August 6, 2001


Right now I'm feeling: Very, very nostalgic.

Some things I'll miss in Japan are:

Hanami picnics
Crazy students
Crazy teachers and students
Seeing crazy things
Going to cool places
My spacious Japanese apartment
Karaoke with the gang
The other JETs
Japanese culture
Even my ex-girlfriend!

The Airport

Sometimes I honestly don’t know how I get myself into these situations. I am on my way to the airport, walking along a 2 mile concrete bridge, laden with 50 pounds of luggage, flashing a winning smile and a thumb pointed towards the west, towards the airport. Only a few times in the past have I been so frustrated, so ready to break down into the hysteric laughter of desperation, so willing to pay any amount or do anything for a simple act of human kindness, in this case, stopping off to pick someone up who is obviously in need of help.

OK, so this is how it happened.

My last couple days since coming back from Tokyo have been entirely spent cleaning my apartment (with the one exception of going out to dinner and karaoke with some Japanese friends, I considered it a must, I had a big crush on one of the girls). I gave cleaning-up my best and it was not enough. A-kun came back earlier this week and he gave me a couple hours of his time yesterday helping me clean up, but.. well, you know how sometimes you can just do something much faster if no one is helping you? Well, it was like that, so I kindly asked him to go back to his apartment and leave me with my disaster zone. I cleaned through the night as best I could, but come this morning it was just not enough. And there was a couple last-minute things I had to do, like mailing a couple boxes of stuff back and exchanging money at the bank. With a couple hours left until my ride came, it became clear to me that I was in serious trouble.

Enter Miss Kishi, my ride to the airport. About ten people volunteered to take me to the airport, but she was first so I took her up on her offer. She came extra early and to my surprise one of my old students, who I tutored to enter the English Recitation Contest last year, came to see me off, too. They were a little surprised that I had so many last-minute things to do and they helped me out around the joint. Cleaned off a few countertops and swept the floor. When it came time to fly out the door, I dropped my keys in A-kun’s mail slot with instructions to return them to my supervisor and ran. We flew by the post office and the bank, but between those errands it became clear that the car was just not sounding right. We stopped once, and it seemed fine, was running fine, so we went off on our merry way.

Enter the Kansai International Airport. There is not a lot of room in the more industrialized places in Japan for an airport. The city-planners’ solution was to build a small island in the middle of the sea, build the airport on top of the island, and then bridge the gap with a huge slab of freeway. Sounds crazy but it’s been working for them for the past 10 years or so. It was in the middle of this large bridge that Miss Kishi’s car decided to completely give out which brought me to my sorry state of affairs of trying to walk across the bridge with my bags on my back and my thumb out trying to hitchhike to the airport. My friends were waiting at the airport for me and if I had any of their numbers in my backpack, I would gladly have used Kishi’s phone to summon them to my aid. Alas, I was screwed. Royally. Kishi called the airport and told them what happened and they said they would wait a few minutes past time for me, and that was it. I was on my own.After about a half an hour more I was able to get a ride from a businessman on his way to the airport.

The question of the day became why is it that anyone who stops for a hitchhiker must be clinically insane? This guy was nuts. Babbling on and on in Japanese and a smattering of English, he felt he needed to tell me his life story, embellishing on what an evil whore his ex-wife was, all in the 15 minutes it took to get to the airport. He punctuated his diatribe by shouting and slapping the dashboard with his palm. I prayed that his car would break down so I could hitchhike a ride from someone else. But we got there and he nabbed me a cart to help me with my luggage and ran off to catch his flight, wishing me good luck. I got to the airport counter with a half hour before departure time, told them the situation and gave them my passport.

After looking at my passport, they insisted that there was a problem with my visa extension, but there wasn’t. They held me there for another 15 minutes, then told me that the plane had just taken off. Prior to its scheduled departure time. I was livid. They had told us that the plane would wait, and even after I made it in time, it departed anyway, without me, even though they never do that. They were semi-apologetic and offered me a flight that left in a couple hours that went through Seattle. I took it.

My friends were all waiting at the checkpoint and we got to say goodbyes, though unfortunately there wasn't any time for lengthy goodbyes and I was really, really frazzled at that point. I felt bad that they had all come so early and waited so long.. there were about 15 of them all together. But it was a terrific sight to see them there, the last thing I see before I left Japan. I can't even say how much I am going to miss this little island country or how strong an impact this experience has had on me. I am not sure if I'll ever come back here. There are so many places I want to go. But I know that Japan will always be inside me, it'll always be there. It will always be a second home to me.

As for my journal, I'm not sure if I'll continue it. I'm home in the US writing this, and I keep thinking that so much of what my journal is, is Japan. I'm not sure if I can keep a journal without constantly comparing my life to the life I had in Japan. But we'll see. Thanks for reading, everyone! I've loved my time here.. now it's time to move on and see what else life has in store for me!

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