The long goodbye

It turns out that one of the nicest things about living in Japan is leaving.

As I said in my last post, I have no illusions about my significance in the lives of my students: I see many of them only once per month, so even over the course of two years, it’s hard to cultivate a deep and meaningful connection. Still, you wouldn’t know that from the way they’ve embraced me as I prepare to return home.

“Underuse” is a common lament of people in my line of work. Unable to control the direction of the curriculum, it is the lot of the assistant teacher to carve out niches, to mold oneself to the class rather than vice versa. But after a two-week deluge of parting gifts, handwritten cards, class photos, and farewell songs, I can’t see how anyone in my position could claim to be underappreciated.

I won’t soon forget the students and teachers of Minamiarima Elementary, who lined the hallways to shake my hand as I left that school for the last time, and stood by the windows as my taxi drove away. Nor those at Higashi Elementary, who made certain I had a picture of every student to take with me when I left. Nor those at any of my other schools, who reminded me why I’ve so enjoyed doing this job in this area in spite its limitations.

With just three more days of classes, farewells all, the end of my time in Nagasaki is upon me. After two of the longest, fastest years of my life, I’m thrilled to be returning home, though I wouldn’t mind saying goodbye just a little longer.


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