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Entries in japanese exchange (1)

Saturday
Mar222003

I Think I'm Turning Japanese

This month, I had a three week stint as a bus driver for a group of Japanese ESL students. A number of my student passengers stayed in private homes in Clairemont, which is my home turf. In passing, we went by most of the places I have gone to school, my houses and apartments, etc. It's not anything special really, but sometimes mundane is special in its own way. I have never hosted a group before, but a couple of friends from overseas have been shown around SD, and I like doing that. And we all know, if the government isn't going to present this country's best side, we need to do that as individuals. And with this new war nonsense, any shred of humanity and diplomacy is desperately needed from this country. This group almost got canceled because they traveled in the same week as we went code orange. Some groups actually did cancel.

I just took the Japanese kids back to LAX and they are over the Pacific somewhere at this point. As every living person on this earth knows, the Iraq war has begun, and all eyes are on America's bungled "attempt" at diplomacy. This last week has been a great exercise in contradiction. On one hand, America is putting on a bad display of relations in the world, angering many, confounding all. And from my perspective, a few people in San Diego are doing just the opposite for a handful of young people from Japan. All these kids are about 19-21 or so, and while sometimes the language barrier proved to make for some odd experiences, we all got along. Last night at their farewell party, they all got up to speak to the assembled host families and friends. Most shed tears upon trying to say how they felt about their stay and their new friends, while about 120 people looked on. It was bittersweet as those types of things are. What started out as a short notice pickup job in mid February turned into another way of looking at the world, at precisely the time when it can do some good. Sixty years ago, the Japanese were our sworn enemies, our nations doing bitter battle with each other. A couple of generations later, we're laughing and crying together, eating and traveling together. And 60 years ago the US was feeling what it was like to be on the business end of an attack upon our nation, and these days, well, we're doing the attacking. I only hope there can be some good to come of that and hope that a couple years from now we can be at peace with our brothers and sisters in the Arab world the same as I experienced with some Japanese kids this month, grandchildren of the people my grandfather fought against.