Thursday, August 16, 2018

Reverse Culture shock. The huge difference between visiting your home country as an expat and actually moving back there!!!

Sorry for the quiet on my blog. The kids and I have been back in the US. We arrived back on July 28th from Japan. Ever since I got back to the US. We had about 5 days of jet lag where we were staying awake until 3am. And then we slowly got back on American time. After that. I  have been busy getting the boys ready to start school. They don't start until August 28th. But getting all the new school clothes shopping done and school supplies done. It was a whole big whoopdeedoo. That I have *never* done as a parent, in the United States before. As a child yes. But as the parent *doing* the shopping. A first for me. And yes I did buy the kids new stuff every year in Japan before the new semester hits... but it's not even on THIS type of level as it's done here in the USA. In the US, all the TV and ads are strictly aimed at back to school shopping. It's a whole phenomena here. I also want to say that... I came back to the US July 28th with an open heart. Open mind and a fresh set of eyes. And I am really starting to love living here. However, as you all know. I am a sharp shooter when it comes to saying what I have to say. I won't mince words. But, I always do so thoughtfully and carefully. Do you *need* to know I had a horribly rough start when I moved here this April? No, I frankly don't *need* to tell you that. But, I think it's being honest. It's 100% real. Zero bullcrap that you all always appreciate. If I'm happy, I'll tell you so. And If I've hit a rough patch, I'll tell you that too. I think that's what you all have always respected about me, since I first began this blog in 2005.

When we moved to Japan it was for a job transfer for my husband for 5 years. It was a 5 year contract. And we relocated from the US to Japan, Noboru, myself and a near 1 year old Branden. We moved there with the intention of moving back to the US. I was in Japan only "temporarily." I really didn't throw myself into a language school or anything. Because well, I had a baby at home, so I wasn't exactly free to start language classes, baby's keep mom's quite busy. And #2, I was only in Japan temporarily. So, I didn't feel the need to dive head first into learning a new language, if we weren't staying. The house we rented was miserable. And cold. Like living in an American garage without insultation. And I complained a lot to my fellow expat friends and also to family and friends from back home. At the end of year 4, Noboru came to me and expressed his feelings and he felt because his income was so exceptional in Japan... we should stay in Japan and he'd build me an imported American home. Central heating, big American appliances, floor heating. Huge back yard. And I said okay. I had gottten used to Japan. I did fly back to the states often, since we have flight benefits. So, I could fill up my suitcases with goodies from home. And my family sent care packages often too. For me, it was doable. And so for the whole year, we had an amazing team drawing up blue prints for our home and started the build. We moved and then I was happy. The house issue was solved. And my expat friends never heard a single complaint or even a peep out of me ever since. I just didn't have any complaints. With the housing issue solved. Life was perfect. We welcomed our second son Noah, in 2005. And life was the best.

Sense of self. I have been living in Japan for 15-16 years. I have learned Japanese. Our home is in the inaka. A town of 5,000 people. I love all my neighbors and towns people. I have a ton of friends close by. However, I always felt that, I was still me. Does that make sense? I always feel super American. Everyone knows I'm the 1 lone American woman of my town. And everyone has always been so nice. Like the nicest. But I always felt like, I never lost myself with living in Japan for 15-16 years. My friends and fellow expats would joke with me all the time and say, out of all us American expats, you're still like *so* American out of us all. And we would laugh. So, I never felt that I had changed. 

Vacations in the US. Hawaii, Guam, back home to Denver, Colorado. And other places in the US too. When I lived in Japan we'd take a great big family vacation every summer for a good 14-16 days. It was so nice to put on my "rose tinted glasses" and see the US for all and *only* the good and never the bad. I would spend 2 weeks in Hawaii. And I'd be telling my husband, I sure wish we could live in the US again. Or when we'd go and spend 2 weeks in Denver, I'd be inhaling at Target and wishing I could shop there *all* the time...anytime I want. And I'd say, again, I sure wish we could live in the US again. How I would fit right in. And not miss a beat.

Then this April the kids and I moved to the US. While my husband awaited his Visa approval (greencard) He has since received it by the way!!!!

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. Getting real. Since April 9th until June 13th or 14th whenever we flew back to Japan for the summer. I hated living in America. Reverse culture shock hit me hard. It surprised Noboru so much....and how hard it hit me. And it surprised me the most!!! For starters Noah's suitcases was lost. All his graduation diplomas from yochien, shogakko. Cross country medals. Swimming medals. Priceless stuff. IRREPLACEABLE stuff. Suitcase was missing. Granted we got it back 100% intact. But I'm telling you! It was 2 days of pure stress. We wanted his belongings back. *Thank god* he got them back. #2, customs or whoever went through my computer when we moved. And my computer was not acting right at all, I'm not saying they did anything but it wasn't working right after that... and it did have a big sticker on the box with paper attached saying we went through the insides of your computer. It was so slow. Noboru had no choice but to factory reset my computer. Which means, I lost every website I ever made a favorite. Lost every persons email address. Like OMFG! What the hell. Can we catch a break or what! We were expecting the kids to start school in the Fall. Like in September. But they ended up starting in April. Which I'm so glad they did that. But, again. Wasn't expecting that. So we had to make a mad dash to Target and buy school supplies like immediately and before we even had time to think, they were in school. Everything was just happening very fast. I am a type of person who really doesn't like change. I really thrive in a routine. And yeah sure...I could see it if 1 thing changed. I could quickly adapt. But, I mean like *every* freaking thing in my life changed. Like everything. 100%. And my husband who is like my best friend ever was also leaving soon back to Japan. And yeah...sh*t hit me hard. Like a ton of bricks. And to add to that. I was living in a totally different state. I got lost like almost *every* single freaking day. Thank god for Google maps. When Noboru was here we made sure we all had signed up for health care and what not. And wifi. TV set up. But, when Noboru left. What tiny smidgen of strength I had left... that I was holding onto...just crumbled. Like I said, my dream was for *us as a family* to live in the US. Not me alone by myself like a freaking single mom. Know what I mean? And yeah. Those were dark days. Really dark.

One morning, my cell phone rang in May and it was the nurse at Noah's middle school. She said, Noah is missing 1 shot! I told her, I'd go and speak to her when I picked up Noah after school that day. As soon as I hung up with the nurse. I called Noboru sobbing. Noah is missing 1 vaccination. It's a shot you get in middle school years, so he hasn't had the chance to get it yet. In case you don't know. The Japanese vaccination time table was very confusing for me. It seemed like and it is like they get way less vaccinations than we get in the US. I asked Noboru since he's the Japanese parent, if he could handle the kids vaccinations in Japan? Since I couldn't make heads or tails on them. And why such a less amount of vaccinations were given in Japan, you got me. Or I told him, I could get the kids done in the US. When I visit family every year. Since Branden's first year of vaccinations were done in the US anyways... since we lived there at the time. We stayed with US vaccinations. Every time I'd go to Denver when the kids were both toddlers. I would walk into a low cost vaccination place. Since we had full coverage insurance in Japan and none in the US at the time. We have insurance in both countries now. But at the time, I would just pay out of pocket. And because I was going to a low cost clinic. For like their 2 year old vaccinations, I got them all done for like $40 US (like 6 shots for 4,000 yen all 6). So very affordable for our family. Both Branden and Noah have had all their shots done in the US. Denver and Guam specifically.  So Noboru asked me why are you crying? I said, "because I don't even know how to get to the doctors office. I feel so helpless here. I know what I'm doing in Japan. I drive everywhere in Japan." He told me, "honey, you are stronger than you think you are" they're our kids and they're depending on you. I told him, you're right. So, I phoned the doctors office. And I set up an appointment for both boys to get that 1 missing shot. And Branden even got 1 extra shot too. I had to call the school and tell them they had to take the day off school the day of their shots. Because I was unsure of the doctors office location and how far it would take me to get there, from our townhouse.  Both of the boys navigated me to the doctors office. I made it. The doctor was amazing. He reminds me of Robin Williams personality-wise. Like Mork from Ork. He's so funny this doctor. He gave them their vaccinations. And after their vaccinations, I took the boys to Dairy Queen, for the $5 dollar chicken strips, fries, gravy for dunking your strips in and a soda and a sundae. As reward to them for getting their vaccinations and as a reward to me too for driving myself to an unknown spot and back.

My dad moved back to Colorado, June 2nd after we all got adjusted and situated, he was free to move back to our home state. He has a condo in Thornton, Colorado with a fireplace, laundry room inside his condo unit. He says they've been having a lot of hail lately, when I spoke to him on the phone. So both the boys have their own room now, in the state I'm living in....in our 3 bedroom townhouse. Branden's bedroom is the huge bedroom downstairs. Noah's bedroom is upstairs. Next to my master bedroom.

Why did, I share that fabulous pic of Tom Hanks? After Tom Hanks was rescued in Castaway. And he was just boggled by looking at that simple lighter and enormous food buffet in his hotel suite. Simply because Tom Hanks had to readjust to American life after living on an island for 4 short years. He slept on the floor, that first night in his hotel room. That's how hard it took for him to readjust to American life. Now imagine a person who has lived in a foreign country for 16 years? That's me. I tell you here right now. I was incredibly naive to think that I wouldn't have a hard adjustment. Would it have been easier and smoother if I had my husband here? Hell yes! Would it be smoother, if I were living in my home state? Hell yes. But, I'm not. So it's no wonder I had such a hard time. Such a hard adjustment.

I was being thrown out of my element every single week since April. Until June 12th. Noah brought home a note one week that read. They're school is doing state testing. Asking for parents to donate snacks to munch while the kids were testing. A list of approved snacks were Goldfish crackers. Yogurt pouches (Gogurts), and a whole bunch of other stuff. I'm meanwhile out of my element again. Parents are never asked to bring snacks for tests in Japan. NEVER. I ask Noah about how many kids in his class? And I... with the help of google maps. Make my way to Costco and buy a huge box of Gogurts for Noah's class to eat. Teacher was happy. Noah was happy too. So, that made me happy. Another month, right before school let out for summer break, Noah brought home another note. His class is having a summer picnic!!! @_@ Keep in mind, I am an American mommy who knows how to be a mom in Japan. But I have zero skills on being an American mom actually in America. Thank god for notes. It gave a note of approved picnic snacks to bring. It suggested prepackaged cookies. Also no nuts are ever allowed. Nuts in the US even peanut butter is basically the devil. Which is weird because kids ate peanut butter in jelly sandwiches, growing up when I was little or ate Nutter Butters. But no peanut anything allowed at any school. @_@ So again to avoid any nut contamination. Prepackaged snacks. Noah and I drove to Target and he picked 1 chewy Chips Ahoy and 1 regular Chips Ahoy.

When I flew back to Japan. I told myself. I'm not going back to the US. I won't. Noboru will have to fly back and empty the townhouse and sell the car. That's how badly, I had reverse culture shock. I didn't want to come back. But, being in Japan for the 6-7 weeks. I realized. I *need* to come back to the US. It's for our kids school. They get to go to one of the best schools in this state. They're getting the absolute VERY best education. Noboru talked to me about it. And it's for our kids. And am I still readjusting? Yes, I am. But, I'm not going to rush it. I'm going to let myself get adjusted on my own pace and speed. So, I just wanted to say all this. Did, I need to share this deeply private personal stuff? No. But, I think it helps you understand me more. And know where I'm coming from.

If this was too long sorry. I just wanted to get it all out. My next posts will be when we were in Japan.