The title for this is a rip off of a book that many people are probably familiar with, “Tuesday’s with Morrie”. Although my experience is far different from the book, the situation reminds me of somewhat relative circumstances.
Every Wednesday for the past four months, I have been visiting with a retired Japanese English teacher. We have an agreement together of which for the first 45 minutes I speak entirely in Japanese. The following 45 minutes is done in English. We both have the same goal, to increase our knowledge of our second language and to become overall better speakers. An extra perk to this agreement is the occasional gifts we exchange between each other. Before coming to Japan I had never eaten a persimmon, let alone known what one was, but I recently received ten last weekend. I would love to have eaten them all, but instead I followed procedure and distributed them amongst my friends.
This arrangement is pretty amazing to me. The fact that my partner is approaching his 70’s and still has the drive to improve his abilities is quite an inspiration. Not only can I admire his drive, but his interests are so similar to mine that it helps to enlighten my approach in this world. People don’t seem to think about it a great deal, but when encountering these situation you realize how little a difference in age matters. For example, we just had an interesting conversation related to my ‘going out’ habits. During the conversation he revealed to me that he would have liked it if I invited him. Of course, I have no problem with something like that, but I never imagined someone so much my superior would be remotely interested in attending a drinking party.
Anyway, during these conversations we cover topics ranging from serious news issues, common debates, current culture, or as I just mentioned, drinking. It creates quite a difficult atmosphere when trying to pull out more complicated words and grammar quickly enough to keep conversation flowing between the two of us. However, this is something in which I strive to be more successful. Now, some weeks I have a complete command of my language skills it seems. It helps me to gain more confidence and relax my mind when I go back to study. On the other hand, some weeks I feel as if I haven’t learned ANYTHING since coming to live in Japan.
As for my partner, he has been to America upwards of twenty times. He is quite a worldly person and has even been to each of the 50 states in America. Seeing as my dream is to make it to most every major city in the world someday, it is once again an inspiration to hear from someone that has been to every major monument within the United States. I always find myself coming back to the comparison where 98% of Japanese people never climb Mt. Fuji and the majority of climbers are in fact foreign. However, whenever I heard a Japanese person went to the Midwest, East coast, or anywhere in Canada it can almost be guaranteed that they have taken a trip to Niagara Falls. Although I plan on going someday, I live about a four hour car drive away from Niagara Falls, yet have never even thought about going to visit.
I find myself becoming more comfortable while talking with my partner and capable of asking him things that I wouldn’t normally ask other Japanese people. I find it better to avoid awkward misunderstandings or possibly offending someone. An example being how gay culture is perceived in Japan. Another being the relationship with China given the current turmoil that is occurring. Outside of that we try to communicate and understand the ideas of countries outside of the U.S. and Japan. In other words, we discuss everything I wish I could have studied more while in college.
So there you have it. A brief look into my Wednesday mornings. It is amazing to me how similar two people from very different backgrounds and generations can have more than just a few things in common. I could have never imagined that I would be doing something like this while I was here. Not only is it a great experience during my stay, but it is something that I can remember and reminisce about for the rest of my life.