There’s nothing quite like steeping oneself in another culture and, just like a good tea, I’m grateful for the flavour it adds to life. But I’m also mindful of circling back to the cultural waters from which I came. What was once warm and cozy can often feel a bit…harsh, with the contrast. Furthermore, there’s the leviathan of tasks waiting for my return; pushed back to make room for the trip, but steadily growing to monstrous proportions and needing to be dealt with eventually.
A good warrior is tempted to rush home and slide back into their tried and true battle strategy, but the wise warrior takes a moment to bring the hard-earned perspective garnered on the road back into their stance. Knowing how quickly novel lessons fade in the face of old habits, I aim to be the latter.
With new experiences, it takes time to integrate them - a lifetime, really - and the best way to honour this is to pump the brakes a bit, giving the ideas time to percolate. I’ve found that notes and photos help trigger memories, but it is in the reflection and sharing with others where the seeds sown really come to life.
There is a goodbye I’ve grown fond of in Japan. When someone is leaving, you say Ganbatte to them - roughly translated as “Do the best you can.” But there is also a second part, where the person leaving replies Ganbarimasu - which means “I will do my best.”
Well wishes and honourable intentions, connected.
With a lurch, my plane begins backing away from the gate. The flight attendants take their positions at front, centre, and back, and begin their familiar flight preparation rigamarole. The way they speak Japanese feels like listening to a podcast at half speed - so much slower and more enunciated than how it’s spoken beyond the airport. I chuckle to myself at remembering how fast these same words seemed when I first landed. But I’m hardly listening this time, distracted and stealing a final glance back.
Out of my window I see two baggage handlers looking at us. They bend into a deep, slow bow to our plane and everyone on board; holding it for about five seconds and then slowly returning to standing.