Today I biked to a nearby town that I pass almost every day on my bus route. It’s a comfortable, 45 minute or so ride that I’ve done many times, alone and with friends. Nothing spectacular – it runs alongside a big, busy road (a highway, maybe?)—but it has distant mountain views, big skies, and lots of farms along the way. It’s a comfortable, pretty ride.
Along the way I passed a super-discount-store, and I suddenly remembered my first day in Chikugo when my supervisor brought me there to buy food and home supplies. That was almost a year ago. I was in awe of all the differences, panicky about whether I would find anything to eat (I bought like 6 cans of corn), and cautiously optimistic about the year ahead of me.
In the typical “culture shock” cycle, that period is the “honeymoon” phase. That’s when it was really exciting to go to the supermarket and smile at cashiers who rarely saw foreigners. During that euphoria, and even more so when the winter blues set in, I was sure those first months would be the high point of my time here. That I would never get back anything as good as that feeling of first love.
But this is better. I feel acclimated, now. The bike ride is familiar, comforting and pleasant. I know where to go when I need something, and interesting places to visit around Chikugo. I’m really getting to know my students, and my language skills are (marginally) improving, Of course there are still so many delightful surprises, but I really feel at home here. And I never expected it to feel this good!
(PS: I just glanced back at some of my entries from the winter, and it just feels like an old nightmare. Even though we have to deal with terrifying bugs in summer- I am dealing with a tatami mite infestation right now- winter is just hard.)
(PPS: My dear 5-year-old friend Momo used her Tanabata wish to ask that she learn English, so she could talk to me. I have got to work on my Japanese!!!)