This is the second post in my Return to Tohoku series.
For the first time in as long as I can remember, I was nervous while heading to the airport today. Maybe it came from drinking a little bit more wine then I should have last night with friends. But nonetheless an anxious nervousness swept over me as I loaded my bag in the car and grew as my girlfriend, dog and I, sped towards theOttawaairport. Thankfully she talked and I was content to listen while I pet the dog in my lap.
I don’t know where this nervousness came from. I’ve done this trip what seems like a million times. Although, now sitting here rocketing above the Earth, north ofYellowknife, I am a little bit more calm and nervousness is slowly building into excitement. I can’t see sleeping in the 9 hours I still have left, but we’ll see how I’m feeling in 5 or 6.
This trip is different then all others. It’s not strictly business or travel for pleasure; it’s a mixed bag of everything. It’s a trip that is a homecoming with business, reunions, government employees and tourist adventures all added in for good measure. While I don’t expect a ticker-tape parade or anyone to even notice, for me, it will be huge. Getting off that train inFukushimacity will probably be the best feeling I’ve had in awhile.
The nervousness I’m feeling may stem from my uncertainty. What am I really going to find? Is this place that up until a year ago was my home, really that different? And what is expected of me? While I understand the overall concept of having former JETs return to Japan, I’m not quite sure what I can do. What can one person accomplish for a country they don’t live in? I’m still trying to figure that one out, but in the meantime, I’m just going to write down everything that happens and whatever I do or come across and put it out on the internet.
Long Awaited Return
Fukushima will always be my first home. It’s not my childhood home or where I first lived on my own in university, but it was the first place that I ever considered to be my home. I made it my home and the people there: JETs, non-JETs and Japanese people became my family. I know that sounds sappy, but it’s true. I remember, being very very sick in my first year as an ALT and my Mom emailing and calling me to ask if she should fly over in order to take care of me. No matter how I tried, I wasn’t able to convince her that I would be fine and that I had a network of people to help me. Luckily I got better and she didn’t end up coming. But when she did eventually arrive in Fukushima a few months later, and met the people around me, she realized how ridiculous the notion of her coming toJapan to take care of me had been. She even commented that it seemed as though the JETs in Fukushima city had created a little international family. And that’s what JET was and I assume still is.
There are most likely similar feelings felt throughout the worldwide JET Alumni community that have lived in the affected prefectures post March 11th. I remember realizing how lightly I had taken other disasters that had happened the world over. Prior to the Fukushima disaster, other disasters had just been passing thoughts. I read news articles and discussed them, but never had something so horrific occurr anywhere that I could picture in my head and that I had so many memories from. And I honestly don’t think that people can ever know how it feels until you go through it.
Not being in Fukushima, a place that I’m so attached to I had the prefectural symbol tattooed on my body, while it went through a gut wrenching triple disaster brought feelings of guilt, relief, fear and anger. It wasn’t long after the disaster, that I vowed I would return to Fukushima, to see the people that had been part of my extended family there. While emails and pictures are all well and good, nothing beats a solid hug, or in the cases of some school principals, a sturdy bow.
I never thought my return would have anything to do with the Japanese government, but I’m glad that it does. The schedule that I posted in my last blog is pretty much exactly what I would have done had I returned on my own and is pretty much how I lived while I was in Fukushima. I look forward to the cultural exchanges I will have while I’m there, no matter how awkward they get and I’m looking forward to enjoying whatever Fukushima has become in the last year. I do truly wonder if there will be an evident difference in the people or the landscape. I’m also looking forward to meeting the new JET community in Fukushima and seeing them bond and mesh with each other, hopefully creating memories like I have with the people that I shared my time with in Japan.
I’m hoping my blogs of this trip not only engage the general public and give a different look at what Fukushima and Japan are about, but I also hope that they serve as peace of mind for the JET Alumni that I’ve talked to since the disaster and even those that I haven’t, those that like me, just want to go and see people and the places they used to call home.