America. I wanna go. I haven't left Japan since I got here, and I haven't been to America, home, in 1-year and 7 months. Knox was 1-year and 4 months old when we got here, so he has now spent more of his life in Japan than in the United States. He will be 3-years old on April 20th.
Recently I have been reminded of home a lot. I thought I had a splinter in my foot the other day, and the feeling transported me to Florida, where I've spent so much time running around barefoot and I have often nursed in my feet both wood and glass splinters and bee stings.
My friend mentioned the Strawberry Festival and posted some pictures of their trip there... I wanna go to the Strawberry Festival, where people speak English and I know what all the food is. I used to perform at the Strawberry Festival every year as a clogger. I'd enjoy a few good hours watching red necks down corn dogs and elephant ears. The Florida State Fair would also be a good ole' American time.
I'd like to go shopping at my favorite stores. I'd like to walk through American Eagle, Banana Republic, or Urban Outfitters and try stuff on for a few hours. Shopping is still fun here, but it's different. Do you know, Americanos, about the shoe thing, not only in the home, but in store dressing rooms and public bathrooms. When you go into a store dressing room, there is either a division in the floor or a step up, and you either leave your shoes just outside the division between clean floor and outside-shoe floor, or you leave your shoes outside the door as you step up into the dressing area. Many places have store shoes, usually heels, since the Japanese are more formal than Americans, that you can try on with your selections. Some places won't let you try on shirts at all, and most dressing rooms, if not all that I can remember, have these sort of disposable gauze head covers that you are supposed to put on before you slip clothing over your face. I very rarely use them, but they are to protect the new clothes from sweat and make up. And as for bathrooms, most homes, offices, and some restaurants provide bathroom slippers. Every student at my school changes their school sandals for bathroom sandals each time they go to the bathroom. I was in a Japanese home the other day, and remember that toilets almost always have a very small room of their own, and in this Japanese home you could just step inside, turn around, and sit on the toilet. Despite the very small space, there were bathroom slippers, consuming just about all of the space between the door and the toilet. I wasn't wearing shoes, because of course I had taken them off at the front door, so I slipped my feet into the bathroom slippers like a good Japanese girl. It seems kinda silly, but I've been assimilated, at least a little.
I have often missed the grocery store, but I'm going through another strong phase where simple literacy when buying ingredients for a recipe would be a relief. I want to go to Olive Garden. I want to peruse a menu I can read, instead of just settling for what's in the picture or what I know the vocabulary to order.
More missing... I have some very important, life-long friends that I made in my sorority, Kappa Kappa Gamma, at the University of Florida. One of these dear friends had a baby a few days ago, and I am a terrible, regrettable friend who has yet to send a shower present, and my shame is only compounded by the memory of the very timely and large present she sent me when I was pregnant with Knox. Our sorority flower is the Fleur de Lis, also known as the Blue Iris. My KKG friend posted a picture of an Iris, which was already nostalgic in itself, but also she took the picture in California, a place I love. In California, exotic flowers like Birds of Paradise and Blue Irises grow like weeds. Roses, too. It made me think of my friends and my sorority house. I'd like to go to a reunion within the next couple of years. They have big ones in the summer sometimes but I've never been able to go. I was a member of my KKG alumni organization in California, and I made some friends there too, and got to go to some special places and events thanks to it. Which makes me think of my Tampa book club...
When I was pregnant with Knox, I met a wonderful woman and friend at the birth center. I became friends with her and her family, and we had our babies one week apart. We spent many hours together at lunch dates and Starbucks. She's now one of the best of my friends at keeping in touch with me while I'm in Japan. I'm still baffled by the generosity of the friends she introduced me to. She has a very strong church group, and many of her friends and members of the church brought meals and gift cards to us when Knox was born (and if you know anyone who has baby, please do this for them. Just having a few meals taken care of is a major help). We had never met any of them, but they brought full meals with plenty of left overs to us, and sat and ate with us, and did dishes... they are all amazing, generous people. Several of them became friends that I would see on a regular basis after that. They would come over and play with Knox while I did chores, or help me take care of things if I got sick (cause getting sick and being in charge of a baby is REALLY hard), we would go on lunch dates and have game nights, we would go to their houses for dinner and they would come to ours, and I became a member of a book club that a few of them had founded together.
This book club was awesome. We read a book, I think it was once a month, and got together to discuss it. Someone hosted at their house each month, and we would all bring a dish that matched the theme of the book. For A Tale of Two Cities we did French food, for The Story of Edgar Sawtelle we had southern food, and for Memoirs of a Geisha we had Japanese food, and even did a craft of Chrysanthemum hair clips. There were so many members that we had a membership cap, and if you didn't show up for three meetings, someone else would get your spot. Well, it was friendly, but it worked that way, and if you missed a couple of times you would get a friendly call so that the club could find out if you were coming back or if they could add someone from the waiting list. At Christmas we read As A Driven Leaf, and besides the food, we had a Christmas cookie exchange. We all took home tons of cookies. I miss book club a lot. I thought about trying to start one just like this in Japan, but I'm not much of a club starter.
Challenging is good. I'm just a little tired of challenging. I could use an escape. I need theme park America right around now, where NOTHING is in Japanese. It's probably partly just being sick, but my brain is tired. Actually... if I could have one minor wish right at this moment, it would be to get transported to Whole Foods where I could eat gluttonously from the prepared foods section and pick up three carts full of non-perishables for my kitchen in Japan. I would pick up tons of maple syrup, whole grain flour, vegan cookies, raw nuts and grains from the bulk food section, organic chocolate bars, and a tub of hummus. That I know.
...and if I could have a major wish, it would be to suddenly have 25 billion dollars in a bank account and once a week sessions with Warren Buffett to learn what to do with it...
I have every intention of visiting America from the approximate dates of December 23rd to January 13th. I hope I get to see many people, especially the wonderful friends who have kept in touch during my tenure here.
It hit me today that when we return to America from Japan, Knox will be 4-years old. I will have one year with him before he starts school. I've got a lot of thoughts and feelings about that. I'd like to be home with him right now, and I wonder what the situation will be when I get back. I just hope I get to enjoy my baby a lot. I'm planning to apply to school in Gainesville and Miami in Florida, and with this idea of Knox starting school just hitting me, I feel more comfortable with the idea of Knox going to school in Gainesville. But, I know that's just because I'm not very familiar with Miami. Miami has more potential of having some super awesome prep-your-kid-to-be-a-genius school, so I could be down with that. :-) If I won the lottery or something I could move to Tampa and home-school him with all my crunchy Tampa friends.
I felt something click in the past week or two. This has been a major transition with Peter moving out. When and where and why I do things is all pretty different, and I have been flopping around like a fish who grew legs and is breathing air for the first time. Getting everything done and figuring out how life is going to be now has been major. If I was looking at it from the outside I don't know that I would see it; I could barely understand from the inside; I've kept asking myself why I feel the way I do cause things aren't that hard. Now I'm understanding more that it was hard making that transition, and I'm still making it, but over these three plus months I've carved a new groove and I'm able to finally settle into it more.
The short of it is... I'm putting myself in a tunnel when really I live in a vast Universe of possibilities. At the same time, I have to be more gentle with myself, and forgive myself when I lose sight of things. The world is your oyster... but only if you know it is.