Shiiba Village Japan

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Erik Kassebaum

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Adventures in Shiiba - August 1994
Erik Kassebaum

According to my passport I arrived in Japan one year ago. There is a popular saying in English that I think is appropriate for this situation: "time flies when you're having fun." For this I would like to thank you the people of Shiiba for such a wonderful year. I'm looking forward to this next year. Hopefully there wonÕt be any big typhoons because I hate typhoons.

This past year has been quite a "learning experience" for everyone. I got a chance to learn about the more civilized side of Japan, a Japan where people have kind hearts and look out for one-another. The other Japan, is very different . It is fun to visit, but not pleasant to be in for long periods of time. Think about how different Shinjuku Station is from Kami-Shiiba at 5:15pm.

During the last year, people in Shiiba have asked many questions about my language and culture. People stopped complimenting me on my ability to use chopsticks about 5 months ago but I still have to explain to folks that I can cook and that it not uncommon for young men in America to know how to cook. Two of my friends were even able to meet my family and to see part of my state, California. Though a year has passed, I still feel as though I have just begun. Your desire to know about me, where I am from and how things differ from Japan keeps my job interesting.

When I applied for the JET Program I indicated that I wanted to be posted in a rural location in Miyazaki-ken. I had no idea that places as rural as Shiiba still existed. I'll tell you a secret, many of the people who administrate the JET Program for Miyazaki-ken were quite worried about my being posted to such a remote location. I think a few even had bets as to when I would go crazy.

Thanks to your help, my ability to communicate in Japanese has improved dramatically. I have noticed a lot of change in Shiiba with respect to how often people try to use English. This change makes me very happy.

Frequently, people ask how often I study Japanese. Most people don't believe me when I tell them that I hardly study at all. For me Japanese is a way of life, not a test to study for. My focus has been on tasks and communication. Communication is more important than perfect grammar or pronunciation. In terms of tasks, I identify things that I want to do (goals) then I figure how to accomplish my goals.

Right now I have a couple goals with respect to Japanese. One is that I would like to learn more about Shiiba's different dialects. The other is that I want to learn how to use Japanese language computer programs on my Macintosh computer. Internationalism, technology and local culture can can coexist - if there is a desire to learn how these things are complimentary.