ICLP電子報第44-45期：國家橄欖球聯盟*的集體談判/NFL Collective Bargaining; 在日本過春假/Spring Break in Japan
English Translation: Spring Break in Japan
Before I came to ICLP, I taught English for two years in Tensui-machi, a rural town in Kumamoto, Japan. Because it was such a great experience, I was very sorry to leave everyone, so I promised to come back to visit. Fortunately, ICLP’s spring break overlapped with Japan’s elementary school graduation day, so it was great timing for my visit. Little did I know there would be a massive earthquake in Japan on March 11. Because Kumamoto is in the center of Kyushu, Japan’s western island, my old town wasn’t affected, but many people, especially my grandmother, were afraid that if I visited I would get radiation poisoning. That risk aside, I still had to go, because telling small children “I’m not coming to visit you because the place you live is too dangerous” would have been even worse. All I could do was take my planned flight on March 20.
Kyushu hasn’t suffered any visible harm, but there has been plenty of invisible damage. For example, although the Kyushu Shinkansen Train just opened on March 12, there have been very few passengers up until now because of the earthquake, which is making JR rail executives very anxious. The common people are worried that the government is not being truthful with them about the nuclear accident in Fukushima and that the Bank of Japan’s emergency quantitative easing is creating long-term risk for the national treasury. Some residents of eastern Japan have fled the confusion there and returned to their childhood homes in Kyushu. Every event, be it an elementary school graduation or an adult English conversation salon, begins with everyone bowing their heads in prayer for the victims. Many people expressed thanks to me for the Taiwanese people’s generous donations to disaster relief efforts.
But when we Tensui people reunited, our worries disappeared. I’ll never forget the obvious looks of surprise and then happiness on my students’ faces when I saw them again. I spent at least 3 hours at 4 elementary schools and one junior high and visited many people. My mouth never stopped moving: I was always talking or eating. Seeing my students’ growth and encouraging my former coworkers reminded me of the joy of teaching. My friends first updated me on their lives and those of our mutual friends, then asked me questions like whether Chinese is more difficult than Japanese, what exactly the Republic of China and the International Chinese Language Program are, why I lost weight despite Chinese food being oilier than Japanese cuisine, and when I’m going to decide my future job and wife.
I showed everyone a Taiwanese newspaper, which they thought was really colorful: some third grade boys took special interest in the entertainment section, and I realized too late that this was because there were pictures of half-naked women inside. Embarrassed, I grabbed the paper and tried to keep it away from them, but they chased after me, saying, “Please please let me see it again!” which tired me out.
I didn’t totally leave the Taiwanese cultural zone that week. Some of my friends were born in Taiwan during the Japanese colonial period. Others have gone there to travel, and they remembered that you can buy anything at the night market, that the Palace Museum has every possible kind of antique, that traffic is frightening, that they went home happy, and so on, and they also recognize celebrities like “Little Fatty” (Lin Yu Chun). Before the Xinhai Revolution , Sun Yat Sen came to Kumamoto, including Tensui, so good friends of mine who are mikan orange farmers have some calligraphy written by the Father of the Country. I saw my foreigner friends, a couple of whom speak Chinese: when they caught me unconsciously saying things in Mandarin like hao, hao and yinwei, they burst out laughing.
The week passed in a flash. I did indeed return to Taipei last Sunday rather than staying in town and usurping my replacement. Because the trip made me so happy, helped my Japanese tremendously, and encouraged my friends and students, I’ll definitely go to my Japanese hometown again next year.