April 21, 2009 in Ex-Patriate Games
On my last day in Japan:
It is glorious weather – cool, bright and breezy, smelling of new green life.
I am hungover from the previous night’s hot sake bomb marathon
It is a Good Japanese Day; I can conduct my final bank transfer with ease and ask appropriate questions at the Post Office
Bleary-eyed from said hangover, I blink through yet another passport photo for yet another official document
I have sushi for lunch, paired with a mug of hot green tea.
I finally buy a lipstick I’ve been eyeing for 2 years.
I’m thinking – how many gifts for my relatives can I fit in my already overstuffed suitcase before the airline crew refuses to let me on board?
I watch my final Japanese sunset from deep within the warm, watery embrace of an outdoor onsen at the infamous Spa World in Osaka. Trees and rocks shelter my soak; fat naked babies plump like Botticelli angels splash their mothers.
After learning that buttmunch Bob and buttmunch Sean didn’t wait for me to get back from Spa World before having dinner at my beloved CoCo curry, I stomp to the nearest location and have a plate of my own. I splash out and get the combination I’ve always wanted to try – ebi nikomi, spinach plus vegetables. 普通.
I hit the kyuu-kyuuen shop.
I take a walk with Sean down Dotombori and wave at the giant crab.
We head back to Bob’s under a slight mist.
The three of us watch episodes of South Park and The Office. We drink wine and beer. Bob and Sean argue over details. Bob steams us some sweet potatoes and we munch on them before Sean declares he is heading down to the Supa Tamade to pick up some crisps.
I am a planner – always have been. Little gives me more pleasure than creating a list and crossing the items off. However, my plans rarely go off without a hitch. Life forces me to compromise. I can’t have the 3-month vacation because of family obligations so I have to have the 3-week vacation. I can’t have the career I want in a country where I don’t yet speak the language. I can’t fulfill my dream of bringing mugen edamame to all of America’s citizens because my suitcase isn’t big enough. That’s life.
But my last day in Japan? Perfect. Exactly what I wanted – a mix of new experiences and the comforting hug of things I’ve loved since I arrived in 2007. The day began with the knowledge that my Japanese has advanced to the point where I can perform errands on my own and ended the way my life here began – with Bob and Sean.
The second day of my life in Japan, I decided to buy a new coat. My black trench, bought on Canal Street in 2003, was tattered to shreds, and since I still believed that I would have to wear suits every day at my new job, I was convinced that a new, more professional coat was necessary. I was also convinced that since I was now living in Japan, smaller-sized clothing would be far more readily available. The dawning of my Japanese clothing trauma was yet to come, though – as the winter sun beamed through my window, I wrapped myself in my trench and bounded down the stairs to find a shopping center. As the heels of my boots thundered throughout the cardboard apartment mansion, a voice floated upwards from the first floor. It was Bob, chatting with a delivery man.
I met Bob at the group interview in Toronto. He immediately impressed me with his teaching demonstration, drawing on his background as a musician to invent an on-the-spot song involving the target language of “Do you like [cookies]?” and a Cookie Monster puppet. He disappeared like all of the other applicants after the interview, and I hadn’t expected to see him again. And here he was – not just in my training group but in my building as well.
We stopped to chat. As we did, Bob’s next door neighbor peeked his head out of his apartment. It was Sean, just a couple of days fresh out of Cork, Ireland. He and Bob had become friends since moving in next to each other and their newfound chemistry was catching; I soon found myself chatting away more rapidly than I had expected to upon moving halfway across the world. To my surprise, we soon had made dinner plans. We met downstairs after I’d returned from the first of many, many failed shopping expeditions and headed to Dotombori – the Times Square of Osaka. It was my first time at an izakaya and I let them order, since they seemed to speak Japanese; fluently, it seemed. We shared gyoza, omuraisu, yakitori and edamame. Sean told us about his field of Mathematics. Bob and I compared stories of New York City. They taught me to order draft beer. We ordered. And ordered. By the time we arrived back at Sean’s, we were already pretty sauced.
Sean brought out the Jameson.
Sean brought out the shochu.
“Drink, drink up ye feckers!” he hollered. It was foolish, so sublimely foolish of me to get drunk with two men I had just met. If working at an Irish pub in New York City taught me anything, it was “Don’t get drunk with male strangers if you are a woman.” For the 4 years since ending my job there, I had kept my word to myself. But somehow, Bob and Sean instantly felt like old friends.
I woke up in my apartment with a blinding hangover, wearing Sean’s tie around my neck. And so our adventures began.
I still can’t explain it. Maybe we were all lonely and lost at the exact same time and so it was inevitable that we would form a bond. But I met many lost and lonely people in Japan; I never clicked with anyone as immediately as with those two. If at all. How to explain friendship? Why does the sakura bloom? Why is black the preferred color for sararimen? Things happen. Bonds happen.
To end, you must go back to the start – nothing is more satisfying. But as the time nears to board my plane, I can’t decide which I feel more strongly – satisfaction or anxiety.
Satisfaction today, anxiety tomorrow.
I have to go. It’s time to go. I’m leaving. And all I’ll say now, before my Cheshire Cat satisfaction melts into Japan sickness and despair, is that for a wild across-the-world gamble, it’s been an absolutely fantastic 2 years.
- リーブ から, 年2009月4日21