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The Trip Home

I’ve found that the return home is always a bit of an adventure, though usually a less welcome one than the trip to your destination. As I mentioned in my earlier post, my flights got delayed on the way to Japan and I ended up running through LA with no time to spare dressed like a Wisconsin Yeti.

Well, the flight home was equally stressful, but I was far less patient. It was supposed to be a similar pattern to how I got here: Osaka – Tokyo – San Fran – Chicago – Eau Claire. When I was going to Japan it was all part of the adventure, the whirlwind. Going back all my luggage was heavier and I was already emotional and sleep-deprived. I think I only got six hours worth of a sleep combined the last two days before I left – and five of those were two days before. This was a combination of procrastinating packing, buying last minute souvenirs, and not wanting to miss any of my last moments with Yuuki.

To put into perspective how tired I was (and those who know me well will be able to testify how shocking this is): my camera’s battery had died, as had my iPod’s. I couldn’t take pictures and I didn’t care.

Anyway, we took the train to the airport, and the whole time I was thinking how much I should be feeling. I knew these were my last train rides in a long time, that our time together was now countable in minutes, and yet, I felt nothing of the sort. It felt like just another train ride to me, and I rested my head on his shoulder as all the other (mostly older) people headed towards the airport stared at me out of the corner of their eyes (and some of them not-so-out-of-the-corner-of-their-eyes). We both didn’t say much at all.

Finding the check-in gate didn’t take long, though it did cause a minor panic when we heard a flight to Tokyo had been cancelled. Luckily it turned out to be the flight before mine, so it wasn’t a big deal (but I would later be sad it didn’t – well sort of. I wanted to rip off the band-aid of goodbye. I’m terrible at them). But it was just about this time that emotion sucker-punched me WHAM. Everything was suddenly ‘the last.’ I’ll spare you and save the mushy details for a poem some time, but suffice it to say that I was mush and that this time people had more reason to stare at me than the color of my hair and eyes.

At least once I got through security I wasn’t allowed to be sad, because suddenly I was being forced to remove everything from my carry-on. I had some things wrapped in bags, and I guess they couldn’t see what was inside them…? Either way the officer had to send my bag through thrice (you’re welcome, Conan), and I had to show her the contents of all my bags within the bag. By the time that was done (combined with the lengthy goodbye with Yuuki) I didn’t have much time to get to my gate. I had thought he had left already, but then I noticed him still standing there. The security woman probably doubted my sanity again as she stared at me while I frantically waved at Yuuki before disappearing down an escalator.

I had a five hour layover in Tokyo, so I Skyped with my sister on mute because some people were watching TV nearby. I was carrying a stuffed animal cat my mom had sent me for Christmas, and through showing my sister the cat and various other souvenirs in my bags, I managed to convince yet more people of my lack of sanity.  She’s also been having some struggles, so at least trying to help cheer her up didn’t give me much time to be sad either. We said goodbye when it was getting close to my flight time, and I hobbled off to my gate. Unfortunately, as I sat there trying to figure out why my gate said it was going to Beijing, I realized that I had misread the ticket and had gone to my seat number, not my gate number. Another jog across an airport later and finally finding my flight on a monitor, I got that jolly sinking feeling when I read that one word no one wants to read in an airport – cancelled.

But wait – there’s more! Three hours of line-standing more. Seriously, it was ridiculous. In a line only slightly bigger than Yuuki’s apartment, which if you know Japan at all you’ll know was pretty small, we moved mayyybe a foot every fifteen minutes. Unsurprisingly, people got upset. If the line had been long and they had been properly staffed, I would have been annoyed but understood. But they had only three people working. Two for priority seats. One person for us low-class economy fliers. One. Person. To reroute. Every single economy passenger’s flight. Painful is one way to describe it, ridiculous is another. This is about when I started getting a little irritated, since at least if I had been in Osaka still I could have had a few more hours with Yuuki. I was also silly and wearing boots with heels (they took up the most room in my suitcase and I had to have Yuuki mail some things as it was), so I was in a bit of pain too.

I read a magazine I had bought for a friend to pass the time – and while I was really slow, I was happy to find that if I could shake off the grogginess sloshing around in my head, I could actually understand around 90% of it. I also hadn’t really eaten, because I had mostly paper bills left and if I bought anything it would have meant I couldn’t exchange the change later. I figured a five hour layover wouldn’t be so bad with nothing but a couple mango strips to eat. By the time I realized that wait was going to be closer to ten hours or more, I couldn’t lose my spot in line. I did have a nice short chat with an older couple though, that must have been vacationing in Manila, and I later saw them again in Chicago where they helped me get a tray for my luggage. Nice people make the world nicer (make sure to properly cite me if you use that quote in a text about geniuses).

I felt bad for the poor worker too, as I watched nearly every passenger remind him of how horribly long they’ve been waiting. I wanted to tell them, ‘he knows guys, he’s probably just as upset at United as you are.’ It was taking so long though – most people had to stand up there ten to twenty minutes, and came back complaining that they had to go to Nevada or Arkansas before they could go to San Fran. I lucked out and my new flight skipped San Fran and went straight to Chicago, and still got there in time for my flight to Eau Claire. They didn’t get another person to the desk to help until about four people in front of me – at least three and a half hours after it had all started.

People started to formulate theories as to why it was taking so long. One guy said it was because they didn’t want us to ever leave, so they could harvest our organs and sell them on the black market. Wonderful image. When no one laughed he said it again, as if no one had heard it rather than everyone politely pretending not to have heard it. When it was finally my turn (Halleluiah) I noticed on a paper next to the guy that our flight was apparently cancelled do to a ‘lack of equipment,’ another phrase no one wants to hear in regards to an airplane.

Between that, very little sleep, and the prospect of selling organs, I wasn’t too hyped up for the flight, but it actually wasn’t that bad. I finally, for the first time ever, got an aisle seat on the international flight, woo! Actually I didn’t, but the seat was either empty or the person didn’t show up, so I got to sit there. However, I fortunately waited until after take-off. Some other girls didn’t and made the flight attendant rather upset. I didn’t know this, but they check for who’s missing and take their luggage off the plane. When this flight attendant found out people had switched she became rather irritated and more brusque, but the customers were also rude and not understanding about it at all. The attendant had an accent, I think Scandinavian, and even though her English was perfect, one girl kept saying, ‘what?’ with the most disgusted look on her face. As if to say, how dare you speak to me in foreign gibberish. I was watching thinking, ‘Amuhricah.’

On the flight I watched two movies, maybe I’ll review them later. One was from Africa, one was from Italy. I also listened to some of Mindy Kaling’s book. In some ways it was exactly what I thought it would be. In other ways, I think the title was a bit misleading. There was also a language learning app that was pretty cool – I practiced my rust-covered Russian in Japanese for a bit (something I’ve always wanted to try), but the touch screen was so awful I had to give up. I was a bit scared it seemed like I was punching the person in front of me in the back of the head.

I ate a pretzel in Chicago and it was delicious. Still, after the insanely small airplane back to Eau Claire and despite the freezing cold, I was glad when I finally saw the beautiful faces of my mum and sister waiting for me at the airport.

So what’s it like being back home? It’s weird. In that it’s not weird. Actually one of my friends is going through some similar feelings, and she explains them on her blog far more eloquently than I could.

In short: Japan kind of feels like a dream again, and it feels absolutely unbelievable that I saw Yuuki a mere two and a half weeks ago. I miss Japanese food. I miss temples shrines mountains festivals and so on. Most of all I miss him being around. We’re Skyping quite a bit, but not as much as before I left. Before I left we were both in a constant state of jet lag, with neither of us asleep or awake at optimal hours for our country. Now we both are on better (even if not perfect – we’re both kind of night owls) schedules for our country, but it means less Skype time with each other. In a way it’s good, since it forces us to do things outside of Skype or League of Legends (although he’s still playing a lot of that without me, grr). I realized though, that, if I’m generous, a mere 1/4th of our relationship has been spent together. That was a sad thought.

Anyway, I’m back to translating, searching for jobs, babysitting, and cleaning. Yuuki is officially gradumacated as well, so now he’s mainly biding his time in Hirakata, waiting for the graduation ceremony and trying to figure out what to do in the future. He basically has two choices; one is to search for a job in Japan, and the other is to go back to school in the USA. Betcha can’t guess what my vote is for! We’ve been trying to find a good major for him, and have considered everything from architecture to environmental science…but right now the most likely seems to be International Business.

We’ll see how it all turns out. Right now people are reminding me a lot that I’m behind where I should be and I need to be more proactive and independent. And they’re right. I’m just finding it all very hard to balance and to stay positive.

But thank you for reading, my lovely readers. I hope all of your lives are full of sunshine. I’ve missed it.


Goodbye Japan. Hello fog.

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