Thursday, April 2, 2015

Leaving Japan

A week ago I said goodbye to my students. Through the amazing translating skills of Keiko, I gave a speech in Japanese to both of my schools. I thanked them for the past three years. The theme of my speech was embracing adventure and new experiences. 

Tuesday, I finished cleaning my apartment, biked across town on the roads I know all too well and turned in my apartment key and said goodbye to my country-side town of Uchihara.

I'm staying at the home of Keiko and Kazu Hirashima this week (Rich Little appropriately deemed it Hilton-Hirashima). Tomorrow we'll fly to Okinawa, a tropical Japanese island. I'll come back to mainland Japan and will return to America on April 8th. 

As I say goodbye, I have wondered how I can continue a life of adventure after Japan. Japan has offered me a platform to explore new things and new places, just as I encouraged my students to do. Of course, there are moments, even days, when I have made the easy decision to stay comfortable and not lived out the best life I could. The most recent example being yesterday morning, when I woke up on a tatami mat at The Hilton Hirashima and struggled to simply get dressed and be productive at all. A simple run would have helped, as it did today in the park amidst the beautiful cherry blossoms. 

I'm so conditioned to make the comfortable decision. I imagine we all are. Coming back to the States was a fairly easy decision back in October, if I were given the choice again now, it would be more difficult to pull the plug on Japan. But I'm glad I did decide to return to the States. It came down to whether I wanted to be comfortable for another year in Japan or to struggle in my growth in the States. Returning will give me new opportunities to grow, just as coming to Japan three years ago provided ample opportunities for growth. For this difficult transition I am grateful. I am especially grateful for the last three years and the people who made it so enjoyable. There are too many to list.

I'm currently reading a book called Resilience. It is comprised of a series of letters between two former Navy Seals. One former Seal has hit rock bottom and is dealing with extreme depression. He calls his former companion, Eric Greitens, for help. The call for help becomes a long line of correspondence between the long lost comrades. I loved this line from Greitens to his depressed friend, "We all need something to struggle against and to struggle for. The aim in life is not to avoid struggles, but to have the right ones; not to avoid worry, but to care about the right things; not to live without fear, but to confront worthy fears with force and passion".

I'm looking forward to finding the right struggles in America. Nothing stays the same in life and I'm anticipating a lot of painfully rewarding growth as I return to the States. 

I'll fly across the Pacific to Portland, Oregon on April 8th. Stay for a week. Fly to Oklahoma April 15th, drive to my cousin Hannah's wedding in Houston, stay in Oklahoma the last week of April and drive across the country to Oregon with my mother at the beginning of May. Are you confused? Yeah, so am I! but I'm looking forward to embracing the journey. I hope to see you on it soon!

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A few of my favorites these last few months:

Last trip to Tokyo with some amazing friends 



Best Kaiten (conveyer belt) Sushi I've ever had, in Omotesando district of Tokyo. The price matched the taste though.


I Went out to dinner with (Yasushi) Tahara Sensei several weeks ago. He's a special teacher. I hope I retain my athletic pursuits at the age of 50 like Yasushi, he's an especially good tennis and softball player.

Met some new friends on the Mountain


Got my picture on the wall for eating a huge portion of "Stamina" Ramen, along with a few other good friends.

At a goodbye party with my Uchihara Elementary teachers. It's a group of characters.
Satomi has beautifully translated most of my talks at church the last three years. I love her sincerity and depth of thought. I'll miss her greatly.

Played at the park on a recent crisp, spring night. with several friends. Way too much fun than kids this old should have! 
(6th grade graduation) Ryouta is going to to a soccer boarding school at the age of 12! It's several hours north of home. I'm pretty excited for him. He recently traveled to Spain on a soccer trip and was sharing with me all the Spanish he had picked up. 

Katsuta 10K, the most fun I've had running a race. I love running and the way sweat seems to reignite my passion for life! I'm looking forward to doing a lot more running in the States and meeting new friends through the sport.

See you soon America! I'll miss you Japan!