The life of an English teacher in Japan sometimes seems to have even more violent ups and downs than might be the case in a more normal environment. One area of both opportunity and loss is the revolving door of friendship. I have found that living overseas tends to attract some truely amazing people, and many of my best friends are ones I met here.
However the very nature of the life means that for most it is a temperary distraction, and so when their year or two or five is up, they amble on home and out of your life. This always brings the the chance of an awesome replacement, but it also means that bittersweet goodbyes are a common element to life here.
Late July and early August is the departure and arriveal time of the famous JET program, and so it is packed with exits and is always a hard time for those staying behind.
The next couple of weeks will see me saying farewell to two very different best friends.
Five years ago I welcomed Travis into the Kanazawa community and quickly made a fast friend. We traveled together, drank together, survived earthquakes together and moaned about women together. He didnt live in Kanazawa, but was close enough that it was a rare weekend he didnt end up crashing on my spare futon. I dont know if I can count all the good times we had scarfing yakitori and litres of Asahi.
Then I left. He was one of the last people I saw in Japan, coming all the way to Osaka to bid me farewell with a day at Universal Studios.
When I returned to Japan last year we picked up right where we left off, with chicken on a stick and huge mugs of ice cold lager. We havent seen each other as often as we might like, living 4 hours and one very expensive train ride away, but our friendship has never been stronger. I know that Travis will be one of those people that I am in touch with for a very, very long time. Soon we will once again be saying not so much Good Bye as See You Later.
Also exiting soon is Anna, my closest neighbor and most likely closest friend in all Gunma. I feel it is rare to find a beautiful, intelligent woman who can sling poo jokes with the best of them. She dishes out, and takes, all manner of playful abuse with a smile and a toss of her red hair. Though you dont get to best friend status by simply trading barbs about being from Americas Hat. You get that by being there for someone, and she certainly stepped up to the plate. It is no secret that I had some emotinally dark days this spring, and Anna was there 100% with a friendly ear. We always need someone we can talk to, and someone to offer advice. Though I havent always taken her advice, I certainly appreciate her offering it.
Even though we have only been friends since January, we have packed years worth of experience into those few months. We have gone biking up mountains, dancing in Tokyo, to the zoo, to a soccer tournament, to karaoke and more. I dont think I could have asked for a more hilarous and grounded friend. Though her views on penguins, and their proper place in a relationship, leaves a bit to be desired...
Two Best Friends will leave us this month, and our lives will undoubtably be the poorer for it. But of course my life would have been all the poorer had I never met them, and in that there is plenty of solace to be found. Companions for five years or a few months are better than no companions at all, especially when they are of this quality. And now I must look to the future, and the further unknown friends who wait just over the horizon.