It feels as if I have spent a long, long time in Ubuyama, but I also feel that my stay in your village has passed so quickly. These days are very busy as I pack up my house, make preparations for your new JET, and give my last lessons. Saying goodbye makes me sad and churns up a feeling of dread in my stomach, and yet, I cherish this feeling. It means that we have developed a meaningful relationship that I really don?t want to lose.
Two years ago, when I first learned where I was to teach, I knew very little about Ubuyama. I only knew that it was near Mount Aso and that it was right in the middle of Kyushu. I was concerned about what life out in the deep inaka would be like, but I have grown to love the life out here. Living in Ubuyama is a rare opportunity, especially for an American like me. I have traveled all over Japan, and I know that this place stands out as a diamond in the rough. This is most likely the last time in my life that I will live somewhere where I can leave the keys in the ignition of my car and be sure that it will be completely safe.
After spending some time in the city I have noticed that many things, ranging from the people to the food, seem more genuine in the inaka. The food has a simpler, purer, earthier taste and not fancy packaging. The emphasis on locally produced food is for nutrition and taste, as opposed to appearance and cost. The people don?t act as superficially as they do in the city, and are quick to lend a hand in a time of need. I wake up to the sounds of songbirds singing and crows scrounging for food, and go to sleep hearing the sound of rain pelting against my roof and the magnificently loud frogs calling from the rice field next to my house. Not to mention the air and water. Where I come from, you need a special filter to treat your water, and when you blow your nose, the black particulate matter from the air is visible in your mucous.
Thank you for giving me so many rare opportunities to be part of your community. Many people have expressed envy when I tell them of how I was allowed to be part of the fire brigade. Thank you for this wonderful opportunity and for spending time to help me learn how do perform the drills. Also, I know that many people, including teachers, students, workers from the yakuba, neighbors, and various other people have helped me over the two years I have been here in one way or another, and I want to express my appreciation. You all helped my life to run much smoother and I couldn?t have survived without you. I have learned much about the Japanese language and Japanese culture (especially the culture of central Kyushu and Kumamoto) and I am in your debt.
Lastly, I want to say thank you for allowing me to teach your children and to get to know them. The kids were always my favorite part of the job, and it has been especially hard saying goodbye to so many of my little friends. I have never encountered such a nice, innocent, and intelligent batch of kids before and it is them that I will miss the most. I wish Ubuyama the greatest success in its innovative plans for the future, both in development of the village and in education. Thank you very much for hosting me for these two wonderful years, and know that I will never forget the small, wonderful village hidden away in the middle of Kyushu known as Ubuyama.