Monday, March 9, 2009

Fukuoka ghost

Returning to Japan wasn't the experience I expected. China Airlines pulled a stunt I last saw at the Indian border. At that time two young guys tried to strong-arm the foreigners into paying additional baggage fees. This time it was a cute young lady at the check-in counter trying the same thing with a smile instead of muscle. That encounter fairly ruined my morning; for my anger I have no one to blame but myself.

I had mostly cooled off by the time I got to Taipei, where I spent a couple of hours diddling around the new terminal of the capital city's airport, about as interesting as the old one, only cleaner. But while waiting at the gate for my Fukuoka flight I had an enlivening encounter with a couple of dozen high school girls returning to Kumamoto from their school trip to Taipei. When they saw me sitting byn the window they came to talk and find out who I was. I showed them pictures from Nepal, they showed me pictures from Taiwan. Their interest, enthusiasm, and smiles were a cool breeze that blew out the last embers of my anger. They called out to say goodbye when we boarded; they came to see what I was doing while we were waiting for our bags to be unloaded; they called out farewells as I left the luggage carousel.

I thought then that my meeting them, and our immediate rapport, might be a sign, a sign that perhaps I should be back in the classroom with kids like them.

It feels strange to be back here in Fukuoka. It's like visiting my old self, the self that used to have a life here but which seems to have vanished somewhere along the way in Nepal and India. I don't want to find that person. I'm happy to let him go. The disconcerting part is the memories that pop-up, memories associated with Fukuoka, with my neighborhood, with my apartment, with a smell, a sound, a taste. They remind me of what was. They invite me back into that world. And I don't want to go, don't really want to have anything to do with that person or that life. I'd be happy to leave them for good. But that is not to be. At least not yet. There's a bit of work to do yet to clean up some of the bits that have been left lingering, including an apartment full of 10 years of junk.



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