“Sometimes you can see whales from the school windows,” my teachers told me. No such fortune has graced me — I had to resort to the more prosaic means of boarding a whale-watching ship.
The other JETs and I agreed: We hadn’t expected it would be so small.
Armed with life jackets and anti-nausea tablets, we clung to the rails. Our cheerful, sun-bronzed captain gave a shout whenever the radar blipped. Then we would speed across the waves, hunting our massive quarry.
The first time a curving gray spine broke the air, the magnitude of our chase overwhelmed me. We were so tiny in their midst, perched on our fragile craft. Over and over again, giants split the water around us, surfacing in twos and threes, monumentally indifferent to our presence. If our accompanying band of divers slipped off-deck to join them, though, the whales evaded them — vanishing effortlessly back into the deep.
When I first met Petra in 2018, weeks after arriving in KwaZulu-Natal to begin teaching with the Peace Corps, she invited me to visit her home on Western Cape. This Christmas, I finally took Petra up on her invitation. After a long layover in Singapore, then a short domestic flight, I rode with Petra’s sister and family for four hours from Cape Town, across the mountains, back to the coast.
We arrived in Vleesbaai late Monday, just in time for Christmas dinner. Petra and her husband Preben outdid themselves with lamb and steak grilled in the fireplace, alongside a spread of salads, savoury sides, and cherry cake. We watched twilight creep over the water as I dusted off my Afrikaans to greet old friends and new acquaintances.
After months of manic planning, with over eight different connections lined up by bus, train, and plane (all booked one-way), the day arrived for my departure from Tokunoshima for the Christmas holidays.
Though my nerves stretched taut as violin strings, I had to smile when the Lord granted me an auspicious beginning in a reminder of his covenant-keeping: A rainbow brightened the clouds as I waited for my first leg of transport, a bus to the island airport.