Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Laying out my winter clothes

Now the years are rolling by me
They are rocking easily
I am older than I once was
And younger than I’ll be
But that’s not unusual
No, it isn’t strange
After changes upon changes
We are more or less the same
After changes we are
More or less the same

Then I’m laying out my winter clothes
And wishing I was gone
Going home
Where the New York City winters aren’t bleeding me
Leading me
Going home

And ev'ry stranger's face I see reminds me that I long to be
Homeward bound
I wish I was
Homeward bound

So in four days I'll be long gone from Fukuoka; in eleven I'll be back in the UK, flights allowing. Apart from parting from various friends, which I've discussed elsewhere, there are quite a lot of practical things to get done when you're leaving the country.

Right now I'm about 90% packed, with just a few essentials (clothes, gadgets) still hanging on. Tomorrow I'll be dropping off all my unused food, along with various household items I've bought, for the teachers to root through. The plan is to do that around 9am when school opens, returning to the apartment for 10am for inspection by my landlord. Having that done should make it much less stressful trying to cross the city early on Saturday morning to catch my shinkansen to Tokyo - especially as I plan to drop off most of my luggage the night before at the station, so I can simply rush across unencumbered and pick it up as I arrive.

Yes, I know it's only Tuesday and I leave on Saturday.

Look, remember when they selected me to get several thousand books collected from myriad reticent corners of the university and shipped across the UK to ensure millions of pounds of funding? There was a reason for that.

Here are the bags of food (mostly ingredients and dry goods - obviously I ate up fresh things) waiting for delivery tomorrow. The problem with living somewhere for this length of time is all the stuff you need. Spices. Pasta, rice, flour, tea. Other bags contain kitchen paper, foil, cling film, a set of scales, and many boxes.

I suppose the problem is the exact circumstances of departure: I'm not simply moving house after a six-month residence, but moving to an entirely different country, by plane, via a train tour of the most crowded places in Japan. I don't think I really accumulated much I didn't need over the months, but it's not remotely practical to take them away. If I was moving town, like usual, I could just ship them over in the van with the rest of my stuff - but of course I'm not going by van, I'm taking a suitcase and a rucksack.

One thing that struck me as mildly interesting is that my suitcase and rucksack are nearly reversed in contents from when I arrived.

Outbound rucksack contents: stuff to do on plane, guidebook, study materials, a terrifying quantity of electronics, one change of clothes, interim food. Return rucksack contents: laptop, stuff to do on plane, guidebook (for Tokyo), clothes.

I suppose the thing is, the rucksack is for the most important things. There's always a risk of losing your suitcase. Travelling to another country for six months, the indispensable things were my Japanese stuff and my gadgets. I simply couldn't manage without my laptop; all my entertainment was on my e-book reader and MP3 player; my microphone headset, six-way extension cable, adaptor and camera would be a real pain to replace and would be important very early on. But getting new clothes if my suitcase went astray? No problem. That just requires money.

Returning, there's admittedly a short period of travelling, and during the next week I'll need my laptop and changes of clothes. Everything else should basically be able to sit in my suitcase untouched. It'll be a pain if my headset or books go missing, and I'll be very sad if my presents and souvenirs are lost. But they're not vital to managing my life back in the UK. The important things, right now, are just everyday. And if I was going straight back, I wouldn't even need those.

So now I'm at that awkward in-between stage. It's like the last week of term, or the last few days in a job; my getting-things-done mind is saying: "if I'm going to leave, then let's just leave already!". I don't like drawn-out leavings and long goodbyes. I'm creeping up on going home, but not yet going home. And although there are still people to say goodbye to, and a week of exploring to do in strange new towns, and I'm broadly looking forward to that, I kind of wish I was.
Homeward bound.

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