I have a bit over a week left here, and a week left in the Institute I am doing. Here are a few notes I have about studying with other faculty and the topic of Japan (big topic, interesting topic, but not one I knew anything about coming in, or so I had thought). Follow me below the orange squiggle.
1. Even faculty should not be encouraged to bring in phones and computers in a lecture class. Arrrrggghhhh. The temptation is too strong. I have been seeing searches for hiking trails and email conversations and hearing skype ring tones, and such. There was a discussion on the Inside Higher Ed website from a faculty member who, like me, does not allow computers in the classroom for note-taking. It is a challenging thing to sit and take notes by hand, and he acknowledged that it was not as easy for him as it used to be. But the temptation to do things other than focus on the content of the class is great, and even when faculty who have come from all over the country to here to study can't say no to distractions, why would I expect 18 or 19 year olds to focus any better. And it is really distracting to the others who are trying to concentrate around them.
This is a long term concern of mine, and this program has just completely confirmed my policies.
2. When we are adults, all grown up, in our fifties, we never lose the person we were in college. There is the person who has to contribute to all discussions, the one who already knows everything, the one who has done all the reading and the one who has done none(!), the person for whom in-class discussion is horribly painful, the ones who are insecure even when they do understand something, and the ones who just can't get something. In a way this is rather comforting. Generally the people here are really interesting and pleasant, and the annoying traits are not horribly obtrusive. But it is absolutely clear who they were in school. I am finding this amusing as well as reassuring. And it was nice that we had none of the absolutely horrible English majors that I had a class with in college and that made me do an extra year of science to get out of a second semester of literature (the fact I loved Geology also had something to do with it, I must admit.
3. Textbooks always read better when you are lying on a sandy beach listening to the gentle roar of the ocean. However, it is best to carry a plastic sack in case it starts raining on you. Even a soft light rain can soak and warp a textbook. Don't ever take someone else's book (or one from the library) to the beach for just this reason. I'm just saying...
4. Don't ever close yourself off to opportunities. Try new foods. Bring a swimsuit (no matter what you look like in one!). Say "sure I will come along" even if you don't think it is something you really would be interested in doing. You just never know.
5. Don't not do something just because no one else is interested. I fully expect no one to be interested in going up to the Bishop Museum on our free Tuesday afternoon this coming week. They will be beach-goers, which will be fine. I might join them later. But the transit of Venus (not to happen again for another 120 years) is happening on Tuesday and the best place in the world to view it is from Hawai'i. There are events to celebrate this all over on Tuesday, but the Bishop Museum will have astronomers and has a planetarium, etc. I will also go and see some newly reinstalled galleries and enjoy seeing it again. But even if no one wants to go, that is fine. I want to, and the astronomy geek in me says YAY!!!
6. I am very much a product of my parents, who grew up in the 1930s and 40s. My dad served in the navy late in the war. Even though he has Japanese friends, and loved his two visits to the country, their attitude toward Japan as I was growing up must have been more ambivalent than I remember specifically, as my attitude is more ambivalent. I feel unsure when I am told it was all the military's fault and the emperor was not involved at all. I know there was discomfort when Hirohito came to the US and was welcomed by the president, and there was no mourning when he died. My parents would have had no issues with the Japanese on an individual basis and had a wide variety of nationalities and ethnicities at their dinner parties when I was growing up. But I do have this vague impression of lingering anger at the emperor. This is a really interesting thing to me and one I really wish we had had more opportunity to explore in this program. I suppose my parents are the last generation to feel this way, but it is something that has been niggling at the back of my mind the whole time I have been here. It is an oddly ambivalent feeling toward Japan and Japanese culture, not one my parents share (my Dad loves Japanese movies and my Mom read Japanese novels -- neither of them is particularly fond of sushi, but they love noodle soups!). So is something wrong with me that I feel there is an elephant in the room? Yes, we went to Pearl Harbor yesterday, but we never talked about how it really fits in with the whole experience we have been having.