Voyage of a Lifetime : The story of Laura-Mae Noma

Photo Courtesy of Laura- Mae Noma; at religious center in Nagato, Yamaguchi, Japan

On the western coast of Japan, it’s decorated with a coastal view of blue seas and sparkling skies, Beaches, sunsets, and fresh seafood spots, and a decorated schooling system to teach people about other cultures. With this, it inspired Laura- Mae Noma to get a feel, and ambiance for the city of Itoshima-shi, Fukuoka.

Growing up in Bull Bay, St. Andrew on the island of Jamaica, this idea of coastal view didn’t see far fetched. The Bull Bay area is renowned for its black sand and its tiny surfing community. It only sparked her interest for exploring areas that are similar to where she is from, as well as areas that may be different from her own world. She later on garnered more of an affinity for other countries due to some of her high schooling as well as in college.

Besides playing with my black Labrador Marley, going to the beach, going out for karaoke and having house parties although house parties are somewhat of a foreign concept in Japan (because of tiny homes, tiny stoves or lack of ovens), but they make it work in the countryside where houses and the land they are built on have more space.

“ A senior at my all girls high school studied Japanese in high school and then studied abroad at Nagoya University in Nagoya, Japan. That blew my mind,” said Noma. I had visited countries like South Africa. But, having the gumption to go to Asia!? I decided to check Japan off my checklist’. After this bought of knowledge, she became thoroughly intrigued. As a result, after she finished her high schooling, she then went on to go to America, particularly to Wesleyan University, Connecticut. She majored in Economics and received her bachelor’s degree there. After her undergraduate career in America, she then decided to move to Japan . “I studied a great deal about the Post War Economic revival in Japan. I was interested in the development of an island country with limited natural resources. I had also studied Japanese film and literature.”

Even though, she enjoys her time in Japan, she has faced many hardships. As most Asian countries, it’s mainly homogeneous , so seeing someone, or being someone of a different race is going to receive a bit of attention. “but twelve years ago people would stare a lot. I had kids try to rub the color off my skin. Or kids that asked if I’d eaten too much chocolate. That doesn’t happen so much now.”

Moreover, even though she faced culture shock in the beginning, it didn’t stop her from staying and eventually teaching English to Japanese students. Teaching English is quite the contrary to studying and majoring in economics. How does one who’s a foreigner find work whether it’s teaching or other profession? Speaking the language makes a huge difference in terms of negotiating contracts. “The expat community is diverse and the best jobs appear to be in the tech/programming fields. However, finding jobs in community English schools does not appear to be that challenging (Japanese language requirements are low, and a Bachelor’s degree is sufficient.” She felt a sense of liberation in knowing that she learned the language fluently, and to give the gift of teaching others. “Teachers are respected. You are held to a high standard and expected to be above reproach in your professional and personal life”. This gift of teaching people another language provides the necessary means of her fulfillment in aiding positive change.

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