Looking back at fortunate meetings.   Leave a comment

I truly believe that it’s the teachers that make subjects so special.  Looking back at my own student life, I can truly admit that I never REALLY studied.  Well..I never knew what “study” was…put a pen in my hand and I changed personality.  This doesn’t mean that I don’t remember anything at all…I s’pose.  I remember trying to make it work with my biology teacher in Yr 11, but I ended up dropping the subject during the middle of the second semester.  As a teenager, though, I gather we all look at the teachers connected with the subjects, obviously.  I honestly believed that my biology teacher looked like a stick insect with thick glasses.  However, having my first Japanese teacher as Miss McKenna, I got to know her more than just my teacher of this very different Asian language.  In my first year of high school, the worlds of my Japanese teacher and I sort of collided.  My father was at that time in Rotary and our parents were councillor parents for a Japanese exchange student from Ibaraki Prefecture that year.  Just by fate, I would call it, due to one of her host mothers’ illness, our family hosted her for 3 months and she occupied the same room as I.  Being only 13, easily distracted and praised at school by Miss McKenna for having an excellent grasp of Japanese pronunciation, I would often listen to her talk about her life in Japan.  I always wondered what it would be like to travel to such a different place.  During that year too (it was a busy year, for sure)  her parents travelled to Brisbane to see their daughter.  We had one evening together.  Since her parents couldn’t speak English and we couldn’t speak Japanese, my mother asked Miss MsKenna over for dinner for a free meal, and to help with any times of being lost (in translation).  It was a wonderful evening and I really got to hear more of the language, and try out just one sentence I has prepared with Miss McKenna.  The exchange student’s father was a real character, plus he couldn’t stop grinning at me!   He boldly said, right there in the middle of the meal in front of everyone, that he wanted to take me back to Japan and marry me!!!  It was after this evening, that I had secretly decided that, no matter what, I would go to Japan and (not marry him..of course) speak to him and his wife again ALL in Japanese.

It wasn’t until I turned 21 years of age that, after graduating from a unversity in Brisbane, majoring in Japanese, I hopped on my first plane flight and headed to Japan and eventually did meet him, his wife and the entire family.  He was so happy to just sit with me talking about anything and everything that came to mind, all in Japanese.  He showed me around the place and town he lived in and pointed out all of the small Japanese pubs where he would often go (he had his won whiskey bottles with his name on them in each place).  He showed me every place that meant everything to him.  He even had a huge party, invited all his mates and wanted me to pretend I couldn’t speak Japanese.  (I wondered what Miss McKenna would’ve thought then.) He planned it so that at a specific time he would nod to me to start speaking Japanese, and sit back to watch his friends all look in amazement.  He really was something.  I said my goodbyes and travelled down to Yokohama with his daughter.  We received a phone call that same night to return to Ibaraki asap.  He died two days after this.

His liver had given way.  The doctors had predicted 10 years, naturally almost 10 years ago to the day.  I didn’t know any of this, until I returned to his home.  Here I was: washing the feet of a man whom had I had first met at the age of 13, helping prepare the body for cremation. 

Looking back on my first ever trip to Japan seeing him, and the first time I had tried my one Japanese sentence with him, I consider myself extremely fortunate and blessed.  It was those special meetings with a special teacher, a special exchange student and a special man all those years ago that make my journey with Japan even more special.  Thus at the wonderful young age of 21, (oh, so naive!!) I began my next step toward creating my own path connected with Japan.


Posted October 2, 2011 by marycinta in Teaching Tales

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