Sunday, 29 September 2013

Farts, Music Boxes & Peace

The last big events for the summer was the Peace forum.  It is a camp for kids with the focus of peace and understanding. Over the 3 days many teachers came and taught the kids various things. Since the aim of the program is to create understanding about the world they invite foreigners as guests and campers if possible. This year there were three kids from the Philippines. One of the boys was the son of Deacon Glen and he spoke Japanese fluently. The other two could only speak a little Japanese. Therefore my friend Takuji and I were interpreters throughout the week.  

One of the teachers gave a math lesson that was symbolic of the way people are. Another teacher taught the kids how to make prisms. We were taught magic tricks and sang songs. One of the songs was Do Re Mi. It was the first time I ever sang it in Japanese. The teacher also taught us a song about farting. I am not kidding you. I got to sing a song in Japanese about farts. The best part was that I had to interpret it into English so one of the Filipino children could understand why we were laughing so hard. So there I am trying to keep a straight face while telling the child how the singer of the song was trying desperately to hold in his fart on a bus but couldn’t. It was a hilarious. 

Besides the singing, my favorite talk was about a music box. Have you ever seen the metal wind-up music players that you put into music boxes? Well one of the teachers played the music player for the children. The sound was pretty but very quiet. He told the students “if he found a good object, the music might become louder.” He then proceeded to place the player on the concrete walls and the plastic table. Both made the music sound awful. Then he placed in on the wooden doors. This made the player play the most beautiful music. The moral that I took away from the lesson was that there are people/things in this world that bring out the worst in us. But when you find those good people/things, they have the ability to bring out the best. They have the ability to make us play the most beautiful music in the world. In this life we should search for these good things and when we find them stick to them.

The last day we ended the camp with a feast of food that the children made. Each dish was from a separate country. A Korean Dance group also performed a traditional dance for us. Right before we said our final goodbyes Fr. Nomura gave a talk on why they host the Peace forum every year. He started out by saying that there are many countries in this world, many people of different colors, and many languages. Because of these differences people create borders, to build up walls to keep their possessions and cultures, which then lead to misunderstandings which then leads to wars. So how do we live among all the differences? The answer is peace. I know this seems like a nice but impossible idea. Fr. Nomura said that kids don’t understand borders or differences. Kids understand peace. Yes arguments happen but they are quickly resolved. As we grow up we are taught about differences. The hope of having these forums is to encourage the kids to look at the world with peaceful understanding. To look at the world as if there were no borders. Yes we are all different but deep down we are the same. We have the same needs and wants. We need to focus on our similarities rather than our differences. We need to find the good things in this life so that we can make beautiful music together. It is not easy but it must be done.

A visit to Osaka Castle

Depending on which stream of the waterfall (the building is built around) you
will either gain a long life, luck in love, or luck in school. Not sure which I drank from so we shall see

Getting ready for a summer festival with my good friend Ayako Japanese style.

Ran into one of my favorite students at the festival.

My church friends surprised me with a trip to Kyoto so that we
could all see each other one last time before I return home.

Saying goodbye on trains...

I wanted to let you all know that I will officially be returning stateside on October 9. I don't have exact plans for the future (if any one know of temporary jobs, I am all ears). However, I do know that catching up with family, friends, and my church families are in order, not to mention eating all the delicious Tex-Mex I have missed. For the next week and a half I will be enjoying as much of the time I have with the people I have come to know and love in Japan. Not looking forward to saying all the goodbyes that are a head of me but all good things have to come to an end, as they say. I just wish that wasn't so hard. I hope you all have a wonderful weekend!


Monday, 2 September 2013

Math, Fires, & Awareness

Ok so 24 hours to me is really about 3 weeks time for you. Sorry for the VERY  slow update.

We had our four-day long day camp at the youth center several weeks ago. The first day was game day. One of my favorites from the day was a game where the kids rolled across the ground while one of their friends was wheeled across their backs. Think conveyor belt with children. The leaders got to demonstrate…it was AWESOME! Each group also made origami balls. Everyone in the group wrote  their hopes for the week on a piece of paper. Then we folded those papers into a origami decoration.

The second day we went to the river. On the way to the river I sat near one of my favorite 6 year olds. Her camp nick name was Usagi-chan, which means bunny. Half way through the journey she started asking me math questions. Ok she’s 6 years old, and not only does she know how to add and subtract, she can also multiply. We had so much fun asking each other math questions. At one point I asked her “what is 7 X 7?” She looked at me, repeated the question, looked down at her hands, doubled checked the question and then proceed to count on her fingers. I turned away giving her space. Five minutes later she shouts “49!” I was very tempted to burst into laughter instead I gave her a high-five for her hard work.  

After having lunch and a little break, we splashed around in the river. I don’t know how often you play in rivers that are too low to swim in, with children under the age of 10 but let me tell you it is more entertaining than you can imagine. The really little kids were obsessed with catching tadpoles. I think spent half of my time pointing out groups of tadpoles and the other half having splashing wars. I tried my best not to get too competitive when the kids would splash me. It took all my might not to swamp them with splashes. Dad you would have been proud of my self-control.

On the third day each group made their own lunch over a fire. I don’t know what I did, but this year and last my group wanted to make pasta. Just so you know, pasta for 14 people, made over an open fire is not the most convenient thing to make. I was weary of the recipe when it called for the use of ketchup but in the end it was surprisingly good. Also I would like to brag that all the kids in my group LOVE veggies. They ate every vegetable in sight.

That day, the older kids slept over at the youth center, but before the younger kids went home we sang songs and played games around the camp fire. Then listened to Fr. Nomura give this year’s “Peace message.” He started out by writing numbers on the board, like the number of kids at camp and his own age. He asked them what the significance of the numbers were. Then he wrote the number 18,550 and 15,500. The first was the total number of people killed or missing after the Great Eastern Earthquake and Tsunami. The second was the number of confirmed deaths. Then he wrote the number of people displaced by the disaster, then the number of people living in temporary housing. Then he told us the number of adults (24,000) and children (30,000) that have been affected by the radiation. Fr. Nomura told the kids about how these children are not allowed to play outside for fear of kicking up the dust and inhaling the radiation. He showed them how to use a Geiger counter and explained what the “safe” levels of radiation are in relation to the levels in an x-ray room. The kids in those areas  have to have a Geiger counter on them at all times.

I was blown away that he was going into so much detail with the kids. Then I realized these things need to be said. In most Japanese households and I am sure in most houses in the world this disaster has been put out of our minds. It is something that happened two years ago to people that we don’t know. It is completely understandable that people have moved on to worrying about different things. But the problem is there are still thousands of people being affected by the radiation. Thousands that cannot put it out of their minds. It is their reality. Hopefully this talk stuck with the children and created an opportunity to talk about this problem with their parents. I pray that it opened up conversations for understanding and possibly even action of some kind.

Cooking bread on a stick over an open fire. The night
activity before sending the kids to bed...legit!
I joined everyone for breakfast the next day. Since I live above the youth center and there was limited space I did not get the pleasure of staying up until 2am trying to get the kids to sleep…darn the luck. The last day of camp we decorated reusable bags and had "group time." During that time we unfold our origami decorations that made on the first day. We then traded those papers around the group and each person wrote a note on another person’s folded paper. My kids were adamant about writing on everyone’s papers. It was great to see.

While we were all exhausted by the end of the camp it was hard to say goodbye to all the kids.