Memory Triggers

Just now, rather than flexing my writing muscle, I decided to catch up on some of my Google Reader items. I came across two great posts on Lisa Romeo’s blog about memory triggers. One of the posts is a list of things you can use to trigger memories (e.g., places you can go, things to observe, items to review). Just reading an item on the list triggered a memory for me: radio talk shows. So, here goes.

After having my heart broken in Japan, I returned to the United States for one year. To my surprise, reverse-culture shock was a real issue for me. I no longer felt like I fit in. So, I did what any twenty-something might do. I packed up my bags and moved back to Japan, this time to an island at the opposite end of the country. In my suitcase I packed a lot of baggage, including my broken heart.

The new place I lived in Japan was nothing like Sapporo, the city where I’d lived for two years teaching English. My new home was in a rural town on a small island. I made some wonderful friends there but I had a teaching job with terrible hours, a crazy boos and I couldn’t handle paying $10 anymore to get my American fix by purchasing a Big Mac Meal. I realized that while I no longer felt at home in the United States, after only eight months on this small island it was time for me to go home.

Before I left, my private Japanese teacher, Watanabe Sensei, invited me to be on her friend’s radio talk show. I agreed. Maybe I would be discovered as a potential talent? Although I doubted my future radio fame, I was excited to broadcast my imperfect Japanese across the radio waves once before leaving the Land of the Rising Sun.

During the show, the DJ asked me questions about my time in Japan…if I’d enjoyed karaoke, how I’d learned to speak Japanese, what my favorite foods were, and what I’ve come to think of as the dreaded question: could I share any tough experiences I’d had while living in Japan.

Well, of course I’d had tough experiences. It’s an amazing experience to live abroad, but anyone living in a foreign country has some tough experiences on a weekly, if not daily, basis. There’s the language. The cultural differences. The physical distance from loved ones. Each day can be a chore in a way that it’s not in your own country. But I didn’t respond with any of those simple answers. No, I decided at that moment to tell the story of my heartbreak…on the radio. I waxed poetic about my broken heart and watched my Japanese instructor’s jaw drop. I didn’t let that stop me. I continued on until her DJ friend, who was nodding in earnest, changed the subject as soon as he possibly could.

Watanabe Sensei drove me home, getting out of the car to bow before she drove away. A few days later she came by the school where I worked.

“This is for you. It is good that show wasn’t live. The DJ removed your heartbreak story before he put it on the air,” she handed me a cassette tape.

“Good Luck Erizabesu!” was scrawled on the cassette’s label, no doubt a vote of confidence from her DJ friend.

In a box somewhere I still have that tape. I’ve never listened to it.

Photo courtesy of stock.xchng

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2 Responses to Memory Triggers

  1. sarah says:

    Always a pleasure to read your writing, Liz!

  2. Liz says:

    Thank you, Sarah! And, right back at you :)!

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