Sunday, October 26, 2008

sayonara -- Japan 1996

Good bye...sayonara....auf wiedersehen.... selamat tinggal....Au Revoir....Adios....

No matter what language you say it in, it feels sad to say the words 'good bye.' Leaving Japan in May 1996 was not easy. I was saying goodbye to precious friends. Familiar places were no longer going to be part of my daily routine. As the 'good bye' day drew closer I would think, "This is the last time..."

I embraced "Goodbyes" all my life,but each time I had to embrace another one I found myself backing away. How can I leave the sights, the sounds, the people, the places and the experiences which make up the place I've been? How do I walk away? Slowly but surely I reach for the "Good bye" hugging it close to my chest. Maybe it will shield me from the pain of leaving. Of course, it never does.

Japan was one of the hardest good byes. Maybe it was difficult to leave because I lived there for seven years. Little by little, I pulled the farewell cloak around me. One last look at the tozai sen, one last taste of the tonkatsu down at the little shop near my house, one last chat with my wonderful friends and one last glance around the wee apartment which housed my family for seven years.

The thing about "good byes", they are always followed by "hellos". I do so love saying hello.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

weddings - Japan 1995

The first wedding I went to in the United States was when I was almost 19. I thought I was at a funeral. It was so quiet. I looked around and wondered why everyone was so somber; afterall, wasn't this a joyous event?

Weddings in Singapore were quite the occasion. It didn't matter which cultural group was celebrating their wedding, there was always lots of
color, music, and people. I grew up with weddings being wonderful, fun occasions.

Going t
o Japan, I was curious as to how their weddings were going to be. I found some to be quiet, serious occasions but also there were lively weddings. Since our church was a multicultural church we enjoyed all sorts of weddings. Filipino weddings- boy was the food good! Ghanaian weddings- can we say PARTY! Japanese weddings- a touch of class. Chinese weddings- traditional tea ceremony included.

I think
my favorite memory about the weddings- no matter who was involved- was the way everyone joined together to make it the best day of the bride and groom's life! Everyone came out to decorate the hall. There were those who volunteered to cook the food. Others were ready to be an usher or to serve the food. Everyone did the part creating a wonderful day for all.

With all the
countries I've traveled to, Japan included, I realize 'love' is a universal language spoken by everyone. Seeing love showcased in a wedding can be a very beautiful thing. Whether it is demonstrated in a quiet manner or in a loud manner, love shines magnificently for all to see.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Hidden Treasures- Japan 1994

Japan of 1994 was a Japan of little apartment houses, small streets, and people with big hearts. They are not a loud people, but they are a deep people. Sometimes you are somewhere and someone is so ‘friendly’ and so ‘open’ but when you really need the person they just aren’t there anymore for you. This is not so in Japan. When they connect with you, it is basically for life. There is a deep sense of loyalty.

Lifelong friendships were forged in the land of the rising sun. I believe my life was impacted by individuals who touched me in ways I had never been touched before. Of those who left a mark on my life I say Asako was definitely someone who stands out above the rest. How did I come to know this remarkable young woman?

It was via a meandering of paths we finally met. I started a class/center for children with Down’s Syndrome. In those days I was cutting through new territory and daring to come against the system there. I wanted the parents to know they didn’t have to hide their child away because each child had special gifting. As the moms and children ventured out each week they became pleasantly surprised at the things they discovered. The mom who found out her child could actually read! The mother’s who watched with tears in their eyes as their children created masterpieces.

One parent approached me to tell me of someone they wanted me to meet. She was in her late teens almost 20 and she was completely paralyzed. The only way she could communicate was via a paper marked with Hiragana. As she pointed to the various sounds, she created language….’wa’…’ta’…’shi’…’wa’ and she said “I” – well this was all very amazing, but my question was, “why do you want me to meet her?”

“Can you teach her English?”

“Wow- she wants to learn English?”

“Yes!”

I didn’t promise anything, but I went to meet Asako. Of course I didn’t have a chance once I met her, she just is someone you want to be with. She was hit by a drunk truck driver when she was 11 and her two friends who were crossing the road with her died. She survived but she went beyond survival to living as no one I ever met before.


My Japanese improved as I would sound out what she was pointing to. Her English improved and pretty soon she was pointing to a English chart of letters. It took a lot longer to spell out the words- but I became adept at ‘guessing’ what word she was about to spell and as I said the word she would nod ferociously and skip to the next word. She was so eager to communicate.

Nothing was an obstacle for her; it was simply a stepping stone to get where she was going. I remember when the group “Take 6” went to Japan, she told me “I want to see them perform and I want you to go with me!” The large auditorium where they were performing was not handicap friendly. I convinced some strong young men to help us carry her up the never ending stair case.
She was delighted from the beginning of the performance and leaned over to whisper to me, “I want to meet them.”
“Asako, I’m sure everyone wants to meet them.”

“But I really want to meet them.”

During the intermission, I walked up to the guys on the sound and explained about Asako being there and would it be too much trouble if she could meet the “Take 6” group. Unbelievably, they agreed. Everything was arranged for us to go to the stage door right before the end of the performance. Asako spent a few wonderful minutes with each of the members of the group. I don’t know who was more touched by the experience, Asako or the group members.

Japan, the land of the rising sun, brought gems into my life. They enriched me.

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