Saturday June 6th, 2016 – the day I was kicked out of ICU Wadaiko and reunited with my host family.
This story actually starts about a week ago. Every Wednesday, I receive an email from ICU Wadaiko letting me know what the schedule is for the week. I normally quickly scan the schedule, recognizing that actually reading it will take more time than it’s worth. However that Wednesday something gave me pause – “イマラのキックアウト.” Imara’s Kickout.
I was incredibly confused. Had I done something wrong? After all, in English “Kickout” comes with the connotation that you were being forcibly removed from wherever, because they no longer wanted you. Kicked out of school for fighting, or bad grades. Kicked out of a club for not paying fees. Kicked out of the country for not having a visa. I thought these people were my friends! I had visions of not being allowed into practice, or being forced to watch from the windows. It was terrible.
Fortunately, I was reassured by my more seasoned ICU compatriots that the kickout was, in fact, a good thing. It meant that I wanted to stay, but that there were other opportunities awaiting me so the club members were “kicking me out” for my own good. So, for example, Seniors have a “Kick Out” from their dorm when they graduated.
Despite this, the kick out was exactly as terrible as I imagined. Not because I couldn’t participate, but because I played through every song I had learned that semester (and a few I didn’t), with people who I had grown close with, knowing that it was probably the last time I would ever see them.
After all, there is a certain finality to goodbyes in study abroad that goodbyes from graduation don’t have. I am not just leaving to go back to a different city, where I might pop in to say “Hi!” occasionally. I’m not a timezone away. I will literally be traveling half a world away, not knowing if I will ever make it back to Japan. In three weeks, people who I have been spending eight hours a week with for the past three months will become memories I tell people about when I get back “home.”
So the kickout, while fun, was still amazingly depressing. But then again, I am someone who always tries to carve a place for myself wherever I go. Because if it feels like something is missing when I leave, then that just means that I created something to be missed. That I was affected by my experiences. And that’s what life is about.
After practice, I was presented with this awesome photo board that is definitely going into my room at Wellesley come next year. I can’t wait to read everyone’s comments, but right now its a little too much. I’m so glad they did this. I learned so much from them, despite the language and cultural barrier, and these will be memories I will always cherish.
Later that night, I went all the way to Yokohama to meet with my host family from high school. I had already seen my host sister earlier this semester, and we both were in our final years of high school when we met up so we hadn’t changed all that much. However her younger sisters have gotten SO OLD. The littlest one is now 9, which means she was 6 three years ago – such a change. The second oldest was going through her moody hormonal teenage phase, and all I could think about was the fact that last time I saw her she was a cute middle schooler. Such a huge shock.
The one thing that hadn’t changed, was that my host mom is still amazing at cooking. I am so sad I didn’t get a picture of the 手巻きずし (hand rolled sushi) spread that we ended up eating. It was delicious. But, after all, I can’t spend life behind the lens of a camera. Sometimes you just have to enjoy the greatness. And the weirdness.
Weirdness, because I spent a lot of time watching Japanese television while I was there. Things of note:
- Apparently what I thought was lotion when I bought it in Okinawa was actually moisturizing face wash, which explained why it was so sticky and sucked at being lotion.
- An entire show about baby animals, including a baby wallaby whose mother’s name was `ココ (Coco), so they named the baby ナッツ (Nuts. Coconuts. Get it?)
- Another show about animals, this time ones that could kill you. Like a 4m wide death manta ray that lives in rivers in Thailand. Much less cute.
- A news special about “日本のイケメンハフ” aka Japan’s Super Cool/Sexy/Attractive Half-Japanese men” (Olympic Edition)
- Tons of rather strange commercials. Japanese commercials are my fave.
Other weird things included the fact that no matter the language I am TERRIBLE at large numbers. I had the hardest time learning them in English as a kid, I remember having an equally hard time learning them in Spanish, and Japanese is even worse. Because whereas in English we count ones, tens, hundreds, thousands, then ten thousands, Japanese counts ones, tens, hundreds, thousands, then a unit called “man” （万）which is ten thousand. So you’d say “one man” as opposed to “ten sen.” This made for fun times when the baby of the family was correcting my math in the game of “Life” we played.
The next morning, I had made plans with a friend in Yokohama because I needed to give them their bag back, so I was left for the second time that weekend saying goodbye.
Today’s Japanese lesson is about what to say when you part ways. Most of you know “Goodbye” in Japanese as “Sayonara.” The only time I have ever heard that used is by teachers when I leave class. This is strange because they are the ones who taught me that you don’t say “sayonara” when you say goodbye. “Sayonara” comes with a certain finality to it that means “We will probably never meet again. This is it. Forever.” So when you say goodbye in day to day life, you can use a variety of phrases. バイバイ – Bye bye. じゃね – See ya! またね – See you later. 先に失礼します – Excuse me for leaving before you.
All of those phrases have a sense of impermanence to them. They mean that we will meet again. None of them are suitable for saying goodbye to my host family, who I may or may not see again. Or to my club mates, who I will see on campus but once I leave only see in passing on Facebook. And yet, no one used “sayonara” that weekend. Instead I was left saying over and over again, “また会おう！”
Let’s meet again.