Since moving to Japan Pennsylvania has felt like home more than ever.
In the last 2 months I have spent precious time with quality Western Pennsylvanians.
I guess it could be traced back to August when I convinced Brad to be my friend by telling him that I am from the great city of Pittsburgh.
Since then I have shared moments of PA comfort with Brad's hometown friends (in order of appearance) Julia, Jon, Jordan, Ant, and Cris.
A couple weeks after I recovered from an evening of Pennsylvanian driver's license holding fools, Julia and Jordan, invading Naruto I got on a bus to Kyoto to hang with Jon, a young man who grew up in Cranberry PA, a place not too far from Mt.Lebanon.
Jon came by ferry from South Korea, where he is currently teaching English.
We screamed the Steelers Super Bowl song into karaoke microphones and picked up some South Americans with the crazy dance moves that, I am convinced, people learn when growing up in the suburbs of Pittsburgh.
The following weekend I drove to Naruto to meet Ant and Cris who flew from Philadelphia to Japan for three weeks of travel. In true hometown fashion, we kept the neighbors up for all hours of the night.
That Saturday afternoon we slowly made our way through Iya's mountains to the double vine bridges with just enough sunlight to enjoy them without having to pay the daytime 500 yen fee.
That evening the four of us individually crept from the campfire to the three person tent. Pushing logs around in the fire, clutching beers, and being somewhat unprepared for a night in a crowded tent was a routine that reminded me of camping in Seven Springs, Pennsylvania.
The next day we hiked up Mt. Turugisan, the highest mountain in Tokushima.
When I hugged Ant and Cris goodbye that Monday morning I was pretty convinced that I would not be seeing them again until I was on American soil.
But when they called me from the Ikeda train station Wednesday evening I was more than thrilled to share my small, mountain side, space that few people ever make it out to.
They popped in on my favorite elementary school to eat lunch, sign autographs, and help the kids clean.
I am sure some of the children will have a vaguely frightening memory of Western sized Ant lingering around their outdoor shoe cubbies.
The Pennsylvania visitors are all out of sight at this point but this new love affair is only growing stronger. For the next two months I will stay couped up in Japan dreaming of July 16th when I get to step off an airplane and kiss the ground of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
The Keystone state and I will then spend a romantic two and a half weeks together until I board a plane to return to Japan on August 2nd.