17 days in the US of A and I have returned to Japan feeling blessed. Blessed to have the family and friends I have. I spent 17 days falling deeper in love with every person I reconnected with. And those 17 days served as CPR for the next year of Japanese self- discovering solitude that all foreigners frequently find themselves in.
My vacation could not have come at a better time. I would like to know what happens in the human body when a person knows that vacation is on the way. Every time I am about to have a break, from whatever it is I am doing with my life, it is like that break could not come at a better time. My trip to the USA was no exception. Perhaps it even came a little late.
On the morning of July 16th, Brad and I boarded, yet another, flight together. We finally landed in Pittsburgh via Detroit a couple minutes early. Brad's father met us at baggage claim and my parents were a few moments behind him. I hugged my mother and father and cried. People around us stared and smiled. Greetings at the arrivals gate hold a sort of safety where people hug and their hands and heads find those familiar spots of home and love.
My mother turned 61 on July 16th and my niece Caroline and I created a life long bond that I will miss more than anything else while I am away from home.
The family members of Squirrel Hill threw a party that weekend. Caroline maintained her role as the star of the party.
Other's patiently watched.
By the end of my first week at home I was more than ready to get in my car and begin my great American road trip of summer 2008.
Wednesday evening I got on the Pennsylvania turn pike heading eastward to Philadelphia.
Rachel met me outside her home at about 1 a.m. We wasted no time. We blew up the air mattress, watched the somewhat frightening show "I Survived" and nervously giggled.
Then Matt Goldman came! And of course Adam was there! And that Friday night we giggled even harder, until the sun rose.
While we laughed the thought that consumed me most was how much sense it makes to take your shoes off inside, the way people do in Asia. And how is it so weird that people in America even wear their shoes in the bathroom.
I got back in the car Saturday morning and spent nine hours driving south toward Greensboro, NC.
Again, no time was wasted. I met Molly at her new home at the Melrose Place of Ed Mckay's. And it was right back in the car to the place I might have missed most, College Hill.
For the sake of tradition, that Sunday morning was spent at Smith Street Diner.
Summertime in North Carolina means breaking and entering and swimming. Whether this be by day at an apartment complex where no one I know lives.
Or by night where I might need the assistance of a friend to help me over the inconvenient gate.
It was a good time to be in Greensboro. Both Eryn and Emily were moving at the end of the week, so the city was consumed by vibes of partying and hugging.
Eryn is moving to Louisville, KY- a southern city that manages to keep its cool. Eryn's going away party consisted of cupcakes, dogs, more giggling, and the movie Smiley Face.
That night could be placed in the role call of some of the best nights of all times. It began as we roasted marshmallows. Once everyone was full of smores we made our way to blankets and lawn furiture. I sat down with Cara and Rory and the movie was projected onto the homemade, outdoor, big screen.
And I was reminded of how much Greensboro loves The Everybody Fields.
The night ended with yet another swim.
While I was in Greensboro, Cara cut my hair in her new, fancy, place of employment. Emily Mayer loved me enough to convince Molly and I to come to Westerwood Tavern.
Goodbye hugs were given around bonfires.
And friends wrapped their arms around me in ways that people do not do in Asia.
Most importantly, I shared similar glances with people that I had shared when I was just 18.
And if those looks have survived the last six years, I feel secure that they will last for years to come.
On Wednesday evening, I drove past Pilot Mountain and said goodbye to North Carolina once again.
My last few days in the USA were spent buying gifts for people in Japan and more shoes that comfortably fit my feet.
I rode a ferris wheel with Caroline and we looked down on the rest of the world, smiling and waving to those who will always stand close by, making sure we are safe and happy.
On Saturday morning, Caroline and her family came over one last time to say goodbye. As we walked outside, my dad carried my bags to the car and Caroline looked around asking, "where is the airplane, is it here now?"
At the airport, I cried, my mother cried, my father teared up, Brad had to watch me cry again, and I think Brad's brother felt awkward.
After a Japanese meal in the Detroit airport, Brad and I had a final farewell to American soil.
A few hours later the Japanese sun and Mt. Fuji welcomed us back.