back from Oregon

Beaverton sky
Beaverton sky

It is hard to believe that I am already back to this life… the trip to Oregon was harder than I anticipated and it probably will take a few weeks for it all to sink in. I spent most of my time with my 18-year-old niece and enjoyed getting the opportunity to know her better. I wish that it hadn’t been the death of her father that brought us together, but hopefully a new alliance has formed.

Shoga with tennis ball in mouth

I did have a chance to connect with a few friends, mostly arranged last minute or by chance. Many asked what I miss while living in Japan. I’ve been thinking about that a lot and what it means to miss someone or something. My initial response is family and friends and our dog, Shoga, and meaningful work, but I also miss good mexican food, decent car radio stations, libraries with books in English, the view of Mt Hood from Beaverton, organic produce, good beer, trash and recycling all on the same day…. I even miss Uwajimaya! Even if all these things were available here, I’d still be missing home. Adjusting to a new life in a different culture is  disorienting and I  hate being illiterate and feeling partially informed. It is a bit lonely to be one of a few (less than 50) foreigners in a city of 80,000 and knowing that I can’t really “fit in”. I am someone feels most comfortable when I can be an observer, but I am always the observed here.

What did I miss from here while I was in the States? Mostly I missed being in our new house and hanging with Jiro, but I also missed fresh fish and seeing the stars at night. I missed being with young kids every day and riding my bike. I also missed listening to podcasts while driving and the juxtaposition of old and new, western and asian, concrete and nature, crass and cultured. I missed riding on trains and eating satsuma straight off the tree. I had to forget about kanji study for two weeks, but picked it up again this week.

I know I am fortunate to have this opportunity to live in two worlds, but it isn’t always easy. I am not sure what lies ahead, but I know I’ve got to make each day matter now. I’ve been here eight months now and expect that the next eight will bring more changes. Yesterday was Nina’s 22nd birthday and also setsubun no hi. This day marks the changing season and the custom is to throw soybeans at people dressed in oni (demon) costumes to drive away bad spirits for the new year. This video is taken at a senior center.. it seems strange because I always associate this custom with children.

They served roasted soybeans for lunch at the school I taught at.

4 thoughts on “back from Oregon

  1. Susan February 5, 2009 / 1:58 pm

    Kate–I have a pretty good idea of what I miss–it’s YOU! I do feel so grateful to be able to keep up a little bit with what’s going on in your life through your blog–it’s a wonderful gift to all of us who read it. Thank you.

  2. Hannah Whitehead February 8, 2009 / 6:18 am

    Dear Kate,
    I loved having a snatched half hour with you to catch up in person and to give you a hug. I hope that your next visit will be for joyful reasons.
    Thank you for this blog. The combination of pictures and writing is especially compelling and I appreciate your honesty – especially about the hard life lessons.
    We miss you!

  3. Sarah Williams February 13, 2009 / 12:55 am

    Hello, Kate,

    This is Sarah, your Gifu tomodachi. Bonnie told me about your blog today and I eagerly asked to read it. I am so sorry about your brother. My thoughts are with you. I have lived between two worlds, too, and remember how hard it can be. I have just returned from a trip to Peru and haven’t felt this kind of culture shock for decades. It is good to read your words.

    Mata, ne?

    Sarah Williams

    • katezawa February 16, 2009 / 10:11 am

      Any chance that you will be travelling to japan? I went to Gifu last summer, it really has become a nice, comfortable city with great restaurants. I know what you mean about culture shock…when I was younger it always felt it all just wears me out.

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