Memories of Awe Episode 19

As Liz thought about Abdul, and earlier Nico, she began to wonder whether awe was something that crossed cultures. Could it be a connecting force bringing together all people? This is where she wanted to focus her next interview.

LJ: You’ve told me of two memories – one from Italy and one from Libya. Those memories displayed moral beauty to me in a way that was far more effective than the classes I’ve had that focused on justice, equity, and other humanistic topics. Your stories of real people living purposeful lives are what we need in our society today. I don’t really have a question, but I’d really love to hear another story involving a memory of an international student.

KMcK:  Yoshii came to America as a high school student, and lived with a host family for 3 years. By the time he enrolled at the university, Yoshii spoke excellent English. When he was a senior, he asked me if I could place him in a Japanese-American manufacturing plant for his internship. I agreed.

I found Yoshii an assignment with a plant in the northern part of the state. When we entered the factory, Yoshii was a different student. He adopted the Japanese ways of dealing with the Japanese managers he would be working with. As I returned from the first visit I was pleased with the opportunity we helped create for Yoshii.

LJ: I have a feeling there’s more to the story.

KMcK:  I was very surprised when Yoshii came to my office after his second trip. He said in a very serious voice, “Dr. McKown, I can’t do this project.”

I asked him what was wrong. His response was, “It’s the language.”  I didn’t understand since Yoshii was an English speaker. Then he added, “It’s not the English. It’s the Japanese business language. I left home before we covered this in school.”

I told him we could work this out. The solution we came up with was Yoshii would learn Japanese business from the managers during their lunch break. In turn, he would tutor them in English.

LJWhat a great idea.

KMcK:  Those tutoring sessions have created an enduring picture in my mind: Japanese adults and a Japanese college student teaching others in a greasy spoon restaurant. That’s a picture of how the international economy now functions.

LJWhat a wonderful memory of awe.

KMcK:  Wait, there’s more. The third week that Yoshii returned, the Japanese managers were sitting with some of the workers. The English/Japanese tutoring sessions had grown to include more people. Little did I know that Yoshii’s internship would have such a lasting impact.

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“Culture is this thing that we can exchange among ourselves as human beings to knock aside our differences and build upon our similarities. Cultural exchange is the ultimate exchange.” – Chuck D (rapper)

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