Saturday, May 23, 2009

Way to go, girls.

Last summer I lived in Pittsburgh with three wonderful friends.
On our last morning together before Ellen drove off to Cincinatti in her twenty-something-year-old Volvo station wagon, hoping that it would make the five hour trip, the four us sat down for a final breakfast at a diner around the corner from my apartment.

Soon after I, too, left Pittsburgh, leaving Jocelyn and Mallory behind. A month later they both left the city where they were born and headed out on separate adventures, one of which unexpectedly led Jocelyn to Japan.
Yesterday I received two separate emails from Mallory and Ellen informing me that they both got teaching jobs in Nashville, and that they will be moving there, together, in a mere ten days.
Somehow, even though they are still thousands of miles away, the fact that they are together makes them seem that much closer. Jocelyn and I are in Japan, and they will be making lives for themselves in Nashville. Our friendships are still long distance, but at least we are only split in half.
This makes me feel incredibly lucky and optimistic about moving back to the US sometime in the future, where although my friends are still scattered across the country, two of them will be together in a place where I can go without feeling like I am moving back home.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Incredibly Kind

These are some things that I have received from various people since Monday.

My favorite, however, is a four-leaf clover that was given to me today by a second grader. I remember the childhood pursuit of such a prize. Today it came easily to me.

This afternoon I helped 6th year elementary school students address envelopes to foreigners who they met on their class trip to the Kansai region of Japan. In Kyoto, the students approached foreigners and then asked if they could take a picture together. They then asked them to write their address down on a piece of paper. It had become my job to de-code the sloppy handwriting from around the globe into legible letters and numbers that the students would then be able to copy themselves. Among the addresses from Switzerland, Canada, Germany, and England, there were a few from the US. One group showed me their address and I was stunned to see that it was from Pittsburgh. Shock set in as I read the street name. The woman whose picture had been taken by my students in Kyoto lives on Shady Ave, the street directly behind my own. The students who showed me this particular address held up the paper as if it were some sort of a golden ticket.

I hope the people who receive the photos in the mail cherish them and realize the incredibly kind gesture that these students are making. If nothing else, maybe they, like I, can feel that the world is that much smaller.

Friday, May 15, 2009

How to be Cool

Exhausted from a beautiful trip to Hong Kong with pleasant memories of ripe mangos and bubble tea still fresh in my mind, I woke up extra early Tuesday morning for a class field trip that I was invited to partake in. I had been told to dress appropriately for the hike that we would take on the nearby mountain, and I was reminded to bring a bottle of water because I would be very hot. So that morning I put on a t-shirt and jean shorts, and I made sure that I had some cash in my purse for one of the many vending machines that I would find on the island where we would be hiking.

When I arrived at school the first thing I noticed was that all of the teachers were wearing jogging suits (normal attire for Japanese teachers) and big floppy hats to protect their faces from the sun. Everyone had a backpack where they stored their bento (lunch box) and bottle of water. The bento that I was given did not fit into my red over the shoulder purse, and various teachers warned me that I would get sunburned. Already I felt that they regretted inviting me along, because, of course, I had no idea of how to properly prepare for a hike up a sunny mountain.

Along with the hundred or so students, I boarded a ferry down the street from my Junior High School. Ten minutes later we arrived on the island that, somehow, I did not know existed.

After lots of sitting around and chatting with the teachers as the students had to find their way through a walking course, I ate my bento that another teacher had so kindly held in his backpack for me, followed by the commencement of the afternoon hike.

After ten minutes of walking up this I was exhausted, but I kept going amid the "we can do it" chants from my students.

When we reached the top of the mountain I looked down at the water and my town. I asked the students where our Junior High School was, and like me, they were unsure of its location.
On the walk down my students took turns wearing my sunglasses.

We took the ferry back to the mainlaind and returned to school sweaty from our adventure.

The next day I woke up sunburned and ashamed to show my reddened face to my co-workers. Despite my faults it was all worth it because now I know that I can escape to that island for an afternoon and that all it takes to be cool is a good pair of sunglasses.