Bryson’s Day with Ryotaro

I slept at Ryotaro’s house for my homestay last night. His parents are so kind! I offered to help with the dishes after dinner last night and after breakfast this morning, but they said that I did not have to do anything since I am a guest. Ryotaro’s father joked that I did not even need to breathe! I did feel nervous because my Japanese is sub-par, but they are very welcoming and comfortable with speaking in English.

We went back to the Ninja House to meet with the other TOMODACHI students, and the train was quite the adventure. First, Ryotaro explained that the first car was the best since it is the least crowded, so we went there. Upon entering, I noticed that most occupants were women, then I realized that everyone on the train was a woman except for the two of us. Ryotaro and I had not noticed the “Women’s Car” signs! We switched cars and continued on our odyssey. Then our train stopped and the announcement came that our line, the Tokyu Den-en-toshi Line, was shut down for a safety concern. We took a bus, which was free because we had received transfer tickets as an apology for the shut down, and met the rest of the program only a little late.

After the program, I took the train with Ryotaro and his parents met us at the station. We drove to a conveyer belt sushi restaurant and they treated me to many new foods. I am adamant about my dislike of seafood, but it was so good there! I had very many fish-based sushi, and also tried a natto roll. Ryotaro’s father said that 70% of foreigners dislike natto, so I guess that I am one of the 30%! I enjoyed the simplicity, and its common disapproval among foreigners reminded me of the Russian borsche*, which I enjoy because my family is Russian but most Americans dislike it.

Ryotaro’s parents also bought me an omiyage of matcha tea powder after dinner which I did not expect but greatly appreciate. I learned some more Japanese during dinner as well; Ryotaro’s mother seemed very happy to teach me! I still have much to learn though, and I will not stop learning during this exchange or afterwards.

Bryson Torgovitsky
Washington Latin PCS

MLK Reflections

Natsuho:

We went to the Martin Luther King Jr Memorial. There are a lot of quotations which Martin Luther King Jr said. We have a lot of choice but I chose this one.

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.”

I like this sentence. It is because this is totally truth and makes me feel stay in positive. And this is most simple to understand. I think simple to understand is important and simple sentence has strong power. It is because we can understand it directly.

Rey:

I found this quote really inspiring because it first started off with an obvious metaphor, that darkness with darkness is still in darkness and light is needed, so the same logic can be easily applied to a simple yet difficult answer. If one retaliates and fights back with hate, we would never be able to break the endless cycle of hatred. Only love can pull us all out of it. LOVE trumps hate.

Yuuki:

“I oppose the war in Vietnam because I love America. I speak out against it not in anger but with anxiety and sorrow in my heart, and above all with a passionate desire to see our beloved country stand as a moral example of the world.”

This is my favourite quote because this quote tells us not only the importance of peace but the historical background on it. MLK joined the anti-Vietnam War movement, although his action was not accepted for other African Americans. I am proud of his bravery which gave us peace for today and tomorrow.

Bryson – Speech for Ordinary Freedom:

“We must concentrate not merely on the negative expulsion of war, but on the positive affirmation of peace.”

As a person who is fascinated (and horrified) by the circumstances of both World Wars, Martin Luther King Jr.’s quote from a speech in California in 1967 instantly caught my attention. There have been protestors during various wartimes who advocate against war, but I have felt as though something was always missing from their movements. Dr. King identified that for me in the second sentence of this quote; “We must concentrate not merely on the negative expulsion of war, but on the positive affirmation of peace.” Movements against violence and tyranny are inherently positive in my opinion, but I agree with Dr. King that those movements must also consist of an effort to improve human conditions as they protest the powers that worsen them.

When Shizumi Manale visited our class last Thursday, I was moved by her film about the Hiroshima Children’s Art Project. Her inclusion of the reaction that a reverend of All Souls Church had to an A-Bomb cake which was served at an American military dinner, after the Japanese surrendered in 1945, provoked sadness, anger, and disgust in my mind simultaneously. The movement by that same reverend, and the people of All Souls Church, to help the children impacted by the United States atomic bombing of Hiroshima was inspiring to me. Not only did the community at All Souls speak against the shameful practices of the United States armed forces, they took action to help the people who were the targets of those practices. In my opinion, that response to injustice is a successful application of Martin Luther King Jr’s quote on the successful stoppage of war.

Ryotaro:

“I have the audacity to believe that peoples everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies, education and culture for their minds, and dignity, equality, and freedom for their spirits.” Norway, 1964

I like this quote because we can see the background of American history. From the word “audacity,” we could see that they needed to be brave to express themselves in 1964, and what they expressed were ordinary things currently. I felt sad that they didn’t have their freedom; however, I’m also relieved that they expressed themselves.

Shawma – Question what is not Questioned

What makes a MAN? Who makes a MAN? Some people are born into this world living their lives without ever questioning anything. Then you have others who question everything that crosses their path. Martin Luther King was one of those people. He was born into a world where it is normal for a person to be judged by the color of their skin and not the content of their character. Martin Luther King was a MAN because it was not in the moments of comfort and convenience where he stood, it was at times of challenge and controversy where he questioned what was normal.

I question what is normal. Identified by the color of my skin. Why do people care what I am? They should care who I am.The term African American is used as a normal term to identify me, but I am not African. I am not African American. My father nor mother are African. My father is a Jamaica immigrant, my mother is half white and half black. I don’t and never will I understand why I am called African American. I have African ancestry in my blood but I also have European ancestry in my blood. Why do people pick the ancestry that defines me?

If an African immigrant immigrated to the US and becomes a US citizen does it make them African American? Africans who become US citizens are the true African Americans. When I speak out about this, people think I hate my skin color. This is not true. I love my skin but I will not be called something I am not. Why do we live in a society where it is ok for a job application to ask for my nationality? Why do you care about the color of my skin? Does the color of my skin determine whether I get the job or not? For me I like to be called black. Black is a term used for all people who have brown or dark skin. Black is not defined by where you come from; it’s defined by all people who have darker skin. Black is unity, but African American is division. I speak out and question the world because comfort and convenience do not lead me a step forward in the right direction. In times of challenge and controversy lead me in the right direction.

Chi:

This quote stands out to me because it reminds me of the time in 6th grade, when I was struggling to make reliable friends. My family would tell me to find friends who would stick with me through thick and thin, not the ones that I can just have a stable conversation with. Now I compare the friends I have now to the “friends” I had then, and I think of a time I was sad at the lunch table, over a completely stupid reason, and everyone was worried about me, but the “friends” I had in the 6th grade would just brush off my depression. Advice like the ones in this MLK quote taught me the types of people I should surround myself with and the types of people I can trust.

TOMODACHI visit to the Holocaust Museum

Yesterday, the TOMODACHI program went to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Our guided tour began at 9:15 in the morning, and ended at 11:15. In those two hours, we viewed the exhibits on the fourth, third, and second floors in that order as two separate groups. After we had finished touring the permanent exhibits, we had the opportunity to meet two Holocaust survivors from Poland: Julie (Klestadt) Keefer, and Sylvia (Perlmuter) Rozines. They shared their experiences during and after World War II, and kindly answered our questions about themselves.

My family was personally affected by the Holocaust. My father is Jewish, and his parents and their extended families all lived in the Soviet Union for the duration of World War II. His father served in the Red Army, but he was forced to retire after an injury, and his mother fled deeper into the Soviet Union in order to escape from persecution by the Nazi regime. I had discussed the Holocaust and life in the Soviet Union with my grandmother before she died, so I was able to converse more freely with Mrs. Keefer and Mrs. Rozines about their experiences. I was moved by the clarity of their memories, and the harsh reality of what it meant to be Jewish in a country under Nazi control. In my opinion, they spoke louder than any of the exhibits in the museum.

That is not to say that the exhibits were lacking, by any means. In particular, a room on the third floor captured my attention. On one side of the room, there was a rendition of a standard concentration camp barracks, which we were allowed to enter. Seeing the cramped living quarters and overall poor quality of the structure was surreal. I could hardly imagine hundreds of thousands of people being forced into those barracks year after year. The other half of the room featured a model of a false shower head from a gas chamber, and a wall-to-wall diorama of the process which was used to kill concentration camp prisoners en masse in underground gas chambers. Each plain white figurine sported a unique face and expression, and each phase of the gassing process depicted more and more of the terrible emotions which the victims of the gas chambers felt in their final moments. The entirety of the TOMODACHI group collected in that room, but we were silent as we studied the exhibits.

When we left the museum, I discussed the Holocaust with Ko as we walked to lunch. He was respectful as we talked about Babi Yar, a mass killing of the Jews of Kiev, Ukraine, where my grandmother and grandfather had once lived. In our group discussion beside the Tidal Basin during lunch, Ko perfectly expressed a thought that I had felt as I relearned about the atrocities committed by the Nazi regime. Ko said how he could hardly believe that the Nazis were all human, and questioned whether or not people today (ourselves included) also had the capacity to enact such hateful behavior.

When I returned to my home, I thought about what Ko had said. I came to the conclusion that yes, any person could potentially commit crimes against humanity as the Nazis did during the Holocaust. However, I also realized that projects like TOMODACHI are the best way to prevent that possibility. TOMODACHI has brought people together who would have otherwise never met each other, and enabled us to discuss hard topics like the Holocaust and racism in the United States. The cultural exposure aspect of the TOMODACHI exchange also increases our collective understanding of the differences between the Japanese and American lifestyles. Such understanding stands in stark contrast to the anti-Semitism spread by the Nazis as their method of justification for the persecution of the Jewish community.

Names of Holocaust victims on the window of the museum’s interior glass walkway.

The USHMM’s shrine to the victims of the Babi Yar and Rumbula mass killings. I lit one of the candles in honor of the Ukrainian Jews who had lived in the same city as my grandparents.

Bryson Torgovitsky
Washington Latin PCS

Bryson – TOMODACHI Day 1

I’ve been ready to participate in TOMODACHI since the beginning of 2016, when I first applied for the program. I’m thrilled to be a part of this exchange, and I’ve been counting down the days until our Japanese counterparts arrive. There are so many questions that I’d like to ask them about themselves and their lives in Japan, but I feel like it’d be overwhelming for them if I was too inquisitive. My plan to avoid coming off too strong is to behave as I would around my friends from school, and ask questions when the time is appropriate. In our preparatory meetings during the past week, our chaperones, the other TOMODACHI students from DC, and I repeated that the first portion of the program is the exchange from Japan to DC, so the students (myself included) should “act American” and ensure that the Japanese TOMODACHI students have a fulfilling experience in our country (but the chance for us to apply what we learned in Japanese Plus during the past school year will come in two weeks!).

My overall goals for TOMODACHI have not changed. I intend to use this opportunity as a way to “test run” Japan before I commit to studying abroad there in college. At home, my parents and I have reached the conclusion that the only way for me to have a truly impactful college exchange would be to spend a full year in my host country rather than one semester, so it makes sense to see how I feel after living in Japan for two weeks before I move there for a year of college. In regards to TOMODACHI’s founding point, aid for the Tohoku region after the March 11th earthquake, I want to see the affected areas for myself so that I can better grasp the scope of that disaster. I’ve often been called someone who has a high capacity for empathy, but I feel like I can’t fully comprehend what happened in Tohoku until I talk to the people who were there for myself. I believe that talking to them in person will increase my ability to empathize with them and help with the ongoing relief effort.

Bryson Torgovitsky
Washington Latin PCS