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Sayonara, Nihon

It's hard to believe that I'll be leaving Japan in four days.  It feels like I've been here for so long, but at the same time, it feels like the trip has gone so quickly.  I've seen many of the things that I absolutely had to see, spent more money than I probably should have, and had a fantastic time.

I feel very ambivalent about returning home.  It'll be good to see my family, boyfriend, and friends again, but I definitely prefer Tokyo to Minnesota.  It'll be hard to adjust to not being able to just hop on a train and go somewhere.  I pined for the city for weeks after I left London (haven't stopped, actually), and I suspect that it'll be the same with Tokyo.  And I'm not sure what awaits me back home.  Unlike most of the people in the CIEE program, this was the last experience of my college career.  Once I return from Japan, I'll have graduated from college.  I'd planned to look for jobs from here, but there wasn't much time to do much in the way of job hunting.  I did apply for a few, which I never heard back from.  It's hard not to feel like I have no future waiting for me when I come back.

Will I miss Japan?  Yes, absolutely.  But I'll also miss the sense of hiatus that I've had while I'm here, that this is a vacation--in spite of the schoolwork--where I don't need to worry about anything.  I'll miss the people I've met here, some of whom have become good friends.

But most of all, I'll miss knowing what comes next.

In the past four weeks, I haven't understood half of the conversations going on around me.  I've felt illiterate, tried to find things I couldn't find, and found quite a few things I wasn't intending to find.  I've gotten lost more times than I could count, when no one who knows me knew where I was.

I didn't ask people for directions, although it would probably have helped me practice my Japanese.  My strategy was this: Pick a direction.  Start walking.  If it doesn't seem right, pick a different one.  At some point, I would come across something that I could use to navigate--a map on the street, a building, a street sign.  And I got to where I was going every single time.  Most of the time, I found more interesting things on the way than I would have if I hadn't wandered off course.

On Friday morning, I'll wake up in Minnesota in my mother's house, with one week left on my student job and no prospects for what comes next.

Time to start walking.

Not all who wander are lost.

-Kendra Leigh Speedling


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