We’re home! It’s actually hard to believe that just a short time ago, we were going about our daily lives on another continent. Life here is so normal again that Japan hardly seems real – maybe it was just a strange dream. Our household goods shipment is going to arrive later today, though, so perhaps being reunited with our stuff will help to remind me of where I spent the past 9 months.Of course, it wasn’t easy to leave Japan. Not just because of the friendships and fond memories that I wrote about in the previous post – I mean, it was literally challenging to leave the country. This is because I had some kind of a brain malfunction when I was packing, so I ended up with two knives in my carry-on. I of course would never be dumb enough to do something like that (right), so when the security scanner asked me about them, I swore I didn’t have any in my bag. Right until he produced them in front of my very eyes. This earned me an escorted trip out of the security area back to check-in… nothing makes you feel like a fugitive quite like having a personal security escort taking you out of line at the airport. Then, at the gate, Joe’s checked lighter earned us an additional meeting with the security personnel (it was eventually determined that he could carry it on the plane but not check it into the baggage compartment – no, it makes no sense to me, either). Finally, at our connection in South Korea, the scanner found squid jigs in a forgotten pocket of my backpack (for the uninitiated, these are intimidating little devices with very sharp hooks all the way around). I don’t know what you would use them for in an assault situation, but any squid on the airplane wouldn’t stand a chance. Needless to say, they have been donated to the security team at Incheon Airport. I hope they catch some good squid with them. I had never been “caught” with anything in any airport security line before, but here I had three strikes in one day. Maybe my subconscious really didn’t want to go after all.
It’s wonderful to be home, though. Nothing makes you appreciate where you live quite like an extended time away. I feel like I’ve been wandering around in absolute amazement about all of the things that I love here. Groceries are cheap. Wildlife is abundant. Pizza is delicious. The blackberries are ripe. God bless America. The first trip to the grocery store was an absolute exercise in restraint. Especially in the produce section. I think Joe got tired of me exclaiming at all the price tags… “Oh my gosh! These cherries are so cheap! Let’s get TWO bags!” and “Wow! We need a box of apples at this price! Maybe three!” The variety of foods was also staggering. I had forgotten just how much STUFF we have in grocery stores here. I had to pause in front of the cheese section and just take it all in, very slowly. Japan doesn’t really “do” cheese, just one or two varieties in extremely limited quantities. Here there is a wide assortment of artisan cheese from all around the world, all for me to purchase and enjoy. Yes, yes, yes. Joe returned to his rightful spot in front of the barbeque grill. We no longer have to make do by fashioning makeshift grilling racks to fit over our gas burners in the apartment (we also roasted marshmallows over the gas flames in total desperation one night). He grilled these amazing lamb and feta cheese sausages, which we ate on our deck that overlooks nothing but trees. Ah, the great outdoors. Speaking of the great outdoors, we spent one morning fishing on a local river which, amazingly, is not lined in concrete. As we drifted in our little aluminum boat, I soaked in everything around me. Coho were jumping in the river, two Bald Eagles were circling overhead, ducks were shepherding their young along the shore, a seal was chasing the salmon up the river, and a deer peered over the river bank with her fawn. It was like bloomin’ Wild America out there, or maybe the Disney Jungle Safari ride. So awesome. Oh yeah, and we arrived just in time for blackberry season! I absolutely loathe the invasive vines for 50 weeks of the year – but for two weeks each September, we set aside our differences and I brave the murderous thorns for the delicious harvest. Given that the blackberries weren’t actively combated in our yard this year, they sure spread with a vengeance. Pies today, machetes tomorrow.
Friends in Japan asked us which we like better, Japan or America. Gosh, both countries sure have their share of wonderful attributes. I miss hearing “irasshaimase” (“Welcome!”) every time I walk into a store. In fact, I miss all of the amazing customer service and attention to detail that Japan has perfected. I miss the food (but not the prices!). I miss the way that people are so aware of how their actions impact others around them. I miss the politeness. When it comes down to it, though, this is home… and that’s hard to beat.