we started our day
at the Hilton Beijing Wangfujing
where two cultures collide
at the breakfast buffet.
Crispy bacon
and pork dumplings.

I found China
vibrant and dynamic.
A twelve year-old boy
of a nation,
outgrowing his clothes
faster than his parents
can replace them.
Vulnerable white ankles
glowing between
red converse
and too-short jeans.

As always,
with vacations,
I was happy for the journey
and happy to head home.

In the taxi
to the Beijing airport
the driver kept calling
our home country
“Air Canada”
which led to some confusion
and interior-hilarity.

After three days
of Qingming Festival
(the tomb-sweeping days)
and closed factories
the Beijing skies were blue.
The bluest of twelve
days in China.

Tucked into my seat
on the plane,
one word
rumbled through my mind
like a steam engine.
Japan Japan Japan.

Home of my heart.

Temperature check,
luggage retrieved
in record time.
In the Customs line,
I greeted the officer
with “Konbanwa”
which means good evening.
He replied in Japanese.
“I’m sorry” I said. “I don’t understand.”
“How long have you lived in Japan?”
“One year and a half.”
“Please learn Japanese.”

I think I mumbled “Okay”
as he handed back my passport.

On the shuttle bus to Yokohama
my posse of inner-gremlins appeared.

Defensive monster:
I work all the time. When would I take classes?
You know nothing about my life.
I already speak English, Spanish and French.
How is this your business?

Denial monster:
Hey! I speak 50 words of Japanese.

Shame monster:
He’s right. I’m a terrible expat.

The women of my iPod
offered their solace.
Rosie Thomas. Adele. Nina Simone.
Couer de pirate. Amy Winehouse.
They sang
“Baby, don’t you worry
cuz you’re home now.
Everything’s going to be okay.”

When we left Japan
the cherry trees
bowed with blossoms.
The blossoms are gone,
replaced by green.

I decide the customs guy
is entitled to his opinion.

Close my eyes
and let it go.

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