13,594 km, 14 times zones, three alphabets and Mt. Fuji separate my best friend from me. We aren’t the friends that have been inseparable since meeting on the playground the first day of kindergarten, nor are we the friends that have gradually grown closer because of sports or classes together. We have been best friends for approximately eighteen years and eighty-four days; since the day I was born. My best friend is my older brother, Sam.
Since third grade, when our first exchange student unpacked his bags at our house, I have seen the day that Sam would leave for Rotary in my mind as if a guarantee.The two of us have been blessed with parents who value cultural diversity and have traveled as a family across the world to experience and appreciate the aspects of society that make individuals who they are. It is this reason why December 20th should not have fazed me; the day Sam received the letter in the mail saying that he would be spending the next year in Japan.
For the next seven months I prepared myself for the awaiting goodbye.August always seemed far away until it was there, until I was standing at the airport saying goodbye to the person I have spent the last seventeen years looking up to. I promised myself I wouldn’t let myself cry, that I would smile and wave until he was out of sight, so I watched as Sam took his steps away from us, away from home, away from security and predictability and towards Japan. I watched as he left us, and left me with memories; memories but no regrets.
This past year I would hear through skype calls, emails, and blog updates the many ups and down's of my brother's year. I read about the adventures of going to a fishing school and the struggles of learning a new language, but more importantly I watched Sam discover the blessings of simplicity, learn the power of independence, and conquer challenges he didn't think he would be able to. There were times when his exchange stay had felt like an eternity, but now with just 10 days left before he returns I realize how long ago August was and how quickly July has come.
It really does seem like the whole Rotary program has the ability to warp time. I can remember our first "practice interview" for Rotary back in the fall, where 20 some students turned in their applications to enter the program for 2010-2011. And I can remember standing in the cafeteria at the "country fair" in early December seeing the world set up in booths and the inbound exchange students smiling proudly- hoping we 'pick' their country. I can remember hours later filling out my Top 5 country choices and selecting Argentina as a place I might want to spend the next year... the year that still seemed forever away. But most vividly, I remember MY December 20th- one year after my brother had opened his letter saying he would be living in Japan, my letter read Argentina. In the blink of an eye, six months has passed and I am counting not the months or weeks before Sam gets home, but the days- and I have no way to express how excited I am to have my family together for 30 whole days again.
To me, with my mind constantly distracted by my future endeavors, that's also 30 days to try to get every piece of advice Sam has to prepare me for MY turn. I have no idea what this year will bring. I don't know what my challenges will be, nor can I imagine what memories I will return home with. All I know is that I am ready to speak some spanish, dance a little tango, and to try to take on whatever Argentina decides to throw my way.