It's nice to be back in the motherland. It's a little weird, too. There have been a lot of changes in the last 14 months.
For example, phone calls from public pay phones in Toronto now cost 50 cents. Fifty cents! Talk about reverse culture shock!
Also, there is a Japanese exchange student living in my old bedroom. Her name is Noriko and she's the 22-year-old daughter of one of my Japanese coworkers. She's been living with my parents for about a month and she takes the subway to school every morning to study English. She also eats a lot of marshmallows (she won't eat corn-on-the-cob, though. She tried it once and said gnawing on the cob made her feel like a wild animal).
My parents love Noriko. She's always doing helpful things around the house like loading the dishwasher or wiping down the kitchen counters. She's quiet and respectful and has had a huge influence on my parents. They now drink sake instead of wine. They drink green tea instead of coffee. They shop for groceries at T&T instead of Loblaws. All I hear is "Noriko this" and "Noriko that." I've got to get rid of this kid. She's making me look bad.
What else is new? Oh, right. My friends Laura and Craig are moving to Abu Dhabi. I went to their going-away party, which turned into a surprise wedding. About halfway through the night some woman in a black robe showed up and everyone was ushered out onto the bowling green (the party was held at a lawn bowling club and, no, my Toronto friends are not in their '70s). And then, surprise! Laura and Craig got married right then and there. It was one of the best weddings I've ever been to.
There have been other big changes. My oldest friend in the world (and by old, I don't mean that she's old. I've just known her for a really, really long time. Which, now that I think about it, makes us old) had a baby while I was living in Japan. I got to see the baby for the first time this week, which was good and bad. Good because he's the cutest kid alive. And bad because now I want one too.
It's good to be back. I still haven't gotten over the novelty of walking into a store and being able to speak with the person behind the counter. They speak English and I speak English and we actually understand each other. It's amazing, really.
I am also getting reacquainted with Canadian culture. I drink coffee at Tim Hortons and watch the Trailer Park Boys. I read the Toronto Star every morning (okay, I skim through the Toronto Star to get to the page with the crossword puzzle and sudoku). And, uh, I guess that's about it for Canadian culture.
Still, it's tough to be back, too. I miss Japan terribly. I feel like I'm in mourning. I know that I'll be my old self in a year from now but I also know that my time in Japan will fade into a distant memory and that makes me sad too (let me paint a mental picture of how I am spending most of my time in Toronto: I am staring out the window, cupping my chin in my hand, thinking wistfully of Japan and sighing a lot).
It's not all bad. There have been moments of euphoria. My friends invited me to join their Sunday night poker group. By the time the last hand was dealt out, I was down to my last $3. I had lousy cards (a six and a four) but decided to gamble because that's what you do when you're gambling. I raised the stakes and went all in. Thanks to the luck of the draw, I ended up winning all my money back plus $2. Two dollars! That's enough money to make four pay phone calls in Toronto!
At that exact moment, Loverboy's Turn Me Loose came over the radio. I had just won $2 and Loverboy was on the radio. For that brief moment in time, I was so excited I forgot all about Japan.
So that's it. It's good to be back in the motherland. It also kind of sucks, too. I have a few more days of freedom in Toronto before I fly to Vancouver on Sunday and go back to work on Monday. That's when reality is really going to hit.