THAT FLIGHT WENT FREAKISHLY FAST! Wow, it was like I blinked and I was there. Whoosh! It is a very strange feeling, almost like a time machine. I mean, I feel like 10 minutes ago I was in the Philadelphia International Airport with my dad and now I am on the other side of the world. The flight went smoothly, and most of the other passengers were headed to Manilla. I was asked several times by Filipino ladies if I am Filipina. The Filipino people were super friendly to me and to one another and the lady sitting next to me even told me I could call her “Auntie Edie” and tried to set me up with her son. Funny! Now I am sitting in my apartment and surrounded by lots of stuff – instant bread mix, books I brought back with me, and tons of cards I got in the mail! In Japan, people send something called a NENGAJOU, a New Year’s postcard. I have a little stack from friends all over Japan. They are so cute and most have pictures on them. What a nice surprise! The only bad part of this day was being told I could not take my brand new perfume on the plane…totally forgot about the rules about liquids. I wound up giving it away to some guy I didn’t know and told him to give it to his wife or girlfriend. Also, my bottle of hand soap leaked all over the inside of one of my bags making quite a mess. To my surprise, almost nothing was ruined which is almost impossible to believe.

One neat cultural thing: at the airport there is a service called takkyuubin and you can have your suitcase mailed to your house and it will arrive the next day. So I mailed one of my 50-lb. suitcases to my house and it will arrive tomorrow around lunchtime. Isn’t that awesome? And it’s quite cheap! So wish we had that service in the U.S.! All I did was hand them the bag, fill out my address, tell them what time to come, and that was that. I imagine that even if you don’t speak Japanese, they probably speak English.

First impressions are that it is not as cold here, thankfully. It’s so darn clean. People are quiet, so very quiet. Things run smoothly here and efficiently. There was an elderly volunteer standing at the exit gate from customs with an”I SPEAK ENGLISH” band-thing around his arm ready to help any English-speaking folks who needed a hand – very nice!! I am also quite shocked at how natural it feels to be back making me feel as though I have fluidly moved from one world to the next. I guess Japan has become a home of sorts to me. I am glad to be surrounded by Japanese again – I loved hearing it as soon as I got off the plane. It was getting weird near the end of my month home not speaking it all the time.

I had a funny thing happen when I went through immigration, or at least I found it funny. I was the only person in line, or in other words, the only person actually staying in Japan and not catching a connecting flight to Manila or Saipan. So, I went up the counter, presented my passport, foreigner’s ID card, and my sheet that I filled out for immigration. After that, the young guy behind the counter says in Japanese, “Hey, can I ask you a few questions about English?” as he whips out his English conversation study guide.. Then he starts asking me questions about whether his little book was giving him accurate English or not. He shows me the book and asks, “Please look at this page. Do you really say ‘body check’ in English? Or would you say ‘pat-down check?'” I told him perhaps “body check” would be better. He nodded and sincerely thanked me. What a funny question! Plus it was so funny to me because usually those guys behind the counter are so formal and serious. But he must have been pretty bored or perhaps was intrigued to run into an American who could speak Japanese and thought, “Hey, maybe I’ll ask her how good this book really is.”

It’s really late. Like 1:30am. I am not tired because I slept so well on the flight. I am still in shock at how fast it flew by. I should go to bed. I am glad to be back…tomorrow I plan to go to Japanese class, see my friends’ new baby (Matt and Annette Cummings’ new baby Paul), and maybe go to another Japanese class at night if I can manage it. Oh, and sort through the suitcase that will conveniently and punctually arrive at my front door at lunchtime.