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.
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.