BY Marissa Baumann from USA, ALT
Perhaps there is no time when your appreciation of a place is so strong as when you are about to leave it. That is where I find myself in these summer months, preparing to leave Kochi after four years of living here.
And as each moment becomes the “last time” for something, I realize more and more how much impact Kochi has had on my life and how many tiny things have become wedged in my senses and my soul. I went swimming in a secluded bend of the Kagami this weekend and I will never understand how the water can always stay so cold in the heat of summer. I watched some white cranes in the rice fields outside my school and realized that was one of my only images of Japan before I came here…and it is so true that it always will be now.
I had my last class with my elementary school first graders, and when I told them I was going back to America, they asked me if I could come visit them on the weekend, since they live so close to the airport. I was reminded how, for kids, nothing is ever so far away as to seem impossible.
I had my farewell party with the teachers I’ve worked with so closely over the last four years. My former Kocho-sensei came back, as did many teachers who transferred in April. I was loved and hugged and buried under a mountain of gifts. I could see how much I had become part of their lives and just how much they’d become a part of mine.
And I realized how even when you never seem to have the language to express exactly how you feel, there are some things that don’t need words. It’s fitting that I was asked to write this just as I’m about to leave. Because it is so very clear now how much Kochi has changed me and how many memories I am taking home. Thank you Kochi and I love you.
Taken from vol.25 (August & September, 2008. Fruit Picking in Kochi)