It is 11pm and I’m on the 12th floor of the Hotel Rafre looking out at the night sky and city lights. I’ve just returned from karaoke where I stuffed myself with yakisoba, karage, and beer and made a fool of myself to “Big Poppa”, “I’ll be Missin You”, “Get into the Groove”, and “That’s what friends are for”. It was fantastic – everything karaoke should be.

Today was slightly surreal – morning was the usual with our Rotary club and presentation and even the normal frustrations of logistics and transportation.

It didn’t start hitting me until my family members started arriving at the Farewell Party – but even then, there was frustration at the length of the speeches of Rotarians and particularly of the returned Japan team who visited Seattle. At 7pm were were finally allowed to eat – and were called on stage shortly thereafter to give our own speeches.

There was a lot of pressure to deliver in Japanese – but there was no way I could convey my feelings. I thanked my families, conveyed my increased interest in civil society in Japan, professed the communication is not about language, and mentioned that next time I’d bring C – which got the entire room to break out into applause.

Then the host families came to the stage – for some silly reason – they let Mr. OverProtective Father speak. While my second host father stood there grinning and proudly holding a lantern that had my name painted on it.

As my host families started to leave, I was summoned back to stage for photos. They couldn’t get it right and my families were leaving…so I just bolted off the stage. I was called back to stage as I was saying my good byes and I had to ignore the calls.

Mr. Kojima hugged me.

And Mrs. Tanaka hugged me a lot.

And Mrs. Fukai even more.

I wasn’t in tears – but it was a place of sheer appreciate for the time and energy and effort. And while I think there are improvements to this program, I don’t regret the experience for one moment.

Tomorrow will be the right time to be heading home – but it will be bittersweet and I suspect that we’ll all go in our own ways. Into our own heads.

Ah, Japan – you continue to allude and perplex me. And while I don’t think I’ll ever find one answer – I think I’ll continue to find many that lead to more questions.

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