Goodbyes are long in Japan. People often stand talking in the genkan (sometimes with the door open, brrr,) for several minutes exchanging last thoughts and pleasantries before parting ways. Perhaps this custom comes from the amount of time needed to change from one’s slippers back into one’s shoes. Perhaps it’s just a natural consequence of the Japanese courtesy which requires every visitor be treated as an honored guest. Whatever the case, the goodbyes are long in Japan.
Judy and I said goodbye to the Knoxes for their year in the States yesterday.
For the last three weeks, the Knoxes have been our housemates, pastor, teachers, interpreters, cook, pseudo-parents, and guides. It is truly amazing how much those two accomplished daily while they were here! Teaching, preaching, building relationships, organizing the house, and investing in my and Judy’s Japanese and religious educations were all on the to do list and (with only one or two minor exceptions) they all got done! in the days leading up to their departure, we had many guests stand long in our genkan relishing their last chance to see the Knoxes for a year. Little gifts of esteem were given, addresses were exchanged, and promises to write letters were made (the first such promises I’ve heard that are really likely to be kept!).
The night before the Knoxes left, Tummy the rabbit was restless and Tiger the cat was extra cuddly to Mrs. Knox. They’d seen the suitcases and knew change was upon them in some way. They may have realized it even better than Judy and I did, actually, because it surprised me to realize that a hug to Mrs. Knox was really the last goodbye and that the standing in the genkan was over. We already feel the Knoxes’ absence pretty keenly. We won’t be able to fully fill their shoes (or slippers, as the case may be), but we’ll do our best to hold down the fort until their return!
I received an email today that the Knoxes have arrived safely back in Georgia. I also received several phone calls at the house and a cable repairman at the door, most of which did not involve much English. Looks like this Japanese adventure has begun in earnest! Knox-せんせい, we look forward to the next time we see you in the genkan.
アメリカでがんばってください! We will try hard, too, and by God’s grace we will all succeed.