Here is the update on my homestay. My homestay pretty much continued on as described previously (See Mark 1, 2). Though I never really interacted with the family much outside of home life, I came to get to know them little by little through daily conversations. I wouldn't exactly say that we bonded or became friends, but we learned a little about each other.

The mother was the person whom I interacted with most. She treated me very nicely and pretty much catered to my every need, which was an adjustment for me. I grew up mostly taking care of myself: laundry, cleaning, cooking, etc. I couldn't remember the last time someone else washed my clothes for me, so that was a little strange. At first I was uncomfortable having to rely on another person for those things, and it is something even today I don't like that much.

But I got used to it, and found that she really enjoyed doing those things. As I found out, that was how she treated everyone in the family. She catered to everyone's needs and took care of everyone in the family. So by including me in that way, I gradually accepted it as being part of the family, not as a privilege of being a guest. Not allowing her to do these things for me, in a way, would deprive her of the opportunity to be who she was.

Over the five months I lived with the family came to realize that I wasn't really being treated like a guest. I was being treated like a family member, in many ways. But their idea of 'family' was a little different than the preconceived notion of a Japanese 'family' that I had before coming.

After I left Japan, I didn't really stay in touch with them for the next year and a half until my graduation. I think maybe a letter or two was all that was exchanged. When I came back to Japan a couple months after finishing college, I stopped in to surprise them in their restaurant. When I walked in, my host father recognized me right away, but didn't seem too phased by the fact that I was back. My host mother, however was speechless for several minutes. I don't think she really ever expected to see me again. Since then I've kept in touch with them every so often. We talk on the phone once a month and get together once or twice every couple months (usually only with the host mother) and have dinner. The relationship pretty much picked up where it left off, and she still continues to worry about me and tries to spoil me. Not a birthday or Christmas goes by without my receiving some kind of present (usually fairly nice and expensive).

Over the past three years, the family seems to have changed a bit. The son has moved out and lives and works on his own. According to my host mother, he seldom comes back and visits though he lives only a little over an hour away. The daughter is also soon to move out, but I'm not sure when. I think this is makes my host mother a little sad, as her role as caterer and provider for her family is changing. It's as if she were losing part of her identity each time she loses a responsibility or chore in her daily routine. But I think she'll take it in stride. I just hope she learns to use her new free time to take care of herself and her own interests.  

I'll continue to keep in touch with them throughout my life. I also hope they will someday come visit me when I return to my home. Their generosity and the relationship we had (and still have) was very comfortable and helped me adjust to life in Japan at my own pace. It was a perfect situation for the type of person I am: a person who tends not to rely on others and is highly independent. They gave me a home to stay in and introduced me to many wonderful aspects of Japanese life, but at the same time gave me the room to learn and experience on my own.  

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