Lecture “Study Session Middle Eastern Africa”

On Saturday, August 1, 2015, LVC invited Mr. Yoshitaka Morinobe, who has experience working at an electrical machinery maker, and who gave a talk about “Africa · Middle East Study Group”

The content of the talk was his experiences of more than 40 years ago when Mr. Morinobe was assigned to Africa and the Middle East. Interestingly, in Nigeria, in order to make the staple food “ fufu “, housewives steamed taros, pounded them in a mortar, added hot water and kneaded it further for hours. In one Arab country, the quality of the electrical appliances was judged the heavier the better.

A horrible story was that in Africa there are flies called “tsue tsue fly” whose habit was to lay their eggs on drying clothing. If they hatch and enter the humans’ bodies, people may become ill and die. Therefore, there is a custom of ironing clothes before they are worn (burning the fly eggs with the heat of the iron)

The talk by Mr. Morinobe, who actually had valuable experiences in those places at that time, was powerful and persuasive, and we were all surprised.

A scene of pounding taros
A scene of pounding taros

Incidentally, in the centre of Nigeria nowadays, cars and motorbikes can also be seen, and there seem to be major hotels and supermarkets. Taro is sold as powder and it is now possible to make “fufu” just by adding some hot water and kneading. In wealthy families, it seems that they purchase a food processor to make their everyday lives easier. Also in Arab countries, there are some people who have smart phones these days, so there is no difference from Japan in the way of thinking about the value of electric appliances.

Meanwhile, with regard to “tsue tsue fly”, at present there are drugs that can save life if medicine is administered at the appropriate time after being stung, but any delay and it will be too late, and there aren’t any measures to eradicate the flies in the vast savanna, so it seems that threat of “tsue tsue fly” does not change even today.

In Africa people still suffer from blackouts and there are many stories of people having o wash themselves with a cold shower. Amongst these experiences, the Internet seems to be spreading, and the above description of present day life in Africa is based on the blogs of Japanese people who live locally.

Mr. Morinobe’s speech was a story about half a century ago, but I was able to learn the fact that if the country was different, even in the same era, the way of life and ideas were also different.

Now that the Internet has become widespread, it has become easier to obtain information on various regions. Still, just before we travel abroad, we realise that there are things we didn’t know or find something astonishing in the travel book, don’t we? So, even now, from a foreign person’s point of view, there may be many surprises in Japanese life and culture. At the same time, when we think “foreign people probably feel or think this way”, we may be not always correct.

The following questionnaire results presented by Mr. Morinobe will be of help as one point of view.

【Top 10 items foreigners are interested in about Japan】
1. Soba (Buckwheat noodles), 2. Sushi, 3. Ramen (Chinese origin noodles), 4. Kimono, 5. Soy sauce,
6. Hot springs, 7. Miso (Soy bean paste), 8. Bento (Boxed meal), 9. Temples, 10. Tempura

Weren’t you surprised that the top position is “soba”? Isn’t it also surprising that “Bento” is included?

I thought that we should not forget that “hospitality”, which is the purpose of LVC, starts with communication that correctly understands what others want, not prejudice. So, everybody, let’s keep this in our minds and make an effort to study foreign languages day by day.

Writer: Nishihara

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