Wednesday, October 3, 2012

No Hair

One of my students is losing her hair.
I first noticed when I returned from my trip last month, and her condition has since gotten increasingly more obvious. Every week her ponytail is noticeably thinner and her bangs are cut into a deeper V to cover as much of her forehead as possible. As of recently, 14 year old Anri has completely lost all her eyebrows and eyelashes. 

In the beginning stages of her hair loss, I asked a fellow teacher if in fact something was going on. The teachers told me they too had noticed, but were not quite sure what the problem was. I didn't press, and that was the extent of the conversation. I noticed last Saturday that Anri didn't participate in the school-wide, Sports Day. Instead, she stayed sidelined, helping out with time keeping and other tasks. By now it was clear that her condition was a known fact, and the teachers were handling it in the best way they knew how, though I had never heard it discussed or acknowledged.

Until yesterday.

Another girl from Anri's homeroom class, Kasumi, one of my favorite students, came into the teacher's room. Kasumi and the other third year students and I have an unsaid, special relationship. They were little first years when I arrived 2 years ago. We were both newbies at the time and over the years have developed a bond. Though the language barrier is still very prevalent, I know these kids and they know me. I am always blown away at their willingness and determination to get across something they feel is very important.
Even if is something as "important" as the fact that they listened to a Justin Beiber song, went to a Lady Gaga concert, saw another American, or got a haircut.

When Kasumi walked into the teacher's room yesterday, it was clear this was going to be one of those moments. She saw me and lit up, "Keito!"
Then she told me to hold on, while she fished a post card out of her bag and walked over and handed it to me.
"What's this?!" I asked.
"Read." Sir, yes sir.

She handed over this...

I started to read the post card to myself, until she gestured that she wanted to hear it too. I held it so we could both see, and read it in the tone of a bedtime story. She was all smiles and I was surprised to see that the more I read, the more I was welling up.

She had cut and mailed her hair all the way to America (which she was THRILLED about) all to show Anri her support. I told her in English and Japanese how proud of her I was, and she took the bilingual compliments with beaming smiles. Then we felt the ends of her freshly snipped pigtails and giggled. After all, we are both girls.

Throughout this whole exchange, Anri's name never came up but it was clear she was the reason behind all this. 

When the teacher I work with came over, I turned to him,
"Did you hear what she did?!"
"Un," he said with Japanese confidence, "friendship."  

Friendship the world over,

*Through some researching and google translate, it has been confirmed that Anri has alopecia. Despite the fact that she is only 14, and starting high school in the Spring, this amazing little girl has never let her personality slip. She is just as confident, giggly and bright as she was prior to this diagnosis. がんばれあんりちゃん! I am so proud of you!

[The Latest]

Google Search: Below vs Under.  
Tune: Try a Little Tenderness By Otis Redding.
Accomplishment: Spending less time in front of the computer.
Obsessions: New tea bag selection.

1 comment:

  1. KB A tender exchange of learning, your student touches your heart. love ya



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