Friday, September 26, 2008

Continental Drift

Japan is getting farther and farther away from me. I see pictures, videos, read updates from my friends, and pieces come back to me. Like how the crowds always started clapping along the instant someone started performing music, no matter how good or bad. Or the way people slept on the train wearing business attire. How everyone was so kind and well-meaning, but as soon as you brought up discrimination or cultural differences or a similarly uncomfortable issue, they would turn stoic and voice opinions far more nationalistic and conservative than nice people like them should have. What’s happening in Japan now, it no longer directly pertains to me. Their issues aren’t my issues. I’m not on facebook much these days, but when I go on I see strangers mixed in with pictures of friends I haven’t spoken with since I left, doing all the early bonding that new teachers do at all the places I used to go to. I see their misspellings and misconceptions in the captions, and honestly, it makes me feel territorial, but I don’t have any claim anymore.

I thought that repatriation would be more of a process. And believe me, starting all over again in a new country is a fucking process, but it shocks me how quickly Japan slipped away. I don’t remember a whole lot about my time in Prague anymore, but that was two months. Japan was two years. I guess my last few months of Japan, I wasn’t that present. I taught classes, but didn’t report to an office, and spent most of my time at home, not studying. Plus, I was bitter and pretty isolated. I learned how one can live in a country and not learn the language beyond the communication level. You just have to stay alone in your safe space for most of the day, consuming things that are familiar to you.

Today the internet guy came into our apartment to set up our modem. Having a stranger here, I wondered what the décor said to him. I noticed our sake bottle on display, the Japanese wall hangings we’d either received as gifts or purchased at hyaku-en shops, the fans, the Chinese paper dragon. I noticed that my computer was open to an e-mail in Japanese from a friend who had finally checked her mail and replied to me. When he went to his van to get a longer cable and returned, he took off his shoes at the door. I didn’t realize we’d neatly lined up our shoes at the door, and would have never asked him to take his own off. It’s just habit for us. Perhaps Japan is still more ingrained in us than we realize.

I was disillusioned in Japan due to my abundance of free time, and now I’m disillusioned here for the same reason. But I’ve noticed that in America, alienation doesn’t feel quite as lonely. Probably because living in alienation is more of an accepted way of life here, like youthful rebellion. In Japan, you’re supposed to belong to a group, and if you don’t, well, you don’t really exist.

I dreamed about the Kita family last night. I was leaving Japan all over again, and all four of the kids and the parents were determined to see me one last time before I left. They all trickled in while I was trying to pack, but there were dozens of them, and they were basically bringing me a party, and giving me courses of food even though I was stuffed. I needed to leave, but first I needed to give them my e-mail address so we could stay in touch. I couldn’t find paper, then I could only find the kids who wouldn’t know what to do with my address, then I couldn’t get the dad’s attention because he was trying to make me eat. I don’t know if I succeeded in the dream, but the reality is that Japanese people don’t do that much e-mail. And I know that I gave them my e-mail in real life, months ago when they said they wouldn’t be taking classes with me anymore, and it hasn’t made any difference.


Blogger BilabialBoxing said...

How melancholy. I feel the same way. I'm sad that Japan isn't more hard-wired into my brain. I spent two years there after all. But then, I have a bad memory anyway.

1:21 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home