Semester at Sea Fall 2006 Voyage
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Interview in Reverse in Japan
kneel in a classroom with four Japanese students from
Moe is the
quietest one of the students, and I glance over at her to see if I can
glimpse of emotion. Takuya, Chiaki, and
Ayano are happily excitedly sharing some of their life history, and I
that I am 21 years old, live in
We move on to a “discussion time” where the Japanese students had some questions prepared to ask us. When I hear this, I get an unexpected wave of nervousness. I thought that being in their country I would be the one wanting to ask all the questions. Yet, these students seemed just as excited to have Americans in their own country as we were to be in theirs.
The first question
they ask catches me off guard: “what images of
I am taken aback; I truly thought this was an accurate description of Japanese people, and that they would actually find it flattering to have a foreigner have this perception of them. I have to remind myself that what I believe to be true, even if someone in a leadership position has told me it is true (ie: a teacher), that nothing outweighs first-hand experience. We all have our own sense of personalized relativity, and as anthropologist Michael Angrosino reminds us in his essay on conducting life history interviews: “when I work with those who share the stories of their lives, I get a sense of how they understand their own identities and place in the world.”
I am eager for the students’ next question, as wanting to know how they as people understand themselves in a world unknown to me. I shift my legs, this time a little more comfortable in my surroundings; we are more alike than I originally thought. How much do I have to think relatively in order to gain a better understanding of the people I’m about to travel around the world with?
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