So, about a week ago, Kaminaka-san asked my help in performing a trick (well, loosely-defined) on his neighborhood. I was to impersonate a US ambassadorial aide with a message from President Obama.
Now, I've lived here for almost two and a half years. I'm pretty sure everyone knows who schoolpsychnerd
and I are, even if they might not know anything else about us, so I knew that they wouldn't actually believe the ruse. Nonetheless, I dressed up in a suit to keep the illusion at least partially intact and, it being a party, they played along with the speech. Here it is, if you want to read it:( In Japanese and English )
The speech went pretty much as I expected it would (I ended up getting complimented on my pronunciation, actually), and then I was given a seat and a bentō and chatted with people for a bit. The most interesting chat was with the 79-year-old man who told me about his daughter living in New Orleans when Katrina hit and how he had skied as a hobby for the past 70 years. He even mentioned one of the teachers who used to work at Chiyoda high school as a good person to go to if I ever wanted to learn how to ski (since I had told him I had never been).
He also asked me if liked living in Japan. Well, literally he asked me how was the Japanese lifestyle, but I knew what he meant. And I said yes, I really liked it, and that schoolpsychnerd
and I planned to return when she was done with grad school. And as I said that, I thought: "you know, that's right. I really do
like living here." In fact, I'd say that in terms of places I've lived (not people who live there necessarily--I miss you all dearly), Japan is my favorite. I'm not sure I can point to any single reason why, but I can definitely say that on the balance, it's true.
Anyway, moving back is a long-term goal. We'll see how well it works out.
I was also invited to a middle-school children's class at the community center on Saturdays, but I wasn't able to understand exactly what kind of class it was. I wouldn't really feel comfortable going until I knew that. I can ask Kaminaka-san, I guess.
About an hour after I arrived at the party, I judged that I had spent sufficient time at the Itsukaichi New Year's party and told them that I had to get going, since the Yaenishi Tondo festival was the same day. I walked a couple of kilometers over to the festival and arrived late (that's three years in a row I've missed them lighting the bonfire (T_T) ), and was promptly loaded down with food and sake.
The most memorable part was when one of the Tondo organizers gave a brief speech, and then asked schoolpsychnerd
and I to give a speech as well. So I gave a brief line about how everyone was incredibly kind to us, and schoolpsychnerd
did the same, and then we saw that Santa Miki was crying, and that made schoolpsychnerd
cry, and everyone said aww when I gave her a hug.
But, the bigger thing is the reaction in general--someone cried because we're leaving. I know we've been here for years, but we keep a lot to ourselves and don't speak Japanese as well as we should. While we live here, I don't really know that people actually view us as part of the community
. Or, at least, I didn't know until today. I guess I shouldn't be too surprised: schoolpsychnerd
is the teacher at the local high school (and two others beyond that), and both of us teach English lessons to children and adults. We spend a lot of time in Chiyoda because we're both here--unlike a lot of JETs or other ALTs, we don't need to go elsewhere to avoid loneliness to maintain a support network, so people see us around a lot (well, they see schoolpsychnerd
a lot. I'm kind of a cave-dwelling troll). That's going to make leaving even harder than it already was.
It doesn't really have anything to do with living in Japan, per se, it's more living in a rural area. My friends in Hiroshima proper don't get their neighbors bringing them excess vegetables or rice or treats when they're sick, and I know those sorts of things happen in rural American areas. When we lived in an apartment building in America, we didn't know the names of any of our neighbors. We assumed one family was Indian, because we could frequently smell them cooking curry, but they might have just really liked curry. We knew one family had young children, because schoolpsychnerd
saw them coming home. But that's it. Here, though, people know us. Even if we're members of a different culture, and sometimes have problems communicating, this is our home
That's a nice feeling.