At different times throughout my life, I've wondered what it would be like to be unable to read. What would it be like to look at a billboard or a street sign and have no idea what it said. The way lines curve and flow into distinct shapes that make distinct words and ideas our minds can comprehend has always been a delightful mystery to me. I've been able to read for as long as I can remember, so I don't have much of a frame of reference for illiteracy. All this will change in exactly one month. One month from today, I - with all my advanced education and professional experience- will not be able to walk into a store and ascertain exactly what is in each can on the shelves without assistance. I will not be able to read a simple street sign or a billboard.
While I'm sure my lack of fluency in Japanese will provide many humorous stories for this blog, I'm not entirely looking forward to this aspect of my life in Japan. Being a voracious reader - both for fun and for information - I really dislike the thought of not bing "in-the-know."
Now, I know that I will never fully know what it is like to be illiterate. I will still have the advantage of English translations and access to English language materials. But this upcoming year will be the closest I've ever been to illiteracy. I hope that it will give me empathy for those right here in the US who don't know how to read, or who struggle with reading. Being able to read is truly a valuable gift.