I’ve had my moments of doubt. I think about the job in Tokyo I’m not returning to (at least not this term), the positive work environment, the familiar places and those yet to be discovered. I think about the kindness of the Japanese people, the ease and efficiency of traveling and the beauty of the city lights at dusk, Mt. Fuji silhouetted against the sky.
I remember the rain and wind of early spring, the cherry blossoms that embody all that is beautiful about Japan and the importance placed on this season. I also remember the incredible sunsets after a typhoon blows through and the deep blue skies the next day. Spring in Japan is something special.
And then I remember that everything that has become part of my memories, everything that is Japan to me, is still there. It will be there and still be special when I go back.
For Westgate teachers, spring is also the beginning of new friendships and a new job or the returning to these things.Two years ago I arrived at Narita Airport and began to meet people from all over the world that have become good friends and kindred spirits. Friends that had already taught and traveled extensively and would continue to.
While missing Japan, I’m also content with my decision to remain stateside (notwithstanding the occasional glimpse over my shoulder). Living in Laramie feels like another adventure I wasn’t planning on. I never knew it was the eccentric, historic town that it is. Rarely have I landed in a place and so easily and quickly felt at home. I’ve also rediscovered my love of the West (in the U.S.).
And there’s plenty here to remind you that this is the real McCoy: the vast prairie surrounding Laramie; the trucks pulling horse trailers; the locals, many of whom have lived on nearby ranches for generations.
And yet, I’ve discovered connections to Japan, as if Laramie knew I may be missing the place I could have been this spring.
In this town of cowboy bars, saloons and dance halls, I was pleasantly surprised to see this:
I have yet to try this restaurant (which serves Japanese and Vietnamese food) but I will. Click on the photo for the restaurant’s website.
KRC had told me about a Japanese exhibit that is going on at the art museum on the UW campus, so I made a visit last week. I was impressed and felt a deep sense of nostalgia for Japan. I spent quite a while looking at these old wood blockprints, especially the ones by Katsushika Hokusai, who is known for the iconic image of Mt. Fuji and the Wave.
The far wall displayed the Japanese woodblock images.
(I didn’t get the descriptions for the following two:)
I also discovered that there is a Japan-America Society of Wyoming that is located in Laramie, although it doesn’t appear to be very active. Also, Japanese courses are offered at UW through the Department of Modern and Classical Languages.
So, in ways I never expected here, I’m not completely alienated from Japanese culture.
I can’t help but feel a little left behind knowing my Westgate colleagues are packing to return to their lives in Japan and will soon be working with our Japanese friends. But the doubts that sometimes surface quickly subside when I remember that I’m fully into a new life that is unfolding each day.