High above the Pacific, packed like cattle into a railroad car, it's hard to remember where I've been or where I am going. My mind runs to walking back to campus last night, warm moist air buffeting me as we crossed the flyover high above the wide ring road. Dazzling lights in all directions. People walking, talking, loud, busy and friendly. Crossing the wide road to the west gate, nodding to the guard, walking the wide fountain plaza in the dark with children buzzing by on wiggle boards and tiny scooters, wheels flashing neon light.
Across the campus, out the south gate, up the willow lined street, past the ubiquitious contruction work on the steam lines, up the ramp into the technology center, the cool dimness of the lobby, up the sleek elevator, down the hall to the suite, home for more than a month.
A long last day. Breakfast with the team of foreign teachers who've shared life so closely for four weeks. Lunch with three university deans, a double triangle of three each on two languages. Communication flowing freely even in the ambiguity of double cultures. Dinner at Outback, a unique island of the west deep in the east, followed by an acrobat show that was purely east. Goodbyes to dear friends who cross cultures well.
The next morning was early, on that side at least. Down to the lobby to load by six, gentle hugs from our favorite administrator, thin and spare, and a final gracious murmur of "come back, please." Asian to the core but flexing past his discomfort to touch these foreigners he's come to love and trust so deeply. Different, so different, we are, but trust and love flow both directions because we are so the same at the core of our beings.
The airport is a blurr, loading quickly onto the plane., finding seats, settling into the routine. Landing in Tokyo, pushing through security, queing up again and boarding. So many cattle, moving in herds, orderly, anonymous. By now, on the second flight, there are equal western and eastern faces, a jolt after living in a Chinese world.
In just a few hours I'll land in my other world. The streets are also wide, but curiously empty. We walk on white suburban pavement fringed with deep green grass. The parks are wide and open with few trees. Children play in their yards or the parks with no whizzing wiggle boards and no plaza. No grandmothers moving slowly behind little single toddlers, out for a stroll. the air, even when hot and humid, is crisp and clear compared to what I have left, and free of the smell of hot oil cooking and fruit at the street corners. People are gracious there too but emotions are out front and in the open, not held closely behind the face.
One is not beter than the other. Both are places where life is lived deeply and with intensity. The great difficulty is this limbo world between, and making the transition from one world to the next. For weeks my dreams will stay behind in the songs and smells I've left over there.
Once again, I think I've left my heart in Asia.