Saturday, July 16, 2011

Farewell speech

How are you? I say "I'm fine" but to be perfectly honest, I am very sad. It's been three years and my time here is coming to a close. I cannot fathom that on the 31st of this month, I will be back in New York.

My time here has been interesting and full of unique, one-of-a-kind experiences. I really enjoyed teaching English classes. I also relished the opportunities I had to talk with students and teachers outside of class and work. Everyone here has been so helpful, and I have learned many things. Before I came to Japan, I was nervous at the prospect of living in a foreign country. However, once I got here, everyone welcomed me with great kindness.

I was surprised at how truly generous the people in Japan, particularly Chikuhou, are. I have never experienced this degree of kindness in my life, and this was probably the greatest culture shock of all. I do, however, believe that people across cultures are fundamentally the same. Generosity and selflessness are virtues that anyone can possess. It is simply a choice you make.

You may not have donated a million yen to charity or personally saved a dying man's life, but there are many everyday situations in which human kindness shows. I often see you out and about eschewing selfishness in favor of altruism and helping others. You are helping a blind man find a seat on the train, staying up late consoling a friend who is upset, and bringing vegetables from the family garden to share with your coworkers.

I don't care what your priorities are. Perhaps you love to speak English and are interested in living abroad. Maybe you're not the academic type and prefer sports or music. Whatever. The important thing is that you live your life as a good person and show love and kindness in your own way. I wish you all the best in whatever you choose to do.

Not surprisingly, it will be considerably harder for me to leave Japan than it was to move here. I would like to extend my deepest gratitude to all the students, teachers and staff who looked after me and welcomed me so warmly into my beloved Japanese life. Because of you, I have grown to truly identify as part of the community at school and in town. It will be impossible to walk away without feeling great sorrow. I have two lives, but I only have one heart. I will miss you deeply, but I know we will persevere and keep on living. Life is short so please give it your all. Thank you.

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