Here I am. Back at the Kansai airport hotel. Slightly less than three years ago today I was marveling at the Teachings of Buddha in place of the bible. I had figured out the kanji for "day." I was beginning this blog.
Where am I? Have I traveled anywhere since then?
After my housing check-out (the culmination of lots of organizing, careful garbage planning, helpful friends, strategic packing, and lots and lots and lots of cleaning) the women from the office asked what I would do next. I said I was taking a bus to Nishinomiya to get my cello before busing to the airport. They looked at my two large suitcases and smaller one and backpack and bow case and offered to give me a ride. But they had another housing check-out to do and it would be about an hour-and-a-half before we could go. Fine by me. So I got some lunch and ate off my incredibly clean floor while I stared at the empty rooms. And then I did one of my favorite things to do: lie on my tatami floor and stare out the window.
I remembered the first time I did this three years ago, while I waited for the same people to come help me with my internet connection. Then as now, I was taken with the apartment, and with the tatami room in particular. Looking at the thick summer sky I felt incredible gratitude to begin this next adventure. Gratitude for the teachers that had helped me deserve this, gratitude for the organization that made it possible.
And today it was the same. Only this gratitude was for Japan. For all the people that I've met here, for all the kindness that has been shown to me, for the opportunity to have had this incredible experience.
The women that drove me back to Nishinomiya were actually so nice that they allowed me to keep my luggage in the car while I stopped in the mall to make one last purchase, and then joined them at HPAC to pick up my cello. I stuck my head in the office to say goodbye before we went back to the car and everyone got up from their desks, gave me a hug and then walked to the entrance of the lounge where they did a familiar wave-until-out-of-sight sendoff. The two women drove me to the bus stop and pulled all my luggage out of the car for me while I bought my ticket. And then they parked the car and hugged me and waved goodbye as I boarded.
If I were blind to any other indiction, it would seem that I have a family here. But when will I see them again? Can I make an assumption about connection and commitment like I can do with my own biological family? What makes a family a family? What makes something familiar? How can we learn to trust? Does it matter that I may never see my Japanese friends again? Does it matter that we have completed our exchanges of giving and receiving?
This has been a forgivingly slow transition home. It has been a long process of sifting through the apartment to return it to the beginning. There have been several "last" concerts (last subscription, last opera, last last), and last rehearsals. Several final social gatherings, final classes, and farewells. Last night there was a going away party and then another going away party. There were many times to say goodbye. Many times to reflect on the swift end as it has been coming.
And today I merely left Akuradanchi and Takarazuka, not yet Japan. I did Tae Kwon Do at the river one last time with a brave soul who tried for the first time with a 6:30am workout after a late night of partying. It was a pleasure to share the morning air with her. And a last farewell to the apartment, and to HPAC (again) and to the Nishinomiya Gardens shopping mall, and the bus ride over the symbolic bridges to the airport. And yet I still have one last night in Japan. Still 14 hours of being in this country, surrounded by this culture which seems more and more familiar to me. More and more like family.
It's taken a long time to get here, but did I ever arrive? And now it's time to go back. Now is the time. Tomorrow morning will be the last last.