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Our Struggle is real

Tracey Jean Boisseau

I was delighted and honored to have won a year-long fellowship in Japan. Everyone was happy for me, from colleagues to friends and family, and my wife and kids looked forward to a year-long adventure. I was eager to get back to the land of the rising sun, where I’d enjoy hiking in the mountains, soaking in the onsens, and leisurely eating my way through the entirety of Japanese cuisine. It had been seventeen years since I last lived there, and a year since my last visit. And then, unexpectedly, I learned that the granting agency had assigned me to the University of the Ryukyus in Okinawa. “Okinawa?” I thought. “I don’t know shit about Okinawa.” 

So, before I left, I set out to learn as much as possible. Every day I studied a map of its geography. I researched the island culture and its climate. I read about the history of the Kingdom of the Ryukyus, and plowed through a depressing tome on the Battle of Okinawa. Okinawa lit a fire under me, and in hindsight, no placement could have been better, but it was a tough year. I thought I knew Japan and knew what I was getting into, but Okinawa is a very different place. As one Japanese friend put it, “Okinawa is Japan, but it is not Japan.”

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