Category Archives: homesick

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


Daydreaming about cats


Note: This post was very delayed… I wrote it on June 2, 2011… lol. I guess you could say I’ve been a little busy. I think that’s a good thing, though.


Dealing with homesickness on the other side of the world.

Ages ago, I remember reading a page from either Interac or JET about the different stages that manifest during a prolonged stay away from home. At the time, I was probably lounging on my bed while reading it, likely there was a cat snuggled up next to me. Sure, I can handle that, I thought. But imagining and experiencing are rarely the same. How about I describe these stages as they occurred to me.

The first stage is referred to as the ‘honeymoon’ stage. I touched down in Japan and hit the ground running. Things didn’t start to slow down until almost 2 months later. During that time I was exploring, eating, hanging out with friends, and all in amounts more than usual for daily life. It was like going on a long vacation. Even work felt like an adventure and I managed to lose some weight thanks to all the action.

Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end. For the last few weeks, it’s been a downward spiral of events leading to some heavy homesickness. There was my boyfriend coming to visit and his leaving. Then, the weather wasn’t warming up as quickly as I had hoped and the famous Ishikawa rain began to set in. And I had spent some much needed time reorganizing photos and files on my hard drives and this added to a lot of time reminiscing. I can’t tell you how many times I looked at pictures of my cats.

What a goof. This is Floyd.

And the prettiest princess, Sasha.

This past weekend I experienced my first typhoon and the lack of sun was making me feel even more downtrodden. Then one of our cats at home died (Meshka) and my dad’s sister died. Not being able to help console my relatives in anyway is very frustrating. I don’t remember what this stage is called… but it’s not fun. Lots of crying involved.

Though I’m still in the midst of crawling out of this proverbial hole of memories, things are looking up. I get the feeling the universe knows I’m unhappy because a curious series of events happened recently to help spur me to action. On Monday, there was a basketball game at my Jr. High with teachers vs. students. We lost miserably but it was a lot of fun and I needed the exercise, fo’ sho’. Tuesday I had more in depth than usual conversation with my boyfriend that left me feeling satiated mentally.

Wednesday was a three-point shot: in the morning, one of my elementary school teachers commented on how grateful he was that my Japanese is improving because he has such a hard time with English. I also carried on an entire small conversation about the day with another teacher entirely in Japanese. Those moments are always empowering. Then I got to go to my Jr. High’s sumo tournament and that was a whole awesome experience in and of itself.

The cherry on top was this man that was there. I believe he was one of my Jr. High sumo player’s fathers. Evidently, he enjoys bending wire into interesting creations for keychains and when he saw a female foreigner, I guess the temptation was to great. His friend asked my name and then he brought a card to write it down on because it was so difficult (Meredith has a slew of complications for native Japanese). Then he asked what wire color and bell I would like and said ok and went back to his seat. I had no idea at the time what in blue blazes he was making. I asked one of my JTE’s but she didn’t have a clue either. He brought back this sweet keychain. Now, if I was still depressed after all that it would have been a sin but just to ensure my happiness lasted until I got home, I stopped to grab a piece of cake from a conbini on my way back to school (after the sumo tournament). Can’t be too careful.

The stage I think I’m heading into now is called ‘acceptance’. Basically, I’m reaffirming the reasons I’m here, establishing a realization that memories do not constitute happiness, and getting used to the flow of daily life again. It’s a lot to take in. I don’t recommend trying to rush any of these stages. Like I said, I think the universe was looking out for me and let things play out in a certain way for me to gain the maximum benefit from my pain. That’s the key: to be open to the bad bits. It’s the quickest way to happiness.

Now the sun is shining and the birds are singing. It may rain more but the brief moments of sunshine are enough to carry me through the day. Daydreaming about the good food I’ll eat tonight doesn’t hurt either…. mmm curry.

With love – M