The fourth grade curriculum here, much like the fourth grade curriculum anywhere, includes a focus on civic affairs and history. We live in Hiroshima. Students here grow up with a heavy burden, passed along from their ancestors. And in fourth grade, they go to the Peace Park, visit the museum of tragic artifacts, and talk to foreign visitors about war and peace.

As a teacher helping students with the talking to foreign visitors portion of the field trip, I attended a talk given by a survivor of the bomb, hibakusha in Japanese. She was just 8 years-old when the bomb destroyed her town and family. Her older sister had just left for school, her youngest brother was blown into the neighbor’s house. She told her story to the students, showed some very disturbing paintings, and told the fourth graders that they were in charge of the future. Afterward the three of us gawky foreigner teachers came to the front to say thank you, representing Canada, England, and America. Thank you, she said to us, thank you for being here and helping the students understand that humans are what matters, not nationalities. She said she could not say see us again, since she was in the last stages of terminal lung cancer but she wished us well, charging us with the task of doing our best by future generations.

I was so physically and emotionally exhausted after the excursion that I went to bed early and woke up late. There is just so much to unpack from her speech, her experience. The details are so vivid in my mind even now, a day later. I woke everything down in my notebook. I cannot share just now though, for risk of being overwhelmed again.