Saturday, January 9, 2010

A Stranger in a Strange Land: Part 1

Outside Heian Shrine, Kyoto, Japan February 1987.

A friend's 18 year old son has recently taken off on a 3 month journey to Japan. Reading his blog has triggered some vivid memories for me of my adventures in the land of the rising sun. The first of which goes back almost exactly 23 years.

During the summer of 1986, I was heartbroken. Michael was graduating from college and I wasn't. He had already taken the LSAT's and had been admitted to the University of San Diego Law School for the following Fall. I had thought seriously of transferring to SDSU. Unfortunately, "the Lubitz plan" for Michael included a two-year stint in Japan before heading to Law School. I begged Michael to wait for me. I thought my plan was just as good as theirs. Michael graduates Law School, Kari receives her Undergraduate Degree, Michael & Kari get married and then go to Japan. But as it turns out, my wishes fell on deaf ears.

The year before Michael's graduation had been tumultuous at best. Michael had been seriously ill with colitis and rheumatoid arthritis and they had ravaged his 128 pound body (both illnesses he had been dealing with since he was about 8 years old). He had struggled with keeping up with school work. I had taken two jobs in order to pay for my college. At times I attended his classes along with my own in order to keep him moving forward during his "couch ridden" periods. We had become engaged in the Fall of 1985 and then Michael had been life-flighted to UCLA just before winter break due to severe intestinal cramps and blockage. The doctors managed to patch him up in order to get him through college on time (a goal of his parents). After having been hospitalized at least a half dozen times during his undergraduate years, in early Summer 1986 Michael managed to graduate from ASU--in 4 years.

So the summer of 1986 was all about Michael graduating from ASU, Michael having major surgery (hopefully his last) and then Michael packing up and leaving for Japan for two years. It was a very difficult summer. I just could not see myself leaving school at that time without getting a degree first. Plus I had no money. I was unable to spend the kind of time with him that I wanted because I had to work to support myself. It was torture. He was in LA most of the summer, I was in Tempe. After some persuasion on my part (and saying good-bye to my beloved piano), I got 2 weeks with Michael before his plane left.

After Michael was gone, I honestly felt like a piece of me was missing. Sure I attended my 6 classes and worked 30 hours a week. I barely had time to think of anything else, but when I did think of anything else, it was how miserable I was. Not only that, but there were no fun ways to talk and see each other like there is now. No ichat, no skype. There were long, expensive, and taking into account the 16 hour time difference and Michael's 10-12 hour work day, mostly inconvenient phone calls. I could barely afford to pay my rent. The phone bill was twice the cost of my rent at the time. I felt like I had two choices at that point... call it off and move on with my life, or start planning my departure for Japan. I decided that taking a little break from my college education wouldn't be so bad after all. I gave Michael the choice: either say good-bye, or figure out a way to get me to Japan. I was in charge of paying for the airline ticket and getting a passport, Michael was in charge of everything else. Michael lived in the Kyocera company dorms at the time, and I could not live there, so I needed housing. I also needed a sponsor... and a job. By the time Michael got done paying for his own living expenses, he really had no money left over, so I would definitely need to work. Michael was what they call a "salary man" which basically means you don't really get a salary.

After lots and lots of planning and me begging for money for the plane ticket, I spent Christmas in Portland and then got on a plane bound for Osaka, Japan by way of Anchorage, Alaska and Seoul, Korea. Suffice it to say, the plane rides themselves deserve a whole blog entry.

So, until another day... sayonara, bye bye!


Jeff Melnick said...

I just love reading your blog. I can't wait for the "rest of the story."

kjlubitz said...

Ugh, who would have thought Michael spending a week in the hospital and almost having surgery would get in the way of "the rest of the story". Sheesh, I need to get on with it ;).