Temporarily Stranded

And just like that, flights from Japan to Canada are ending for at least the rest of the month.

This has me feeling… strange. In theory, I’ve never not been able to get home. Sure, money and time have always dictated the when, but when it comes down to it, even if I couldn’t afford it, I’ve always known that my parents would bring me home if necessary. I am very lucky, I know, to have their financial and emotional support basically at my beck and call (…within reason, of course).

But now, that doesn’t matter. From April 8th, it will not be an option.

Not that I would even take it even if it were. Sure, I’ve considered going “home” home to ride out Covid-19, but it was really just dreaming. I mean, I no longer have health insurance in Canada, and my home province requires three months of residency before health insurance is granted.

Other problems: with both parents in their 70s—and one immunocompromised and then some—my family and I would have nowhere to quarantine; while going to Canada would bring me closer to my parents, sisters and extended family, it would take my family away from my Japanese in-laws who are equally as important; work.

So basically, not realistic in the least.

Even so, the idea that it’s impossible, even for a month or however long it’s extended, is such a strange feeling.

But all of those feelings, once I started working through them, led me to something I come back to a lot these days: Damn, am I privileged. This isn’t a brag, it’s just me figuring things out. Finally.

I chose to move to another country. I chose to marry there, have children there, settle down there. I went from thinking of myself as an expat (poor though I was) to an immigrant. “Just like my ancestors who left the British Isles to settle in Canada… I mean Turtle Island… I mean who left the British Isles to colonize Turtle Island, inflicting pain and suffering on thousands upon thousands of people for hundreds of years…” (I’m still reworking that narrative.)

But this has made me realize that I’m most definitely not like my ancestors. They likely left their home countries with no expectation that they would ever be back. I always expected to be back, even if just for visits. It’s not quite the same sort of life-altering adventure/dash into the unknown/leaving loved ones behind when you can just hop on a plane and return.

Another realization was that this “Oh my god, I can’t get back” temporary-reality is the always-reality for thousands of refugees, and many immigrants, who leave home never knowing if they’ll be back.

Watching your home country struggle from afar, wondering about your family back home—that’s life for so many people. And here I am, experiencing it for a few months, maybe a year—who knows?—with FaceTime, Facebook, Skype, etc., at my fingertips. Well, privilege acknowledged.

I’m not saying it’s easy for anyone, just that we should be aware that many feel the disconnect and panic that we temporary can’t-go-homes are feeling now, all the time.

I’m sure I’ll be slapped in the face with more privilege-related revelations over the next weeks and months. Just, what will I do with all of them?

Published by helenkamakura

Helen is a Canadian writer and innkeeper based in Kamakura, Japan, where she lives with her Japanese husband and two children. If money became obsolete, she would happily accept peaches, fresh peas, and sun-warmed cherry tomatoes in exchange for her labour.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: