Thursday, May 06, 2004
bless me, Father Chan, for I have sinned...
...it's been two weeks since my last confession.
On of the most unexpected aspects of my job as an English teacher is that often, I play a role that can be best described as only priest. Japanese people, true to Asian / Confucian culture, are normally reserved about personal matters, but for some odd reason, many of them very open about things that I would never ask about - frequently, the stories and experiences that students has volunteered to me have sometimes been very shocking in their frankness. Of course, these "confessions" usually happen in the few one-on-one lessons that I have during the day.
Maybe it's the fact that we're talking in English; maybe it's the fact that see my hairless head and think, well... he looks like a priest...
Anyway, the things students have regularly confess to me a variety of things that are so sad/depressing, I have to wonder about who they talked with about these things before they started learning English at my company...
One student, T, when I asked her why she was feeling sick, told me that she thought it was stress-related and proceeded to go into a long tale about how almost 7 or 8 years ago, during a trip to America, tragedy struck. She and her parents were visiting her older sister's family in Tennessee, and the whole family decided to take a roadtrip together in a van - a total of 7 people (her, her father, her mother, her sister, her brother-in-law, her niece, and her nephew). During the roadtrip however, there was a horrible crash involving another car, and half of her family died in the wreck - both her parents, her sister, and her niece. The survivors all sustained heavy injuries, and she herself was in an American hospital for over a month recovering from head trauma.
Relating back to her ulcer, T told me that just 6 months after the accident, her brother-in-law remarried and returned to America - estranging himself to both her and her relatives. Since that time, he had been living in America, but he had called her recently to say that he, her nephew, new wife and two children, were returning to Japan.
Additional complicating factor: because the car accident was not their fault, each survivor received a fairly large compensation from insurance... which according to T, is evidence of a conspiracy by her brother-in-law to intentionally get into an accident. Aiyah.
Dramatic, eh? I was left speechless... but that's not a bad thing. Sometimes, all you can do is listen.
Another one of my students, a bright young junior-high girl named M (see this story) came into class very depressed. I asked her what was wrong and she was quiet for a moment before she answered:
I need to go on diet... I'm fat...
I couldn't believe it. Mostly because 1) M is only 12 years old; and 2) M is small enough that in the event of a fire, I could easily pick her up and throw her at least a good 15-20 yards (not that I'd want too; she's such a good kid).
When asked her if it was her idea to go on a diet she replied:
All my friends will diet too.
It's sick, evil world.
Another student, named K, told me that he had started studying English originally because at one time, he had felt extremely depressed and unimportant, despite being smart, a perfectly successful in his job, married with children and living in Ashiya (a status symbol of sorts here in Japan, since everyone knows it's a bling-bling city). He secretly sought out a psychiatrist and what did the psychiatrist recommend to him?
"You should go learn English!"
This one was pretty recent... and come to think of it, made me so pissed to hear it that...
(to be cont'd)
The NYTimes has an interesting article about the growth of religion in mainland China. Good stuff.
This past week was a set of Japanese national holidays called Golden Week. But guess who still had to work, despite that it was a NATIONAL HOLIDAY?
If you guessed me, you're not as dumb as I look...
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