Monday, July 7, 2008

This Is Gonna Hurt A Little

Protective blast-wall covered in Arabic sits behind some plastic flowers at a check point. I'm sure it says something about "deadly force is authorized".

One of the many things that I bounce around with is the Japanese culture; at least what I envision it to be. I’m not sure what has attracted me to it for almost my entire life; maybe it’s the whole warrior-monk, search for spirituality, samurai thing. Who knows? Frankly I gave up trying to analyze the reasons for the affinity many years ago and am just going with it.

As part of this “interest” I’ve dabbled in such pursuits as Aikido, iaido (sword drawing, cutting, and return techniques), shodo (calligraphy), shakuhachi (bamboo flute) ikebana (flower arranging), haiku writing, sake (rice wine) appreciation, and the Japanese language as a whole. As you can imagine, this has been a great source of entertainment for my wife, only tempered by the fact that she is an aficionado of the culture as well.

I’ve played around with learning the language since I was in college in 1985 and it’s always been an uphill battle. During my military career The Army spent tons of money and time trying to force Spanish into my noggin, with limited success, so Japanese has been a bit of a challenge. I've never attempted formal classes as it's been hard to schedule them, so I've sort of gone about it on my own using books, CDs, and anything else I can get my hands on. My Japanese language library at home rivals anything that Barnes & Noble could offer.

Lately I’ve discovered several outstanding on-line language resources and have delved back into this painful practice once again. I’m finding that it’s a fairly productive way to spend my time while deployed; better than sitting around watching DVDs. Of course Arabic would be the obvious choice while plunked down in Iraq, but I find the language guttural and not very attractive, to say nothing of the culture.

I’m happy plodding away with Japanese. I’ll never be able to attain the heights that I have in Spanish, but it’s a good mental exercise and I enjoy the challenge. Again, I’m sure my wife will be looking on with great amusement as I continue to struggle.

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