The First Time I Returned from Japan

My friend called us “the fabled seven.” We had been in Japan for a semester, a group of students from Oklahoma Christian University. We had been studying at Ibaraki Christian University in Japan together. We had gone through culture shock together. We had studied Japanese together. We had gone site seeing around Japan together. We had lots of Japanese friends, but everything good has to come to an end. We had to go back to America. We were on Japan Airlines a Boeing 747, a huge airplane. The year was 1976, so there weren’t so many people on the planes then. There were seven of us, and we were able to stretch out across the seats and rest durin the 24 hour flight from Tokyo to Oklahoma City. We had all written to our parents and sent them the flight information and expected our parents to be there waiting for us as we came out of the plane.

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As we came out of the plane, there was a group waiting, but I didn’t see my parents among them. Darla had gotten off early, in New York, and she had flown to visit friends wait for our parents to arrive. We went to the luggage area and picked our luggage up. Larry called his parents, and they were on the way. I called mine, but I couldn’t get through. I was hoping it meant they were on their way. in Indiana. Debbie’s parents were there. Johnathan’s parents were there. My parents weren’t there, and neither were Larry’s. Larry and I had to wait for our parents. Randy’s parents were there.

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We sat in a lobby of the airport waiting. Larry’s family showed up. They decided to wait a while and see if my family didn’t show up too, but they didn’t. I tried calling again. Finally, someone answered the phone. It was late at night, they were 2 1/2 hours away, and they had forgotten. I was stranded. I had missed my family so much, but they had forgotten me. My mother told me to go to the university to sleep. Larry and his family left, and I took a taxi to the university. I wasn’t accustomed to riding in taxis. I sat in the back with my luggage in the trunk. It was dark out, and I felt very lonely. I had been surrounded by friends, but they all left one by one with their parents, but I was there alone. The taxi cost me $15.00, and for me, that was very expensive. I just couldn’t normally ride in taxis.

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When I got to the dorm at the school, everything was closed up. The doors were locked and the lights were out. It was between semesters, and I was afraid there would be no one there. I found a night bell, and I rang it. The dorm mother came to the door, and I explained to her that I had just returned from Japan and had no where else to go, and I needed to sleep there for the night. She let me in. She gave me the keys to one of the rooms. There was no one in the dorm except the dorm mother and myself because it was between semesters. The dorm mother went back to bed, and I went to my room. I was very lonely.

The room seemed vacant, and I slept on the mattress with no sheets, blankets, or pillow. Photo by Lisa Fotios on Pexels.com

There were no sheets, blankets, or pillows on the bed, but at least I was inside, and it was a place to sleep. I used things from my suitcase to make myself as comfortable as possible. I slept on the bare mattress. I laid down tired from the 24 hour flight and went to sleep.

I never ate things like cinnamon rolls or doughnuts. There were all just too sweet for me. I had never eaten anything like that before going to the university. I had been taught to be strict about what I ate, and I wasn’t used to sweets. Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Pexels.com

The next morning, I had no idea what I was going to eat. The university was kind of out in the country even though the address was Oklahoma City, and I had no car. The cafeteria was closed. I went into the hallway, and there was a girl in the hallway eating cinnamon rolls. I asked her where she got them, and she said she bought them at the vending machines downstairs. I wasn’t accustomed to eating packaged cinnamon rolls. I was always kind of a health food nut, and I had never even tried the cinnamon rolls. However, I needed something to eat. I found some change and went to the vending machines. I found them in the stairwell. I put my quarter in and got a small package of cinnamon rolls. They were so sweet, I couldn’t believe it! I really didn’t like them because they were so sweet, however, they were something to eat.

I carried all my luggage by hand. There were no wheels on it then. Photo by Daria Shevtsova on Pexels.com

I was so alone! I went back to my room and put my luggage together and took it downstairs. I sat in the couches in the lobby waiting for my parents to come. After an hour or two, they showed up. My mother came to the door to let me know they were there. I knocked on the door of the dorm mother and thanked her for the room giving her the keys back and left with my parents.

My brain had been programed to speak Japanese, and Japanese words kept accidently popping out of my mouth, and I felt silly because I knew no one would understand.. Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

I sat in the back seat of my mother’s little red Datsun, my dad drove, and my mother sat in the front with him. I was used to speaking Japanese, and I wanted to speak Japanese. The Japanese just kept popping into my head, but if I said it, no one would understand it. My Japanese friends and I had been speaking what we called Janglish all summer. Janglish is a mixture of Japanese and English. Whatever word from English or Japanese, either language, that seemed to fit best or popped into our heads, that is what we had been using. My brain was programed for Janglish. I sat in the back seat telling my parents about my summer, and ever so often, a Japanese word just accidently popped out of my mouth, and I felt absolutely silly because I knew they would never understand. My dad had studied Japanese, so I was hoping he would understand, but he didn’t.

After driving 2 1/2 hours on country highways, then we went 15 miles out into the woods on a dirt road. Photo by Joshua Brits on Pexels.com

We drove for 2 1/2 hours to the middle of the country in Oklahoma. My family lived 15 miles out on a red dirt road outside of one of those little “blink and you’ll miss it” Oklahoma towns. It was a far cry from Japan. It was a far cry from the university. Life was so different out there!! Our closest neighbor was a mile away. There wasn’t enough room for me to sleep in the house, so they put me in a camper in the yard. The house was a trailer.

That sheep had horns, and if you weren’t looking, it came behind you, butted you, and knocked you down. It was like a monster waiting in the yard to get you all the time. Photo by Trace Hudson on Pexels.com

There was a sheep in the yard. They had been playing with the sheep, and the sheep had learned to butt people. I couldn’t walk through the yard without carrying a stick to keep the sheep away. If you turned your back on that sheep, he would run at you, hit you, and you would wind up on the ground. I hated to go in the yard.

We had to bathe and wash our dishes in red water that came from a pond in the woods behind the house. I had to wear a pony tail all the tine because the weather was so hot. Photo by Kaique Rocha on Pexels.com

The water in the pipes came from a pond in the woods in the back of the house. The water was red. I had to take showers in red water. My mother had taken the indoor/outdoor carpet off the floor in the bathroom and the bathroom had just a plain wooden floor without any varnish on it. They had had the red water coming through the pipes tested, and it was safe to drink, but no one wanted to drink red water. We did the dishes and showered in the red water. However, we had a huge glass bottle that we hauled drinking water with. Often, we went out to the middle of the woods to a spring with a pump to get spring water to drink. My grandfather had put the pump there when he worked for a government program called WPA during the Great Depression. Not many people knew the pump and spring was there, but we hauled our drinking water from it. The trailer had air conditioning, but my parents rarely ran the air conditioner. I kept my hair long and wore it up in a pony tail because of the hot weather.

I helped my mother build a barbed wire fence to keep the animals in. Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

My mother put me on a diet, like usual. She insisted that I had to run a mile a day, so I did. I was extremely obedient. I had a month before it was time to go back to school, and I lost thirty pounds in that month. It was time for me to clean house for my mother again. I washed dishes. I cleaned the carpet, etc. I helped make a fence to keep the animals in. I dug potatoes from the garden and snapped beans. My brother had been fishing, and the freezer was full of fish. We ate a lot of fish. I helped my brother cut fire wood we used in the wood stove. I took care of my little sister. I read her one book right after another. There wasn’t much TV. We had one small black and white TV. During that month, I watched a series of shows late at night as I read the novel that went with them, “War and Peace,” a Russian novel not many people read because it is so long. I was miserable away from my friends, away from clean water, away from civilization. My mother kept catching me crying and thought I was crazy. She threatened to take me to a psychiatrist. She just didn’t understand.

When ever I got a chance, I went horseback riding. I really enjoyed the horses! Photo by Ivy Son on Pexels.com

My recreation was swimming in the pond with red water and riding horses. I had always been a good swimmer and loved swimming. I also loved horseback riding. We didn’t own any horses. The neighbors had horses, and they loved me to walk down there and ride their horses. I could ride any of their horses from the mildest to the most spirited. I rode for miles and miles on the red dirt road through the woods. I loved the horses! Once, I looked down, and a rattle snake was crossing the road slithering along under the horse. I held my breath! I was afraid if the horse saw the snake or if the snake bit the horse, I would be thrown. Luckily, the horse didn’t notice the snake and just kept going.

We had to keep our eye open for rattle snakes, cotton mouth snakes, scorpions, tarantulas, etc.Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

There were lots of critters out there. Once, I came up into the yard and the cats were all in a group playing with something. They were all pawing at a tarantula. Another time, we came home, and there was a bat in the trailer. My brother chased the bat through the house and killed it in the bathroom. There were ticks, scorpions, snakes, and spiders, just all kinds of wild critters everywhere we had to keep an eye out for.

The only time I got to see people was when I went to the little church in the “blink and you’ll miss it town” fifteen miles away on a dirt road. Photo by Aigars Neu013cu0137e on Pexels.com

I had not grown up out there. My parents moved there after I graduated from high school. If had had to stay out there all the time, I would have gone crazy. I enjoyed the horses, the woods, and the swimming, but I needed people. The only time I actually saw people was when we went to church. After a month, it was time to go back to Oklahoma City to go to school. I was ready. This time, I had sheets, blankets, and a pillow for my bed in the dorm.

I was so happy to be reunited with my friends when I went back to school! Photo by Gustavo Fring on Pexels.com

When I got back to school, we had a Japanese exchange student, and she looked me up. I was so happy to be able to speak Japanese with someone again! I was very ready to go back to school where there were people, clean water, air conditioning, books, special devotionals, etc., and no snakes, scorpions, sheep trying to knock you down, or ticks. Debbie and Darla were meeting me in the cafeteria to eat. Larry, Jonathan, and Darla were all part of a club I belonged to. That school was my salvation. I felt like I had died and gone to Heaven.

2 thoughts on “The First Time I Returned from Japan”

  1. Your return to America was quite a change from your experience in Japan! Of the seven Americans who went to Japan, you “picked up” the Japanese language the best! I can see why Japanese words kept popping into your mind. I am especially glad that we are good friends because of our going to Japan together!

    1. Coming back to America was a huge reverse culture shock. In the long run, Randy has probably gotten better at Japanese than any of us. If I had had my way, I would have used Japanese even more than I have and studied even more. I am glad we are still friends too. 🙂

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