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Where in the World is Dr. Beal? November Update

Hello from Osaka, Japan!

With HKU on hiatus for “reading week,” our family went on a tour of East Asia, beginning with Osaka, one of Japan’s major port cities. Why Osaka? The city has several historic sites and is known for stellar food, but chief among its appeals for us is that it was a good place to meet Emily Riley, ‘17, our friend as well as my former colleague and student at Lyon. Emily is working in Shisō, a small village near the Kobe-Osaka-Kyoto corridor, as one of many Lyon grads serving the Japan Exchange and Teaching Program (JET).

Our sightseeing with Emily was fun, and naturally we had plenty to learn from her about Japanese customs. For instance, in Japan pointing with a finger is considered rude, so you should gesture with an open palm instead, and quiet is highly valued, though it remained somewhat elusive with our rambunctious children. Emily also had the insider information on where to buy the best cheese tarts and advised us to try a shrimp burger at MacDonald’s—against my instincts, but I don’t regret it.

But most of all it was a relief for us to have someone familiar to talk with. Not surprisingly, expat life with its language barriers and cultural differences can be alienating. And that’s only compounded by the speedy metropolitan rhythms of Hong Kong. It’s a comfort then to have that kind of friendship—the one where your conversation can seamlessly toggle back and forth between Game of Thrones and existential crises, the one where you can share epic travel experiences as well as mundane observations, the one where you can calmly face down crises of public transportation.

All of that is to say that meeting Emily in Osaka is the Lyon experience in a nutshell: a community of learners that holds its bonds over time and even across the globe.

Here’s a picture of us at Osaka Castle. Having suffered several military campaigns and a few natural disasters since its founding in the 16th century, the castle has been rebuilt a few times. Its founding general, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, briefly unified Japan, and today the interior of the castle is museumified to tell his story. Our son was enthralled with hologram dioramas of samurai battles, and our daughter was enamored of Hideyoshi’s “princesses,” walking around the grounds for the afternoon with her blankie over her head in an imitation shawl. Mostly I was there for the company, but the weather and the food were worth writing home about, too.

Until next time.

Wesley Beal is an associate professor of English at Lyon College. This fall he is serving as a Fulbright U.S. Scholar at the University of Hong Kong, where he teaches two courses in American literature and continues a study of the campus novel genre. Please reach out to him at wesley.beal@lyon.edu if you have Hong Kong- or Fulbright-related questions for him to investigate. He’ll do his best to oblige in subsequent blog posts.