On my last day in Tokushima in 2014, M surprised me by showing up at the bus stop at 7am to give me a hat, CD, and a hug. It only seemed fitting that she would be the first person I met at Tokushima Station on my return. We drove back to her place and had KFC for dinner, chatting much too long into the night for what we had planned the next day.
The alarm was set for 5am. After a short snooze attempt, we were out the door by 5:25am, driving to my old school. The new International Class students would be departing for a weeklong exchange at their sister school in Adelaide, Australia. In the early morning darkness, there was still a teacher at the gate to flag us in to the parking space. Mr. E, the talented travel coordinator and my old supervisor, was just finishing up his sendoff speech. Ten minutes before it was scheduled, the bus was on its way to the airport. That’s Japan time for you.
On another day I visited M at the school. In the teacher’s room, nothing had changed. Textbooks and folders were stacked high on everyone’s desks. There were snacks on the breakroom table from someone’s trip to another part of Japan and people gargling at the sinks. Many of the teachers were the same. It was so much fun catching up with everyone and learning all the prefectural news.
There was just one group of students that I knew from my last days at the school. I was able to visit them during lunch hour and say hello. When I had last seen them, they were a group of bright eyed students quick to raise their hands. Now they sat silent in their lunch hour, shoulders hunched and textbooks beside the food on their desks. They’d made it through all the best years of high school and now were in the final stretch with less than 3 months til graduation. Where are they now? Probably enjoying the carefree days of Japanese university life.