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Cōgĭtat Ergo Estis (but that’s ok)

Writer(s): 
Adam Lebowitz

This year feels important for two reasons. The publication of this issue marks half my life being spent in Nihon. Whether it has been “n years”, or “the First Year n times” may depend on having lived longitudinally or in cross-section. Possibly the majority of “native” ELTs are the latter, since our working lives are in freeze-frame university environments: Professionally, we remain gaikokujin to students, and even to some colleagues. However, this does not mean that we can’t adapt, change, and somehow develop over time to become naikokujin (内国人) in our personal lives. But then again, maybe that is not so important, either. 

This year also marks the tenth anniversary of my grandfather-in-law’s death. “Endo Tsuneo, 1909-2005” first appeared in Nihongo in the literary monthly Shi to Shisô.

10 years ago, returning to the hotel from a night market in Viet Nam the bicycle barely holding together I narrowly avoided a women and her baskets, who scolded me “Liên Xô!”

十年前に中央ベトナムに夜市場

ボロボロ自転車でホテル帰り途中

肩に天秤棒をかついだお婆さんと

ギリギリにぶつけなかった

「Liên Xô!」と彼女に睨んで叱れた。

“Soviet!”, the name of erstwhile allies from the Cold War

「ソビエト人」と意味™して

冷戦の同盟に付けた名だった。

and next in Thailand I was “Farang!” (“that white foreigner”) which originally meant, naturally, Frenchman

次に、タイに入国する時

「Farang」の呼びかけがきこえた。

「白人外国人」という意味で

元々「フランス人」と。

and in India, enduring sunlight required a head wrap exposing my face to local inquiry: “Brother, are you a Believer?”

インドにも

強い陽射しから頭を守るため

布でグルグル巻いた。

それで、ワシの顔だけ目にした地元に

「お宅、回教人ですか」と訊かれた。

but going further back, bopping around Nagasaki during Edo doubtless a line of brats would yell “Oi! Oranda-jin!” (“Dig that crazy Dutchman!”)

もしかしたら、江戸時代の日本

ワシが長崎中心にブラブラしたらば

周りのガキが「オオッ!阿蘭陀人!」と

叫びだすことをよく想像できる。

My Meiji-born grandfather-in-law referred to me as “Kent”, and last week shaking his shrunken hand for the last time, his eldest daughter said “Look, O-jiisan, Kent-san’s paid a visit.”

数年前に家内のふるさとで

祖父と初めて出会った時

彼の明治生まれの意識によると

ワシは「ケントさん」。

そして、先週に寝たきり様子

で彼の細い爪っぽい手

最後に握手した時

長女は「見て、おじいさん、ケントさんが

見舞いしてくれましたよ」と。

Make no mistake, I don’t see a Kingdom of Heaven, but my Soviet-French-Muslim-Dutch self as Kent the Mormon with his yarmulka chants the sutras when visiting his grave

実は、「羽化して天へ」と

信じるモルモン教じゃない、ワシは

ただ墓参りしたら

ソビエト・フランス・回教・阿蘭陀の

ワシはケントとして

ユダヤ人のヤムルカをかぶりながら

お経唱える

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