Tuesday, July 30, 2013
One Is Never Too Old To Learn, by Maria Zeeman
Facilitating this community of memoir writers has been a joy from the beginning. When I try to tell people just how special this group is, I suspect they must think I am exaggerating. Maria’s story represents what happens when people take time to listen to one another. Walls of fear and prejudice come tumbling down. And we are sometimes blessed with the privilege of being there to witness it.
I was in a concentration camp under the Japanese regime.
During the time that has passed since then, and that sure has been many years, I learned to forget and to go on. I had several friends that were Japanese. But I would never buy anything that was made there. I even chose not to accept a better job when I found out that my supervisor was Japanese. It made me think of long past sad times. I must say that almost all my life I was too busy having a good time. I always worked hard and studied hard, wanted to be the best mom I could. But I really never took time out for just me. My inner self.
Then I retired, earlier than I wanted. Again my time went for extra work to make money for the care of my children and grandchildren.
Then one day a lady from the Netherlands came. She was looking for any survivors of the Tjidang camp in Djakarta, Indonesia during World War II. And I am one of them. She talked to me for a long time. Then she offered me a visit with a psychiatrist and he referred me to a counselor. I still see her. This Dutch organization gives me some money for the rest of my life.
I still carried a grudge that I was hurt not only by the Japanese, but also by the Dutch people. Because when we came to Holland, nobody was nice to us. I know that they went through a war too, but they weren’t skinny and hungry. A Dutch organization gave us double coupons to obtain food. Others were envious of that. And, of course, we spoke Dutch, but with no dialect. They thought we had our noses in the air.
In school they laughed and teased us because we were far behind in every subject. I was 9 years and had to do grades 1, 2, and 3 in one year. No wonder I was still undereducated for my age. I made up for it for many years to come. The older we get the more we learn and understand. This counselor helped me a lot.
Now I’m a senior and am in this writing class. When I listen to the other people in the class, I learn and take time to understand other people and how different they are. When I listen to Kay (she’s Japanese) she makes me think of her and other people from a very wise and humble standpoint. I finally felt that I could love her for what she is, Japanese or not. And I felt such a burden of relieve fall off me that I was quiet and thankful. When we left and I saw her outside, I called her and hugged her, thanking her for being Kay, wise and understanding.
Yes, even at 78 years one can still learn a lot in life.