Sunday, March 13, 2011

My World is Smaller and Much Wider Because I Teach and I Blog

I have been struck by how small our world has come.  We hear of disasters almost in real time because of the internet, and social networking.  I first read of the earthquake in Japan and the subsequent tsunami warnings as soon as I got up on Friday.  A dear friend and former colleague who now lives in her native Hawaii posted on Facebook that there was a tsunami warning in Hawaii.  Before I even knew why there was a tsunami, I was concerned for both my former teaching buddy and my blogging friend who both live in Hawaii.  When I say concerned, I mean, I really was worried.  They both are a part of my daily life these days, almost as if we were teaching in the same building or living on the same block, because of social networking.  I connect with them more than I connect with my next door neighbors!  I know more about them than I do about my next door neighbors.

So, once I heard about the tsunami warning, I immediately went to my Hawaiian blogger friend Kay's blog (click to link to her blog) to see if she was ok.  She is such a dear person.  I read her blog daily,  and, even though we have never really 'met,' I've really grown fond her and her husband and her mother.  Her mother, originally from Japan, lives with her.  They still have family in Japan.  Kay is always so kind in her words when she comments on my blog posts.  Yes, I think, it is amazing.  I am connected to people a great distance from me because of my blog, and I am genuinely concerned about their safety and well being.

I wasn't able to see a posting by Kay until later in the morning on Friday, March 1l.   While I was work at the University and on a break, I finally was able to read her most recent blog assuring us that they were safe.

Being able to read a blog on my iPhone also amazes me.  Technology has made my world not only bigger but also smaller.  It is bigger because I have access to people I never would have met otherwise.  It is smaller because the miles that separate us mean little in cyber land.

While I was reading about Kay's situation, I was still worried about the family of one of my student Junichi who is from Tokyo, Japan.  He had not yet come to class at 9:30 on Friday.  Junichi never misses class, and he usually the second to arrive in the morning.  We were all concerned.  Was he trying to reach his family?  Were they ok?  Had they suffered any kind of harm or damage?  Yes, because I teach international students, my world is smaller. After all the years that I have been teaching second language learners,  I am connected to students who come from many countries and speak many languages.

Sally with Junichi using iPhone to photograph cake
Woo Huck on far left
Finally, just before 10:00, Junichi arrives.  He is noticeably shaken, but he also seems greatly relieved.  He has been able to finally reach his mother by phone.  She had safely arrived home.  Her apartment was still standing.  He said that she had left her job at 5:00 in the evening on the day of the earthquake.  Public transportation was not working.  She had to walk for seven hours to get home, but she did it.  She made it home safely.

I can't even imagine what she saw on her long journey.  I can't even imagine the fear that must have gone through her mind.  I wonder if she worried how she would find her home once she reached it.  I keep thinking of this woman and wonder at her stamina and determination.  I feel privileged to be able to teach her son.  He works hard.  He studies hard.  He is a son for whom she can feel great pride.  I am grateful that his life has not been touched by the loss of his mother while he is in the United States.  I am sure he must be devastated as he sees the photos coming out of Japan.  He will need a great deal of support from others in the days and weeks ahead.

Just a few weeks ago, we in the International Program at CSU-Pueblo, were worried about our former student who was from Libya.  Several had tried to call him or email him to see how his family was doing in Libya.  That very afternoon after we had been discussing our worries about his family, I came home and saw an article about him and other Libyan students in the United States in The Denver Post.  In fact, I was very shocked when I saw our former student's picture posted in the newspaper.   (Photo from The Denver Post)

Yes, indeed, my world in smaller and much wider because I teach. It is also much enriched with friendships that span many countries and many languages.  My heart is open to the struggles that other nations and their people are going through.  I have worked with, taught,  grown to respect, and to care deeply about their youth.  My mind is broader, and my soul is enriched because I understand how connected we all are no matter what we believe or what languages we speak.

 I am grateful to be part of a profession that allows me to link my life to lives of so many who have come from all over the world.  It has been a blessing.  My life is much richer because my path has crossed the path of many students from many lands.  These students have touched my heart as we labor together in the classroom.  Their families are never far from their minds.  For that reason, their struggles, their heartbreaks, and the devastation that touches those they left behind at home touch my heart deeply.

17 comments:

Linda Myers said...

You're a fortunate woman to have these many connections, and they're all fortunate to have you. I love how we're all connected.

becca said...

wow what a way to be connected i loved this and amazing post today had to read it twice

Arkansas Patti said...

You are so right, our world is now so much smaller and intimate. You get the personal contact through your students as well as the cyber contact via the Internet.
I too follow Kay and was concerned about her and another Hawaiian blog buddy. I also have two blog friends in New Zealand and was concerned when they had the recent quake.
World events have now become personal events.

DJan said...

Yes, it's true that the blogosphere has made my own world smaller and more intimate. My cyber friends are as important to me as family, and I know so much more about them because of their blogs than I do about my neighbors, you're right.

And yes, Libya has been knocked right off the front pages by the disaster in Japan, but it is still going on, terrible news across the world right now, Sally. My heart is very sore from all of this suffering.

Sightings said...

You've got the best of both worlds ... you've expanded your horizons thru technology while keeping the personal one-on-one connections thru teaching. You can be an inspiration to all of us that both are important and enriching elements to our lives.

KathyA said...

Amazing that originally the fear was that computers would de-humanize us when in fact, they have done just the opposite.

Joanne said...

I agree with everything that you wrote. You brought up such a great point about knowing these bloggers better than you know your neighbors. its so true! I haven't been blogging long but I feel like I really know the people who's blogs I visit everyday. Thank God your friends and their families are safe. Blessings, Joanne

Munir said...

"I" phones are great.
My son in Hawaii has been inviting us for a long time. this summer we may just go.
It is nice that you keep connections with your teaching buddys even after retiring. Teaching is so rewarding.

LC said...

In this post you have articulated so well the impact of the new -- and old -- methods of connecting with others. The more we learn about those around us, whether in the blogosphere or at our work or in our neighborhood, the more we are concerned about them and those they hold dear. I must say, like you, those connections these days seem stronger with friends from work and friends from the world of blogging than from my neighborhood. I think that I need to work on neighborhood connections.

Barb said...

The connections we've all made by "meeting" fellow bloggers helps to broaden understanding and compassion. In your profession, the sharing between you and your students is priceless for all of you.

Lynilu said...

I agree with you. I love having such a broad and diverse group of "friends," many of whom I've never met. My life is so much richer. I, too, am glad to have such instant contact with some of those friends who are far away during crises. Phone lines were overloaded the other day, but an email reached my friend there so I knew he was OK. Whew!

KleinsteMotte said...

That we have found ways to link up through blogging is just another example of how much we need to be part of a community. Once it was neighbours now it's bloggers. And I agree that teaching is a great way to connect to so much more. I miss it but am not well enough to take on any part time ventures. I hope your friend in Hawaii is okay too.

Kay said...

Oh Sally, you are too kind. I've been so grateful for your friendship. What struck me as so true is that I also know my cyber friends more than I do my neighbors. Across the web, we connect with each other's hearts and know how we're all feeling. I love it that we can talk to each other and support each other. We're never alone.

When I told my mom that over 40 people from around the world wrote to express their sympathy, she was totally surprised. I heard her telling her sister in Sendai about it this afternoon. They are all very touched.

Thank you again for your friendship. I will always treasure it.

Mare said...

I must agree with everything! And Kay is such a cohesive force among us. The bonds that have been created are indeed amazing.

merrilymarylee said...

I'm with you, Sally! I have learned so much from blogging. I saw Japanese TV footage of the tsunami on one post. The sound of the sirens, the loudspeakers, and the constant splashing of the water as it moved cars like they were rubber duckies in the bathtub. It was quite chilling- I felt I was seeing it as the Japanese people saw it. A blog friend in Ireland, another in Australia... I love hearing their opinions on our political situations and 'm always surprised at how familiar they are with what's going on here... and how very much their opinions coincide with mine.

Jeanie said...

What an incredibly thoughtful and spot-on post. I, too, have discovered the world is a smaller and more intimate place through my blogging experiences. It feels as though there are friends around the world -- or friends of friends around the world. I know what you mean about teaching, too. Although I don't teach, I work in a campus with a large segment of international students. We learn from one another. I'm glad yours and their families are safe.

Deb Shucka said...

It is so amazing how technology has allowed us to broaden our worlds and have connections with people we'd otherwise never know. Such an inspiring and thoughtful post, Sally. Your students are really lucky to have you in their lives.