Saturday, August 27, 2005

My sayonara party

Well, yesterday was my last day at Yokosuka City Hall as an intern. I gave my presentation in Japanese again, but this time with an expanded section comparing Japanese and American Emergency Management. I don’t have any pictures, but if you have seen my photo gallery, you have an idea of what it looked like. I made little eye contact with my audience, because it is pretty much impossible for me to memorize or talk on the spot for an hour in Japanese about emergency management and still express all the ideas I want to relate to my audience.

I gave the presentation in a lecture hall on the 5th floor. I was originally scheduled to give my presentation in the Disaster Response Headquarters Room again, but we had a typhoon move through the night before and they needed that room to monitor damage reports coming in from around the city. Fortunately, the storm didn’t cause much damage here in Yokosuka. I saw some dramatic footage of damage in Hakone, a tourist town here in Kanagawa, earlier today. There are several hot springs resorts in Hakone, at least one of which was destroyed by a landslide. The buildings were washed away, leaving piping and building materials jutting out of a slope of pure mud with jets of steam bursting forth. Cool to look at, as long as it isn’t your business that’s ruined.

Anyway, I think it went well, but some of my coworkers were not there because they stayed the night at City Hall in case they were needed. Some of the others dozed off a few times, but I think this was because of fatigue. Hopefully, anyway…

After a delicious lunch at the Korean restaurant a few blocks away, I made the rounds at City Hall saying thank you and goodbye to many of the section and department heads who have been so kind to me over the past three months. Mr. Takahashi then took me to my apartment to pick up some packages I had ready to ship. We also stopped by ‘Society Hall’ to say goodbye and thank you to my temporary hosts from the early part of the summer.

I finished packing other books to ship to the US and Taiwan. I sent out a lot of packages, so Ross, be on the lookout. They should be there in a few weeks.

I had a going away party hosted by the International Relations Division and the Public Safety Division at Banzai, a really hip restaurant that is part of the chain that trained Nishio-san. The food was great, but as the main guest, I didn’t have much time to eat.

I really don’t have the words to express my gratitude for all that the City Hall employees have done for me all summer. Everyone seemed genuinely happy to have met me and had nothing but kind words for me up until the end. It was really moving to hear one of the bosses say that this was not an ending, but a beginning. That really stuck with me. These people were not only excellent hosts for a three-month program, but friends that I could call on anytime. They made this very clear at the going away party. Another boss told me to keep working hard because he wanted to brag to his friends when he gets older and they see me on the news. He told me he wanted to tell them, “you see that guy? Yeah, I knew him back in the day! He wouldn’t be there if it wasn’t for me!”

I’m not sure if that’s an exact translation of what he said, but it’s pretty close. I thought I would feel sadder leaving Yokosuka than I do. I think that’s because I really believe the words I heard last night. This was a wonderful experience and these three months were noting but the beginning. I have a large network here in Yokosuka now, a network that I don’t ever plan to lose.
Thank you Yokosuka! I will never forget everything you have done for me! See you again!

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