Thursday, September 11, 2003

Today seems to be an auspicious time to get back to blogging on Japan and teaching EFL here. It is my 17th birthday here in the country. I came to Japan on a rainy, Ridley Scott night on September 11, 1986. I have been here since. It is also the anniversary of the terrorist events that have changed the world. I used to celebrate on this day, my birthday in Japan. I don't anymore. I was asked today if I was afraid of terrorism. I am not. There are so many more dangers that we live with every day, driving, chemical refineries, bad food, that the odd wacko with a bomb strapped to his or her body slides into the background noise. How does this affect Japan and teaching here? As onetime victims of incredible violence, first by their own government, and then by America and the rest of the Allies, most of the people here are at least outwardly peaceful. Their government is an American pupet, and would take up arms again if provoked. My students are typical young people, mobile masses of ego and chemistry. They don't seem to be afraid of terrorism, though this country has also recently suffered terrorism at the hands of religious fanatics. There is practiced mobilization as people and government are afraid of earthquakes. Are natural disaster and terrorism linked? Possibly. North Korea is very close and very unpredictable. The same technology and planning used in earthquake response could be used to rescue victims of agression. My students don't think about the need to be prepared for disaster any more than they think about the need to use English. Probably less. Students attend English classes, but have they ever attended a first aid class, or put away canned goods and water? Unlikely.

I'll probably stay here for a little longer, just because. Just like I have for the past 17 years. I'll continue to teach EFL, because it is a great profession. I will probably continue to turn off students to language, or just miss opportunities with others. Hopefully I'll continue to make important connections with some of them, though. I'll be happy for those times, and they will be my balm.

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