Friday, June 29, 2012

Mata Ne またね Party

Kendo Mama told me that though "sayonara tomodachi" is the right translation, it sounds like an eternal farewell or a break up with a lover.  I went with the casual yet childlike phrase "mata ne" (again, okay?). I'm not ready to give up my friends here just yet so this seemed to fit the bill.

My fear about this adventure was in a culture known for a dislike of foreigners, would I be included. I was embraced by the Japanese Mamas like no other place. The hardest thing to say at my mata ne goodbye party was, "Thank you for every hello. Thank you for playing with me. Thank you for your willingness to simply be present with me when we couldn't find the words in the other's language." You feel in your heart what someone means when they are with you, words or no words.

We shared a significant time in our lives of raising our children in Japan. Despite cultural differences and language barriers, in five years, we laughed, we hiked, we ate, we sang, we danced, we shared, we cried, we had fun, and we made deep and lasting friendships.

How we interact will change. It will be photos posted on Facebook, quick notes via email, Skyping over the internet, and someday perhaps a long flight on a plane, but it will continue. Besides, they have a vested interest in seeing how a couple of blonde nihonjins keep up their Japanese. I look forward to the day when I can shepherd some of them or their children through my culture. The group cohesiveness makes this place hard to replicate. Most who have experienced this belonging can vouch that it is one of the best parts of the cultural exchange. I had worried for not all those years ago.

It was thanks to my first Japanese friend that I threw myself into this whole adventure in the first place. She had told me, "If anyone can do it Kim, you can." With that vote of confidence, those were my starting words. Thank you Kimiko for giving me the courage to try.

Juliet said it best, "Parting is such sweet sorrow...." However, a party is the way to go. We shared how we had connected and some of our favorite memories. We ate wonderful food. We had a quiz show, and I handed out American products for prizes like Jalapeño Cheetos, a roll of paper towels, and a bottle of Heinz ketchup while wearing a yukata they dressed me in. I was not sure anyone would guess the answers to some of the quiz questions, but they got them all eventually! It was funny to hear their responses too.

"Favorite Japanese movie?"
"Your idea of a handsome Japanese man?"
"What Japanese food will you eat when you return?"

It was meaningful, it was fun, and  I'll part with mata ne.

Mata Ne Goodbye Party!
Japanese finger foods

My favorite picture- them reading my parting gift!
This book was inspired by them and our time here

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