I keep getting asked “How was your trip to Canada?” and while I was there, I kept getting asked, “How does it feel to be back?” The short answer is that it felt really weird, and I experienced some reverse culture shock. The long answer is below.
Fourteen hours’ difference in time zones. I have travelled through time and space. I travelled for 24 hours but it was still yesterday. Returning, I went to tomorrow.
It was too short and too long. Coyotes howling, seeing the aurora borealis for just ten minutes – green shimmers in the sky. The bite of -27 and the heat of 18 within three weeks.
Crunching ice and slush, a snowball and cucumber slice fight. Song 2 by Blur. Knowing there is more that people want to say when they say nothing. Sliding around icy corners covered with snow so heavy and wet that the tires throw it against the windows like slush.
A sort of surreal experience. As if now I don’t belong. I guess I must have before. Although I feel like I’ve only been gone a day, I’ve missed a year, and I’m acting the same towards everyone and they are doing likewise. In a kind of emotional fog and state-of-life purgatory. Some kind of communication barrier exists around me everywhere – no matter what, no one says what they are thinking anywhere. Like a dream – no matter where I am, I can’t do anything permanent. Nothing seems like it will have permanent consequences. It doesn’t seem real. Like I’m watching a movie and the characters just talk to me sometimes. Are you having fun? I don’t know. Is this real? Am I having fun? I think so. Is this what my life would be like if I came back here?
I couldn’t seem to speak properly for the first week I first returned to Canada. It was overwhelming to be back in my own culture, understanding everything I heard and saw. People are loud and boisterous here – they talk and visit in the grocery stores and laugh and joke loudly everywhere. It’s not like this is some new thing to me, but after a year of quiet malls and hushed voices it was a shock. The salt in the foods I’d been craving for so long nearly pickled my taste buds. My shrunken stomach could barely handle everything I crammed down it. I did manage to put on a couple of pounds in one month though.
Battering against the illusion that I just left the place a day ago were new buildings that had sprung up. The children that had grown four inches and friendly. The many well-meaning, good-hearted friends and acquaintances offering me advice on how to live my life, and bribes to help me decide where to live it. Marry this kind of person. As if I’m shopping in a convenience store and just grab one off the shelf. You know, because marriage is such a one-sided choice. Where to live and work. That being said, I’m glad people care enough to say something. It was just rather hard to take in all at once.
Well, I had a great visit back home. I missed my friends and family, and a good visit was overdue. I can’t say I’m glad to be back in Japan, but I can’t say it’s the wrong decision either. So here I am. There should have been some culture shock when I came back, but I don’t feel it. Only the jet lag and the question of whether I should be here or there.