Thursday, 31 January 2013

Adventure hats, Communication, & the Future

Well I have failed at my promise to write every week. Therefor I will write two posts this week so stay tuned.
Now on to our regular scheduled program…

Last weekend, we had a general consultation for Non-Japanese of the Tohoku region. Throughout the weekend they discussed problems that come from being a foreigner living in Japan. The language, lack of jobs because they are not Japanese, the inability to fully communicate with their husband, abusive spouses, government , and not being able to understand the Japanese that is on official documents...just to mention a few. In groups they wrote down all the problems they have faced as individuals and then tried to figure out the core of those problems. Then the next step was to find a way to resolve those issues. Some of the ideas we will submit to the local government like having translations of all documents, having translators available to answer legal questions, and having exchange cultural events so that an understanding of one anothers' cultures can be appreciated.  Three of the groups represented would even like to build migrant support centers.

While the meetings were going on my fellow coworker, Shota, and I took care of thirteen kids. It was a long weekend for everyone. With the kids we played lots of games and made various crafts. One of those crafts was an adventure hat. I had them make a hat out of newspaper and then they were told to write down where they wanted to go in the world. Some of the kids were too young to understand that there is a world outside of Japan so they wrote down Tokyo. One kid wrote down Italy and then drew a Brazilian flag. I had to prompt some of the others with various country names but eventually everyone had a place they were going to in their adventure hats. Love seeing what kids will come up with.

 Now that weekend is over with we have to focus on the next steps for foreigners in Japan. This means writing proposals to governments, defining what it is they need, and figuring out ways to start their migrant support centers. It’s going to be exciting to see these discussions become more than just talk.  

Thanks for tuning in,

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Bananas, Slippers, & Hope

We had a wonderful weekend here in Tohoku. On Saturday, my fellow colleague, JP along with two Filipino friends of the project, Ging and Charity, went to a youth center like facility. We were invited to give a presentation on the Philippines for the children. The kids spend most of their Saturday at this center. They play games and learn about the world around them. The center frequently invites foreigners to come talk to the kids about their countries. This is so the kids grasp an understanding of the world outside of Japan and how we are all connected in some way.
JP and Ging told the kids fun facts about the Philippines. Such as, the Philippines is comprised of over 1000 islands and most of the bananas that we eat in Japan come from the Philippines. Ging showed the kids two traditional types of dances, the Tboli and the Tinikling. The kids also got to participate in the Tinikling dance with Charity. Basically you have to keep in time while dancing between two moving bamboo poles. Charity then taught the kids an outside game of tag that involves throwing your shoes at a can. Since it was too cold to play outside we played it inside replacing the can with a plastic bottle and the shoes with slippers. The kids had a blast! I think that these kids will now be annoying their mothers with this game at home. We had a great time and might go back sometime soon to help with other Saturday activities. 

 On Thursday evenings two friends of mine from the office and I go to choir rehearsal at Sendai Christ Church. Due to scheduling and my inability to get to the church early enough to robe up (it is a 40 minute walk from my apt and I try not to take the subway), this past Sunday was the first time I actually sang during the service. I am so used to standing out in a crowd in Japan that I forget how much I stick out among a crowd of Japanese. So on Sunday when parishioners I know came up to me with wide-eyes asking if I was singing today, I was a little thrown off.

The next day we met at 7:20am to go to Koriyama. The church there had recently finished rebuilding the hall that had been damaged by the earthquake. On Monday they had a blessing ceremony for the new hall. People were recognized for their contributions and speeches were given. One of the women, that was a huge part of designing the building and fundraising, passed away in December. The completion of the building was something she was looking forward to. They placed a picture of her in the hall so that she would be a continued presence during the party. In honor of her life and work in the church, we sang Mrs. Michiko Hashimoto’s favorite hymn as a closing to the celebration. The choir sang three songs as well. All of which had some, if not all, verses in English. It was fun practicing these songs with the choir. As we were driving back in the 6 inches of snow that accumulated that day I realized that the rebuilding of this church hall is a sign of hope. It is a sign that people are recovering and able to look to the future. We weren't just celebrating a building we were celebrating life and all that is to come.

Thank you for tuning in,

Monday, 7 January 2013

Friends, Monkeys, & the Great Buddha

Well I returned Saturday from a long vacation. I visited several cities, one of them being Nagoya where I worked last year. I was able to visit many friends, sadly not all. I had a very traditional Japanese New Year's. My wonderful friend's mother made us soba noodles. We managed to stay up late enough to go to the temple and shrine in the first hour of 2013.

In Japan, New Year’s Day is the most important holiday for family. I tried my best not to intrude on my friend’s family day but failed greatly at it. I ended up eating breakfast, lunch, and dinner at a three different friend’s houses. They were all delicious and the company was wonderful!

On the firs,t I headed to Kyoto. One of my very kind friends from Sendai offered me his parent’s guest room for the night. The next day some of my fellow YASCers Jenny and Doug along with Jenny’s sister and another missionary from the Methodist church came into Kyoto. On the 3rd we traveled around Kyoto. We visited a monkey park, the famous Bamboo groves, and several shrines. That night we were invited to my friend’s house for dinner with his family. We were exhausted by the time we made it back to the hostel.

The next day I began my two-day trek back to Sendai. I decided to stay the night in Tokyo and spend the next morning finally seeing the second largest Buddha in Japan. It was huge! I even got to climb inside. While I enjoyed seeing this Buddha I liked the Hasedara Temple more. It was absolutely beautiful.

Soba dinner!

Osechi traditional New Year meal

great group of people


I eventually made it to Sendai late that night. I am very excited about 2013 and what crazy things this year might bring. I hope you all had a wonderful start to the New Year!

Katie Young