Saturday, March 10, 2012

March 11

March 11, 2011 is a date probably many Japanese people won't forget.  It's the day when their country was hit by an earthquake, one of the biggest ones recorded recently.  It caused a lot of pain and suffering to the people in affected regions.

However, where I am right now was totally unaffected.  Due to the geographic placement of Nanzan, no one here felt the earthquake.  However, a teacher who commutes did say over there they felt it - all her precious silverware hanging on the wall fell and were ruined.  In fact, a lot of the people here did not even know there was such a huge earthquake until they saw it on the news.  A friend who worked at the convenience store said that once he heard about it, he didn't think too much about it and continued working.  It only struck them once they saw the same devastation that was being shown to the rest of the world.

Although it's been a year, there are still a lot to be done in the area.  The president for my circle (club) went a few months ago to volunteer and help with the wreckage.  He came back with pictures of places being cleaned up from the tsunami, as well as things that are being left as they are until further notice (like a bus on top of an elementary school).

According to a friend who was researching an activist group at Nanzan University, there's also a critical look at the government and what information they are censoring about the March 11 event.  I don't know really anything about it; he just mentioned it during his presentation about the group, but it does show that there are many Japanese college students who think about what is happening more seriously than some may realize.

Lastly, because Japan still needs help to clean up from last year's tsunami + earthquake + nuclear accident, a couple of international exchange students are inspired to go help and volunteer over there.  I want to go with them.  Furthermore, at Ohio State University's (my home university) Japanese Student organization made this video that shows Japanese people in every state giving encouragement to Japan:

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Volunteering at a kinder care

 Us celebrating Hina matsuri (Girl's day)

I sometimes volunteer at a kinder care home near my dorm.  It's the equivalent of a afterschool program; kids go there to play and hang out until their parents can take them home.  Next door, I noticed, is a kindergarten school where I believe they all attend.

I learned about the opportunity from a teacher of mine, who has a kid in the program.  She invited our class to go over there and help out with the kids.

The place is a small wooden house with 2 levels and a small backyard where the kids can play soccer.  There are mostly boys there, but so far I've met one girl there.  And like children, they are very very energetic.  All of them except for the girl loves Pokemon and the boy group ARASHI.  According to their caretakers (who we call おじさん [uncle, although he's more like a grandpa] and お姉さん [older sister]), they also have an interest in America and English, but that may be them just saying that.  One of the kids, Kamui, does seem a bit interested in it.

Mostly what we've done so far is watch the boys play and talk to the adults.  We also share their afternoon snack with them, and then play some more with them.  It's pretty interesting to watch them be really hyper and always super lively and up for anything.  However, they do help set the table, bring the food out, and clean up after themselves.  Furthermore, before the snack time everyone recites something that sounds like a prayer.  From what I can make out, they say thanks for the food, the people here, and the sun (or something along the lines of that).

It wasn't until the first time I saw them do that did I realize that this place might have a religious connection.  After looking around and seeing pictures of Jesus and Mary, I realized it's probably a Catholic place.  Today, I even stayed a bit longer and got to participate in their quiet time (静かな時), which was the time where they all settled down in a circle around a single red candle and listen to what the adults have to say.

Before the quiet time, everyone gathers into an adjacent room where the piano, books and toys are.  All of the curtains and doors are closed to darken the room.  Then one of the boys is made to be the official candle extinguisher, and then they light the candle.  After that, we all held hands and san a song saying goodbye to each of us: "Ojisan, sayonara.  Kamui-kun, sayonara. Tiffany-san, sayonara.  Sho-kun, sayonara . . . ".  We went around the whole circle, and then afterwards there was another pre-determined saying before we let go of each other hands and started the meeting.

Ojisan first went, and spent a great deal of time saying many things.  He shyed away from no topic, he even brought up death.  During his talk though, all the boys interrupted with their funny comments, sometimes even inciting the Ojisan to add something humorous or caused him to bring their attention back to him.  We all sat in sazen (which is sitting on your legs . . . this can be quite painful after a while), but the boys were so energetic that they would sometimes sit in a more comfortable position or even get up and move about.

Next was Oneesan's turn, and she said her piece.  She spoke a lot of about helping one another, citing events like last year's Tsunami and earthquake.  The boys then told us where they were when it happened.  After she was done they invited me to say something but I didn't know what to say or add, but I did show them later pictures that I brought with me.  If I have to say, I think the Ojisan was far more interested in them than the boys (or maybe he was being polite).

Anywho, it was a wonderful experience.  I learned that although I may act like a kid sometimes in real life, it's hard for me to play with kids.  However, I still would like to go by there again - it's really enjoyable to be over there.  A very good experience.