Wednesday, June 29, 2005

A Mother's Lullaby

The last couple of days I've killed time at school by reading the new English textbooks. Every few years the textbooks are changed, and the major textbook companies submit their revised books; each prefecture then decides which set they'll use for the next few years. Shimane uses the New Horizon English textbooks for the junior high schools.

One of the more memorable stories the 3rd year textbook is called "A Mother's Lullaby." The pace at which each class goes through the book varies, but it seems most classes get to "A Mother's Lullaby" right about the beginning of the second trimester, just in time to clobber the new ALTs over the head.
A Mother's Lullaby

A big, old tree stands by a road near the city of Hiroshima. Through the years, it has seen many things.
One summer night the tree heard a lullaby. A mother was singing to her little girl under the tree. They looked happy, and the song sounded sweet. But the tree remembered something sad.
"Yes, it was some sixty years ago. I heard a lullaby that night, too."

On the morning of that day, a big bomb fell on the city of Hiroshima. Many people lost their lives, and many others were injured. They had burns all over their bodies. I was very sad when I saw those people.
It was a very hot day. Some of the people fell down near me. I said to them, "Come and rest in my shade. You'll be all right soon."

Night came. Some people were already dead. I heard a weak voice. It was a lullaby. A young girl was singing to a little boy.
"Mommy! Mommy!" the boy cried.
"Don't cry," the girl said. "Mommy is here." Then she began to sing again.
She was very weak, but she tried to be a good mother to the poor little boy. She held him in her arms like a real mother.

"Mommy," the boy was still crying.
"Be a good boy," said the girl. "You'll be all right." She held the boy more tightly and began to sing again.
After a while the boy stopped crying and quietly died. But the little mother did not stop singing. It was a sad lullaby. The girl's voice became weaker and weaker.
Morning came and the sun rose, but the girl never moved again.
I was blindsided by this story shortly after arriving. Sitting at my desk in the teachers' room, I really struggled to control myself. Everything about everything was new and exciting and confusing, and this story reminded me of the more uncomfortable aspects of my living in Japan, the ones I don't like to think about.

The revised New Horizon textbooks retain this story, and update it with truly depressing artwork. The new Sunshine textbooks, written by a different company, have an even more depressing Hiroshima story, which I won't go into now—maybe later if Shimane ends up choosing that textbook.

So in case any new ALTs lurk around this blog, you have been warned.


Mom said...

The lullaby ripped my heart out. I'm still wiping tears... Love, Mom

HyperBob said...

Glasgow Lullaby

Glasgow Lullaby
(Eric Bogle)

Hush wee babby, for yer daddy's comin' in
Stumblin' up the stair and missin' every yin
Rotten wi' beer and stinkin' o' gin
He's drunk again -- as usual

Oh my God, it's a weary, weary life
Who wid be a drinkin' man's wife
Who wid thole a' this trouble and this strife
Who but a silly woman

Hush wee babby, he's comin' in the door
Drunken big feet are skitin' over the floor
He's had a bucket, but he's thirstin' for more
He disnae ken when he's beaten

Hush wee babby, listen tae him sittin' there
Wi his bloodshot eyes and his tangled hair
Mooth fu' o' big talk and eyes fu' o' despair
And blaming me -- as usual

Hush wee babby, yer daddy's gone tae bed
The morn he'll no' remember a' the things he said
But his tongue wis sharp and a' the wounds they bled
But then I'm used tae bleedin'

Hush wee babby and close yer weary eyes
Cuddle intae mammy and stop yer tired wee cries
And in the mornin' when ye decide ta arise
Yer mammy will be here waitin'

Anonymous said...

I had to read this story in my classes, and it choked me up every time. Not allowed to comment either. I wonder if the Japanese teachers in China have to read stories about Japanese war crimes?

Anonymous said...

My JTE thought the story was crap, so he made a joke of it, using exaggerated chalk drawings on the blackboard. Kept the tone nice and light.

Cindy Dy said...
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