As I flew into Nagoya this evening, it was a bit of a surprise to feel so nostalgic. But, as I do each time I return, it feels like I'm back to an old familiar again. As Nags is a fairly lackluster town, and from the air (and especially at night), there is nothing to distinguish this city from any other. There are no immediately recognizable landmarks, just featureless streets, resembling so many in other places, only with tiny little lanes and tiny little cars. Regardless, flying into a city any time, and just knowing it is yours, knowing that you are home (and about ready to unload 140 pounds of new stuff!) feels good.
During this flight, my plane chased the sun. Each time this happens, I am always hopeful that well catch it, but am secretly glad that we don't, as falling behind the sun means dark skies and good sleeping. I sat next to two very nice English speaking Filipinos who crossed themselves at every opportunity: take-off, landing, before each meal, and during turbulence. I recognized this immediately as a sign of their devout Catholicism, per my connection with Mike, who is also Filipino and devoutly Catholic. Either way, this time I especially knew our plane was going to be all right (whether we caught the sun or not!), as they said enough Hail Marys for all of us.
I have decided that each flight home deserves the gift of a new book, as reading more books than last year serves as one of my new year's resolutions. On my way to America, I polished of two quick books before even setting foot in Des Moines. On the way back, I picked up and finished another, enjoying it immensely. Although the first two don't count, I did finish two other books I was half-way through, after the new year, bringing my total already by this day to 3.
During the initial descent over Japan, when I first recognized the northern peaks of Sendai and Aomori-ken, I struck me how amazing it is that once or twice a year I can hop on an industrial metal machine and fly (literally) halfway across the world to see family and friends. From door to door, it's 24 hours of travel time, with luggage stress and weight paining each leg of the journey. This time, the stress was in bringing back things for others. During my flight I had silently remarked to myself how any gifts I brought back, for teaching friends, Japanese teachers, baby presents, and a full workout kit for Ricco. A box of cereal, requested by my friend Karianne was the only one my suitcase could afford, ironic that in all the room I made for others, nary was a box of cereal for myself.
I anticipate 2010 to be a good year. Two years ago, December and January found me learning how to live and travel on my own. Last year at this time, I was nursing a failing relationship. This year, I intend on moving forward with what I have learned from those years past. I understand that old adages are true for a reason, and that time heals all wounds. What doesn't kill us does indeed make us stronger, wiser, and better prepared for the newer circumstances. And often, good things fall apart so that better things fall together. May it be a year of continued growth for me, and for all whose lives I am directly connected to. As I do for myself, I wish you the best as well.
Finally, in closing, I offer one of the more profound moments of my return: As I disembarked the plane, a well-dressed Japanese ariport employee headed down towards the aircraft. Ready to speak my (mother) tongue again, I politely offered 'Konbanwa' (good evening). He ignored me completely.
That's how I knew I was home.