The Return

The first days back are fast. You do all of the things you think of when you think of summer in Rhode Island. You go for a walk to Coastal Roasters in the morning. You buy fruit at Walker’s and eat ice cream at Daily Scoop. There are sunsets and there are mansions to revisit again on a lazy day. Then you do some things you don’t think of when you think of Rhode Island. You go to a Japanese guitarist’s concert at the Four Corners in Tiverton. The music makes you think of your time in Japan, but you can’t conjure up why, and it’s an imprecise feeling.

You go visit your sister and brother-in-law in Brooklyn. You imagine the city through the eyes of your friends back in Japan, and then you realize that you see the city that way too. The buildings so brown, the streets lined by so many trees, you remember that you haven’t seen a city like this in a long time. You think of Tokyo and the buildings that house seventeen bars on eight floors. You think of order on the escalators and the timeliness of subways. You try to hear snippets of Japanese conversations on the subway but know that nobody is speaking it. You look at the skyline at night and realize that you’re really not there anymore.

You spend a night at a lighthouse with your family. It’s quiet and peaceful and there are a few other families staying there for the night. There’s no electricity, and you sit in Adirondack chairs, reading books while boats glide up and down Narragansett Bay. Something about it evokes life in Hokkaido, but then a massive barge honks it way past and you realize that it doesn’t really.

Time goes by and you start working again. You don’t have time to think about your life in Japan, and when you do, it washes over you completely. You realize how little you’ve really gotten to think about it, to sit with what it meant to you, how you’ve thrown yourself into a rhythm unfamiliar to you. It really hits you when a group from your school visits Massachusetts on an exchange program and you drive down to see them. The weekend goes quickly and on your drive back you remember how long it could be until you see someone from there again.

Some nights you give yourself up to the nostalgia: looking at the photo album you made, drinking tea from a wabisabi cup a friend gave you before you left. You realize you’re being indulgent but then it’s hard to stop. You don’t like talking about your time away at work or with friends because you don’t want to be that guy. You decide to try to live in a balance between both places, and you wonder what that will look like.


3 thoughts on “The Return

  1. I say you SHOULD talk, talk, talk – who wouldn’t want to listen to what life is like in another foreign (very foreign) country like Japan! I know I would listen!

  2. Loved this post! I’m seriously debating moving back to the US at some point next year, and have been weighing up the pros and cons of no longer living the expat life, so I can relate. And I agree that most people just don’t really want to hear about your life in another country beyond maybe small talk at a party. It’s more something to share with people you’ve just met, because friends and family have already heard it all, and just aren’t that interested in what you did when they weren’t around (at least in my experience!).

    1. Hi Jessica, I’m glad to hear this meant something to you. Moving back is tough, and I think figuring out how to talk about it with people makes it a bit tougher.

Leave a Reply