Submitted by D. Vincent

A simple story. I lived for many years in Japan, first in rural Tokushima Prefecture as an English teacher, then later in Tokyo, working for the NGO Peace Boat, where I met, among many other amazing individuals, Brenda McGuire. Tokyo is very much on the beaten track, and Peace Boat is known worldwide, but Tokushima, that destination in Japan, is less familiar to those who don’t know the country, although it does play host to Awa Odori, the nation’s biggest and liveliest summer festival. I danced the traditional Awa Odori dance not long after I first arrived.

After my stint in Japan, I returned to my hometown London, where I taught for several years before once again packing up my bags and heading off for new pastures – or rather new plazas – this time to sunny Madrid. I was there for seven happy years, during which time I lived in various neighbourhoods, but my first two years and my very final night were spent in an area of town known as Barrio del Pilar, in the north of the city, where my dear friend Javi has a place with a spare room. I left to come back again to London, this time to undertake a Master’s degree in Documenting Endangered Languages at SOAS University, which I began this week.

Here’s where the world gets small – or narrow, as they say in Japanese. The very first day of my Master’s, I had to attend an introductory welcome talk in the Department of Linguistics. About thirty of us shuffled into the room, all strangers, sitting wherever the fancy took us. As we waited for the talk to begin, I struck up a conversation with the two women who were sat either side of me, and lo and behold one was a Spanish woman who had just come over to London, at almost exactly the same time as me, not only from Madrid but from Barrio del Pilar itself. The other was an American who had just got back from three years as a teacher in Japan.

“Where exactly in Japan?” I asked her.

“Tokushima,” she said. “I don’t suppose you’ve heard of it.”

“Heard of it? I lived there!”

She knew some of my old haunts, even some of the people I knew, and had even danced, like me, at Awa Odori, although nearly twenty years apart.

It’s a very small world indeed.

Travel afar, then come home and meet the world you’ve just got back from

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