Saturday, December 03, 2005

A matter of curiosity about the world

As I prepare to leave on vacation in 2-1/2 weeks, I can't help noticing some comments from a few students at our learning center. Thankfully, it's only from a few, but it still managed to leave me scratching my head.

This week I asked one young woman, a high school senior, about her extensive travels. She had gone on a two-week home stay in Australia this past September, but had no idea of the name of the city in which she had lived for two weeks! It wasn't a matter of just forgetting the name because of the different names in Japanese and English.

"Well," I said, "could it have been Sydney or Melbourne?"
"I have no idea," she replied.
"Do you remember any landmarks or sites?"
"What did you do while you were there?"
"Nothing," she replied. "I stayed in my room."

She truly had no interest whatsoever in where she stayed or what she did. I can only imagine how her host family must have felt!

This student traveled to several countries with her parents, yet resented every trip. When I asked her for something—anything—she might have enjoyed about her trip to London, she quickly answered with a smile, "Nothing." I said, "Nothing? Not one single thing?" "No," she said. "I hated all of it."

Even though this may have been a case of teenage rebellion against parents who try to control everything their children do, I found it quite puzzling and sad. Surprisingly, this same student speaks better English than most—including students and adults!

A few years ago some friends had a Japanese teenage girl stay with them for a month and she acted the same way. She stayed in her bedroom as much as possible—even taking her meals to her room to eat alone. When she had to travel to school each day in the car, she never said a word.

Another teacher told me about one of his adult students who said she had just returned from a 5-day trip to Paris. To his horror, she reported that she had sat in her hotel room for the entire five days because it was "too cold to go out."

On the other hand, fortunately, I had another student, a young business man, who told me all about his third trip to Africa where he stayed out in the bush and photographed wildlife. I could tell by the way he spoke how much Africa had impressed him. He was in love with it!


Anonymous said...

Hi Gloria,

Merry Christmas my friend from a grey and foggy Vancouver BC!

How strange and sad a thing is it to be young and uninspired...

I find such joy in travelling - meeting people who's lives are so very different from my own yet finding similarities and things in commmon.

History, nature, art, society, architecture, culture - there is so much that inspires and impresses me...

I don't understand how anyone, young or old, can stand to stay in their room.

"They are missing the whole parade!"

Big hug,

Colleen B.

Courtney said...

God, that girl would be so depressing to teach... I would want to do something extreme! I wish I'd had the experience of the travelling abroad when I was a kid (Yes, WHEN I WAS A KID, GLORIA!), but moving to Japan was my first real experience, a couple of trips to Canada aside.

Actually, I am rather impressed at her ability to be so forthright about her feelings, that's extremely un-Japanese. Most people when asked how something is have only two answers, 'Yes,' and 'so-so,' which is about as close to no as they'll be daring.

Still, stubbornness and that brand of intentional ignorance are their own punishments. I only hope she figures out what she's missing out on, one of these days. It'd be sadder if she didn't.