I do believe my love affair with Japan has ended. Next month I will leave Japan for summer in California 11 years to the day after I departed LAX to begin my adventures here. I have been waiting for this trip since, well, since last September if I am honest. It was a long, cold winter and I don't do winter well, so it was easy to blame the frigid temperatures, my chapped, red hands, and the fact that I could see my breath in my own kitchen every morning for the slightly anti-Japan stance that I had been carrying around for a few months. I also sometimes blamed culture shock, knowing the beast to be cyclical in nature, only the cycle never turned. I hoped that having guests come to visit, would shake me out of my blues; excited by the opportunity to see Japan through fresh, new eyes. Instead, I was surprised to find myself without comebacks to their criticisms or counterpoints to their critiques of life in this country. I am afraid I was not a very good hostess. Though I enjoyed the bloom of Spring, it did not hold the glory this year that I used to write home about. I would go to take a picture of flowers and notice only the dingy, grey cement in the background. I would aim my camera at the clouds, only to be foiled by the endless wires. I am frustrated by the schools and their voluminous lists of rules. I am frustrated by the people who don't follow the rules and ride their bikes on the footpath causing what feel like brushes with near death for my children at least on a weekly basis. I am tired of being a foreigner in the place that is supposed to have become my home and I am even more tired of people calling my children, citizens of this nation, foreigners and complimenting them on their Japanese ability. I know I am ready for a break; I can only hope that absence will make the heart grow fonder.
Summer is within reach. It is a fact that keeps me sane when coupled with a copy of my flight itinerary. It has been almost a year since I have been home and though the nearness of the yearly migration helps me through everyday, having been away for so long has me on edge. It is as if I need to come up for air after having been submerged in what is still, yes still, a foreign culture to me. I miss all the usual suspects: my family, Mexican food, the California climate and browsing in bookstores. This time around though, I find myself missing all kinds of less obvious things. Here is a sampling of what I have been pining for: sidewalks, efficiency, trying on clothes, convenience, backyards, "bless you," clothes fresh from the dryer, artichokes, NPR, a garbage disposal, driving, being literate, diversity, swimming pools and hugs. Five weeks and counting.