by Jez Martinez
In 2008, I moved to Japan to teach English. Although it was a wonderful and life-changing experience, the holiday season was hard on me.
Christmas in Japan was a romantic holiday that involved eating KFC (true story!) and sharing a Christmas cake with your significant other. Too much like Valentine’s Day for my liking, especially since I already dislike Valentine’s Day!
I missed the decorations, the music, the overall spirit of the season. But most of all, I missed my family. So, in December 2009, after having lived in Japan for a year and a half, I decided to go home for the holidays. Instead of letting my parents know, I opted to surprise them and told my mom that I would be spending Christmas in Taiwan.
I arrived in New Jersey (that’s home to me) a few days before Christmas, and with my brother as my accomplice, I was able to time my arrival with their not being home. When they returned home and walked through the door, my mother’s IMMEDIATE reaction was to push me and say, “You big fat liar!” Then she pulled me in for a hug. Then she pushed me again and said, “You’re not in Taiwan! Liar!” And hugged me again.
After she was done treating me like a human yo-yo, it was my dad’s turn. He just laughed, and with misty eyes, said, “Teres loca.” In other words, I was crazy.
Despite the not-so-flattering adjectives my parents used to express what I know was pleasure at seeing me, it was one of the best Christmases we’d ever had! And I learned that no matter how old I get, or how far I travel, the holidays just don’t feel “right” if it’s not spent with my family.
Jez Martinez is a Recruiting Coordinator in TERRA’s Seattle Branch Office.