My family celebrated our reunion
with a Thanksgiving dinner
{since I missed itぺこ}
inviting a few close friends.
And because it was Peter's birthday, that day,
we celebrated that, too.

My sweet puppy.

Some things are coming back,
like old habits.
Other things feel foreign.
Driving: old habit
English everywhere: foreign

In the few days I've been here, though,
it's been dream-like,
reuniting with my loved ones.

{ "Christmas This Year" ~ TobyMac feat. Leigh Nash}

"Don't cry because it's over. Smile because it happened." -Dr. Seuss

This is a compilation of
my goodbyes.涙
{I said goodbye to my Chocolate apartment too, but there aren't any pictures of that.}

Goodbye to the Kawamoto family.ハート

I'll always have a home in Japan
because of you, Akemi.

You feed me just as many goodies as my mama does.
...Boy, it sure seems like I'm always eating, here in Japan.

Oh, guess I am.ぺこ

Goodbye, Kakogawa Ward.好
You showed me the same Gospel I grew up with
from a refreshing perspective.

Goodbye, my Aussie gals.ラブ

You sent me messages
asking me how my classes went,
warning me about weather changes,
inviting me out to explore Japan with you.
Lauren, Kat, Vera,
I'm coming for Christmas one year.
Be ready.momi2*

The "Ghost Trees",
so rightfully named by Lauren.キャハハ

The spirits of fallen samurai
wander amongst the shadows
of the illuminated Arashiyama bamboo forest...
Or maybe it's just the stray cats.黒猫

I'm going to step forward,
gathering all that I learned from
studying abroad,
and become the wonderful person
I dream to be.

My little life
will become a big one.

You're in my heart forever, 日本.
For now,
Sayonara, Japan. Wハート

{ "Departure at Dawn" via Cecil Corbel}

Dear Japanese school,
you were an incredible experience
I wouldn't trade for the world.
One I will never forget.

There were days when I wanted to
twirl down the hallway, a band trumpeting behind me,
I was so happy.

There were days when I wanted to
curl into a ball and wring my heart of all its tears,
I was so frustrated.

But this experience wouldn't have been
half as amazing
if I hadn't tasted both sides of the bowl.

I finally saw teachers for
who they really are:

I learned so much
watching their hardships,
and sharing my own with them.

And the children became
my baby brothers and sisters.

So, to you, 
little students,
I want to thank you...

...for accepting me as your teacher,
and as your friend,

for making me feel pretty
for having lily-white skin, corn-yellow hair, and blue eyes,

for letting me learn
right alongside you.
You wound up teaching me, this year.

{Arts via IKJHS students}
{Cho & Aiata drawing via me, with colors by Karin-chan}
{Cho & Aiata © Me}

"We are each of us angels with only one wing, 
and we can fly only be embracing each other." -Lucian de Crescenzo

My friends, Yuu  and Reiko 
took me with their family and Finnish exchange student
on a 4-hour roadtrip to Hiroshima.

After lunching,
we drove to the docks
and hopped aboard Yuu's father's friend's private yacht
destined for the sacred Itsukushima Island
{popularly known as Miyajima, the "Shrine Island"}.

And indeed,
there were many shrines,
many coins tossed,
many prayers chanted.

When the tide is out,
these areas are walkable.
I kinda liked all the water, though;
it gave it a more island-y feel.

A rickshaw
in front of an ancient shrine.

The red torii gate
stands as a symbol of
leaving the profane world
and entering a pure one.

Famous Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki
with famous Hiroshima-style kaki oysters.

Famous momiji manju,
a maple leaf bean-jam pastry.

At the Hiroshima Peace Park,
I was overcome with wonder that
I was standing beside my Japanese friends,
in the same spot our ancestors fought 
in war.
But there we stood,
Japanese and American,
hearts knitted into one.

{♪ "A Song of Birth" via Eri Sugai}

"We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars." -Oscar Wilde

Every December, Kobe city glows.
It began 15 years ago
to give hope to the individuals who
lost loved ones in the Great Hanshin earthquake,
a 7.2-scaled tremor that tore the town apart.

Each and every light
is painted by hand.

Lucky for foreigners,
it falls around Christmastime,
helping us get into the spirit of the season.
Though, I know that's not the point. (^_-)☆

☆*゚ ゜゚*☆*゚ ゜゚*☆
Endless hope.


The next night,
the missionaries came bowling
with the youth in our ward.

Needless to say,
we had a hoot.

{"Dance of the Reed Pipes" via Kirov Orchestra & Valery Gergiev}
{"God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" via Rascal Flatts}