There and Back Again
"How was Japan?"
"Are you glad to be here again?"
"How does it feel to be back?"
All of these questions require difficult, complex answers - answers involving the happiness I experienced upon seeing my family again, the joy I receive from meeting with friends and revisiting loved places, the ability to eat some of my favourite foods once more... and the bitter pangs in my heart when I remember the many people I am missing, the wonderful friends, country and culture I left behind in Japan.
But the last question, I will answer here. Today, I found the perfect answer, the perfect metaphor to give to the question, "How do you feel?"
Allow me to be a geek for a moment...
I feel like Bilbo Baggins at the end of The Hobbit.
For those of you who have not read the book, and are simply waiting for the next films to come out - sorry, spoilers. Go read the book, it's worth your time. Though the movies are excellent too.
But at the end of The Hobbit, Bilbo returns from his fantastic quest, after having battled trolls, enjoyed camaraderie with dwarves and elves, and slain a dragon. He returns from all this to The Shire, the peaceful, rolling countryside from whence he first came... and he discovers that everything is exactly how he left it.
Everything is the same, though he is now very, very different.
That is much akin to how it feels for me too. I feel as if I have stepped into another world, experienced thrilling adventures, collided with other cultures, slain a few dragons on the way...
...and I have stepped back into the peaceful cobbled streets of Edinburgh. And no one else knows about, or can even really understand, the things I experienced on my grand adventure.
Of course I can share. Of course I have friends that cannot wait to hear about my stories. Of course many of my friends have exciting stories of their own, and I am eager to hear all about them.
But at times, Tokyo seems like another land, my year abroad a fairy tale dream that I have just woken up from, my friends beautiful characters I interacted with in a novel I was reading, and have now had to set down, ever so reluctantly, to move on with my life.
And every now and then I have to return to the photographs and journal entries to remind myself that no, it was real, I was there.
So, dear people who ask, that is how I feel. I have gone There and Back again. And I am sorry if I look like a deer caught in the headlights when you ask me that question. Or if I talk too much about Japan, or try to show you too many photos of the crazy friends I have there, or of the amazing sights I saw and foods I ate. I'm sorry if I stumble in my words, because as I speak to you, in my head I'm translating foreign words which are now a standard part of my vocabulary, my way of expressing myself, and which have no equivalent in English.
I'm sorry if I seem a bit out of sorts. Because the truth is, I am really happy to be here. I know I am meant to be here this year. And I am looking forward to lots of tea and cake and blustery days and grand buildings and the beloved people that are all contained here in dear old Edinburgh.