And then we all got on a plane and left. We're back in Japan now, for the summer and perhaps a bit longer. We are home….it feels like, and yet home is all the way on the other side of the world, as well. This is the first time that I am starting to feel that the wandering life is wearing on me. To put down small roots in a new home, a new place; to meet with old friends from the past and to cultivate a sense of belonging (or re-belonging); to get a glimpse of what life might have been like had we never ever left…..and then to leave again; it's all very dislocating in a Rip Van Winkle kind of way. I find myself yearning for simple things that I can't have until we are in one place year-round: a garden, a pet to care for, all my books in one place, meeting with old friends and beloved family members without the knowledge that we'll be departing again all too soon.
Jet lag, of course, doesn't help much with my sense of dislocation and of not belonging in either world while longing for both. The older children, unlike me, don't seem to experience jet lag much despite the 13-14 hour time difference, and I think that all the back-and-forth has helped us to hone some strategies which work for them. Things like:
-Making sure to take a plane which arrives late in the afternoon. The kids then take a brief nap on the way into Tokyo from the airport, and then are awake until nearly midnight so that they sleep throughout the early hours of the morning. I think jet lag is hardest to overcome when you fall asleep too early in the evening (or even late afternoon) and then wake up at 1 AM!
-Getting plenty of sunlight during the day – it seems to help reset their circadian rhythms too; jet lag always feels worse if we arrive on a cloudy day.
-Getting lots of physical exercise – especially important.
-Scheduling something pretty engaging for the first day back – a playdate, fun outing, even school – so they stay energized. Having it be close by is helpful, though, so we can avoid long stretches in the car (which lead to sleep!).
Anyway, if they manage to get through the first day, then they get on a good pattern and their nighttime sleep gets longer and longer with each passing day.
It's easiest for the older ones, who have more energy and can stay awake during the daytime. The little ones find themselves totally overcome by sleep at odd moments for the first day or so, like M below the day the last time we flew to the US who was, I think, just about to take her outdoor shoes off and put slippers on when she collapsed.
Despite all the hardships, I like the fact that as a family it feels like our ties are strengthened by our being each other's familiar ground, wherever we go, and that the kids are developing a deeper connection based on their unique, shared experience that no one else can really understand. Even their language – a mix of Japanese and English, scattered with references to their schools and friends and lives in both countries – is uniquely their own when they are together.
Being back in Japan always fills me with inspiration. There is so much that is familiar yet fresh, and living life here throws me off-center just enough to keep me aware of these things. The first thing I did was go to the grocery store and get ingredients for a few of our favorite Japanese meals! Next week I'll be hitting up some local craft stores.
Have you moved much, as an adult or as a child? If so, what was the experience like for you, or for your children? I'd love to hear!