Friday, April 16, 2010

One Year Out

Today is tax day, one calendar day ahead of the first anniversary of my return to the U.S. after a very long time in Japan. And, since it was indeed a very long time -- roughly half my life, so far -- re-entry in another place has been at the least interesting, with a fair bit of trauma in the process. I am grateful to my sister and others who have helped minimize the emotional decompression, but I have to say I am, apart from getting a break in terms of language, still something of a gaijin in my own land.
Most of that is my own doing. To be honest, I am enjoying the time I now have to read, to experiment more with my cooking, and to watch movies I missed while in Japan. I do get out, especially in the beautiful spring that is gradually unbuttoning to reveal the beauties of nature. (sounds sexy). There are cherry and other blossoms in Boise, Idaho, although not the kind that people sit under with obento and beer. I will celebrate my year with a good steak and a glass of red, contemplating the changes.
What changes? Well, I'm solo. I sleep when I want and wake when I choose. I grind my own coffee beans. I don't have a wife, a house, a car, a job. I have more music than ever. I ride my bike along the river. When I've finished this entry, I will go out on the balcony to clean out the planting boxes, sweep the carpet and make sure the lounge chair is in shape for a summer of people-watching.
One significant adjustment is economic. As I am now at the tender mercies of the Social Security system, I get buy on about one-tenth what I was making in Japan. Even with the difference in costs of living here and there, that is quite a change. And because the United States has no discernible "health care system," I am forced to take care of myself, which means I am more conscious of the importance of a healthy lifestyle. I can say that it is possible for a single old fart like myself to get along on Social Security, but it means doing without a lot of things I took for granted in Japan. I still enjoy wine, and there are lots of good, not-too-expensive wines available, but I drink less of it. I probably exercise more, since feet and a bicycle are my most common means of transportation.
I am busy. I am conducting a course in literary appreciation for adults, which requires a fair amount of reading and research. I have another Blog that deals with the course, too. I brought next to nothing with me from Japan, but I have acquired some sturdy second-hand furniture that makes the apartment comfortable. I have just signed a new lease, so I will be here for at least the next year. It's probably too big for one person, but I'll hang on to it until I know what my daughter's plans are when she's out of college.
What's up for the second year? Well, I do plan to learn blues harmonica. And I do have the book, which I am thinking about now and then, but have not started, pending conclusion of the course I'm teaching. I will have to spend less on concert attendance in the year ahead, but I hope I can make up for that by devoting more time to rebuilding the guitar player skills. And I'll keep cooking.