For many people the answer is simple: a goodbye marks the definitive end of a time spent with someone. What once was is now no more, and before you part for the final time, you have this final chance to say what you want to say.
But it’s never enough time.
Hasta la vista, adieu, or sayonara, the meaning is the same across all languages as is the difficulty of saying the words. It never gets any easier, but learning how to part ways properly is one of the most important skills a person can develop.
You never get a second chance at a final farewell.
Last week I sat down in Maebashi, Gunma with Malcolm Harper, traveling teacher and bon vivant, to talk all about his travels, lifetime enthusiasm for Japanese, and the differences he has found between the American and Japanese school systems. His thought on these matters and more are articulate, steadfast, and impactful.
Mr. Harper’s class is now in session, so come sit down and get ready to learn!
Valerie Landers is easily one of the most memorable people I have met in Japan.
As a six-foot, bold and outspoken African American woman with dreadlocks, she provides a stark contrast from the homogeneity of the Gunma countryside. And she always has something to say, be it nonsensical or heartfelt.
Last week, I traveled out to Tomioka, Gunma to sit down and pick her brain on what it means to be such an iconoclast. We discussed the sights of Gunma, life among other anglophones, being black in Japan, and how expectations work out (or don’t)
John “JP” Wojciechowski, 25 year-old English teacher and linguaphile, the importance of learning a language and then using that language to cultivate new relationships is the most paramount matter in life.
“I felt like I was learning so much about the world,” he says. “I kind of decided that everyone should learn a second language. At that time and that age, I just had a realization that this skill is a way to communicate with other people in the world and gain such a different perspective. That was what really got me, and for the last 12 years I have pursued that goal.”
Seated opposite Luke Straka, 28 year-old teacher and philosopher, in a rustic cafe on a Sunday afternoon, one can learn a lot about how to view the world.
“I think that language is the key to many of
the philosophical and psychological conundrums that we face as humans
in this world,” says Luke. “If I can do anything, I want to
learn how to address those issues and use them to bring people
together across boundaries.”
A big part of learning to transcend those
boundaries is being comfortable with being a stranger in a strange
land, a comfort Luke has been cultivating all his life.
For Brenden Bish, 28 year-old international poet and professional student, learning is a way to tune into eternity.
“You never stop learning,” says Brenden. “You can learn so many different things under the sun, so you can learn something and be humbled by each new thing. And each lesson is just one tiny piece of the whole expanse of human knowledge, so I really strive to learn something new in every moment.”