And the (painful) process begins

He said…

After making the decision to accept a job in UK and relocate, we have begun making the many arrangements that will be needed. So far, the process has ranged from boring to painfully difficult.

Of course, we have accepted that we will need to sell our house and dispose of most of our belongings. Several trips to Goodwill so far have managed to rid us of some items that really had little meaning…stuff we should have probably purged years ago.

Other items have been more challenging. I recently sold the stereo system I originally bought with my paper route money in 1972. It’s now considered vintage. And although I hadn’t used it in years, it was difficult to see it walk out the door.

Similarly, I have sold the 35 mm camera my mom & dad bought me for a graduation gift. And the 35mm camera my wife and I bought soon after we got married. Again, those things haven’t been used for years, but have strong and happy memories attached. And now they are gone.

And it is just the start. We will be selling our cars, and particularly difficult will be parting from our 2013 Subaru Outback, which has a rare 6-speed manual transmission and extremely low mileage (it was stored during our time in Japan). Love that car.

We have talked with our realtor about selling the house. More difficult, we’ve talked to a lady whose company specializes in estate sales/downsizings/relocations. Her company will come in and basically sell everything in our home, save for the items our kids want or the few things we will either take with us or store. She tells us we’ll feel much lighter after this. Yes, but it isn’t easy seeing the possessions accumulated over a lifetime go away.

Our most recent frustration is the UK visa application process. We have literally spent hours filling out the online forms, and I’m still not confident it’s done right. Part of the challenge was documenting all the travel we’ve done the last 10 years…every country, every date. We’ve been fortunate to travel a lot, and this was no easy matter.

Next week, we go to get our “biometrics” taken (photos and fingerprints)…kind of feel like a criminal. The cost is literally thousands of dollars, which fortunately my company is paying. Assuming all goes well, we’ll have bright, shiny new visas in a couple weeks. That is the entry point from which we can start to find housing and seriously consider the logistics of our move to UK.

We expected the next couple of months to be challenging. So far, that has absolutely been the case. And I have a feeling the frustrations aren’t behind us yet. But we are committed to this now, and have to look ahead to the great experience we’ll have once our home is reestablished in London.

She said…

Ditto of all he has said… I have such ambivalent feelings right now. London was the first place we thought we would like to try living abroad. But… then we ended up in Japan for almost 5 years. We love London, but now our situation is different. Having to “retire” from the company my husband has been with for 28+ years, and do this as a “contract” job, has made it so much more complicated. Getting rid of 43 years worth of belongings and permanently downsizing our life is scary! Finding an apartment, arranging health care and insurance, and moving our three kitties to a foreign country is a daunting task.

I really look forward to being “lighter” and more mobile, but every little thing we have has memories attached. I find myself waking up at 4 or 5 in the morning and worrying about what to do with this thing, or that thing. The anxiety machine just starts grinding, and I can’t get back to sleep.

I know… one step at a time. I need to focus on step 3 instead of worrying about step 27. I am just wanting it to all get done at once.

I have to remember that every experience in our lives, has led us on to the next experience. In 2013, we started walking the Camino de Santiago in Spain. Basically, we walked all across northern Spain… with nothing but our backpacks. We walked out the door every morning not knowing where we would sleep that night. It was an exhilarating experience that led us on to the next big thing… moving to Japan. We moved to a country where we knew no one, and didn’t even speak the language. We left our home and pets and belongings in the capable hands of our daughter. This time, though, we get rid of almost everything to move to another foreign country.

I will just have to trust… that we are ready for this step. I will keep telling myself that this is our next great adventure.

The story resumes… in London

He said…

In July 2020, we returned to our home in the United States after 4-1/2 years living in Tokyo. It was a difficult transition back. Although we like many things about our house and about living in the US, it just didn’t feel the same. We knew a change was going to be needed. And now, it is going to happen.

My company has offered me a 3-year job assignment in London. And, after some serious consideration, we’ve decided to accept it. And although we’ve now had international living experience, this time it will be different in many ways.

Last time, we essentially left our house and all our possessions in the capable hands of our daughter. She took care of the house – and our cats – while we were away. So, when we moved back, we were really just returning to the home we left.

This time, we will be selling our house…our cars…and many of our possessions that we’ve accumulated over 43 years of marriage. We have known that the time to “downsize” would come eventually. This is going to mean doing it in the next couple of months. To say that is stressful and nearly overwhelming is an understatement. I don’t think we yet know all this will involve, and the emotions it will arouse.

And, to add another layer of complexity, this time we are taking our 3 cats with us. We’ve done some research into the intricacies of moving pets to the UK, and the process is complicated and expensive. We can probably give the cats a sedative for the trip over. We may need one ourselves to get through the process.

And so, we begin this new phase of our lives with anticipation… excitement… curiosity… and a large dose of outright terror. We’re going to restart our blog to begin sharing our new international experiences. Hope you will enjoy it.

A year back in the US…the end of our story

She said…

Today marks exactly one year since my husband and I returned to Georgia, USA from our remarkable 4 1/2 years living in Tokyo, Japan. I have been trying to gather my thoughts and feelings about our return, and it has been very difficult for me. It is hard to verbalize my feelings, and put them into any coherent order… but here goes.

Almost six years ago, we were presented with the opportunity to move abroad… to Tokyo… for a two year work assignment. Not me, actually, but my husband. I, of course, would get to go along. We were very excited. It seemed the opportunity of a lifetime… the chance to travel to, and live in another country, another culture. I happily gave up my jobs, packed our things and arranged to have our home and pets looked after while we were gone. So in January of 2016, we boarded the plane and headed off for our adventure.

And what an adventure it was! We settled into our tiny Tokyo high-rise apartment… walking distance from my husband’s office… and never looked back. We traveled… my husband had many opportunities to travel with his job… and we saw not only Tokyo and Japan, but we also saw the world. India, China, UAE, Europe, Africa… we got to see so many new places.

Two years turned to three, and then to four. We loved it all. We were scheduled to return in May of 2020… unable to extend our time any longer. We were sad to leave, but we had plans to do some final trips to our favorite places in Japan before we had to leave. And then the pandemic hit. With travel restrictions in place, we spent the last four months of our time in Japan… mostly in our small apartment. We could go out, but traveling was not advisable.

So finally, in July of 2020, a year ago today, we boarded that plane again, and returned to our life in the USA.

It has been an unbelievably difficult transition back. And I feel like I haven’t fully made that transition. And I think there have been several reasons it has been so difficult.

“Home” is not the same anymore. For 4 1/2 years we made “home” where we were together. Our house in Georgia, USA was not our “home,” it was just a house. The USA changed while we were away. We watched from afar as the political turmoil grew and made America look mean and ugly. It has been hard to return to that. After a year back, things may be some better, but I can’t look at America the same way ever again.

And then there is the pandemic. COVID-19 has changed the whole world. With travel restrictions still in place all over the world, we have not been able to go anywhere. My husband is mostly working from his home office… with “virtual” meetings with his colleagues all over the world. With time zone differences, he sometimes has meetings in the middle of the night. His work schedule is usually something like 5AM to 2PM… with occasional midnight meetings, and evening meetings three days a week. No more business trips… everything has been conducted virtually.

For me… having him at home has been nice, but I do miss the travel we used to do. I have not attempted to go back to work. I worked in health care prior to our move to Japan. I haven’t really had the desire to go back to that. We haven’t even started traveling domestically, though I know there are no restrictions there. We haven’t had our whole family together in a very long time. We keep in touch with our out-of-state children by video chat. We haven’t visited with our grandson in a year and a half.

We have hopes that eventually the pandemic will end, and we can get back to traveling again. We were supposed to have several extended trips back to Japan. I hope at some point we will be able to do that. So… that is where things stand right now.

We had an amazing experience living in Japan. But what we have learned is that every experience changes you. We went to Japan expecting to have an interesting two years, and then we could just step right back into our previous lives. But that time in Japan changed us. It changed everything… and we now know that we can’t go back to the life we had before and feel the same contentment in it.

We keep moving, growing, learning… and we will just have to see what new adventures come our way.

* * *

He said…

Time passes quickly, and life goes on. A year ago, we left the home we loved in Tokyo and returned to the United States.

Our previous blogs speak of the difficulties we’ve had. The sense of loss for what we loved about Japan…the political upheaval and strife in the US…the COVID-19 pandemic that made any kind of normal life impossible. We hoped that, as time moved on, we would again feel like the US is home.

We have, to a degree, settled back into our life in the US. We enjoy our house, working in the yard, tending to a garden. There is some relief to the pandemic – we’re now fully vaccinated and things are a bit more relaxed, although we are still very conservative with social interactions, as the COVID variants pose an ongoing threat. Politically, the US now has restored some sense of sanity and stability in our government after a difficult and acrimonious election. We’ve relearned our favorite hiking areas, daily walking routes, and some of our old routines.

But what we didn’t fully realize is the extent to which our time in Japan changed us, in ways that are both deep and hard to explain. Many of the fundamental beliefs and paradigms we used to accept without question no longer make sense. A year after returning, we still feel oddly out of place and wondering what we want to do for the next step in our lives. Although we still haven’t worked out the answer to that question, we have decided that it probably won’t be staying where we are now.

In concluding this blog, let me say that the expat experience for me was one of the most rewarding, amazing experiences of my life. My wife and I have grown, together and individually, in so many ways.

For anyone considering a move to a foreign country, I would offer this advice: Think carefully about what you want, and what you expect. If you want to live in a foreign country the same way you live in the US, the expat life isn’t for you. If you’re ready to open your mind and really immerse yourself in a new culture, you may find an experience that is well beyond your expectations.

So now, faithful readers, it’s time for me to say goodbye to Four Years in Japan and move on to the next great adventure. I wish you safe travels, wherever they may take you.

Epilogue 3 … a month back in the US

A month ago today, we left our home in Japan to return to the United States. It has been a period of adjustment that I think will continue for quite some time.

We’ve been trying to focus on the positives, starting with getting reacquainted with our house and turning it back into our home. Our daughter did a good job taking care of it while we were away. We’ve spent the last month arranging and rearranging, cleaning out old things we no longer have a use for, painting, updating, and just settling in. Nice to have a big, full kitchen. Quiet evenings outside on the deck… listening to the tree frogs. We are back together again with our three cats… nice to have pets again! It is really starting to feel more like home.

For me, my job continues much as it was in Japan. I still work (virtually) with my colleagues in Tokyo, and also with our offices in London, Paris and Moscow. The really different part is the mental adjustment from being in the Japan time zone hours ahead of everyone else, to being in US Eastern time, hours behind everyone else. Virtual meetings that were in the evenings in Tokyo are now in the very early morning. Beyond the inconvenience and sleep disruption, there is just the disconcerting feeling of thinking in reverse about what time of day others are in. A feeling kind of like trying to write left-handed… it just seems awkward.

For my wife, it is a little more like being in limbo. She gave up her job in healthcare to go to Japan. And right now, for obvious reasons, it is not a great time to be looking for a new job in the healthcare field. There is still plenty of work to do with the house, and… at least… we are secluded together.

More difficult are the uncertainties of the times. COVID-19, and all the restrictions, concerns and worries associated with it… not being able to go places and do the things we want to, and not being able to easily visit with friends and family who are again living in the same city. We have come home to a dysfunctional, corrupt US government. The country feels so different from what we remember when we left in 2016. The changes are disturbing, and there seem to be no real solutions in sight.

Perhaps the hardest thing for us, however, has been saying goodbye to a very special time. We wake up thinking of our home in Tokyo, or at random times we think about or remember something from our Tokyo life. We miss walking along the canals… we miss our favorite places, or miss riding the trains and subways around the city… even just walking along the streets of our neighborhood in Shibaura. Looking back, the four-and-a half years in Japan were some of the best times of our lives. We experienced so much… and learned so much. There were difficulties and frustrations, but it was a time and a place that we shared together, and fell in love with. The time went by so incredibly fast.

So, a month into the next chapter of our lives, we are still adapting. Some days are better than others. We are so fortunate to be healthy and comfortable.

They say that time is a great healer. If that is true, one day we’ll be able to look back on our time in Japan, and feel less of the sadness of what is over, and more of the joy of that very special time in our lives.

Mt. Fuji

Epilogue 2 … loss and uncertainty

We have now completed our two-week self-quarantine after returning to the US from Japan. Fortunately, we are healthy and COVID-19 free. But we still feel unsettled and uncomfortable with our “new” life.

This difficulty in transitioning back was never supposed to happen. The plan was to spend two years abroad, have some good experiences, and return to restart our old life. Simple, uncomplicated, no problem.

But life seems seldom to be simple. Along the way, we fell in love with our life in Japan. The two years became four and a half, and the love of that life deepened. Japan became our adopted home.

So now, although it must sound strange to most everyone else, we are grieving. It’s like a loved one has died. We’ve moved along the five stages of grief and passed denial, anger and bargaining, and now are firmly entrenched in depression.

As we work through our emotions, we are trying to reestablish normalcy. Working on the house, cleaning out old and unneeded clutter, finding our old grocery store, buying a new car. All these things help us to connect to the old life with a new perspective.

But it isn’t easy. It would have been hard in normal times. Today, we have COVID-19 and all its concerns and complications. It’s hard to see a solution or any hope for normalcy anytime soon, as the virus surges out of control and so many people – including our government “leaders” – are failing to do anything to stop it.

We also grieve about what has happened to our country while we were away. Hate, corruption, and a disdain for decency has festered in our national government. Now we have federally-sponsored goon squads attacking peaceful protesters in our cities. Like COVID-19, our political system has turned into a threat to the lives and liberty of our country, and it is hard to be hopeful for any improvement. This isn’t the America we hoped to return to.

So, if you see us hesitate when you ask, “aren’t you glad to be back,” we hope you will understand. Yes, we are glad in some ways. And yet, we haven’t yet come to grips with our loss. We will get better, as time goes on. We hope you will be patient with us.

Sunset in Tokyo

Epilogue 1…adjusting

We have been back in the United States for a week, and we are … adjusting.

Our trip back was rather uneventful. Haneda airport was deserted. Only a few people were in the terminal. We spent a couple of hours in the Tiat lounge, and for much of the time we were the only people in the room.

Our international flight was similar to most. Everyone was wearing masks, but we still had meals, drinks, and a not-too-different experience. Perhaps because of the stress of the previous week, both my wife and I slept more than normal on an airplane, and the 12 hour flight passed quickly.

Our connection was in Detroit. Again, fewer people than normal and we cleared immigration quickly and without any issues. The lounge was a bit more crowded, but with some effort we maintained social distance. Rather surprisingly, most people were wearing masks. And all passengers on the domestic connection were wearing masks, with many seats unoccupied.

The past week has been a time of adjustment. Complicating this is my job schedule. I am still doing work for my company in Japan, and there are a series of meetings during the day in Japan that I need to attend virtually. My thought was we would still be on Japan time biologically, and so it would be relatively natural just to work at night and sleep during the day. Although this seemed logical at the time, in reality it has been very difficult. My body is trying to adjust to the day/night cycle in the US, and sleeping during the day is proving difficult. It is also disorienting trying to think about the time zone difference in reverse. All in all, not a pleasant experience.

Otherwise, there are ups and downs. We are readjusting to our home, which our daughter and son-in-law lived in during the 4-1/2 years we were away. They did a good job caring for the house (and our kitties) while we were gone. Now, we are again making the house our home. It will take some time to be comfortable again.

Of course, we have the stress and concern about the COVID-19 situation in the US. We are following the CDC recommendation to self-isolate for 2 weeks. Our daughter provided much food, so we’ve only had the need to order a small number of groceries, which could be picked up in the store parking lot with no direct contact with anyone. With a record number of COVID-19 cases in our area, we probably won’t be going out much for some time. It is a crisis that further compounds our adjustment here.

So, we enter our second week back, still working an upside-down schedule, and adjusting to our “new” home. We are thankful for remaining healthy, and hopefully our 14-day self-quarantine will pass without cause for concern. There are still feelings of great sadness and loss for the life we left in Japan. That will probably lessen as time goes on…and we continue to adjust to our “new” life back in America.

Still missing the view from our home in Tokyo…

And so it ends…

I write this while sitting in the Tiat lounge at Tokyo’s Haneda airport, awaiting our flight back to the United States. Our time of being Tokyo residents has ended, and we begin a new chapter of our lives.

The past week has been incredibly stressful and difficult. Although we are coming home, we are also leaving home. We’ve come to love our adopted country of Japan during the past 4-1/2 years. It is heartbreaking to leave.

Coming through airport security this last time, we filled out a form saying we would not return as residents. Our residence cards were invalidated, and returned to us with a hole punched through them. Such a silly thing…we’ve taken care of those cards, and kept them with us for 4-1/2 years. It was emotionally painful to see them defaced.

So we will return to our beautiful house in the US. It will be great to be nearer our children. We look forward to seeing our cats, which our daughter has been caring for. I know we will feel better once we get back to our old home. And I am fortunate that I will continue working for my company’s Tokyo office. Virtually, for now, but I will have an opportunity to travel back to Japan once pandemic conditions allow.

But we are returning to a different country than we left. An administration of hatred, bigotry and exclusionism has damaged our country, and I fear what the future holds. And the abject failure to control COVID-19 is frightening. We are over 100 times more likely to contract the virus in the US than we were in Japan. Not the “welcome home” I would have hoped for.

I don’t want to end this blog on such a negative tone. Looking back, our time in Japan has been indescribably amazing. We have seen and done so much…much because of living in Japan, but also from the opportunity my job has provided for travel. We have seen the world…and it has been an unforgettable experience.

As we prepare to leave our adopted home, I do so with sadness, but also gratitude for the amazing opportunity we have been provided.

And to my adopted country, I say “domo arigato gozaimasu.” Thank you so much. We look forward to coming back.

Two Days, and Counting…

Our last night time view from our apartment.

Two more days until our “home”ward-bound flight back to the US… and re-establishing our life there.

It has been kind of a rough week for us… totemo taihen desu… to begin to reverse the process that brought us to Japan as “American Expats” four and a half years ago.

When we came here, we never expected it to be this hard to leave… Tokyo has become our home. And it is with much sadness, and heartbreak, that we have to leave it.

I know we keep going on and on about this… sorry… but we never expected to love a foreign country as much as we have come to love Japan. All week long… through all the “to do” things we have had to take care of… we kept thinking of all the things we are going to miss about Japan.

I have a friend who was an expat living in France when the COVID-19 pandemic started. Her husband was an exchange professor at a university there. When the pandemic hit France back in March, and they had to shut down classes and go to online teaching, they debated about whether it would be best to go home or stay. But suddenly… that decision was taken away from them, and they had one day’s notice that they were going to have to pack up and leave for home. What a nightmare!!!

But… yet… as traumatic as those days had to have been for them… they were over and done in a few days and they have since settled back into their US life.

For us… it has been kind of the opposite, with way too much time to stew and worry and overthink every little detail of the process. Too much time to think about all the things we will miss, and all the things we haven’t had time yet to do.

This week has been an ordeal. We moved out of our apartment to a hotel on Sunday. Monday morning, bright and early… the packers/shippers came to pack up our apartment. Four packers and three hours later, they drove away with 50 cartons containing our past four years in Tokyo. And it was sad to see our beloved little apartment so empty. We still had our rental furniture… but no more internet.

Tuesday, the rental company came in the morning and took away all the rest of the things in our apartment… our furniture, our cookware and dishware, and washing machine… microwave. The apartment was depressingly sad and empty. We lovingly cleaned it. Tuesday afternoon we had to go with our relocation company rep to de-register our apartment address. In Japan, everyone has a residence card with their address registered with the local ward office. I went there 4 1/2 years ago to have our address printed on the back of our residence cards.

The LDK (living-dining-kitchen) part of our apartment.

Then… we had some banking issues that we needed help with. We have had a bank account here since we moved to Japan. But the banking system in Japan can be notoriously difficult to navigate even if you can speak the language. For a non-fluent Japanese speaker… it can be almost impossible. We had our relocation rep to help us with that… as well as with the cancellation of my Japanese phone plan.

Today… Wednesday, was the check-out inspection of our apartment. It was brief and easy, but at the end we had to turn in our keys, and say our last goodbyes to our tiny 30th floor Tokyo high-rise apartment. It was a rather sad and subdued walk back to our hotel.

My husband is still doing some work and video meetings from our hotel, and will be tomorrow as well. But on Friday, in the early afternoon, we will leave for Haneda International Airport for a 12 hour flight back to the United States. After a 4 hour layover in Detroit, we will make the final part of our journey back “home” to Atlanta.

It will be a slow and sad transition back to our “American” life… but we have time… lots of time in quarantine from COVID-19. I know it will all get done, and it will all be fine in the end. But for now, we are already missing Tokyo.

Last Friday evening in Tokyo…

So, the days are now down to less than seven. My job assignment has come to an end, and it’s time to return to the United States.

Rainbow Bridge over Tokyo Bay

When we tell people that we’re getting ready to return to the US, invariably the response is, “I’ll bet you’re glad to be coming home.” And yes, we are…but we’re also profoundly sad to be leaving home.

In the last 4-1/2 years, Tokyo has become our home.

That probably sounds strange. After all, we still can’t speak the language worth a darn. We’re 6,000 miles away from our family and most of our friends. We live in a tiny apartment, instead of a spacious and nice house in the US.

And yet, we’ve come to love this place and we’ve been very happy here. The people are kind and wonderful, even to us “gaijin” (foreigners). The culture is respectful and orderly. The country is clean and safe. We’ve enjoyed being able to walk almost anywhere in Tokyo, any time of the day or night, and feel comfortable.

The words I’ve just written fall short of describing the feelings we have about Japan. And part of the sadness we feel comes from the uncertainty about when we might be able to return.

I will continue to work with my Japanese colleagues. The plan for my job was to travel back to Japan fairly frequently along with doing virtual work via videoconference from the US. All that has changed with COVID-19.

Japan has, to a large degree, controlled the spread of COVID-19. There has been a slight increase in cases recently, as restrictions have been lifted on almost all businesses and travel within the country. Still, the number of COVID-19 cases in Tokyo has been around 100 per day or fewer. Quite few, given that Tokyo is a densely populated metropolis of nearly 37.5 million people. Adjusting for population, the infection rate in the US is more than 50 times what it is in Japan. Not exactly an encouraging “welcome home.”

Because of the abject failure of the US to control COVID-19, Japan (and most other countries in the world) has closed the border to US citizens. So, for the foreseeable future, until and unless the US can get control of the pandemic, we won’t be allowed back into Japan. Once we leave here next Friday, we won’t be able to return, probably for a very long time.

This uncertainty of when or if we will be able to return compounds the already difficult transition back to the US. Before COVID-19, we knew we would be sad about leaving, but we could look forward to returning with some frequency. We no longer have that to comfort us.

It may be difficult for anyone else who hasn’t had this kind of experience to understand. Sometimes it’s hard for us to understand. We came here expecting to have an interesting 2 years, then return without so much as skipping a beat. Then 2 years became 3, and 4. We never expected to love our adopted country this much.

Looking out of our apartment window at the high rises, and the ship passing on Tokyo Bay, it’s hard to accept this will be our last Friday night as Tokyo residents. We do look forward to many things about returning to our home in the US. But we will so miss our home in Japan.

It’s almost over…

My job assignment is coming to an end. In less than a month, we will be on a plane, returning to the United States, our “home.”

But in 4-1/2 years, we’ve come to love Japan as our home. We never expected to feel this way. We never expected to feel the sadness, the emptiness that we are feeling about leaving Japan. This has become our home.

Of course, there are things about the US we look forward to. We have a beautiful house, and our family is much closer. We recall all the things we loved before we left, and we look forward to resuming those things again.

But… it is so difficult, made so much harder by the COVID-19 pandemic. We had wanted to visit places in Japan we hadn’t seen…and we wanted to see the places we loved… Mt. Takao, Mt. Fuji, Enoshima, Nikko, Osaka, Kyoto, Okinawa… but these have been unreachable due to the pandemic.

The past 2-1/2 months, we’ve mostly been self-isolated in our apartment. We haven’t been officially restricted… but we have tried to do what’s best for all, which means staying home, not venturing out. We haven’t been on a train in weeks – and only go walking with our masks on, following the social distancing rules as best we can.

This isn’t how we wanted our time in Tokyo to end. This has been our home for more than four years, and we can’t even see the things we love most. Our favorite little noodle restaurant has been closed for weeks. We can’t take our long weekend walks, ending at our favorite craft beer place. We visited our favorite sushi place this week, to get carry-out. It was wonderful, but not the same as sitting in the restaurant ordering plates of sushi from the chef.

When we agreed to do this assignment, the plan was to come to Tokyo for two years. We looked forward to it – it sounded like a long time, but we expected to finish and go back home to resume our normal life. But two years became three… and then four, and a half. We knew it would have to come to an end. But it still isn’t enough.

We are now making plans to return to the US. We are fortunate to have much support from my company. We have a relocation service that is helping coordinate the packing and moving, shipping, cancellation of utilities, etc. All those things would be stressful in the best of times. Now, we also have to think about COVID-19 protection. How do we safely get on a 13-hour flight, go through immigration, and get from the airport to our home?

This has been an amazing experience. It has been life-changing for us. We are so blessed for the experience we’ve had…and are so devastated for it to end, especially when we can’t visit the places in Tokyo that we have come to love so much.

We are soon to return to our home country… to Georgia, in the United States. But in so many ways, Shibaura, Tokyo has become our home. We still can’t speak the language very well…and we certainly don’t look like Japanese citizens. We have learned about this wonderful culture… this wonderful country… and we’ve learned how to communicate well enough to be understood and accepted by the local residents here.

Our time left here is dwindling to a few more days, a few more hours. We have much to look forward to in returning to our home in the US. Still, it is hard to overcome the sadness of leaving our adopted country… our home… in Japan.