The last person I am going to talk a lot about just now is Ayane. She was in class 1A, which was a pretty wild class. Their home room teacher was a really cool guy called Noguchi sensei. He liked like Ken Watanabe, and actually his class contained a Kenji Watanabe who loved horror films. I thought that was pretty cool. Good luck with your dreams Kenji, because you’re unique. Dream big, mate. The homeroom teacher, Mr Noguchi was also a gym teacher, the soccer coach and the hall monitor. There were reasons for that: those reasons were the boys. I think of Mase, Hiroki, and maybe Ryuji, maybe Daichi. Those guys were pretty crazy, especially Mase. But I think he’s the coolest of them all. He will be a legend one day, that boy. But Ayane was different. I used to do these things called communication cards. Basically, the kids could use their cards and every time they interacted with me they would get points, then stickers, then prizes. The first time I talked to Ayane I noticed she had a very strong British accent. She was so English. “My name is Ayane, I used to live in London,” she said. “I play the violin and I like Sherlock Holmes.” A girl like that, with glasses, who is quite shy, stands out, not only to a teacher but also to their classmates. They easily become a small version of the Painted Bird. I won’t go into the details of Jerzy Kosinski’s novel of that name, because those details are quite horrific. But that book stands as a timeless metaphor of what it means to be singled out because of difference. Ayane used to get a little bit of that through no fault of her own. Mostly because, she didn’t like baseball, or sports, or listen to pop music or watch TV or read manga. She had her own interests. One day, Ayane had to do her self-introduction, to talk about herself for 1 minute in English. Already that lesson had become a bit out of hand. She stood there, frozen, looking out at this sea of unkind faces, and I wanted her to find mine, seated at the back, marking. She spoke quietly, and the boys were like, “What, I can’t hear” a litle anyway. Finally she said, “i like… cordelia gray”. And the kids laughed, said “Who? What” And she just kept repeating “i like cordelia gray.” No-one had heard of that person, not even the Japanese English teacher, and she was asking, too. “Who? Sorry, I can’t hear you.” So from the back of the room my voice boomed with a quiet authority. “Cordelia Gray” “Thats right, Cordelia Gray,” Ayane said. I think she knew she had a friend that day. I didn’t know exactly who Cordelia Gray was but I guessed it was probably a female detective, like Miss Marple. And I google it, and that’s who it is. A character by P D James. So I always encouraged Ayane, in a gentle way, just to show a little bit more of herself. I hope she can become the writer I think she wants to be. And everyone will remember Ayane’s name. Her dedication to me reads, ” Dear Grant, thankyou for teaching us English. I really enjoyed your classes. It was fun to talk with you. I hope you have a good time at your next school. Thank you so much. I hope we meet again. Take care, Ayane Tada. And you guys had better remember that name. There are places that that girl can go, there are things that that girl can do, if and when she finally finds her voice.
Another student who this is dedicated to is my eleven year old private language student, Fumino. She can do anything she wants in this life, is my dream. I was very fond of her and in our last lesson we just walked my dog, and I let her play ball with him. When we returned to school, I told her, I want you to read lots of books. You’re a really smart girl. You’re really wonderful. One day I will write and I want you to read my book.
These writings and this website are also for Kawaii Ryusuke, a boy who gave me a coffee table book filled with pictures of Australia, written in Japanese. I want to have things translated for him. So this is how, this is who and this is why- these writings exist. But only a small part of those stories. Thanks for reading, Grant.