Emily moved with her husband and four boys to Japan three years ago for a dental residency. She's agreed to share some of the lessons she's learned and what it's like right now to be in Japan. You can view some of the clean-up that she's been involved in on her blog Acte Gratuit.
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Never in all of my wildest parenting fantasies, did I ever dream I'd be raising my children in a foreign country. And if I had, I never would have picked a small town in Japan. Yet here I am with a husband and four little boys, finishing up my third (and last) year in a small agricultural town in the North East of Honshu island. And I'm loving it.
As an added bonus, I think my children have gained something extremely valuable that I wish all kids could get: a different perspective. Living in a foreign country is always life altering, and usually perspective shifting. But for little kids I think it expands rather than contradicts their world view.
Already in their young lives my boys have learned that people come in all sorts of shapes, sizes and colors--and don't always speak the same language. But they also know that you don't have to speak the same language to play happily together at the park or the public swimming pool. They know that people live differently, learn differently, and practice vastly different religions. And they accept it all without question.
Now we are experiencing something even greater than all of this put together. We're living through the aftermath of three horrible disasters: two natural and one man-made. Unfortunately, my three year old now knows exactly what to do during an earthquake and my nine year old has seen--in person--the devastation wrought by a tsunami.
Watching my oldest son rushing about gathering, packing and then helping my husband deliver food and clothing to our Japanese neighbors a few days after the earthquake gives me hope.
I wouldn't have wished this experience on anyone. But hopefully my sons will learn from this (horrific) time that life is fragile and precious. That nature can be incredibly powerful and incredibly deadly. That the human spirit is strong and that the ability of neighbors to help and sacrifice for each other is great.
Even if we all look and speak differently.For this and many other "over seas" experiences, I'll be forever grateful.