March 8th, 2023
So yeah, on Friday evening after work, the whole family is hopping on a bus to Osaka. We’ll sleep there and on the following morning, the kids and I will wave goodbye to my wife, she’ll tell us to be careful, and we’ll fly to France.
I haven’t been to my home country in five years. That is pretty long. It’s the longest I have been away from it. Covid is the main culprit for that extended delay.
I should be excited to finally go home, and yet I’m not.
I bought the plane ticket almost two months ago. I wasn’t excited then. I thought it’d come. Sometimes, there’s a spark of excitement when I talk with the kids about going to France, but most of the time, no, no excitement to be found.
Why is that?
There are a bunch of reasons.
First the price. If my wife is not coming there is one unique reason and it’s a financial one. We simply couldn’t afford four plane tickets. We couldn’t even afford three. My parents had to help us. I’m a grown man with a regular job, but I’m not ashamed to say it. The price of plane tickets is that bad at the moment. It’s the cumulative effects of the pandemic having wrecked the flying industry, the inflation partly caused by the war in Ukraine, and mostly by modern-day robber barons, let’s not forget the overall beginning of the societal collapse. And for us in Japan, you can add an extra layer of the yen being worth much less than it should at the moment.
So there is that.
There’s Covid too. The thought of spending almost 20 hours on planes and then spending three weeks in a country where most people are playing pretend that there is no pandemic happening is not exactly exciting.
Why am I going then? Well, my parents are not getting any younger. They’re still fine, but for how long? Your guess is as good as mine. Before the pandemic, as we couldn’t go to France every year, they were the ones who used to come and visit us yearly. However, every year, the trip was more exhausting for them than the previous one. My dad is now nearly 83 years old and he just can’t do it anymore. It’s alright, I need to go to France more often, if only for my kids, but the underlying thing is that the clock is ticking toward an unavoidable and unpleasant outcome. I need to spend as much time with them as I can while I still can.
Oh, I’m sure we’ll have fun while in France but right now, excitement is not the main feeling.
Also, I used to be pretty indifferent about flying. Fatherhood somehow made me scared of it. I know it’s a completely irrational feeling, that I have more chances to crash my car returning home tonight. Still, in the past, if my plane were to crash, so be it. Now? Well, I don’t want my kids to be on that plane and I also don’t want them to become orphans. Don’t mind me, I know it’s irrational. I think it started 9 years ago, returning from France after my daughter’s first trip there. She wasn’t two years old yet. The plane took off in Frankfurt, and we weren’t more than a couple of minutes in the air, climbing up to the sky. I don’t know if it was a strong wind gust or something, but the plane did something weird. It’s hard to describe. It felt like it suddenly fell drastically before climbing again and resuming its flight. The pilot didn’t explain what happened, but I never experienced this before or again. Maybe we almost crashed, maybe my imagination is too fertile but the fact that I had my daughter on my lap at that moment and that there was nothing I could have done if shit had happened made me dislike flying almost instantly, and the feeling hasn’t gone away since. But I’m fully aware it’s irrational. It doesn’t mean I can control it.
And while we’re on the litany of negative things, the last two conversations I had with my mom were unpleasant. Both times she overreacted to very minor things. When she does that, it’s pretty simple, it’s because she’s terribly stressed about something and she doesn’t want to tell me what it is, because deep inside, she still sees me as this little kid that must be protected from bad news and difficult things. I’m used to it, it’s been like this my whole life. Most moms are probably like that (although, according to my wife and my friends who know her, my own mom is a bit extreme with such things, both the “let’s not talk about certain things until we can’t avoid them anymore” and the neurotic overreactions that come as a consequence of holding everything in). Well, I found out what the thing was yesterday. I’m not sure I want to explain here. Sure, no one in my family can read English but still, I don’t think it’s something I should put out on the web without the involved people’s consent. Let’s say it’s some bad news pertaining to a family member’s health. Knowing my mom, she’s already imagining the worst – “imagining” being a weak word here. When my mom imagines the worst, she doesn’t think it may happen, in her mind, it is happening. To her defense, the worst could indeed happen this time. But it’s not happening just yet. In any case, the mood may not be very festive at home while I’m there. (Don’t imagine the worst either, it’s not about my parents, it’s another family member, I may or may not talk about it again, as I said, it’s mostly a question of their privacy).
So yeah, I gave you an overview of the general mood just before leaving.
We’ll see what happens when we’re actually there. I have zero plans beyond trying to spend quality time with my parents and my kids. There are a few places that I dearly miss (Hello Périgord and Quercy) and that I hope to visit if the weather is decent.
Meeting friends? That’s a tricky one. Of course, I’d like to see some (not many have stayed in my home area, though), but I am a bit afraid to do so. Yes, this is because of the Covid factor. Yes, I want to see them, but no, I will not take part in any activity that includes taking my mask off (so, no restaurant, no hanging out at their home). Activities that will for sure be suggested, and yeah I’m afraid of the conflictual situation that it could trigger.
Shit! I am becoming Japanese! Jumping through hoops to avoid potential conflict, how very Japanese.
And no, I am not overreacting to Covid. If you think I am, it means that you’re not taking the thing seriously enough. Also, I just can’t take the risk to catch it while in France for obvious reasons.
That’s where I am right now. I do want to write about the trip. The reverse culture shock could lead to interesting observations and stories (Shit! Five years away from France! Five years). We’ll see. I’ll need free time (I should have some on my hands) and things to talk about for this (that’s out of my control).
We’ll see what happens.
Oh, and if you want to see what I post on social media, Youtube, and more while I’m in France, I just made this page so that you can keep track of me (click on the logo below):
Follow me here and there:
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Let’s end this with some music, shall we? (fun fact, I loved that song to death as a kid, I didn’t know the title, nor that it was about France – it’s a common thing in non-English speaking populations)