On June 3, as I stood on the bridge next to my host mother and sisters, breathing in the night air and watching the hundreds of fireflies, I thought of the Japanese version of the song Auld Lang Syne. The song is called Hotaru no Hikari meaning “Glow of the Fireflies.” Hotaru no Hikari is played when something comes to an end and is a popular New Year’s, graduation, and closing time song. The lyrics of the original song have been completely changed, but the tune remains the same. I couldn’t help humming the song as I reflected on my ten months of exchange and remembered that I only had two short weeks left until my return. As I am writing this article, I have already returned to The United States and have been home for three weeks.
As my final couple of weeks began to fly by, I continued to think about my time I spent in Japan and what I would take away from the experience. On June 11 I went with my host family to a restaurant for my dinner with everyone. Grandparents from both sides came, along with a cousin. Saying goodbye was a little difficult but thankfully everyone managed to come and see me off at the train station later that week, so I got to see them one more time. I really cherished the last bits of time I had with my host family. I had a lot of fun going with my host sister after school to try “doctor fish.” For those who don’t know, doctor fish are small fish that eat the dead skin off of your feet. It was a new experience for both myself and my host sister. The fish were rather ticklish so we laughed the whole time. As strange of an experience as it was, it is one memory that I will probably remember for a lifetime.
My next sad goodbye came on June 16 when I attended my last day of school in Japan. My homeroom class had held a farewell party for me the day before where we played some games and ate snacks. My last day of school was a half day, so that I had time to go home and finish packing. I gave out gifts from Maine to everyone in my class, and we all had a tearful goodbye. I must admit that I cried quite a lot when saying goodbye to my three closest friends. I miss them dearly, but thankfully the wonders of technology allow me to stay in contact with them. I hope that they will remember all of the time we spent together and that someday we can all meet up again. I know that I will never forget them.
The next day, June 17, was my last day in Okayama. I had sent out my giant suitcase a week before since I would not be able to bring it on the bullet train. My other two bags came with me, one of which was an extremely heavy shoulder bag whose straps left some pretty bad bruises on my shoulders. I suppose I wanted to take back as much of the experience as I could, both in memories and in physical souvenirs. We all went to the train station and waited for my train to Tokyo to arrive. Once it did, my host family and I said our goodbyes quickly, though without any lack of tears. The bullet train was incredibly fast, but the ride to Tokyo still took about four or five hours.
I stayed in Tokyo for only one night, flying out the evening of the June 18. The 10 hours of air time went by rather speedily since I watched movies the whole time. Gotta love international plane flights. I arrived in Los Angeles also on the 18th…flying across the globe is a little like time traveling. As soon as I stepped off the plane I knew I was back in The United States. One, because of all the security, two because of the slightly-rough-around-the-edges-borderline-rude people in the airport.
I stayed with my grandparents in a hotel there in LA for one night. We went to an Italian restaurant since I was craving something cheesy. However after eating my fettuccine alfredo, I felt a little sick to my stomach. My body was not used to the rich food, but it was still worth it. I was surprised by how little jet lag I experienced but I still ended up going to bed around 7 pm.
The next morning we flew to Boston. We landed in the late afternoon and I got to see my parents and my younger sister Lyla. We all went out to a restaurant and my parents kept on trying to get me to speak in Japanese to our waiter (thanks a lot mom and dad). We stayed at my grandparents’ house for one night before driving home to Maine in the afternoon. I sat in the car with my earbuds in, listening to my Japanese music and watching the pine trees get thicker and thicker by the minute. I had done this many times, but this time it was so different. When we started passing places I knew, I got a little excited. I was ready to be home. Once we arrived at our house, I said hello to my cat Jack who I had missed dearly. He seemed excited to see me, at least as excited as a cat can be about seeing someone. He purred a lot so I am guessing that’s a good sign. I fell asleep that night in my bed, which I was very grateful for after spending 10 months sleeping on a futon.
Overall my adjustment after coming home was not as hard as I thought it would be. During my homestay I was always told that adjusting back to your old lifestyle is difficult. I was told that all my friends would have changed, and that I might feel lonely or out of place. But honestly, besides a few less trees around our house, I have not encountered any other major differences. My friends are the same as they were before I left, and the town of Damariscotta hasn’t changed all that much either. I guess both the perk and the downfall of living in a small town is that nothing ever changes. It is a great place to come home to, but not a place to spend your whole life. This journey has come to an end, but it will certainly not be my last one.
I want to return to Japan someday, possibly during college. I also want to travel to other countries such as Germany, Mongolia, and Ireland. After just three weeks of being home, I am itching to get out and travel again. I hope more traveling is somewhere near in my future. For now, I would like to thank my family, both biological and host, for helping make this amazing experience possible financially and giving me support . I would also like to thank Lincoln Academy and my exchange program, Greenheart Travel, for providing this opportunity. Lastly, I would like to thank Lincoln County News and all of its readers for following me on my adventure. I hope everyone can one day have an adventure of their own.
Eve Corbett is a rising senior at Lincoln Academy, who recently completed a school year in Okayama, Japan with Greenheart Travel. She is the daughter of Jody Corbett and Elizabeth Proffetty of Newcastle.