off to Japan: the adventure begins
“Once you have traveled, the voyage never ends, but is played out over and over again in the quiestest chambers. The mind can never break off from the journey.” - Pat Conroy, The Prince of Tides
I sent my fourteen year old son around the world to Japan last weekend. He’s traveling with a dozen eighth and ninth graders (and two teachers) to our sister city of Hikone. He’ll live with our friend Kohei, explore Kyoto and Hiroshima, and embark on the adventure of a lifetime. I’m not superstitious, but the fact that he left on Halloween and will return on Friday the 13th did give me slight pause, mostly for the irony.
I’ve been choked up about his departure, but not for the reasons you might expect. Once the plane lands safely (and it already has), my heart really doesn’t fear something terrible happening. Perhaps that’s protective denial, but I’m really quite comfortable with his safety. What keeps needling me is how this will impact his view of the world. He’ll have a real connection with a family and teens in a completely different culture, and he’ll learn how similar we are where it really counts. He’ll get a glimpse of the impact, more than 50 years later, of a real weapon of mass destruction, and offer a small gesture of peace. He’ll visit shrines and temples and gain some respect for completely different religions.
With all these experiences, he can’t help but come back a different son. I look forward to that, while at the same time I’m sentimental about saying goodbye to the innocent one. Does that make sense?
Lest I wax on too seriously, I know he’s still a teenager. I hope he will be sensitive about his world travels around others who might never enjoy such an experience, but I know that will be hard. I also know much of his “adventure” won’t be lofty but more quirky things only teen would notice. Here’s a quick rundown of the teen perspective through our preparation:
Sensei’s advice: Don’t mess with the fancy toilets.
Teen’s response: I can’t wait to play with the fancy toilets.
Teen’s response: Let’s get (my funny friend) to feed the deer and see what happens.
Sensei’s advice: Remember the honor bestowed upon you. Don’t get too goofy with the Samurai sword you’ll carry in the parade.
Teen’s response: Oh boy! We get to play with real Samurai swords.
Sensei’s advice: Don’t even think about buying beer from the vending machines.
Mom’s response: I don’t even want to think about it.
Take home lesson: Remember the power of suggestion. Never say, “Don’t do this adventerous thing” to a teenager (or his parents!)
May God’s blessings be upon them through the next couple of weeks, on the plane or in the toilets!