Thursday, April 27, 2006


"My daughter has broken up with her boyfriend, and it's causing me much stress because she's crying all the time," my lovely student Junko confides as she sits down for her "lucky" man-to-man lesson. I'm shocked. They've been together forever. And even though I don't know Junko's daughter, she is like a familiar friend. Ever since Junko became a student at our little school, I have had full updates on the progression of her life. From starting a part-time job, to her daughter's love life, to the aimlessness of her son, our twice-a-week chats were a highlight for me. At first, I didn't know if Junko enjoyed our lessons as much as I did. Then, she switched her schedule, adding a second lesson to the days I was there. And I knew then, that there is something powerful in the conversations of women. There was something about just the two of us, separated by decades in age, culturally as different as night and day, communicating only in simple English, meeting twice a week to share our lives. It wasn't so much about the lessons. It was about the 15 to 20 minutes of chat time before the lessons, the laughter, the stories, the joy and the grief shared. Connecting in friendship, having only our human condition and our role of womanhood to bind us. I was most sorry to leave beloved students/friends like this when I left Japan.

"Here, I want you to have this" Junko pressed a small gift bag in my hand on my last day. "It's a piece from my kimono." I received a fair number of farewell gifts from well wishing precious Japanese friends, but this was perhaps the most meaningful to me. By giving me fabric from her kimono, Junko was giving me a tiny piece of her...Japanese carry with me wherever I went.

I have these same experiences now. I find them in the laughter I share with my Colombian student, Dora, in hearing all of the wild and crazy family antics of my Laos student, Helen, or the motherly concerns of my Mexican student, Letty. We are brought together by work, I am helping them to meet a goal, but we, as women, always manage to make the journey as enjoyable as possible by sharing friendship. By sharing our lives. Shawn, my very male co-worker, is jealous of the strong and devoted relationship I have with my students. "Your students at least seem to want to be here," he commented earlier this week. I'm not taking any credit for that, except to say that I believe in them, and I'm interested in them as the beautiful, varied and complex people that they are. And I'm thankful for the chance to meet them here at this point in our journeys, to chat up a storm, to laugh, and to grieve together. This is what life is about. Relationships. Everything else is seemingly secondary.


Mindy said...

I fully agree. The relationships I have with the women I work with are one of the few things I enjoy about my job. My relationships are generally short-lived (the program is only 90 days, and many women leave earlier, AMA) and often guarded (they don't want to share all of their war stories w/ sweet, innocent me) but they are good. They are all so excited for me, getting married and all. They always ask me what the countdown is and if I'm ready and what songs have I picked and so on. And I ask them about their step work and their unfortunately monotonous weekends. I care about them. And, your'e right, Amy--that makes an impact. I'm so glad to be a woman!

Amy said...

yay female pride!!

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