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Mark: Seiko, you’ve just come back to Japan. When did you come back?
Seiko: Well, I came back about two years ago…uhm…you know…not really exactly yesterday but I lived overseas for half of my life…so it was a long absence from my country.
Mark: Which places did you live in?
Seiko: I lived in San Francisco the longest.
Mark: Mm-hmm. So when did you first go to San Francisco?
Seiko: I went to San Francisco in 1982.
Mark: Right. So, were you studying then?
Seiko: Yes, I was finishing up my graduate school.
Mark: And what was your impression of the city?
Seiko: It’s…you know…it’s a beautiful city and…it’s on the edge of the ocean so, it has the ocean and the hills around it…and it is a pretty nice city. As for the American cities, I think it’s one of the nicest American cities.
Mark: A lot of…these times with the war in and America being so conservative at the moment…a lot of Americans joke that San Francisco is not really a part of the United States because it is famous for being a liberal city. Did you find, when you were living there, that the people were really free-thinking and liberal?
Seiko: I did think so for the longest time…for example…you forget that…you know…you live in such a liberal city…even the rest of the Californians…not the rest of the country…are not that liberal…as we are in San Francisco…for example, San Francisco has a very big gay community and in fact if you work in some companies…fifty per cent of your male friends will be…gay…from the gay community…so it is really a natural thing for us to…have all the racial and the sexual orientations…and I really felt very comfortable…being a non-native there, but one of the reasons I came back hereï¿½…I started to feel not too comfortable after the 9/11 terrorism attack there in New York. People’s mind is changing…
Seiko:..even in a liberal city like San Francisco…they were starting to show some of the…you know, alarming signals of…kind of the…USA first before the rest of the world kind of thing.
Mark: kind of…I guess America feels that it is under attack so everybody is a little bit paranoid.
Mark: When you were in San Francisco did you have a lot of Japanese friends?
Seiko: At first I didn’t I really didn’t seek Japanese friends when I first arrived there…but then started to know more and more Japanese people who lived there. So I guess by the time I left two years ago eighty per cent of my friends were Japanese…
Mark: …other nationalities. Did you have Mexican friends?
Seiko: San Franciscos biggest population is its Asian population so I had a lot of Chinese friends and Vietnamese friends…and Thai friends not too many Mexican friends…maybe if you go a little further south in California, you may see more Mexicans.
Mark: You speak Chinese too, don’t you?
Seiko: I do speak at the conversational level. I lived in China for a while so I picked up enough to get by.
Mark: What part of China did you live in?
Seiko: I lived in Beijing but I traveled quite a lot to some places where normal tourists would not go.
Seiko: For example like Tibet and Inner Mongolia…and…
Seiko: ..and some of the…near the Silk Road…
Mark: And…any other countries?
Seiko: I think I traveled more countries than I could really remember…
Mark: But actually living for a longer period of time. Did you live in Europe?
Seiko: Yes, I did. I lived in Amsterdam for about two years.
Mark: Wow, I love Amsterdam.
Seiko: So do I.
Mark: Two years?
Mark: What do you think about Amsterdam?
Seiko: I really felt at home. It’s so wonderfully liberal and also…people are conservative…at the same time they are liberal-thinking…and you know it’s…very acceptable people…I really…it is a small country…but Japan and the Netherlands have a long history of…aaam…you know…they…
Mark: …a long relationship
Seiko: I felt very very good about that.
Mark: Did you learn some Dutch when you were there?
Seiko: I tried, I asked the Dutch people to teach me and they said…they all speak English…you know…and they said…it is not a good language to learn because nobody knows it…and so I…really…I still remember a few words though.
Mark: I don’t agree with that. I think all languages are great. It is a good thing to learn a language because it is not just a system of communication. It is also another way of thinking.
Seiko: Mm-hm. I think so too, because when I am thinking…talking in Japanese…I am kind of a different personality from when I am speaking.. let’s say Chinese and what little of other languages I speak…so I wanted to learn…but Dutch pronunciation is so difficult.
Mark: It is difficult…but that is really the interesting thing…if you are bilingual or multilingual and you have another friend who is multi-lingual…so for example…you can have a conversation in English or German or Japanese or French or whatever language…as you change languages, the topic changes your character, your personality…everything changes; the way you think changes when you speak another language.
Seiko: Mmm..hmm. That’s true.