12 Hours to Departure: Preparing to Leave for Exchange Year

Hannah will be getting up to go to the airport in about 12 hours, starting her very long travel day(s). The trip should take about 26 hours, if flights are mostly kept on time. Needless to say, I will be anxiously awaiting a call on Thursday morning, telling me that Hannah has arrived safely in Nagasaki.

We had lots of tears last night, although Hannah had a better day on a whole. She spent the evening with fabric markers, decorating onesies for her new baby brother.  We both got up this morning and set to work finishing off her packing, going through her travel itineraries, and reviewing financial issues once again. At 3:00 pm, we had finally completed the packing and had also watched the final two episodes of Gilmore Girls (the last season), which has Rori leaving to join the Obama campaign trail as a reporter for an online news service. Watching this episode started the tears again, but perhaps they were cathartic tears–filled with less resistance and more acceptance. Indeed, at some point this morning there was a shift in our attitude. We both finally stepped out of our protective layer of denial and realized that this was really going to happen. She really is going to Japan.

I am reminded once again how things/people/books seem to come into our hands at just the right moment. Last week, a long-time friend of mine, but one I haven’t seen in years, stumbled across this blog and commented on Hannah’s journey. My friend (Christy), noted that she was currently reading The New Global Student by Maya Frost and informed me that it contained a whole chapter on Rotary exchanges. After looking over Maya Frost’s blog, I determined I needed this book. Hannah and I picked up the book while out doing last minute errands yesterday. I read the chapter on Rotary exchanges aloud to Hannah this morning before we started packing. The vignettes of former Rotary students, all discussing the positive ways the experience has impacted their lives, really helped Hannah. It also noted, in many instances, how terribly hard and challenging the experience was at times, particularly in the first three-four months. Finally, it emphasized that tearful goodbyes were the general rule, not the exception (last night, Hannah and I started to wonder if there was something wrong with us for thinking we could actually part from one another). Reading this chapter was so helpful to us and was probably quite responsible for “the shift” noted earlier.

Thank you Christy and Maya Frost.


6 thoughts on “12 Hours to Departure: Preparing to Leave for Exchange Year

  1. Good luck to you both. I will be following Hannah in Japan as well as your days without her and welcoming new babe as well as Ethan’s experiences without big sister looming over! Know that I am thinking of you and praying for Hannah’s safe arrival in Japan and your continued strength in letting her go. Although it is in no way comparable, I recall sending our six year old Cheney (now a college Sophomore) on his first flight from Minot North Dakota to Seattle to his grandmother. I could not conceive that they actually allowed children to fly unaccompanied like that. We got him ready, nice rugby striped shirt, fresh baseball cap from the Uncle we hadn’t met in Vermont, sticker on his shirt showing he was, indeed, an unaccompanied minor (why would we advertise that, I wondered at the time) and his backpack stuffed full of things for him to do, cards, snacks, books, favorite toy. We put him on the plane (walked him on in those days, got him settled in his seat, all of which Todd let me do), and then we left the airport. Todd parked the car just North of the airport so we could watch the plane take off. As we sat there, watching that plane slowly rise into the air, carrying away our oldest son, a mere baby, I finally looked over at Todd and said “I keep waiting for the plane to explode.” He let out what appeared to be a sigh of relief and laugh and said “me too.” And we then, after sharing our most terrible fear, were able to drive home and wait for Grandma’s call and use of the code word (i can’t remember what we picked that time, now, but I always struggled coming up with the perfect code word, that wouldn’t sound too corny, yet secret enough that no stranger could just come up with it and steal away my precious child).


    1. Shari, I read this yesterday morning and it meant so much to me. I actually read it before leaving for the airport–I believe (it is all blurring now). I just couldn’t respond to anyone yesterday. I just had to know she was okay first. Now I know. Thank you. I love you. Thinking lots about Tommy today.

  2. I am so glad that you found my book helpful to you! As you know, I sent three of my four daughters on a year-long Rotary Youth Exchange and have had many tearful farewells as they left for colleges and work opportunities around the world. That part is always hard but the more often you do it, the more you recognize that the goodbyes invariably lead to exciting opportunities for personal growth and adventure! I know you both have a challenging but unforgettable year ahead–what a tremendous gift you are giving your daughter!
    I’ll check back often to see how things are going.

    1. Thank you so much for these words of support. It was great to receive them on the day Hannah was actually flying. Wow, Japan is a long way from here. I know from your book that you spent time there. When Hannah finally called me late this morning, she sounded very exhausted and a little shell-shocked. Hopefully, this first success of just navigating her way to Nagasaki (which was no small feat), will give her confidence as she begins to immerse herself in life there with her host family. Again, thanks for writing this book. It couldn’t have come into my hands at a better time.
      Kindest regards,

  3. I’ve been thinking about you and Hannah a lot this week, wondering how you’re doing. What a long day this will be for her, heading into this unknown adventure by herself. And a long day for you, too, waiting for her call! I’m glad you were both able to shift gears before she left and part feeling [mostly] positive about the year to come. Take care, and I’ll talk to you soon!

    1. Thanks Julie. Your support means so much! I was very appreciative of all of the people thinking about us and praying for us yesterday–I just didn’t have the capacity to respond yet.

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