Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Bittersweet Endings, Delicious Beginnings

Bittersweet. Both sweet and bitter, bitter and sweet, as the song goes. This little vocabulary gem has been creeping into my English lessons lately. I've been making final visits to each of my 15 classes here at Sakai Junior High, telling each of my 452 students that my time at their school is coming to an end, and undertaking the almost-impossible task of explaining how I'm feeling in broken English and even more broken Japanese.

So how, exactly, am I feeling? Even given the luxury of my native tongue, it's hard to put into words. Bittersweet gets close, but isn't quite intense enough.

Yes, leaving is bitter. Very bitter. Right now, I'm in the throes of a series of long, sad, drawn-out goodbyes. I'm pulling off the proverbial Band-Aid very slowly, and it is painful. My heart breaks each time I have to tell one of my classes that this is our final meeting, each time I have to hug a Japanese friend for the last time, each time I have to attend a sayonara party for a fellow JET-turned-ad-hoc-family-member, realizing that just days from now, we'll be scattered across the world all over again.

I don't know when/if I will come back to Japan. If I do, it probably won't be for a long, long time. It's the finality of everything that hurts the most.

But, yes, what I have to look forward to in the future is sweet. Very sweet. On Sunday, I'll be back in Chicago, surrounded by my family and old friends and size 8 shoes and pizza that doesn't involve corn or mayonnaise. And then, very soon after that, I'll be off to begin a new adventure in Mexico, starting what might just be my dream job. (I'll be firing up a new blog, titled GRINGA CULICHI, to share my exploits south of the Rio Grande. Stay tuned.)

So, for lack of a better word, I'd describe it all as bittersweet. But I think my feelings are being intensified by the outpouring of support I've gotten here in Japan. People who don't even share my language are telling me, in their own wordless ways, that I will be missed, I will be remembered, and that they support me wholeheartedly in my move to Mexico, a far-away country that they know little about, other than it's hot and people eat lots of tacos there.

And my tear ducts have opened and flowed freely in each of these instances, like when my little host sister finally addressed me as "おねさん" (older sister) on a goodbye card she shyly gave me this weekend. Or when my students encouraged me with "fight-o!" and "go for it!" when I told them about my new job. Or when my 75-year-old friend and student, Nagata-san, proposed a toast to my health and success in Mexico during a farewell party last week. Or when my students add to the stack of carefully-written goodbye letters accumulating on my desk at school.

A wise man named Dr. Seuss once said, "Don't be sad it's ending, be glad it happened." These words have become my personal mantra over the past few weeks. They're what I repeat in my head, trying to comfort myself as I fight back tears when faced with yet another goodbye. And they're running through my head right now as I prepare to push the "publish" button, thus officially wrapping my little MUY OISHII blog that has so faithfully carried me through my time here in Japan. Thank you, friends and family -- and, yes, thank you mystery readers -- for joining me on this crazy beautiful adventure.

It's sometimes bittersweet, but life, above all, is MUY OISHII (very delicious).

Please visit my new blog at http://www.gringaculichi.blogspot.com/.
Favor de visitar mi blog nuevo en http://www.gringaculichi.blogspot.com/.
わたしの あたらしい ブルオグ わ http://www.gringaculichi.blogspot.com/.


sbfren said...

Hey, Sara -

It's been truly awesome following your exploits this past year - thanks so much for sharing!! I can't wait to hear all about the RG adventures next year... In the mean time, have a great visit home!

Other Sarah (from semantics!)

Scorps1027 said...

Hey Sara,

I read this entire blog in one sitting on Saturday afternoon! I enjoyed it so much and I loved reading about how you 'let go' in Japan and just found parts of yourself in the most unusual circumstances and situations. What a wonderful way to do it all. I'm so proud of you for spending time in Japan and I"m even more proud and excited for your exciting journeys to begin in Mexico!!!

It was wonderful seeing you for a brief time on Friday. I was afraid the delays would result in us missing each other. I hope you had wonderful reunions in Chicago, and that you're geared up for all your new adventures and life lessons you'll find in Mexico!

I'll be avidly reading your gringa culichi blog and rooting for you all the way here in Philly!