Tuesday, June 24, 2008

おもひでぽろぽろ Only Yesterday

My title today is that of one of my favorite anime movies by Hayao Miyazaki (おもひでぽろぽろ or "Only Yesterday" in English). More information in English about such movies can be found by clicking here. I realize that these movies are probably designed for a much younger audience, but besides being relatively easy to follow, they have been very helpful to me in learning more about the Japanese way of life and hearing the language spoken naturally (as opposed to what one hears on language tapes).
The lead character in the movie, Taeko, is currently 27 years old, but she is constantly having flashbacks to her youth when she was around 11 years old. This is referred to as nostalgia, although for someone my age it may possibly be referred to as dementia. Well, while I am still sane enough to write coherently, let me share one or two memories from my childhood that I "rediscovered" today while continuing to sort out my things.
Yesterday, I referred to my great uncle in Switzerland and to visiting him at the age of 11. I found a painting I painted on site of the chalet my family and I stayed at in Blonay, near Lausanne in Switzerland. I also found a drawing of a map of Switzerland which I mostly drew while in Switzerland. I spent one or two days with my great uncle and his wife, while my mother, grandmother and sister were taken by a cousin in her car for rides in the mountains. I was easily carsick (especially on those roads), and so I preferred to stay home. To me at the time, my uncle and aunt were getting on in years, and had not had children of their own, seemed fairly serious, and so I whiled away my time drawing things. There were no games or TV where they lived. However, I remember my great uncle as someone who took a lot of interest in me, and it is a pity I only met him on that one trip over there (as far as I can recall).
The other pictures are from a magazine that was published not long after I returned from about one month in Belgium where I attended a boys' summer camp at the age of 13. When I arrived there I understood French very well (having heard it most of my life from my mother and grandmother when she visited), but when I returned to England, I spoke so much French that I would even reply in French to people who spoke to me in English especially around Dover when I got off the ship from Ostend. I learned more about how to think and speak in French in those weeks than in all the years that I studied French in school.The above photo of me together with some boys and published in the local organization's magazine "Soleil Levant", a copy of which was sent to my grandmother, is actually a scene I remember well. The boy lying on the ground in the middle was about my age and someone I had befriended at the camp. Like most Belgians he spoke French and Flemish (akin to Dutch) fluently, although to my surprise no one at the camp, including the teachers, spoke any English. This boy spoke to me in French and so we could converse. However, the younger boys on the left only spoke to me in Flemish, and I did not understand a word. I don't think they had met anyone who did not speak Flemish.
As I thought about these pictures, it reminded me of how the boys at the camp referred to me as "l'Anglais". It is true that I was that to them, but in reality I was part Belgian (through my grandfather), part Swiss (through my grandmother), and the other half British (which was a mixture of English and Scottish). Had I lived some time on the continent and spoken French like a native speaker, I don't think people would have considered me to be English. It was only when I eventually arrived in Taiwan that people started asking me if I was French. The Chinese are very interested in trying to guess where people are from and they can easily tell the difference between an American and a European, not just in their mannerisms, but also in their looks.
If my parents had had more money and had been less tied down by the basic need for stable employment, I might have got to spend much more of my childhood in Europe. I often regret not having had that opportunity. Our children have had it much more than me, in that life for them so far has been almost equally divided between Taiwan and Hawai'i. They were able to hang out with their skateboarding friends in Hawai'i and speak the same variety of English as them, and they can equally hang out with the skateboarders in Taiwan and speak the same Chinese (Mandarin) as them. This, of course, has brought difficulty to them, in that it is hard for them to be really good at English so as to pass all the English exams needed for college in the U.S. Of course, had we moved back to the UK when they were younger, they might have become a lot more British, but that is another story. Hawai'i, while not home to any of us in the sense that we always had to pay rent wherever we stayed, was a great place for them to grow up, not just because of the weather, but because of the multiracial characteristics of the society. That is really one thing I like about Hawai'i. Maybe I'll have to write about Hawai'i as it is becoming more and more of a distant memory!
In case readers may think I am stuck reminiscing on the past, I still went swimming this morning. I swam 4,500 meters straight in 1hr 29mins, and then after five minutes in the jacuzzi raced my friend over 100m. I was just behind him, finishing in 1min 29secs. In all I covered 4,750 meters. I don't know where this is all leading, and that is something I am trying to work out.

1 comment:

Randy said...

Bruce, I like history and family history is the best. It's great that you have so much from your childhood. Since I'm in the newspaper industry I found your self-published newspaper on yesterday's post most interesting. Take care and thanks for the encouragement for my upcoming marathon.