If You Ever Lived in a Foreign Land

If you ever lived in a foreign land,
you just might start with a honeymoon;
everything is new, scary, challenging,
but exciting.

Flowers

It could last a while . . .
or it could end abruptly when you sit down to a meal,
say, a fish broiled with its skin on and eyes glazed over.
You might wonder if you’ll survive this foreign land after all.

Picture1

If you stay and learn the language enough to shop for what you want,
get hospitalized and tell the nurse what your symptoms were overnight,
go out to lunch with your mother-in-law,
who doesn’t speak your native tongue
(if you married one from this foreign land, that is),
you might slowly realize no matter how fluent,
you’ll never be native.

You might miss your homeland terribly,
worry that you might not ever get back, though you plan to.
Finally the day may come to go back.
Things were probably starting to get frustrating.
It seems time.

You might get back home and after a while
your excitement fades.
Why is everything so different?
Why do I have 500 choices of cereal?
Why do they give the news and then talk about it on end,
inviting everyone’s opinion?

Depending on the level of frustration you left your foreign country with, it may take longer,
but you might start to miss the food you didn’t like on the first try,
to miss places you went,
people you met,
that you didn’t feel strange for not wearing red in Saturdays in the fall.

car

You might plan to go back again,
wanting your kids to experience the country that makes half their roots.
Occasionally some may not understand why you would do such a thing,
leaving the “Land of the Free, the Home of the Brave.”
They might assume you’d gotten that out of your system
when you went there in the first place.
This doesn’t happen a lot, but it still makes a twitch somewhere in your heart.

When the 10 years you might plan to wait are up,
a complete move might be too much.
You might try an extended stay and the boss agrees,
lets your husband work from over yonder.

You might have visions of your children going to school with the locals,
exposed for several days to how they talk different than textbooks,
maybe make some pen pals.
You might be disappointed to find
they must be enrolled for a certain period of time.
Now is not it.

Subway

You might find yourself stuck for 3 1/2 more weeks,
not sure what to do with them for that long.
You might be used to having them with you all the time,
but here?

You’ll probably make the most of it, of course,
travel a little farther.
Plans are on the docket to see the volcano rumored to spew;
rural areas full of seasonal flowers;
festivals.

fuji

It’s all good,
all fun,
but you might be reminded again that your children,
and you,
aren’t native.
It will always be so.

You might wonder where you fit.
When you’re in one,
you miss the other.
You might almost feel like don’t fit in your own land.
So silly you’ll be.

Origami

Where is your story going?
When you wonder why you ever left in the first place,
why you started this turn of your story,
left all you once knew,
brought children into a mixed existence,
you might also think its not such a bad place to be.

Maybe you never did know where your story was going;
You were comfortable and thought you knew.
Maybe being native is not the goal.
Maybe feeling like a bird without a nest is the adventure;
the story.
Come to think of it,
some birds have nests in two countries.

You might be comforted in your thoughts;
In the midst of feeling like loving one is hating the other,
not able to fully wave this flag or that,
you might realize its not about flags.

flags

To be native has its disadvantages,
when it’s the comfort of your soul.
It’s scary to be shook from your footing,
but good when you realize this world,
no matter what continent your foot lands in,
is not the final destination.

phlox

You just might think one of the greatest benefits of travel is the tension,
of grass greener elsewhere;
Because living in this world broken,
we all long for another.

It’s just my guess, but this is how it might go, if you ever lived in a foreign land.

When You Don’t Know What to Say

I had no language yesterday.  That happens sometimes, but after living here 4 years and returning 5 times, it’s not a good feeling.  Depending on the group of people, the topic of conversation, and the amount (or lack of) one-on-one conversation, my fluency goes up or down.  I needed my husband to interpret most of the conversation and I was humbled.

kani catching 2

Instead of talking or following words, I watched.   One girl in the group had my full attention.  She carried her 5-month-old girl on her front side in a carrier.  We walked around, picnicked, and fished for crabs.  Her baby was on her most of the time.

Yumi

She was patient, sweet, never begrudging the child attached to her.  When the baby had a blow-out diaper and stained her shirt, she laughed and gently changed the baby into extra clothes.

I ached.  Not sure if from wanting to do that all over again, or wishing I had carried mine like that more.  Wishing I hadn’t been shocked everytime they made a stain.

Kasai Rinkai Koen

Walking back from running a little one to the bathroom, I felt incompetent in lanuage and groping for the missed moments in my life.  I could’ve studied the lanuage more diligently and taken more advice when I delivered my baby here.

I knew it all back then.  I didn’t need advice.

Why do we realize we need advice when we get older and it feels too late?

The girl walking this soil 10 years ago with a swelling belly is different than the one walking now.

Oh, they keep telling me I haven’t changed a bit since our last visit.  I hope they mean on the outside, that’s a compliment.  It doesn’t feel good to hear I haven’t changed when I know I’ve learned so much.

I write to make sense of the absorbing that goes on in a day.  Yesterday I absorbed the yucky feeling of being unable to speak; humbled because I know more words than they think I do.

I absorbed the regret of the distance I kept with my babies when I knew it all.

kani catching

Now I’m absorbing the lesson.  Ten years ago and all the years before, I knew what I was doing.  I see my error now.  Yesterday I came full circle.  A decade later, when I know more for sure, I was struck dumb and reminded it’s good to remember you have a lot to learn.