We are all visitors here

When worlds so-called collide, the life of a foreigner begins to make a little more sense. The dream-like state of living abroad turns into this tangible reality, one that is oddly familiar, yet still hides many curious aspects within its twilight.

My Canadian life and Japanese life recently intertwined when my good friend Masa dropped by for a long-weekend of coffee house reminiscing, playoff baseball games, park golf, in-law introductions and ramen slurping — all capped off with an intensely emotional farewell on a Fukuoka subway line.

毎日がんばれ were the only words that escaped my mouth as we embraced a final time.

“You too. You too,” he replied.

It was all that really needed to be said. We both knew exactly how important our meeting in Japan had been, and how it had strengthened our already life-long friendship. We did not need to speak of it then, and I really do not need to write about it now.

Yet, it is important for me to explain just how weighty this experience was for me – it was heavy.

A Brief History:

Masa and I met in Canada when he was hired on as a co-op studen at ATCO I-Tek back in the spring of 2008. I still remember our first encounter in the staff room. It was around 9:20 in the morning (right before the habitual AM coffee).

“Hey, I’m Kyle.”
“Oh, nice to meet you. My name is Masa.”
“Eh?”
“Masa”
“Oh, like NASA with an ‘M’”?
“Uhhh, I think so.”

I knew absolutely nothing about Japanese culture (other than Ichiro and whatever it is I ignored during those tedious high school history courses) before meeting Masa. And this probably had something to do with the fact that I never had a friend from Japan before.

In the two-plus years we knew each other in Canada, Masa, his wife Takako, and our mutual friend Sae, quietly introduced me to Japan – never forcing their culture, but always openly sharing it. Long story short: these friendships were reason enough to give teaching English in Japan an attempt.

So, when Masa walked through the gates at 下松駅 this past Thursday evening you can imagine just how potentially surreal this was. It was – and still is — quite the task to process that Masa and I were actually hanging out in Japan, a country he is so familiar with, but is now a visitor to, and a country that I am so unfamiliar with, but am now a resident of. But, really, is it that different?

Sure it was surreal – absolutely – how, really, could it not be? But, what is not surreal is the fact a friendship can be maintained in two completely different worlds. How a bond between two people can be strengthened through such experiences and various storytelling, no matter the country. And how you will never lose that connection you have to wherever it is you happen to call home.

From now, Japan will never be the same. A part of Canada came back to me through Masa – perhaps in a muted form of communication, or better yet: a mutual form of communication. Whatever the communication, an understanding was cemented and there will forever be an unspoken sense of calm in my life because of this adventure.

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