Tuesday, November 17, 2009


It's cold in my house. Let me rephrase that. It's the same temperature inside my house as it is outside my house. Now, I know I've lamented Japan winters on my blog before, but hear me out. It's see your breath when you wake up in the morning cold. It's shower gel too viscous to use cold. It's don't bother putting the milk away and don't defrost that turkey in your kitchen because it'll just stay frozen cold. I'm typing with fingerless gloves on my hands. If I weren't, I'd be typing with fingerless hands, and instead of hearing me bitch about the cold (again) you'd be reading dxzdjkeb .;zx iex aa,mj nxmn,aw qp9834 aldokiewjker89n 4lrekj 0984ndn 2, which now that I think of it might not be a bad alternative. I think you catch my draft. Sorry. Couldn't resist.

Thanksgiving is coming, and with it another gathering of teachers desperate for a small taste of home. Cranberries, pumpkin pie and a turkey. That's all we want. I'm conflicted by the small fortune and gallons of fuel this meal will cost, but I'm setting aside my "ethics" and politics for something I believe is more important - love. I've seen a lot of people despair in this foreign environment. Some are no longer with us, but a few are still here, and during the holidays especially I want them to feel as comfortable and at-home as possible. I want them to know that Japan can be a good experience if you put in a little effort and optimism. This country has taught me creativity and resourcefulness in cooking, gardening, traveling and raising my child. So what if there are no SweetTarts or Tostitos in Japan? I'm better off without them. I realize the irony of this message after my rant about the cold and my implied distaste for Japan's non-insulated houses. After almost 3 years I'm still not above whining about my own discomfort. But I've had it pretty good here, and I owe that to the optimistic people in my life - Megumi, Miwako, Hans. They've not only helped me survive my first overseas living experience, they've helped me thrive. I've traveled all of Shikoku, eaten hand-picked strawberries, sung in concerts, moved into a house with a piano, and created the most beautiful brown-eyed curly-locked souvenir a woman could ask for. Yeah, I've had it pretty good. I have much to be thankful for, and much to give to others. I don't care if my paying-it-forward goes unrecognized (and most of it does). Giving is as much a selfish act as it is altruistic. I love to give, and I give to love.

But I digress. Before I'd woken up and discovered just how cold it had turned in this house, Hans in his infinite optimism already had the kerosene heater puttering away downstairs. Strangely the smell of gasoline in the living room didn't propel me into battle with homesickness like I thought it would. In fact it brought back some rather warm memories of moving into this house with the help of our friends Courtney and Chris - the guys retrieving furniture from our outgrown apartment while Courtney and I fired up the heater and donned an extra pair of socks before diving into the labyrinthine piles of boxes scattered in the kitchen. Memories of Katie, Travis, Kasen and Kayla visiting from Korea and sleeping like sardines in our futon-bedecked tatami room. Memories of Hannah crawling across these ice-cold wooden floors in her snowsuit. Memories of her taking her first few steps to the enthusiastic praise and encouragement of her cousins. In our frenzied preparations for returning to the states it occurs to me that Japan is Hannah's home, and Kansas is foreign to her. So are frozen dinners, Chuck E Cheese, Saturday morning cartoons and the ubiquitous pop-icon Hannah Montana (ask me if my daughter is named after her and see what it gets you). A part of me kind of wishes it would stay that way, for her sake. But now, of all times, I need my home. And no amount of foreign import stores will change that. The goodbyes have already begun. They began when this season's first bag of rice was harvested. I don't really know how to feel about that right now. I don't think I'll know for a long, long time.

It's open all the curtains to let the sunshine heat your house cold.

What a bittersweet life this is turning out to be. I'm truly thankful for it all.

1 comment:

jcarsi said...

I enjoyed reading this post so much! For some strange reason, it makes me want to visit Japan and experience firsthand the "see your breath when you wake up in the morning cold" experience.