Today was my first of five days of translation and interpreting research. We checked in before lunch, I ate with many new faces, and attended 4 hours of interesting lectures based on the meaning, atmosphere, and note-taking for interpreters.
Our guest speaker was an old man named Mr. Komatsu, who struggled to speak through the pain from pulling his back the day before, but in true samurai spirit, came to lecture us anyhow. He talked of many things I won't bore you with, but at the peak of his first lecture before all 115 students, he gave a hearty speech of how diligence and care-planning allowed him to translate, only one month ago, for none other than the Dalhi Lama, despite conditions where it was difficult to hear the man speak. He closed his speech with a heart-warming resolution in which "His holiness" gave him a scarf with Tibetan written, although it was made by Chinese people who, according to the Lama had no idea what it said, and stuck his tongue out in irony.
To any American this may seem like a harmless tale of someone who scraped through a tough time at work, but to the Chinese students this sounded like an endorsement of the Lama by Mr. Komatsu. In fact, Mr. Kotasu, whose speech was entirely in Japanese, only said that the Dalhi Lama was an interesting character and quite friendly, but when he asked for questions, two students felt the need to defend China. The first did not so much ask a question as clarify that the Dalhi Lama represented many anti-Chinese political views. Mr. Komatsu then carefully explained that while his Lamaness does hold those views, the speech which he translated for him concerned only religious and non-political views. Then there was the second Chinese student, who asked, rather pointedly, that Mr. Komatsu (who after speaking for over an hour and a half had demnostrated considerable knowledge of current world affairs) understood that Tibet was part of China, and the Dalhi Lama's comment regarding China and Tibet as being linked by that scarf, ignored the fact that Tibet was linked to China as a part of their country.
Most of us unrelated folk cringed at the awkwardness, but Mr. Komatsu calmly explained that his account had nothing to do with his own political beliefs (in which he had previously even gone as far as to subtly encouraged more foreign, including Chinese, immigration to Japan), and that what the Dalhi Lama said only struck him as friendly and well-meaning.
I take no side in the matter, but it was indeed a fiercely interesting experience for this CIR (Co-ordinator of International Relations).
After that I met a Korean first-year CIR named Baek (written with the kanji for "white" of all things :p) and for the reception dinner we shared drinks with my English friend Nick and talked about many things from our respective countries. All in all the day was more international than....well, the movie "The International".