Today I woke up late for class, and instead of rushing to school, I decided to miss class so I could use the time to make a call.
I dialed my grandparent's house.
I admit I haven't really called home much. Actually I've only talked to my parent's once. And that's it. No one in my family is up late enough for the time difference that separates us. And I cannot even wake up in time for my morning classes, much less get up before then to talk before I leave. So this is actually only the second time I have actually called the states...as sad as that is for 3 months that have gone by already...
My grandpa answered and was quite shocked to hear it was me. After his characteristic quick words of greeting he passed the phone on to my grandma. "Hurry up Cora," I could hear him saying. "It's Laurel!" I could tell she was especially happy to talk to me. She eagerly asked me questions about Japan, my studies, and when I was coming back. We didn't speak for long, but it seemed to mean a lot to her that I called. I felt bad after for not phoning them earlier...
My relatives really made a big deal about this study abroad. I could never really understand until today.
I never realized what an impact one event would have on a culture. But from the second Pearl Harbor was attacked, a huge part of my culture died in my relatives. My grandparents were my age when they were interned. And because of that, almost no 3rd generation Japanese-Americans learned the Japanese language from their parents. Including my parents.
My parent's don't have Japanese middle names, but instead, Ann and Dale. My dad has not even traveled to Japan yet. And even my grandparent's have only made short trips here. We are not really in contact with any of my distant Japanese relatives and I truthfully don't even know what part of Japan my family's ancestors were originally from.
This study abroad is exactly the kind of opportunity that was not available to my grandparents or even my parents. Not only did they not have the money, but such a trip could pose a conflict of interests with their desire to be considered post WWII loyal Americans. With this realization, I know that I need to make the most of this experience. It took two generations for my family to not be ashamed of being Japanese.
I've met a lot of Nikkei jins (Japanese-Americans) here and it makes me happy that my generation is reviving aspects of Japanese culture. We are learning the language, traveling around the country, and filling in our understanding of ourselves. When I have kids, I hope Japan is not such a distant, foreign place to them.