Monthly Archives: December 2011

To go or not to go


Weighing the pros and cons of visiting home for an ALT

For every ALT there comes a time when, for one reason or another, he or she is confronted with the decision to visit the home from whence the came. For me it was no different.

I debated with myself a bit before leaving home as to whether I would actually come home during my year or two away. Then that possibility of 2 years was cut down by a couple personal reasons (one of which is everyone’s getting married!! How dare they ask me to be a part of such a special event… ). So being left with only one year abroad, I thought ‘Well I don’t really need to come home, right? It’s expensive!’ The more people asked if I was coming home in the summer at all, the more I questioned my conviction.

When the time came to own up and stay in Japan for the 2 weeks in August or go home, I went home. Why? Because I didn’t pay for it, for starters. I did not have enough money to pay for it so I thought the matter was settled. Boyfriends can have a way of overturning that it seems. It ended up being what I needed. I saw some friends, ate too much good food, got to see family, and of course spent exorbitant amounts of time with my significant other. Somehow I can’t remember half what I did but I’m sure it was all good times.

My details

  • The flight over was freakishly fast. Well, all except for the quick stop over in Chicago…going from Japanese folks for 4 months to brash and loud Americans in a cramped little airplane was not my idea of awesome.
  • THE FOOD man had I missed cheese. I don’t remember how many times I had Mexican but it was likely one too many… or never enough. Aside from my favorite joints, there was also my mom’s cooking which I may cry over when they eventually move to North Carolina. I don’t think I wait for Thanksgiving and Easter every year for her cooking.
  • I spent way too much time laying around while I was home but unfortunately, it couldn’t be helped. Whether it was jet lag or I was just tired still from the Tokyo trip, I don’t know, but I was beat. Everyday I’d be ok until the afternoon and then I’d crash.
  • While home I went to masseuse certified in pressure point therapy. It hurt but was worth it. I had a serious problem on the plane with my feet swelling it up. It happened for the first time before that during the night bus ride to Tokyo. Like balloons, they were.
  • I was having such a nice time at home that I started having second thoughts about coming back. Though I enjoyed my time thus far in Japan, I was still experiencing a lot of heartbreak for those familiar and comfortable things at home in the States. If my boy hadn’t been so strong, I would’ve stayed home in August. It was nice to know that it was hard for him but also that he understood how important it was for me to go back and work through the full year.
  • The flight back to Japan felt a bit longer but not bad. I kept more attention on my feet, wiggling my toes and so on to get blood moving. The still puffed up pretty bad though and stayed puffy for longer than necessary.

I took absolutely not one single photo while I was home. There were several factors involved in this result but I like to tell myself that the biggest one was that I was just having too much fun. The exhaustion and busy days with family and friends may have had something to do with it, too.

So that’s the question, to go or not. No matter what an ALT’s personal reasons may be, it usually comes down to money. If you can afford it and you need that time back in your hometown, do it!

For those ALT’s or other travelers with significant others waiting for them, it can be done. I have the proof. Thankfully, I have a boy who has a good job and can afford to fly out to see me in December. Eight months of waiting may have been a bit much for us… but I don’t doubt we would’ve lasted. A year is just a drop in the bucket and it’s not like we don’t live our lives while we’re apart. Those lives may be a bit… duller but we’re still enjoying each day for what it is.

My advice would be to keep relative contact. You don’t need to talk everyday, it’ll get old fast. You’ll end up just recounting your actions rather than having a meaningful conversation. But set specific times aside each weekend when you absolutely spend that time together online. My boy and I are gamers so it’s easy for us to ‘spend time together’ online. Otherwise, devise little projects you can work on together like learning Japanese together or something artsy.

Remember! Absence makes the heart grow fonder. Maybe the best thing to come out of this year away from home has been how detailed my boy and I can now be when asked what we like in eachother. Being apart, we notice the little things (and the big) more clearly because suddenly they aren’t there. A broad example would be my extravagant sense of optimism and his realistic skepticism.

Well this has gone on to long already and there aren’t even any pictures. Next will be, hopefully, my Tokyo trip which actually happened just before leaving to come home. Unfortunately, it’s LONG and shall be put into two parts.

With love – M