#BannedBooksWeek

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#BannedBooksWeek: I Celebrate Diversity!

From September 25th to October 1st, authors, readers, publishers, and constitutional right advocates will celebrate books that have been banned for whatever reasons. This year, Banned Books Week is looking at diversity. Although diversity isn’t a new word, some may imagine diversity as a person of color. Diversity, however, includes people who are of different appearance, ethnicity, religion, gender and gender identity, age, physical and mental ability, sexual orientation, military status, and economic status.

The American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom has shown that 52% of the books challenged or banned in the past 10 years were from diverse content (Association of American Publishers).

Without diversity, there wouldn’t be an anime industry since anime and manga come from Japan.

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Did you know that Dragon Ball by Akira Toriyama is a banned book in the United States?

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Barefoot Gen by Keiji Nakazawa has been challenged–not quite banned but noticed–for its discrimination and violence.

There are other manga and graphic novels by Japanese creators who have faced or are currently facing censorship around the world. Can you think of any others?

Escape from Japan…with Mr/s. Kitty

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Escape from Japan…with Mr/s. Kitty

Between the boxes filled with clothes and Japanese souvenirs, a cat weaves through the narrow spaces, finally pressing their little claws into the cardboard. No matter how much the owner shoos their cat away, an ominous cloud floats above them. The owner and Mr/s. Kitty are leaving Japan.

The ominous cloud always follows people returning to their home countries with a (new) pet. While the know-how is available, all of the pieces don’t always apply to those going from Japan to the United States. I had to bring my cat, Ninja, from Okinawa to the United States in August 2015. Even as a JET Program participant, I had little help in booking a flight where the airlines allowed pets and going through the process of taking a cat on a plane.

Find out if your cat is allowed to be transported. If your cat is a certain breed, they may not be allowed for travel. Hairless breeds and cats with flat snouts are usually not approved. Check with the airline to see which breeds are allowed for travel. Also, cats under the age of 90 days old or over the weight of 32 kg (71 pounds) won’t be permitted to travel. Airlines that allow pets on flights since August 2015 are EVA Air, United Airlines, All Nippon Airways (ANA), and Singapore Airlines.

Find an airline that allows pets. The only way to do this is to call the airlines customer service line. Some airlines such as Cathy Pacific Airlines don’t allow pets, even in their cargo space. When looking for an airline that allows pets, always ask if the pet can be in the cabin (usually under the seat with you) or if they must be in the cargo (in an airline-approved kennel where checked bags go). It’s better to get on a flight where the pet is allowed in the cabin. If you’re a JET Program participant, tell your prefectural advisor well in advance that you will be bringing a cat with you so they can book your flight with a pet-permitted airline. Try to get a flight that only has only 1 stop so you don’t have to do a pet importation permit for each country.

Get an airline-approved kennel or carrier. Before booking a ticket for your pet, you must have the kennel or carrier’s weight, dimensions, and brand. Sherpa, Petmate, and Bergan make airline-approved carriers. I used a PetMate VariKennel, which are sold at Cainz, Meikuman, and any big pet store in Japan.

Get your cat’s vaccination and microchip. At least 30 days before the flight, make sure your cat has all their shots and vaccinations updated and in English. If they haven’t been microchipped, get that as well. It’s required for all pets entering the United States. If your cat has a vaccinations record that has not expired, this is efficient for travel.

Book your cat’s ticket. You can only do this once you get your airline tickets, or in the least, the reservation number. Call the airlines and tell them to add a pet ticket. The airline agent will ask you for your cat’s name, breed, weight, length, and age along with your carrier’s weight, dimensions (sizes), and brand. For JET Program participants, you will pay at the ticketing counter on the day of travel.

Schedule a checkup with your veterinarian at least 7 days before travel. You must get a Health Certificate with a Letter of Acclimation saying that your cat is healthy enough to fly. It’s usually good for only 10 days.

Submit application for Export Quarantine Certificate for Animals Under the Rabies Prevention Law. You must do this at least 7 days before travel. On the day of travel, you will bring your cat to the Quarantine Office with your travel permit, your flight receipt or boarding pass, and vaccination records. Once all the paperwork is finished, your cat will be examined by the on-location veterinarian. From there, you will get an Export Quarantine Certificate for Animals Under the Rabies Prevention Law that will be used for check-in points throughout the flight.

Schedule an appointment with the Quarantine Office in the airport. You must do this ahead of time. On the day of travel, you will bring your cat to the Quarantine Office with your travel permit, your flight receipt or boarding pass, and vaccination records. Once all the paperwork is finished, your cat will be examined by the on-location veterinarian. From there, you will get an Export Quarantine Certificate for Animals Under the Rabies Prevention Law that will be used for check-in points throughout the flight.

If you are stopping in other countries, check into their pet importation procedures as well as specifics for vaccinations. For Taiwan, if the cat is coming from Japan, you must file an application for a Permit for Animal Transit by submitting an Application Form for Transition with your cat’s vaccination certificates. This can be done by snail mail, email, or fax. I emailed the Hsinchu Branch Office (Bureau of Animal and Plant Health Inspection and Quarantine, Phone: 886-3-3982431) at daq@mail.baphiq.gov.tw and received an application form for the permit and the procedure for traveling with my cat. It takes about 2 or 3 weeks to complete this part, depending on when the branch office responds to your initial email.

Get an engraved tag with you and your cat’s information. It’s for identification as is the microchip. Make sure to include your cat’s name, your name, your phone number, and your future address, even if you’re unsure of your more permanent location back home.

On the day of travel, make sure your cat is well hydrated before taking them to the airport. Take your cat to the Quarantine Office with your paperwork. The Quarantine Office will require you to take your cat out of the carrier for a brief check. After you receive your travel permit and your flight is within the hour, you can go straight to the ticketing counter. In the preliminary screenings before you get to the ticketing counter, you must hold your cat while the airline staff X-rays the carrier. Once your pet is back in the carrier and you get to the ticketing counter, the airline staff will help you finish any ticketing procedures for your pet, and you’ll be asked to sign a liability release form. During travel, you are not allowed to bring your cat’s food with you unless you arrange it with the airline staff at the ticketing counter.

If you are stopping in Taiwan, a staff member will show you a photograph of your pet or bring your pet to you before boarding the next flight. They may ask for your pet importation forms, especially if you have any special instructions (i.e. giving food, water) for the staff.

Landing in Los Angeles Airport (LAX) is probably the easiest part of bringing a cat to the U.S. After landing and going through immigration, there is a section in the baggage claim area for animals. When I went to pick up my cat, there was no desk or staff to claim my pet. She was in a cart with the ropes from cargo around her carrier sitting by herself in the middle of the floor. The pet importation paperwork, which I tucked under my arm as I went through the last screenings, wasn’t checked at all. Anyone could take my cat from LAX. I don’t know if anything has changed since August 2015, but that’s something to be wary about. If you do not see your cat in their carrier somewhere in the animal claim area, report it immediately.

Resources for importing a cat to the United States:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Information on Cat Importation –  http://www.cdc.gov/importation/bringing-an-animal-into-the-united-states/cats.html

Naha Airport Quarantine (near International Departures terminal)

Operating hours: 9:30AM-11:30AM, 1-5PM Every Day

Website: http://www.maff.go.jp/aqs/english/animal/ex_index.html (English)

Phone: +81 98-857-4468 (Ask for an English speaker)

Email: naha@aqs.maff.go.jp

7 Free to Cheap Things to Do for Job Hunting after Japan

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7 Free to Cheap Things to Do for Job Hunting after Japan

The job hunt has changed, and whether you’ve been in Japan for 1 year or 5 years, returnees must learn how the hunt works again.

#1: Clean up your online presence.

If you are tagged in drunken or half-naked pictures on Facebook or in an inappropriate debate within 140 characters on Twitter, odds are you don’t care about your image. Why would any company think you about their company’s image?

No Cost. It only costs your time. Do a Google search with your name in quotations (ex. “John Smith”) to specifically find you. Remove unflattering photos and messages in social media. Scrub your Facebook, Twitter, SnapChat, and any other social media accounts until they show a shining version of you.

#2: Create your personal brand.

Use free online articles and any online resources to make anything with your name has a consistent, personalized feel. Make sure your personal logo, LinkedIn, social media, website, blog, business cards, resumes, cover letters, and even your email signatures give the same image and feeling as who you are.

Cost? If you have a friend who is an artist or graphic designer and they’re willing to make a logo in trade for portfolio credit, this can be free. If you don’t, no worries. There are plenty of free logo designers and generators online such as Logomakr (see example below).

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Here’s a free logo I made in 5 minutes on Logomakr.

#3: Get 5 to 10 references.

Gone are the days to write “References upon request”. Online applications demand them, and you’ve gotta deliver. List all the jobs you’ve had, pick references who will give you positive recommendations, and contact them. Send them a copy of your resume so that when employers ask about you, your references will have a better idea of the you now.

Cost? It’s free, if your references are happy to do it, but always remember to send them a thank-you note ($1 for 10 from the Dollar Tree) or a $5 gift card to Amazon or Starbucks. This may be your ticket to a job, and if not, you’re still showing your appreciation.

#4: Quantify your experiences in simple language.

When reading your resume, a hiring manager doesn’t want to read, “Completed secretarial duties.” They want to see how you among hundreds of applications can contribute to the company. How did you make a difference at your last work places and by how much?

If you’re coming out of the JET Program, you can quantify your experience with how many students you taught. “I taught English to over 300 elementary school students.” If you can’t quantify your experience, qualify it. I went with, “changed English education culture at 2 high schools”. The best balance for getting a job is to quantify your past work and add value to them with what you did. As before, I used, “changed English education culture at 2 high schools by planning, marketing, and creating English-related events; consistently introducing effective and creative activities; reviving the English Club and recruiting students for the club; and building relationships with American bases for day exchanges and competitions”.

No Cost. Just take your time, sit down with a list of your work experiences, and write how you made a difference in those jobs.

#5: Go pro.

Get a professional to critique your resume. TopResume and Prepared to Win are companies that specialize in maximizing job hunters’ one-page resumes and land jobs.

Cost? TopResume has a free resume evaluation, though their other services may have fees. Another resource for resume design is simply by Google searching your industry resume. For example, if you are looking for a job in technology, use “engineer resume”. You’ll get to see interesting and unique resume designs that can help make your resume get to the top of the pile. Always remember that your experience has the spotlight, not just the look of your resume.

#6: Don’t rely on the digital world.

It’s very easy to send a resume via email or an online application system such as Indeed or Monster. You don’t have to be like everyone else. If you really want the job, research the company and get the company’s mailing address and the hiring manager’s information. After 2 weeks of applying or the application period has ended, follow up on your application status. Send handwritten thank-you cards to the hiring managers or call them. Go to job fairs and network the traditional way with business cards and printed resumes. Add flair to your printed materials by using high-quality or premium paper. Talk to returnees who were in your program while in Japan and ask them about their current occupation. Maybe they can help you find a job, even if it’s temporary.

Cost? Get 10 handwritten thank-you cards from the Dollar Tree and the 99 Cents Store for $1 plus tax. The price for business cards varies at different stores. (I use OvernightPrints.com instead of Vista Print because they use recycled paper and really thick cardstock with fast shipping.)  Buy premium resume paper at Wal-Mart for around $6. Most job fairs are free, but if you need a place to start, check out EventBrite or your local classifieds section.

#7: Down-play select experiences.

The one thing that came as a surprise to me in returning to the States was that a lot of hiring managers didn’t care about how many things I did in Japan. In cases where my husband and I were applying for work in retail, customer service, technological and clerical industries, we were treated with disdain after learning we had graduated from college and lived abroad. For me personally, I didn’t know if it was because of America’s anti-education culture and ethnocentrism. It really came down to the manager’s ego. Being younger, more educated, more global, and multilingual made some managers uncomfortable, and in some cases, hostile towards us during interviews.

Down-playing certain experiences for specific jobs, especially in entry level areas, could be the difference in earning a paycheck or leaving an interview disheartened. Be prepared to make a case for yourself when you’re applying for a job outside whatever you did in Japan. If you’re going for a sales or tech job, don’t go into detail about your time as a teacher.

Also, don’t take it off your resume just because it doesn’t seem to apply as it will look like a huge gap in your job history. Align the skills from your Japan job with the skills from the jobs you’re applying for and put those on your resume. Instead of using, “I taught English to 2 senior high schools,” you could use, “I learned to use PCs and trained other employees with various software in English and Japanese” or “I used Microsoft Office in Japanese and English to create multilingual documents in a fast-paced environment.” They show that you have adaptability and technical skills.

#Jade: How I Found a Job after Japan in 5 months

Hunger. That’s what fueled me through my 2-month temp job at the Consulate General of Japan in LA despite my 5 hour daily commute. That’s what got me to apply for 2 different positions in the community college down the street. That’s what got me a job within 5 months. It wasn’t my stomach growling–“Hey, you don’t have enough money to get through the month!” It was the hunger to set up my new life in the U.S. It’s not to say that I didn’t feel discouraged or upset at being unemployed without unemployment benefits. I had to re-think my approach and remember:

“Every ‘no’ is one step closer to a ‘yes’.”

From the stories of JET alumni and former expats, I’ve learned that the job industry hasn’t shrunk since I was a college student. The job industry had moved to online applications and keyword software to filter applicants. I couldn’t just be a secretary anymore. I had to be a tech-savvy administrative professional with the skills and go-get-’em attitude of 2 or 3 people.

Aside from the intrinsic qualities, adaptability was key. I had to learn from books, read articles, subscribe to job alerts and newsletters, and upgrade my skills with diplomas and tests to land a wonderful job in 5 months. If you’re not landing jobs and you’re doing the same thing each time, change your approach.

#Your Turn!

What have you done (differently) to get a new job since leaving Japan?

What tips would you give to job hunters post-Japan?

10 Things to Learn After Living in Japan for 5 Years

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10 Things to Learn after Living in Japan

It’s easy to learn a little bit about a foreign country in a year. In 5 years, any foreign resident will discover the ins and outs of their new home country. For me, I’ve learned about Japanese people, culture, and lifestyles that most foreigners won’t see in a year or two of residence.

10. You’ll be thoroughly surprised by the lack of technology Japan uses on a daily basis. The image of Japan usually includes robots on the streets, high-end luxury cars with races on straightaways, and girls in school uniforms carrying swords in their bags. Um, no, that’s a stereotype. In actuality, Japan maintains close ties with tradition–meaning that some of Japanese technology is lacking. When I wanted a copier to number my pages, my co-worker said, “Sorry. Here are these stamps.” As I sat stamping each page with what I thought were obsolete number stamps, I asked myself if all copiers in teaching places were like this. They were, and I learned to number the pages on my computer first. (I used the same copiers in business offices with the same functions in the States.)

9. You will be asked the same questions from the start of your journey to the very end. When I arrived in Okinawa, everyone asked me typical questions. “Where are you from? What is your favorite food? Do you have a boyfriend?” Along with the questions came the same remarks. “Your Japanese is good. You’re good at using chopsticks.” For fellow expats in Japan, don’t take it personal. They’re icebreakers. Segue the questions into questions about them and see where it takes you.

8. You will always have to show extra paperwork because you’re a foreigner. I don’t know how many times my husband and I had to bring unnecessary copies, documents, and forms to the bank, police station, immigration office, and the airport because people wanted to give us a hard time. My husband had it worse because he looked like a tall white man, so Japanese men thought he had a Japanese wife or girlfriend, which happens a lot when foreign males go to Japan. I solved that issue by making a binder with all the important documents and copies. It also doubled as an emergency binder. In the event of a fire or tsunami, grab the binder!

7. Whether you’re black, white, or purple, you’re in the same boat as every other foreigner. Japan is a homogenous country–you’ll mostly see and hear Japanese. The control freaks who arrive will want to immediately fit into Japanese society. No matter how well you speak, read, write, or think Japanese, Japanese people won’t fully accept you. Even half-Japanese people aren’t fully accepted (check Miss Japan). Though that seems like a dire way of looking at Japan and its people, it’s close to how privileged people in any other country treat the unprivileged populace.

6. You’ll learn how to check your attitude, anger, pessimism, arrogance, and ego if you really want to fit into Japanese society. Japanese people are very humble. You’ll find that as time goes on, Japanese people are reluctant to boast about their differences or what makes each one of them unique.

5. You’ll learn Japanese, but unless you study and maintain what you’ve learned, you’ll just be functional in spoken Japanese. You can learn Japanese without studying after listening and speaking to people for several years. Still, many expats don’t learn and maintain written Japanese without study.

4. You’ll see that options in everything is limited…except in green teas, ramen brands, and seaweed wrappers. After learning that the aisles in San-A are different from your former grocery haunts, food and marketplaces are equally unique in serving a mostly-Japanese populace.

3. You’ll notice that the Japanese lifestyle is really minimal and uncomplicated. When I returned to American life, I was surprised by how everything and everyone were fast, fast, fast, and when something was slow, it was too slow. Commuters behind me would groan at any human delays at the ancient MetroLink ticketing machines.

2. You’ll see how humans are unwilling–and even visibly scared–of change or difference. April in Japan usually meant a changeover in staff, a new school year in a new school, an assurance that you as a human had moved to the next stage in your life. I’ve noticed in between Japan and the States that people like their habits no matter how rigid or unhealthy they are to their lives. It could be eating habits, going outside the city, changing how something is done–people are afraid of change. The lesson to be learned in today’s world is that everything is always changing, always looking to grab you by the ankle and pull you under. Accepting change will keep you and other skeptical Japanese folks from drowning.

1. You’ll notice the real strength of women. Before coming to Japan, I thought that the country boasted unhappy, naive women who reluctantly accepted their roles as mothers and housewives. After watching, talking, and befriending many Japanese women, I realized that these women didn’t only define their lives as mothers and housewives. They were also teachers, workers, budget-balancers, hobbyists, cooks, cleaners, and disciplinarians. No matter how much work came their way because of their jobs or families, they could still smile and laugh and play without much worry or complaint. My problem was looking through the eyes of an American woman who wasn’t expected to do all those things. When I was put in the same positions (outside of motherhood), I couldn’t understand how other women did everything like clockwork while most men looked on. I found myself frowning at the men, especially retiring men who didn’t have any other discernible skills than work. As I looked at the women in my life and in my husband’s life, I noticed that women who worked, balanced and paid bills, cooked, cleaned, and cared and listened to their rambling, ungrateful children were the strong ones.

Jade’s Escape from Japan: Returning to American Life

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Returning to American Life

Similar to an earlier post, Jade’s Escape from Japan, settling into American life has been a little rough, but there are slivers of silvers sparkling from their edges.

No Stomachaches, Just Stomach Gains. My body’s adjusted to the over-saturated American diet, even gaining 10 pounds in the first 2 weeks. Once I eliminated Del Taco’s bean burritos from my diet and signed up for a gym membership, I lost 5 pounds, putting me only 6 pounds heavier than when I first came back. Even with vegetarian and vegan options at stores and restaurants, I’m still struggling with maintaining my weight. On top of that, I get pressured by my husband and his family’s habits to ditch my diet. “You’re too skinny now,” my husband tells me, but these ideas won’t deter me from declining chicken dishes and sausage links. I worked really hard to get to where I am, and I don’t want all that effort to vanish just because I’m back in my home country. Sometimes I’m fighting a whole culture of fat, sickness, and laziness.

The silver lining: While living with meat-eaters who don’t care about their health or waistlines challenges my willpower, I know I’m improving my life not just now but in the long run. Plus, I’m now at my high school weight, which was my resolution this year.

The Multicultural “Gaijin-ism”. The word gaijin hasn’t disappeared from my brain whenever I see a non-Asian person, but the reaction of seeing different colored people has. My ears perk up at different Lyft drivers’ accents, and when I ask them where they’re from, I learn their stories, their motivations, their needs and wants in life. Whether it’s through broken Spanish or simple English, I’m excited to meet people from all around the world and learn something new.

The silver lining: I can study any language, and there will be people who I can speak with.

The Unemployed and Dependent Adult. Here’s the truth: finding a job after living in a foreign country is dismal, especially in California. Many companies and hiring managers don’t accept working abroad as anything but an experience abroad, leaving one big resume gap for returnees. On top of that, the job-hunting game has changed. If you were a capable player before, you’ll find yourself being benched at every tournament. It’s discouraging, especially when other former expats tell you that you’re not going to get a decent job for at least a year, so hunker down and be patient.

The silver lining: My work ethic and outlook are different, thanks to Japan. Before returning, I updated my resumes and CVs. I’ve maximized my online persona by linking my LinkedIn to my personal website that has my logo from my resume. Also thanks to Japan and my own interests, reading books such as Jay Conrad Levinson’s Guerrilla Marketing for Job Hunters 3.0 and Richard N. Bolles’s The Job-Hunter’s Survival Guide have been indispensable for people in my position.

The Unhomely Home. Since I’m living with my in-laws, things are completely different–and sometimes, nonsensical–compared to what I’m used to. I just have to get used to it, right? In the meantime, I’m similar to the guy who never moves out of his mom’s basement.

The silver lining: I learned patience in Japan. Why not use it? Plus, I don’t have to pay for the basement.

No Fear = New Connections. I thought when I returned to California, I wouldn’t need to use Japanese. In the most random places–Kohl’s in San Diego, Kapsoul in LA, the Amtrak between Union Station and downtown San Diego–I’ve met Japanese people, and I’ve been happy to flex my Japanese tongue. I’m not afraid to jump between English and Japanese when I meet these people. They’re immigrants or second-generation Japanese people, nikkei, making lives for themselves in the States. Aside from meeting Japanese folks, I find I’m not afraid to speak to anyone and everyone. The man who wants my number, the bum looking for an extra dollar, the Cuban Lyft driver, I’m not scared to say what I want. Japan has taught me to appreciate the ability to be heard.

The silver lining: I don’t feel as Japan-sick as I did when I first landed in LAX.

Jade’s Escape from Japan: Creasing Happi Coats

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Creasing Happi Coats

Blue, red, and white happi coats moved through the crowd with “festival ” splashed across their backs and brown printed belts cinching their waists. The bodies inside them sweated and smelled, and the heads perched on the shoulders and necks held smiling faces, yakisoba in their mouths, bandannas around their foreheads. As people walked through Naha City awaiting the start of the big tug of war, their happi coats showed that the festival atmosphere started at home. When the rope, which stretched for three blocks through Naha’s 58 street, was pulled by Okinawans and Americans and cut into strips as good luck charms, the happi coats, the festival bearers, came off at home. Once laundered and pressed, the happi coats must be folded.

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I folded happi coats after an event in Los Angeles. One fold here, a flip there, but the creases were the most important part. I wanted to fold them to be stacked the same length and size. When I tried to fold a happi coat without using its preset crease–“let the coat fall over at the crease”–I was inferred, not so much told since that would be too forward, to follow the folding method as everyone else had done before. The precedence was more important than the practical and stackable look of those coats, the same crease blindly to set a path than the person who wore or folded them.

Creases are made when a fabric submits to an iron, and the iron can make creases anywhere the person handling it feels. Why do some people hold the iron or fold past the creases to make a new pattern? Why not make changes instead of submitting to the creases everyone else has made?

While happi coats on bodies are uniforms for festivals and tugs of wars, their creases are traps for those who don’t want to be uniform.

Jade’s Escape from Japan

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Jade’s Escape from Japan

So I went to Japan 5 years ago to escape the American recession and lifestyle as well as my mother and live out my dream of working in Japan. Now that my 5 years are up and I’m back in the States, life should be better…But there are tons of things people didn’t warn me about when it came to re-adjusting to my home country.

The Constant Stomachaches. In Japan, I became a vegetarian (from July 2014), and since my husband returned to the U.S. first, I could adjust my diet every month to a lifestyle teetering on veganism. I eliminated most salts, refined sugars, and fats from my food by planning, measuring, and cooking every meal, and in 4 months, I lost around 33 pounds (15 kg). The return to America cost me dearly–in a week, I gained 10 pounds (4.5 kg). Everything I eat, even without meat, makes my stomach flip upside down. And it doesn’t help that my husband isn’t considerate of my new eating lifestyle because he isn’t vegetarian. Maybe part of my stomachaches are from stress.

The Wonderful “Gaijin-ism”. Where I lived in Japan, there were few gaijin, or foreigners. When I did see a foreigner, my first thought was, “Gaijin!” That’s how few and rare foreigners are in Japan save for the heavily-populated cities. Back in the U.S., I had to stop myself from being surprised by “foreigners”. Everyone, including myself, aren’t foreigners, so I’m in the middle of re-training my brain to think, “People!”

The Unemployed and Dependent Adult. I had a job and an apartment in Japan for 5 years. Now I’ve got job history and a former apartment that’s already passed to my successor, but no employment or space of my own. I have to depend on my husband’s family before I can look to getting a place, and the job hunt for something I actually want–a position in the writing industry–still makes me ask for help from my in-laws. I’m suddenly a dependent, and it makes me feel small and unreliable. I thought being in Japan would make me more independent, but in returning to America, I find myself in a worse situation than before I left the country.

The Unhomely Home. I got no warning about coming home when you’re not really home. The U.S. doesn’t feel familiar to me anymore. I look at the people and the stores and the houses, and I just think, “I want to go home.” My Okinawan apartment and the places I frequented there pops up in my head, and suddenly I’m finding home to be a far away place in my memories. Part of this foreign feeling comes from my immediate family leaving California. I can’t see my mom or brothers, and it really makes me sad. With the ensuing stomachaches and uncomfortable lifestyle, I just want something familiar, something normal, and that was my family. When I want to eat my mom’s soup because I have stomach pains or I want to laugh with my brothers, I can’t.

The Lost Relationship(s). What kills me is the one thing I’ve left behind: missing someone. I made many friends in Okinawa, and even though I’ve said in past posts that Japanese people are hard to accept foreigners, the friends I made accepted enough of me to let me into beautiful and loving relationships. I just knew that when I got on the plane, I’d never know if I’d see them again. Sure, there’s email, but it’s not the same as facing them at a table in Mr. Donuts or Spicy Kitchen and saying, “How’s it going?” Craving someone’s words or smiles or stories makes me feel as if I’ve lost something really precious in my life.