Saturday, August 8, 2009
Picture it....Nagasaki 2009
For those who don`t know that phrase, it`s a classic from the Golden Girls series. " Picture it...Sicicly 1945." Anyway, picture this- a black girl abroad in Japan. I celebrated Peace Day in Nagasaki prefecture where I am an English teacher at Kamigotou High School. I hadn't started teaching yet, but had been in the office for three weeks- just piddling around, trying to learn Japanese. But my co-workers started a conversation that for the first time really made me think about being American and alone, abroad. They asked me "Why did American feel they had the right to drop the bomb on Japan?" I was stunned. Why would they ask? Do they really want an answer? What can I say- I wasn't there. And then they sprang it on me- I was going to be introduced to the whole school on Sunday- during Peace day- which commemorates the "Forgotten Bomb"- the attack on Nagasaki. Picture me aggravated-first I had to write the speech-in English and Japanese- and then deliver it- right before they show a film with graphic pictures detailing the bombing. Let's welcome the American everyone! But then I got an epiphany- this is where being an international ambassador comes in . So I wrote the speech- I practiced the speech- and I gave the speech. And afterwards, every kid I saw said "Hello! Nice to meet you!" When I got to my first class and slid open the door- they hand slapped each other and went "Yes!" They were happy to have me here- they wanted to take my class. And suddenly, I felt like a teacher again and not an interloper. These island kids may never meet another American, or African American again- but they are happy to have me and I am happy to be here. Funny, how it took moving to another country for a black girl to feel appreciated. And ironic, that I was, at first, a typical American- feeling resentful of those who- I felt- didn't understand me- those who questioned me and my way of life. Of course I defended America in that conversation- I am American and I will not turn my back on my country. But the primary ideal of America is the right to question in a free democracy. I don't know that that is an ideal in Japan- but I answered truthfully - and they listened. In the end, we agreed to disagree. But again I have learned a valuable lesson- America is not always perceived as the hero of the world- but I don't have to worry about the world. Just me. Here I am D-sensei and they- students and all- are happy to learn from me.. and I from them.