It’s been just over a month since I left Japan.
At the point when I got off the plane in Heathrow I must have been awake for about 22 hours. And yet, I couldn’t stop talking. I was greeted by mum and my partner Theo, and they patiently listened to my ramblings. I couldn’t stop commenting on everything around me, such as how different the clothes people wear in England are.
That night, going to sleep in my bed, being able to hug my partner, was surreal.
The next day I woke up early because of jetlag and discovered a strange abundance of energy, a desperate desire to get something done. I dragged Theo to Tesco to get cooking ingredients and kept loudly commenting on how cheap the apples are, and how the new thin Digestive cookies are a disgrace. I finally got to use the new £5 note. I took joy and interest in every little activity that was so mundane to me before Japan.
Many people experience a sense of alienation when they return home from a long time abroad. For example, their family and friends have changed, and they struggle to adapt to that.
Well, both myself and the people in England have changed too. But I’ve kept up with those closest to me, so it wasn’t a shock to see mum being swept up in her new hobby, or Theo having a fresh interest in fashion.
I’ve changed too. I didn’t notice it in Japan, but I can see it clearly now: I’m stronger, more confident in the knowledge that I can overcome challenges and find happiness in foreign places.
Since coming back I’ve been enjoying catching up with old friends and listening to their stories, admiring the ways they’ve changed. Some of them don’t need me to go into detail about Japan, because they have kept up with this blog, and the fact that someone enjoys reading these rambles humbles me so much. I’ve been dashing around seeing the dentist, the optician, trimming my hair, putting back together the lifestyle I had here in England. In under a week I’ll be going back to Oxford, my favourite place in the world, and taking on another busy year of learning. I’m ready.
I miss Japan. The memories are still vivid, but the idea that I spent an experience-packed year abroad already seems surreal. For now I look forward to learning more academically about the language, the literature, the history.
And one day I will book a plane ticket to Osaka again, and greet Japan like an old friend.