remember the most touching times. Here are two memories I'll take with me:

Two weeks ago I called my closest friends, the Oyama-sans, from work and asked if we could talk. (Actually I said something like, "Us, now, let's go," but, you see, they understand me.) They were busy but came over to my house later that night, arriving at 10:00 and sitting in their car waiting for me to return home, which I did at 11:00. Nob-san sat on one side of me and Toshi-san sat on the other while I tried to explain my news. "My job is finished." They looked at the floor and made noises (that I love) that I've come to recognize as uniquely Japanese. It was not much of a reaction so I said, "I quit my job." They mimicked my words saying, "Cu - it, cu - it." We got out the electronic dictionary and looked up the Japanese word for quit. Aaaahhhhhh. They nodded their heads showing understanding and then sat quietly. I expected a bigger reaction, but that's ok, I thought. We sat around for a few minutes and then Toshi-san said, "New job?" No, not yet. Still, we just sat around and looked at each other. I was surprised that the mood was so calm, but I told myself that being close to the military community maybe they're used to seeing Americans come and go. Then Toshi-san said, "Stay in Japan?" and I realized that we weren't on the same page. So I waited a few minutes and then said, "No, return to America" and then it was horrible. Lots of crying and a lot of fast Japanese that I couldn't understand. After fumbling a while with the electronic dictionary she said to me, "You won't see my children grow up." I know. It's the hardest part about leaving Japan. We had the most tender time together that evening, and they told me again that I am Japanese and part of their Japanese family.

Another special thing happened earlier this week as I was going through the final inspection at my house before leaving my neighborhood for the last time. A woman (800, maybe 900 years old) ran out of her house and over to where I was standing. She grabbed my hand and led me back into her home. We went on a little tour of her house, which contains more Japanese porcelain than I now have, which is really saying something, and all kinds of Japanese antiques and wood workings. It was amazing. She asked me several times what I wanted from her house, but I pretended to not understand, as I couldn't imagine taking anything from her. I had never met her before! Finally I thanked her and told her that I had to go, so I bowed deeply and then went back to the agent and interpreter who were performing my house inspection. We were finishing up the process when I heard the old woman again, she was running up the street to where we stood, and she was holding 12 gorgeous, handmade procelain sake cups. She wrapped them up in newspaper, and started talking to my interpreter. My interpreter said that she wanted me to have the cups, that they are not expensive (and then he clarified - she's just saying that so you will take them, ok?), and that she wants me to drink sake in America and think of Waki-cho (my neighborhood) every time. Then my interpreter paused, and I could tell he was struggling with how to express her last words. He said, "She wants you to be happy and she says the neighborhood is worried about you because you need to find a good man." Then he said, "I'm worried about that, too." Where else but in Japan can you have an entire community, most of whom you don't even know, worry about your marital status?

So no more rock star life for me. No one in America will give me a second glance because of my height (5' 11 1/2") or hair (dark blonde) or eyes (green). A while ago I posted about knowing that I had to leave Japan because of my lack of language skills. That was genuine and it makes the process easier (albeit microscopically) because I know it's true that I could never find the connection that I need to be happy long-term in a place where I can't speak the language. I've thought about that during the past few weeks and it has helped me know that my decision is the right one for me, for now.

Until next time, sayonara!

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