By Kazuya Muto
As I've mentioned before, the second semester at Australian universities begins in August, so there's a general influx of new students around the end of July. That's why I had a lot of opportunities to meet new students from around the globe: from China, from Germany and from Turkey. And what's more, we had a new person move into our house: Sandy from Taiwan.
One night, I was alone in the kitchen cooking dinner when Sandy came in. "Kazu, how are you doing today? Busy?" He spoke like a priest in church: slowly, carefully and earnestly. He was very easy to understand.
We chatted for a while and then we uncorked some wine. The wine worked well for Sandy. He spoke more fluently with some alcohol in him, although he never quite shook off his priest-like air.
Sandy loves Japan and he knows a great deal about it. I was surprised by his knowledge of history, especially Takeda Shingen and Uesugi Kenshin. He was also very familiar with Shintoism and Bushido. Once he started on these subjects, he wouldn't stop. He was more knowledgeable than I was. He asked me a lot of questions, but I couldn't answer them, and again I was ashamed of my ignorance of my own country.
We moved onto Taiwan and Taiwan's view of Japan and China. As he talked about his own country, he looked a little sad. He told me that he had little motivation to do anything because he missed his life in Taiwan so much. "I'm homesick," he said with a melancholy smile.
I knew how he felt. I had felt the same way when I'd come to Australia. I had experienced the same problems, and I had complained about Australia whenever I'd met with some inconvenience. Luckily I had some very good friends who helped me, and so I tried to do for Sandy what they had done for me.
I told him that he should make the most of his situation and learn from it, even when things didn't look as though they were going so well. It's hard to encourage others in a language that's not your own, but I think I told him everything I wanted to say.
Later I remembered what it had been like when I'd come to Australia and I'd been homesick too. Six months have passed since then, and what have I learned? Have I learned something that I wouldn't have learned in Japan? I have made a lot of friends here and they are very important to me and I have learned the value of friendship, but still what else have I learned? Have I learned anything else at all?
I remembered what my teacher had said before I left Japan. He'd told me that studying abroad with only a vague idea of what you wanted to do was risky. So I started thinking: Why am I here? What have I done since coming here? I was suddenly worried. The phrase "so little done, so much to do" flitted through my mind, and anxiety hung heavy on my heart.
Shukan ST: Sept. 8, 2006
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