I am very thankful to say that I arrived home safely Wednesday evening. I slept for most of the 12-hour flight from Nagoya to Detroit which was wonderful. I was a bit apprehensive about what it would be like to be back in the US after living in Japan. To my delight it’s been smooth and wonderful easing back into American life, mainly due to the fact that I have such a great community of English-speaking friends around me back in Nagoya. Because of this community of friends I think that I have learned during these past eight months how to go back and forth between the two cultures very easily. Before I came to Nagoya, it used to give me ahuge headache to constantly switch between the languages and cultures. Now it’s getting to be second nature since I have to do it all the time, every single day. Even when I have friends over some don’t speak English and others do so I have had to learn to switch back and forth between languages. I think for those people who grew up speaking another language, or in other words learned it in childhood, this is second nature. For those of us who learned the language as adults, until you reach a certain level of fluency it is very hard to be able to switch back and forth with ease. At least that’s been my experience in Japan this year.
I noticed all kinds of little cultural differences starting on the plane ride home. First off, I noticed how much more relaxed and laid-back the stewardesses and cabin crew were on the plane as opposed to the robot-like, rigid, professional way Japanese customer service is in my humble opinion. I think that overall customer service in Japan is the best in the world, but it often comes across rather cold, rigid, and overly (sometimes ridiculously) formal to me. Customer service in the US, on the other hand, is not very good but I do appreciate the warmth, directness, and genuineness of it when it does happen to be pretty good.
I had fun at Walmart yesterday, marvelling at the aisles of goodies that foreigners living in Japan pay big bucks to buy. I was oohing and aahing over the giant sized tubs of ice cream, bags of Lay’s potato chips, cheap clothes (clothes are NOT cheap in Japan), and big size shopping carts. I loved driving again after eight and a half months and almost drove on the wrong side of the road twice. Did you know in Japan people drive on the left side of the road?
I am very happy to be home. I wasn’t sure if I would be happy or miss Japan. I miss certain things about Japan, mainly my friends and just speaking Japanese all the time, but for the most part I am tickled pink to be home. I think the atmosphere in the US is so refreshing for me, very laid back, very fun. I haven’t laughed as hard as I did yesterday for months!
On a very serious note, I saw a very interesting documentary the night before I left Nagoya. It was called “Hiroshima” and it was like a movie reenacting survivors’ stories of living through the dropping of the Atomic Bomb. I was deeply moved hearing people’s stories and especially one where a mother wasn’t able to rescue her daughter from underneath the remnants of their home. In the end, to save her own life, the mother had to run away and leave her own daughter to perish in the flames, trapped beneath their burning house. After all that, they did a special interview with one of the creators of the A-bomb, an 84-year old man. They flew him in to Japan to see the Hiroshima museum and learn about the devastation he had indirectly caused. I was deeply angered that they chose such a man as that – when he met face to face with a survivor of Hiroshima, he spouted, “Why should I have to apologize? I have only one thing to say to her – REMEMBER PEARL HARBOR!” and then the old lady buried her face in her hands and cried. I think she was hoping for an apology but none came from that old man. I know that millions of Japanese were watching that and I hope they do not think that most Americans think like that cantankerous, spiteful old man.
Anyway, as I look back on my time in Japan it has truly been life-changing. I have learned so many things from the Japanese and their ways of doing things and thinking. I love the Japanese people so much and hope that I can spend the rest of my life being friends with them and loving them. I remain both fascinated and awed at Japanese culture and often think I’ll never understand it but I am thankful to be there. At this point, I have no idea how much longer I will be able to stay in Japan (I am hoping at least til next summer) but I hope that being in the US for Christmas will refresh me so I can finish my work with MTW faithfully and joyfully.