Travel Log 15: No Place Like Home? Rites of Reincorporation – by Ryan Flagg, North Hampton, New Hampshire

Being back in the United States has been an interesting experience for me. So much of what made living in Japan amazing was that most things were wildly different than here at home. I’m already missing the food, the people and the streets I’ve memorized to a T.

I became so well known with my host culture that it was strange coming back to America. The second day I was home I met up with some friends and got 5-cent chicken wings at a biker bar on Hampton Beach, New Hampshire’s worse version of Venice Beach. I think in terms of reincorporation, this was a shotgun to the feels for how much different I felt away from Japan, which works out pretty well to get me back into American culture. I felt, and still sort of feel weird speaking all English, where in some cases in Japan I’d be speaking all Japanese. Ordering food, for example, was a real shock, as I no longer had to point out items or say certain things. The clothing is a lot different too. I’m used to seeing everyone in everything from business suits to the most fashionable people I’ve ever seen. Here in my beach town of North Hampton there’s almost none of what I remember from the casual Tokyo attire.

While I do consider myself to be a liminal being, I don’t think this reincorporation phase has been all that difficult. Living and doing things here at home is like muscle memory. I got into my car and having not driven for a good half of a year, I did fine. The adjustments haven’t been hard, so much as just weird. For example, I’ve been so used to the tight, narrowness of Tokyo that coming back to a beach town I forgot how open everything is in the States. It’s things like this that are the strangest, because sometimes I can’t always put what I’m feeling, in terms of coming back from study abroad, into words. Going back to liminality, I’m definitely an adaptable person, or liminal being. I said this in earlier travel logs and I believe it still holds true. I think studying abroad and this whole experience has certainly made me realize that I don’t belong to one area of the world, despite permanently living in the United States (for the foreseeable future).

I decided to share my Reincorporation Letter with my parents, like I did my separation letter earlier in the year. The whole experience of sharing this letter was similar. My parents both understood the differences in society and culture (my mom most notably, since she visited toward the end), and know it takes some time to get back into the swing of things. I chose to share with them JRR Tolkien’s quote “Home is behind you, the world is ahead.” Even though in practicality it’s a bit backwards, I still consider Tokyo as a chunk of home that I’ll always carry with me, and combined with the study abroad experience, I feel I’m absolutely ready to take on more areas of the world, so in essence, my journey’s really just beginning, even though it’s recently ended.

Slimbach talks about “gems” carried over from the study abroad experience, and I definitely think a lot of what I did and learned will stick with me for a very long time. In terms of physical gems, I’ve purchased a lot of figures, gachapon, posters, flags, and countless other memorabilia. The mental gems though are the most important, and I think one of the biggest ones is the Japanese cultural difference in general. I learned so much about the value of community, patience, peace, and acceptance that my personal being will be able to impact others here in the States with those things, whether I’m making a film or simply having a conversation with a friend, relative, or some complete stranger.

The quote I’ve chosen is one from a recent film called “Boyhood,” directed by Richard Linklater. “You know how everyone’s always saying seize the moment? I don’t know, I’m kinda thinking it’s the other way around. You know, like the moment seizes us” (Boyhood, 2014). I think this is a perfect quote to cap off the travel logs and the study abroad experience. It’s a bit self-explanatory in what the character is saying, but it drives the idea that life is about the moments, like when I first learned to surf and when I talked to an old man about cats on top of Mount Fuji. The moments, big or small, happen on their own, and I think accepting these and taking them as we go creates this liminality and adaptability that’s so important for all of us both in the present and in the future. That not to say don’t carpe diem, but I think the other side of the coin is just as important.

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