Tuesday, December 20, 2005

And We're Off to Taiwan...

Tomorrow morning, at 5:55am (not my most spectacular hour by any means), Jeff and I will be boarding the "Maple Bus" at Ota Station. After a three hour bus ride, we will arrive at Narita Airport. And then, at 3:30 in the afternoon, we will be greeted by Rita and her family in Taiwan! YAY! Rita and her family will host us till we return to Japan on January 3rd.

We've been looking forward to this vacation for a looooong time. Last year, we joked that we needed to stay in Japan a second year so that we could spend the next Christmas with Rita in Taiwan.

But today, as I rushed around during my last day at work, I had a strange sensation of sadness. The past week has been filled with my own version of Christmas madness. I've tried to convey some of the "spirit of Christmas" to my students, and so I've made Christmas cards with and for students, been a daily "delivery service" of cards to classes, had Christmas parties and gift exchanges... And I've thought much of all of you at home, while buying, writing, and sending Christmas cards.

Jeff and I are both cutting out of work two days before the winter holiday officially begins. So today there were many people who knew I was leaving, and many others who didn't. I had four mostly chaotic Christmas-y classes, between which I wrote more cards and wrapped them in style. Throughout the day, 3 of my favourite students came and gave me the cards they had made in my classes, and with personalized English messages even! Then, at the end of the day, I gave each of the 6 English teachers and assistants their Christmas cards. And I gave one each to the principal and vice-principal. They were each written in typical Kathy-style... very "heartful" as one teacher said. (that is my all-time favourite Japanese-English word)! Life at our school has been very difficult the past few months, and I tried to encourage each teacher in their strengths and thank them for various ways they had helped or encouraged me. The three teachers I'm closest to just went on and on about the cards, the ribbon I used, the candy canes...

We said very "heartful" good-byes, and other teachers who knew I was going waved and wished me well. And I left.

And for some strange reason, I choked back the tears. I realized that one day I will say good-bye - to this school, to these people, to this life - and I realized I'm not ready. And I never really will be ready.

As I cruise around Ota every day, and greater Japan on the weekends, life often feels surreal. Here Jeff and I are, living our dream, with all its ups and downs. For now, at least, we have chosen the life of "traveler." In some ways, this makes life more intense, as we deal daily with a culture and language not our own. And in some ways this makes life more lonely as we struggle to connect with people here, and miss people back at home.

I'm not sure exactly what I'm trying to say here... I guess I was just struck by the power of my emotions today. Ya, it's been a rough fall in many ways, but I still often get the sensation that I wish I could just take a million mental snapshots every day. I'm afraid of it all escaping me. I don't want it to fade away. I can't even begin to explain to all of you the things I will miss about Japan. And the thing is, much of what I will miss is subtle, small, in a sense beyond explanation. I could tell you I'll miss Japanese hot springs... but what does that mean to you? Getting naked and soaking in piping hot water with a bunch of strangers? How can I possibly convey all the feelings that go together with this experience? I love sitting on the plastic stool and using the pump soap while I shower... I love the thick steam... I love watching three generations of family bathe together... I love the mix of modernity and peaceful nature... I love how soft my skin feels after I bathe... I love how good the bottled Kirin beer from 7-11 tastes after the bath, and the fact that I can sit beside Jeff and drink it while he drives! Do you get my drift?

So blither, blather... I guess I just needed to get out some of my "melancholiness". As Maria says, us introverts are easily overwhelmed. Each life experience has so much depth, and requires so much contemplation! It can really make life complex for us!

Just so you know, we WILL have internet access while we're in Taiwan, so feel free to email. And yes, we might update the blog a bit. Just don't get impatient if we don't update half as much as we have been!

Love you all. Take good care this Christmas season.


_ Art Epp said...

Jeff & Kathy:

Have a Merry christmas in Taiwan.
..... and a safe one.

Love Dad

Anonymous said...

Merry Christmas Jeff and Kathy. Sorry your gift did not arrive before you left on your vacation...hopefully it will be there when you arrive back. We miss you here in Welland!
The Carson's

JD said...

And a merry from the USA! JD in NJ saying that the folks here wish you a safe and happy journey. We trust that Jeff will come back with some wonderful new photos for all the Folks at Hunterdon Central High to ohhh and ahhh over. Have fun guys!

medea said...

Merry Christmas to you both and have a fun and safe trip!