So reports Japan Today (Kyodo News).
In Miyagi, about 33% of the JET program participants have stayed, despite the big earthquake and tsunami on March 11. The reason given by several is to help in the humanitarian effort, which is praiseworthy.
‘‘It is overwhelming, mentally and physically to stay here but I want to stay,’’ said Katherine Sheu, 25, from Los Angeles, who has taught English at five elementary and junior high schools in the devastated city of Ishinomaki for the past three years.
There were around 70 assistant English language teachers in Miyagi Prefecture under the Japan Exchange and Teaching Program, sponsored by the central and local governments, and a third of them have decided to stay there. Sheu is one of them.
‘‘I wouldn’t cut off relations for no reason. I know I am just one person from a foreign country but if I just left, for me it would be like escaping. I believe me being here contributes, giving them hope and cheerfulness,’’ she said.
When the quake and ensuing tsunami hit Ishinomaki on March 11, she was having lunch with her colleagues at the Hebita Junior High School, which eventually was turned into an evacuation center. Since then, she has been busy helping out evacuees by distributing relief goods to them together with her fellow teachers.
‘‘I love it here. I have many connections with my students, the teachers and the neighbors. I wouldn’t just leave,’’ Sheu said.
Congratulations to Sheu-san for her efforts. Hopefully, if she wants to stay in Japan in the future, those efforts are remembered.
It would be good to hear about other groups of non-Flyjin who are pitching in. There have to be stories like this all over Japan, and not just in Japan Exchange Teachers. This is not to pass judgment on anyone who left. There’s a good argument to be made for foreigners having high-tailed it out, and I am just writing about the sociological scene that’s going on when something big and bad occurs. (The Lehman Shock financial crisis was one of these for the community as well.)
I am not Flyjin, but rather was visa-ga-nai jin (ビサがない人). So I can’t really be able to say what I would be doing if I had been there and not in the comfy confines of Amish country in Pennsylvania. If I were working at something heavy, I probably would still be there. If I were sucking wind career-wise like I did in good parts of 2010 – * , yeah, I’d probably book a flight.
The crisis probably gives a chance to those who are really dedicated to Japan in the JET to show that they are, and this is a good thing. Just helping people is a good thing, regardless.
( * – Note. From an accounting career perspective, I was sucking wind. But I did teach, and get to do a lot of things with people, for people, that I think had their own value that you can’t reduce to money.)