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For this issue, instructor Ayumi Iwai of the Cultural Institute has written a short memoir about her experience with the children’s classes.

The Diary of a Frog
By Ayumi Iwai

  “Good morning everybody!” “Good morning sensei!” And so begins the weekly Japanese class. I value such a moment of greeting. I only get to see the kids once a week, and each time I meet them they have a different look in their eyes—sparkly eyes, wandering eyes, lively eyes…

 Thoughts like “how are they,” “how did they do in school today,” and “I hope they’re not nervous for forgetting their homework…” cross my mind as I look into the eyes of each and everyone, listening to their greetings.

 Children are really honest. What they hate, they hate. What they want to do, they want to do now. If they know the answer, they want to answer first. So even the kids who weren’t so energetic in their greetings spring to life minutes after class begins. Eyes sparking, they raise their hands enthusiastically.

 I always feel supported by the enthusiasm and smiles on their face—it is a great source of joy for me.
Even though I wanted to be a Japanese teacher—I yearned to work abroad—and single-handedly came to New York, moments of loneliness occasionally take a hold of me. And it always seems to come about because of something so trivial. In such times, I read the diaries that the kids write for me. This is one of them.

I went to my friend’s house today.
I went to the lake. I could almost
Catch a frog.
It was so much fun.
 This was a diary written over summer break. This particular child went to his sister and friend’s house. The friend’s house was out in the suburbs lush with nature. And there he tried catching a frog—he must have been really excited. If I close my eyes, I can almost see him silently crouched down, holding his breath as he reaches for the frog.

  Although he wasn't able to catch it, clearly, “it was so much fun,” and this became one of the things he remembers from his summer break. As I read the entry, the gloomy feeling dissipated and I found a smile on my face.

 Though they can bedevil as well as make an adult like me happy—children have that mysterious ability. And I want to thank them for always giving me the energy. Thank you for making me happy. And thank you God—thank you for a wonderful experience. Thank you, everybody around me, for always supporting me.

 “New York is where a raw diamond becomes polished,” one of my elders once told me.
With the help of those around me, I hope to try out new things, gain more experience and be able to softly shine like a gem one day. I am so grateful for all of your continuing support.



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