Thursday, November 19, 2009

Looking Back on the Transition

I swore up and down I'd do my best to document as much of my transition back here to the States as possible. However, life has it's way of moving...and shaking and I can't say that I've regretted even a moment since I've returned.

Ready for take-off:
So after the nightmare that was my departure from Japan, I settled myself into my ROW of seats quite comfortably. Only minutes into the affair, the stewardess approached, and the two of us had a brief but charming exchange.

It was then that a very warm feeling set in...I'm going HOME. Home as is, the place where people speaka my language. Home, where I can read the signs. Home where spontaneous conversations are not only acceptable, but in some places even encouraged. Immediately a veil of pressure/frustration was lifted.

As a good friend of mine, Colin, pointed out. People like us feed off of interactions and sharing positive experiences with those in our surroundings. This was a dynamic that I could only brush the surface of in Tokyo. Although the overall personality of Japanese people was not as outgoing as Americans, it still boiled down to the language barrier presenting the predominant roadblock.

People ask me what I thought of Japanese people. And I struggle to answer this question. Most notably because I did not learn their language. How can I possible assess the intricacies of one's culture without first grasping their native tongue. Especially in a place like Japan where subtleties abound. So, eventhough I spent close to a year there, I always remained an outsider looking in.

As for the plane ride itself, it was ideal. I watched a movie, then took some time to reflect on the adventure that was Japan. I must say, more than anything, I was extremely sad. There are a good number of places I've ventured to thus far, most of which I've left with a positive feeling. However, in this case, it really felt like goodbye. If not to the country, certainly to a good deal of wonderful people I've come to endear.

The strange thing with traveling is you meet so many good souls. Yet most of us are in transit. As adventurous as it is to look ahead to reunions in other destinations, there is still the very real possibility that we will never meet again. And for some reason, that dynamic was much more present this go round than in trips past.

One element I very purposefully preserved was presence. Or at the very least a lack of looking ahead. Although many seemingly beautiful connections and landscapes awaited me in California, I was careful to cherish the moments I had between the two worlds. What is/was to come in Cali, will have its' time. However, for the time being there were so many powerful experiences and friendships to reflect on and put in proper perspective.

Symbolically, there was quite a force corresponding to my travels. As we departed from Tokyo, the pilot mentioned the possibility of us being delayed on account of a 'typhoon' hitting the bay area. At the time, I'd assumed he used the word simply because there were Japanese passengers aboard. But I soon discovered there was much more to it than that.

As it turned out, there was a typhoon that hit Japan just a few days before my departure. It was reportedly the strongest to hit in over 20 years. It only grazed Tokyo, hitting us with a good amount of rain, and some strong winds but it didn't quite equal the hype. At least in my neighborhood. However, once it was finished with headed East. As in toward California.

When we touched down, the sun was shining and the air felt just as magical as ever in San Francisco. Laced with the chill that defines bay area weather, all seemed to be at peace in my surroundings. That is, until we headed south.

By the time I arrived in Santa Cruz, I was amazed at just how much damage had been done. There were fallen trees on highway 17, and all types of blown over vegetation along the way. It was clear that whatever I'd missed came through with some serious force behind it. And this was confirmed as tales began to abound from one friend to the next whom were welcoming me back.

This only added to the magic of my arrival as person after person said, "Wow, you are so Lucky! It's been raining like crazy here for the last few days."

Lucky indeed. But somehow humbled by the correlation between my departure and this bodacious storm. If only I could have taken this country by storm upon my arrival!!!

But there's still time :)....


  1. beautifully said. we miss your spirit here but the part about souls in transit is very true and i am sure one day, in some obscure corner of the world (or not) we will meet again! peace.