The last days I spent in Japan were one of the saddest days of my life. Before I left I had to watch many of my AFS friends leave one by one before me- until there was just me out of the group left. Saying goodbye to my school friends and host family- now truly my real family- tore my heart apart.
It wasn't the first time I had said goodbye to loved ones, and it definitely won't be the last. But that never makes it any easier.
I think, one of the reasons I haven't finished this blog is because I often find it too painful to recall the last moments.
As the train took me away from people and places I loved, I broke down crying. It was terrible saying goodbye to everyone and not knowing when or if I would see them again.
I cannot describe the debt I feel towards those people, especially my family. I am so thankful for everything.
Arriving in California, I met my mother at the airport and we spent the next day talking (well... mostly I did the talking) and catching up on things.
Even though, for quite some time, Japan was all I talked about- I couldn't find words to fit the feelings I had. Sometimes I still don't.
Looking back on pictures, I feel like I can turn around and still see my friends and family. Although the days and times of events are becoming more and more blurry, the people I met, the feelings I had, the places I went are still sharp as ever.
Often I would accidentally speak in Japanese or bow. Soon, however, this habits started to fade too.
One day, I got a message from one of my friends "I'm coming to America!" he facebook-ed me. He was able to get a bus down to Pittsburgh, and Houston and I got to show him around for two days.
On the second day he was at our house, the earthquake hit Japan. I remember him staring at the TV screen and just saying over and over "that's not Japan".
We contacted his family and mostly everyone in Niigata had been safe. My family and friends included. They were not harmed by the earthquake, thank God! I appreciate everyone's prayers and concerns towards the issue.
Sometimes I still can't believe that I am back. The first day I arrived home I remember not wanting to fall asleep, for fear that my experience in Japan would become a dream.
Sure, there is Skype and Facebook out there to help me keep up with everyone- yet there is still a distance.
Someone once said "Don't cry because it's over. Smile because it happened." I can now do that.
I want to thank each and everyone of you for supporting me. I really appreciate it. Without the encouragement from people back home, I might have never made this life changing decision.
Japan is so much more than an "incredible experience"
it is part of me.
I now dream of returning someday. No, next time around I will not be a high school student, or an AFS member, or even a super genki, over excited, gaikokujin. But those memories will be with me, forever. And now there is only more to make.