'Twas the night before Texas,
And all through the hotel,
Not a creature was stirring,
Not even a... forget it. Nothing rhymes with hotel.
It has been 4.5 years since we moved to Japan. I remember nervously putting our "babies" on a plane and heading to Japan, not having any idea what may lie ahead.
Tomorrow evening Matt and I will put our youngest two children on a plane and embark back to the United States on a new adventure to Dallas, Texas. Our oldest daughter will follow at the end of June.
I have to admit, I am in serious denial about this move. In some ways it is surreal. Maybe it is because I have so many people tell me how difficult repatriating is supposed to be and I don't want to deal with it. Maybe it is because I am leaving my first-born child behind for three months, when we have never been apart for more than a week. Or maybe it is because I have fallen so much in love with Japan, the culture, and the friendships I have built, that the idea of leaving is hard to think about. But the reality is, in less than 24 hours I will be in the air over the Pacific Ocean, hopefully sleeping with the help of a few
bottles glasses of wine.
Our goal when coming to Japan was to embrace the culture and gain as much as we could from this experience. I think we have not only achieved, but surpassed that goal. We climbed Mt Fuji with our older two kids and 16 other Caterpillar ISEs. We have been skiing, camping, white water rafting and road tripping throughout Japan. We have learned to embrace onsens and eat raw fish. We have experienced some of the world’s most beautiful beaches, ziplined through jungles, ridden on elephants, visited seaweed farms, hiked thorough Vietnam, crawled through the same tunnels as soldiers in the Vietnam War, snorkeled the Great Barrier Reef and saw cows walking down the streets of some of the poorest areas of Asia. My family has been blessed over and over during our time here.
There are some things I never thought I would experience, like the 2011 earthquake and getting stitches in a rural Vietnam clinic by someone who was probably the village vet. I went on two disaster relief trips to Tohoku shortly after the earthquake and the experiences I had during my time up North will be ones that stay with me forever. I am already thinking about ways to get involved in missions and service trips in parts of South America.
I will take away many lessons from my 4.5 years here. The Japanese language is hard. I will never be fluent, or even close. Japanese beer is way stronger than US beer. Everything here is a process, and if you think it should take an hour you better double that. Forget clothing style, anything goes, especially Little Bo Beep wear. Most people do not speak English, yet they will go out of their way to help you. Taking the train everywhere is way easier than driving, Japanese people can find a reason to smile in the midst of the worst tragedy. And people leaving is a hard reality of expat life and unfortunately it is now our time go.
Most importantly, I have learned that when you pack up your three children and move to the other side of the world where you know no one, cannot speak the language and drive on the opposite side of the road, the people around you become your family. And boy are we going to miss our amazing family here in Kobe.
In Japanese, the word for goodbye is sayonara. I do not believe in goodbyes, so as we board the plane tomorrow, heading to what I hope to be another amazing adventure, I will bid this beautiful country and all my friends ja mata, or as we say in English "see you later". Because anything else, I hope, is false.