|All packed up and ready to turn in the keys :(|
If you asked me what my first week in Japan was like back when I arrived in Tokyo in August 2009, I wouldn't be able to describe it at all; it was all a blur, a whirlwind of new information, sights, sounds, and faces. It was as if the fast forward button on the remote control of my life was stuck. My first clear memory of being in Japan was the first night I spent alone in my apartment, after the craziness of orientations had subsided. I sat there on my living room floor in sort of a daze, blankly staring at my opened suitcase, listening to the crickets chirping outside my window. My family had each written a letter and hid it in my suitcase; letters filled with memories, encouraging words, advice, and prayers. It was enough to get the waterworks running.
Oh my gosh, what the heck have I done? There's no going back now. Oh my gosh, where the heck am I? Oh my gosh...oh my gosh.
Enter 2-inch, black cockroach. (I think they make it a tradition to welcome the new ALT to their new home on their first night in Oshima.) As I screamed and climbed to the highest peak of the apartment (my couch) analyzing the situation and my distance from said cockroach, reality hit me like a ton of bricks. For as long as I lived in Japan, I was on my own. Washing dishes, doing laundry, buying food, cooking the food, paying bills, and yes...killing bugs...I was going to be responsible for everything. EVERYTHING.
Fast forward two years, and there I was again, sitting on my living room floor, packing my last remaining suitcase for the trip home. The last of the boxes had been packed and shipped. My closets and drawers had been cleaned out and a bleach/windex smell lingered throughout the apartment. I checked and double-checked that every possible area had been cleaned. I looked out my window one last time. I closed my eyes and envisioned past shadows of cooking my first (and unsuccessful) batch of frozen gyoza on rice my first night, successfully capturing an enormous spider from my living room and setting it free outside (while yelling, "I saved your life! Don't you ever come back! And tell your friends to stay out too!"), huddling in front of my heater as I changed my clothes for work in the freezing winter mornings, and setting down bedding for the many friends who came for an Oshima sleepover.
This had been my first experience living on my own. This was my first apartment. This is where I learned independence.