Saturday, August 17, 2013

Day 13, 14, and 15 - Meeting the Mayor, Iwate food, Koiwai Farm

August 11th - Too Much Brain Power and Meeting the Mayor

Today we completely stayed in the hotel. We spent the day discussing with our RT, and then mixing members for intertable presentations, and also having some fun with special topics. (One of which was "If all the Executive Commitee members were put in a survival situation, who would come out alive at the end?"). I would try to explain the story of survival we came up with but without the audience knowing the EC's real personalities it's kind of pointless.

While we stayed in the hotel the whole day, it certainly was not a boring day. The knowledge that floated around the room nonstop was contagious and at the end of the day, I'm sure our brain muscles grew even more....again. Wish you were there!

For dinner we hosted a reception where the Mayor of Nagasaki and other prominent government officials attended. We networked with them as well as other sponsors and had a great time learning about each other all the while eating amazing food. It was nice to see how we matured from being terrified kids to confident young adults. I certainly feel miles away from the teenager I was when I began this conference.

Afterwards we had reflection in a huge Tatami room. The stories we shared with each other only proved to bring us closer together.

August 12th

Travel Day

Bus to airport to Nagasaki. All in business formal. Oh yeah. Taking up half the small domestic airplane in our business formal wear, I'm sure we were quite a sight.

When we arrived to Nagasaki we headed straight to a reception where the Head of Iwate greeted us and welcomed us.(I still can't believe how prestigious JASC is.) A violinist played both the Japanese and American national anthem and we sang respectively to the melody. The Japanese voice was certainly louder than the American one. We were supposed to meet our host families at the reception but some of the families couldn't make it, including mine. But it was okay, it just made me even more excited to meet them later on. By the way, we had some amazing Chinese food made with the best seafood from Iwate. I think I gained 5 pounds that night. (Tried every single dessert on the table <3) *drools* =D

We finally reached our lodge at night where we settled into our comfortable tatami rooms. Girls were on the third floor while guys were on the second. Lugging the luggage (hah) up the floors at the end of a traveling day was tiring but I'm glad we all helped each other out. Another public bath site, but by now most of us are used to it and comfortable with each other.

Ready for tomorrow!

August 13th

We went to Koiwai Farm today!!!! Koiwai is a very famous brand in Japan and is known for their milk and dairy products. Oh, I also forgot to mention that right now in Japan it is Obon. Obon is a week where people get time off from work and return to spend time with their grandparents and family. Koiwai farm is like an amusment park for kids with horse riding, sunflower maze, human hamster balls rolling off hills, human hamster balls in pools of water, archery, souvenir shop, massive open green field, huge playground, and *sigh*, I wish I was a kid. All the local families there looked so happy and all the kids so cute, I had fun just
watching them. (While drinking Koiwai milk, eating 2 Koiwai Cheesecakes, and enjoying Koiwai ice cream) So worth the weight I'm gaining. Ofcourse all the dessert came after we had a BBQ lunch. This time it was a BBQ at a restaurant in the Koiwai farm. We had something called Yaki-niku, lamb meat. So fresh and yummy and ughhhh, so lucky. Top grade meat man, top grade meat. (Sorry vegetarians!)

After our free time around the amusement place, we had a guided tour by the most energetic funny tour guide ever. At random moments he would pop into this awkward pose and act cute. He's got to be at least 40 years old. We learned about the sustainable energy usage on the farm, saw a natural "refrigerator" (a little hill that uses the idea that heat goes up and cold air goes down - it can get to 5 degree celsius!), cows, historic farm buildings, and at the very last stop a beautiful path full of hydrangeas.

"Beautiful path full of hydrangeas" doesn't even begin to describe the last place. Standing at the beginning of the path and looking forward, it looked like a perfect beautiful painting. Tall trees that seemed to transcend to the sky embraced the single dirt path as if offering its protection. Hydrangeas - blue, purple, white, and pink Hydrangeas, lined the path that we walked. Other little beautiful flowers decorated the path as well and me being the romantic I am couldn't help but to collect the beautiful flowers and make a little bouqet. I was absolutely in love. The path was like a poem in itself.

The day ended and we headed back to our lodge, where we had dinner. I will never be able to understand how three little women can manage to make meals for all 70+ of us. I am deeply thankful to them for the yummy food!

After dinner a couple of us wanted to explore, so we decided to head to a book-off. A place where they sell secondhand books, manga, dvds, and what not. We were a lucky bunch because they were in the midst of a sale where everything was basically half off. I bought 11 Fairy Tail manga books for 13 dollars total. I still have no idea how I'm going to have room in my suitcase. Oh well. We had so much fun exploring the rural area and just talking with each other. Despite walking at night, I felt very safe.

Day 12 - Shipyard, Free time, Unwelcomed Surprise

August 10th

For the second half of Nagasaki, we got to stay at Hotel Nisshoukan. It is atop of a mountain that overlooks the city. The night view is ranked as one of the top three views in the world. It was beautiful. Breathtaking. And I was lucky enough to have very bad eyesight so that when I took my glasses off, the little sharp lights burst into colorful cottonballs that changed in shape according to where I focused on. Without my glasses I had little depth perception and so it seemed like I was looking at a painting blotched with colors of different sharpness. The buildings faded into the background and the land became the night sky.

Today we got to tour the Nagasaki Mitsubishi Shipyard and hear a lecture about Nagasaki at the City Library. As we toured the shipyard, we saw step by step how a tiny piece of metal melded together with another and another, could create a monster ship. Surprisingly, we saw little workers but instead a shipyard full of automated technology.
The lecture was given by Tsutomu Mizota, a distinguished professor at Nagasaki University of Foreign Studies. He entered the Ministry of Education in 1970 and was apopointed to UNESCO and UNICEF and worked for the United Nations Heaquarters as a representative for the Asia/Oceania region. The lecture was fairly general and tailored towards our roundtable issues. I found myself quite disinterested.

Oh and today we ate lunch under the famous bridge in Nagasaki. I can't remember the name at the moment but oh my goodnesss I got to walk on top of the bridge and the sight I got to see... To see the river-like harbor snake itself carefully into the city, and then on the other side see it engulf the ocean...

In the afternoon we got to be tourists. We started off in Dejima, the only open port for trade during the era when Japan decided to close off its country. The history was fun to learn and there was a very nice lady there selling ice cream in the shape of a rose. It tasted and looked incredible. Next we walked to the Dejima Warf where there was a ship that looked awesomely like a pirate ship. We walked the coast looking at yummy food and taking pictures and being tourists all the way. Throughout the trip we had a translator/local with us who we know as Taku. He led the way and took us to THE restaurant of origin for Chanpon (A ramen noodle+chinese noodle kind of mix) and it was SO GOOD. And honestly, I'm beginning to think that the idea of Japanese people serving small portions is a myth. After that we walked towards Clover Garden. It was night at that time so we got to see the beautiful flowers under soft moonlight coupled with a view of the entire city from atop. Being so busy 90% of the time, we really enjoyed our free time.

Our happy day suddenly turned sad when we found out that one of the Japadeles had to leave the program because he was very sick and needed to go to the hospital to rest. He had been sick a few days back and we were all worried but we had no idea how serious it would become. We cried. It didn't occur to me how bonded we were as a team until this happened. We held each other in comfort and took times saying good byes. We spent hours just huddled together comforting the Japadele that had to leave and telling him that "Once a Jascer, always a Jascer". He's not leaving JASC, he's always going to be a part of it. He's only temporary taking a break from the events. I felt strongly that we will always have him in our heart no matter what we were doing. I think by then, we all realized how lucky we were to be in JASC and participate it.

At night, we decided to make a film for the Japadele leaving and so each and every one of us were filmed giving him a message from our heart. The video ended up being an hour and a half long. I hope our feelings went through to the Japadele.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Day 11 - Three Seconds Was All It Took

Atomic bombing. What's the first thing that comes to your mind when you hear that?

World War Two. Death. Justification that the A-bomb ended the war and saved more people than it killed?

Today was the day of the Nagasaki Peace Ceremony. Held annually, the Peace Ceremony commemorates the atomic bombing that happened 68 years ago. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and representatives from several countries including America attended this event. Broadcasted nationwide, the Peace Ceremony is limited to only those invited. While our whole JASC was unable to go, we had 2 representatives from each side attend as well as our 2 chairs. In total 6 people got to attend the ceremony. The people that got to go definitely deserved it. Some of them have personal stories about how the A-bomb had effected their lives, or some of them have watched the event every year and felt that it was where they belonged. Either way, the rest of us watched the Peace Ceremony on screen in a big hall/stage about 10 minutes away from the actual event.

The event, exactly like the itinerary planned, happened like this:

10:35 Chorus by A-bomb Survivors - Just knowing about what they had to go through and then hearing their strong powerful voice altogether, my throat constricted and my heart became heavy. At this moment, I realized that no longer will I be able to go back to measuring the damage the A-bomb has done to just the lives that were lost on that day during World War 2. I will explain in much detail my feelings and opinions at the end of this day's blog.

10:40 Commencement

10:40 Laying to rest of the list of victims who died this past year

10:42 Opening Words

10:46 Water Offering - To all the victims in the last moment of their lives who cried out begging for water

10:48 Flower Offering - Where representatives from different countries offered their acknowledgements

11:02 Silent Prayer - Exact moment when the bomb exploded. All it took was 3 seconds to destroy everything.

11:03 Nagasaki Peace Declaration - "Humankind invented and produced this cruel weapon. Humankind has even gone so far as using nuclear weapons on both Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Humankind has repeatedly conducted nuclear tests, contaminating the earth. HUmankind has commited a great many mistakes. This is why we must on occasion reaffirm the pledges we have made in the past that must not be forgotten and start anew." - Mayor of Nagasaki Tomihisa Taue (Who we all got to meet the next day when he graced us with his presence at our JASC reception)

As much as American's braced themselves for incoming hatred and blame, the Peace Ceremony shows no trace of that at all. Humankind, peace, starting anew. It touched my heart to know that the Peace Ceremony is less about struggling with the past and more about creating a future.

11:13 Pledge for Peace - So much desire for peace. How devastating must the bombs have been...

11:18 Children's Chorus - The young generation being involved showed the desire for this tradition and history to be kept alive.

11:23 Address

11:38 Chorus "A Thousand Paper Cranes" - A thousand paper cranes symbolizes peace. Hand folded and attached together, I felt that these cranes showed the diligence and patience the Japanese have showed to the world of the nuclear arms race.

11:43 Closing Words

After the Peace Ceremony we attended the Nagasaki A-bomb museum. Several items that were effected by the bomb were displayed. I saw glass embedded into cement staircases. I saw glass bottles that melded together in mid-air. I saw a metal bridge bent to a point where I couldn't even tell it was a bridge. I saw coins that all melted together. All of this, which I couldn't believe happened in just 3 seconds.

Of course. That is not all that I saw. A fair warning that this paragraph might make you feel uncomfortable. I saw the shadow of a ladder and a man traced onto a wall, where they once stood by but entirely vanished. I saw, a mother and her child scorched entirely black. I saw, a man with half his face burned to a point where all you see is raw red meat. I saw, a "nurse" cutting peeled skin off a man's back. I saw a young boy who had a dead baby strapped to his back, waiting in line without tears, so that the baby could be cremated or burned. I saw the aftermath of people crying in agony for help and water, of people suffering from flashburns, of people grieving for family, of people covered in blood from debris thrown at them like the glass thrown at the cement staircase, of people who had experienced hell.

Every picture, every story, every artifact, pieced together in my head and at once I was a confused lone observer in the middle of the anguish and chaos. I saw myself stand in the center of the city, and looking at all that had died and been destroyed. Even as I write this, how can I not cry in sympathy to the pain?

In 3 seconds, the world they knew disappeared. Everything they loved disappeared. Everything.

If the museum was not enough, a storyteller (Yoshiro Yamawaki) came and told of us his personal experience in the A-bomb. In summary, the day the bomb dropped, his mother and his little sisters and brothers were safe because they have already evacuated to another city. His father was at work right near where the bomb was dropped, and the storyteller was at home while his brother was working near home. The storyteller and his brother were safe because they were indoors and safe from the flash burn that would have certainly peeled their skin away. However, they waited for their father and when he didn't come home, they decided to go look for him at his work. At that time they had no idea what happened and how close their father had been to the bomb, so they still held hope that he was alive. On their way they saw many gut wrenching scenes and when they finally arrived to their father's worksite they were told that his father was "over there". When they saw their father they realized that he was dead. They didn't know what to do at that point but to try and cremate/burn their father's body. They put the body in the flames and decided to head home and come back the next day. When they came back, they realized that the fire did little to cremate but instead burned the body into an even more gruesome sight. The brothers decided that perhaps they could take the head and bury it to put the soul to peace. When they tried to take the head however, the brains spilled out and the brothers ran away scared out of their minds. They never told the story to their mother of siblings.

On this day, I realized how little I knew about nuclear bombing and its effects on Nagasaki, Hiroshima, and Japan. In high school history class I was taught about the facts of the bomb. The atomic bomb killed less people than the air bombing in Tokyo. The atomic bomb ended the war. The atomic bomb saved more people from dying. When given a chance to debate, it was almost to easy to justify dropping the bomb. I learned today however, the atomic bomb isn't just a part of history and facts, but it is also a part of the present culture of Japan.

We think that the bomb lasted 3 seconds and once over that was where the majority of all the damage was done. Cancer hit the strongest 90 days after the bombing. Even the people not present at the bombing, family members and relief helpers who went to Nagaski and Hiroshima to help were exposed to radiation. Can you imagine thinking you have survived the bombing only to walk into cancer and death from radiation? The children of those that had been exposed to radiation were discriminated against, because little was known about radiation and nobody wanted to catch the disease. People didn't just vanish and disappear in 3 seconds, they suffered for their whole life traumatized by the scene of destruction.

Debating about whether or not we should have nuclear bombs is not my purpose. But rather, I wish that in America we were taught more fully of what we did to Japan. I wish that we paid tribute and condolences to what had happened there. I wish we knew exactly what had happened and learned more thoroughly about the pain and traumatization and immensity of the atomic bomb. I wish at least, we were taught that no matter how justified the bombing was, we would close our eyes and give a silent prayer to all those that suffered.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Day 8,9, and 10 - Forbidden Palace, Tea, and Mr. Rock

Day 8

Today we went to the Kyoto Geihinkan. It is basically a guest house that can only

be used by extremely high ranked foreign officials. President Bush stayed there

and the guest house has only been used for a total of 85 times. The public isn't

generally allowed in there, so we were very lucky to have this chance. The guest

house showcased a blend of japanese traditional architecture and modern

architecture. At first glance it seemed that the guest house has very little, but

with deeper explanation I realized that every little detail is put there for a

reason and made with utmost care. From massive doors all carved from one 700 year

old tree, to handcrafted designs to cover places that showed nails, everything

was made with time and extreme care. Enclosed in the middle of the guest house is

a beautiful pond complete with a bridge, strategically placed rocks, greenery,

massive koi fish, and even a small boat. The pond can be seen by all the rooms

that surround it. The traditional ideal of blending architecture with nature

certainly blew my mind away. The guest house was surrounded by trees and greenery

and it was as if it was a palace hidden in the forest. Although the trees were on

the outside of the Geihinkan, they can be seen even when we are inside and on the

bridge of the pond. Essentailly, the trees became the background of each view. It

was as if the palace was in its own little world. Although we had to wear new

white socks and gloves and were told to not touch anything at all (not even the

walls), they gave us a few chances to take pictures. It was definitely an

experience I'll never forget.

Afterwards, we went to Ura-senke to learn about tea ceremonies. This Ura-Senke

place is run by the 16th generation grandmaster. So it's a tradition that has

been passed down for a very, very, long time. We listened to a quick lecture and

soon got to experience a tea ceremony. We of course, sat Japanese style on our

knees and despite being told "it's ok you can sit cross legged", we were a

stubborn bunch that wanted to do it the "right way". I was lucky enough to sit

directly in front of the person who was going through the precise motions of

making tea. He moved with such grace and peace, I found myself being lost in his

motions and calmness. For a moment it was as if time slowed down for me.

Eventually, we were served sweets and I was brought back into the hectic reality

of life. But at that one moment, I think I was finally able to understand why the

Grandmaster was invited to perform several tea ceremonies in the name of peace at

conferences around the world.

Day 9

Our time in Kyoto came to an end, and we moved on to Nagasaki. We arrived at

Seishounen no Tenichi, a place high up in the mountains and surrounded completely

by nature. Strict rules were placed upon us and some people felt uncomfortable

and restricted. Oh and did I mention we had to use a public bath? Bath time was

only between 8:30-10 and at 10:30 we needed to be in our rooms. Personally I was

fine with the place. It wasn't luxurious, didn't have A/C, not the best location,

strict, and not perfect in anyway at all. But, it had all the necessities half

the world prays for. We were spoiled college kids. Spoiled and whining, we didn't

give a moments thought about what we did have. I feel that the lot of us was

disappointed by the lack of free time and fun we wanted in Japan, but then again,

what is our purpose for being here?

At night we had a BBQ, talent show, and then a little basketball time. For a

moment we forgot about where we were at, and focused on the wonderful people we

were with.

Day 10

Today we went to the Sasebo U.S. Navel Base where Captain Rock (lol) gave us a

lecture. I couldn't really get into his lecture nor the Q&A because all I could

focus on was how amazing he was at avoiding any politically debatable comments.

His way with words was crazy.

In the afternoon we traveled to Huistenbosch. Look it up online. Please. It's

like a tiny country within Japan. We were there to learn about how

environmentally sustainable the theme park is, but I don't think our mind was

really there. We didn't get to explore the entire park, but we did get a couple

hours of free time. A little shopping and some free ice cream from a nice store

owner later, we hopped on back to the bus to go back to our mountain.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Day 5,6 and 7 - Kyoto Adventures and brain muscles

Day 5
It's almost impossible to find time to write in this blog. I'm not going to go through the whole schedule but I'll talk about the highlighted events.

Today we basically had a very short introduction of each member and then traveled off to the Opening Ceremony at Shiran-Kaikan. We took public transportation and unlike the American opening this one was far more formal. We apparently received a message of opening written by Minister Abe himself  (delivered by someone else) but I suspect he just had someone write it for him. Afterwards we had networking and then RT time again. It's impossible to capture all the conversations and issues that are talked about so I'm thinking of opening another blog to specifically talk about the important issues we have discussed. The majority, and the focus of JASC is basically the conversations about the important political/social/economic issues we discuss anyways. At the very end of the day we had skit presentations. Our American skit that we put together in 2.5 hours was about 25 minutes long while the Japanese side had a 40 minute skit. The American version had a more...loose? plot while the Japanese clearly had a planned plot and line to follow. Either way, they were both amazing and hilarious and geezes I just love these people.

Day 6
Today we went to the Shimogamo Shrine which is a labeled as a World Heritage. We were lucky enough to witness a part of a wedding at the Shrine even though it was not wedding season. The traditional garb and procession was certainly a sight to see. In addition we also had a chance to worship and be "purified", it was a great experience. Oh, and we also encountered mosquito bites today. Nasty itching going on.

I forgot to mention that before we took a tour of the Shrine we had a chance to eat their tradition Kyoto bento. Can I just say that it was a privilege that even the Japadeles were amazed and  felt lucky too? I can't imagine how much it costs to be able to eat such traditional food at such a place. The bento was beautiful and tasted wonderful. Art in every taste.

After Shimogamo Shrine we had RT travel time, so we decided to visit the Kyoto center where the city was just bustling with people. We visited this tiny little street that contained tons of high quality restaurants and also walked along the Kamo river. The river was so well kept that kids were playing in the water. Compared to the green toxic water of rivers in Taiwan cities, the Kamo river was sparkling. I wonder how they keep it like that?

We bought dinner with our stipend and I happened to get this salmon rice roll sushi looking thing that tasted super amazing. Sigh. I want to document all the food I eat here but I think it would just make me miss it too much when I reread all this.

Day 7

So much discussing today I think my brain muscles are growing at 10x the normal rate. We went to the Research Institute for Humanity and Nature in Kyoto and had a quick tour before two of the staff members gave us a lecture about some environmental issues and possible solutions. He mentioned holocene and anthropocene, as well as the black mountain approach to the growing environmental issues. In addition there were also examples of ecovillages that seemed very successful but in my eyes were idealistic utopias that omit too many real factors to work. I'll probably blog about argument another time.

Afterwards we went to the Kansai Seminar House to visit the high school version of JASC known as....well I forgot the name but they are also a combination of Japadeles and Amadeles who discuss important issues. These kids are so cute and smart it just puts a smile on my face. Anyways, we split into groups and discussed with them the issues that revolve around the US military base in Okinawa.

Had dinner at the dining hall back in our dorms and boy... A simple ramen that was about $4 just tasted so good...

The remaining time slots are filled with transportation time, RT time, and food time. All of which contain the most profound discussions and debates that really is the point of this JASC trip and I just can't find the time to articulate in this blog at this moment.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Day 3 and 4 - Getting Serious and Getting to Japan

Day 3

A typical day?

8:00-8:45AM Breakfast!
Berkeley food is ok. Not incredible but not as bad as Villanova. Good thing cereal never changes.

9:00-11:30AM Networking Session
The EC (Executive Commitee) members showed us how to exchange business cards and enter/leave a conversation. They taught things like having to bow deeper than the person we are exchanging business cards with and also having to give the card beneath theirs. It was educational and fun at the same time. Business cards... Man I'm getting old.

11:50-1:00PM Lunch
Cheeseburger was surprisingly good. Good break in the day to get know each other more.

1:30PM-3:30PM Tomodachi Event

More than 100 high school students from Japan arrived to meet us at Berkeley. Each round table split up and took a group of students with them to teach them about what we discuss in our RT. In return, the students shared their stories with us - stories about the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami that followed. Needless to say, I felt that they taught us more than we to them. Stories varied from students who volunteered to help out, to stories of watching their hometown wash away. A girl even pulled up a photo on her Ipad to show us the aftermath. We were shocked speechless. I don't know about the other members but I was definitely moved to tears.

A recurring theme though, was that they were still struggling with rebuilding their lives. Temporary homes, schools, and debris still remain even after 2 years. They say that even though the memory is beginning to become a past, the present aftermath never fails to remind them of what happened. At this point I wondered, quite frustratingly, why the Japanese government doesn't put in more effort to help rebuild. Is it not their social responsibility to bring security to these people? However, although they never got a chance to reply, I got an overall feeling that they never thought about asking more of the government. They sort of just accepted that it was all the government could do and instead turned their hopes to local volunteers to help rebuild.

"It's the government's social responsibility to bring security to its people, but it is also the people's responsibility to let the government know what is needed and wanted in the nation"

Honestly, I talked and ranted so much I felt bad that the other RT members didn't really get a chance to voice their thoughts.

All ofthe above was translated by Nory (our Japanese speaking American delegate) who did an incredible job! Thank you!!!

6:00-8:30PM JAsC Reception

Why the gap between 3:30 and 6pm? Well we had 20 minutes to change into business formal and put our game face on, and then we had to walk/jog to the train station. Eventually we ended up in a very very beautiful reception room facing the ocean. In between were some pictures, a lot of exercise, and a little complaining about running in heels - mostly by me. But that's beside the point. The real show was about to just begin.

JASC alumni. Prominent, successful, "holy geezes am I really meeting these people" alumni. From meeting a secret author to the vice president of student affairs for the UC school system, I was left speechless with their passion about their work. There were also some alumni that kept in touch for over 40 years, and all I could ask them was "how did you do that without facebook"?

I'd say at least 60? people showed up to greet us and send us off, some may not have been alumni but they worked with Japan American societies. And this is just people from San Fran. Even so, it is impossible to write about all the people I met that night.

As nervous as I felt with networking, the friendly and eager attitudes of the attendees made me feel much more comfortable. Even when I felt overwhelemed, I could retreat back to my JASC buddies and partner up with them for some moral support. Overall, we did well and I believe we left the reception finally understanding the scope of JASC and how lucky we were to be a part of it.

Ah, this short summary of the reception really does no justice to all that happened that night. I don't know how to capture the passion that embraced us in that room.
Thank you, to all the people that helped make this happen.

8:30-10:00PM Travel Time
Painful for the ladies who had been in heels all day, but it was also just a good cool down walk/ride back to Berkeley. Tired and full of feels... Great combination.

10:00-11:00PM Reflection Time
A time for us to speak our minds and wallow in our feels.

Day 4 We. Are. Going. To. JAPAN.

Wake up at 5:30am to pack. Eat breakfast. Go to airport by bus. See Golden Gate Bridge. Go through check in/security and wander around until boarding time at 12:10. While wandering, eat mexican food because we realized that we probably won't get to have that at Japan. Yummy steak nachos. Board Plane. Can't fall asleep and feeling tired. Layover in Tokyo. Board plane again to Osaka. Holy shiznits I can't believe we are in Japan. Arrive at Osaka. Board Bus to Kyoto University. Warm welcome from Japadeles. Feels sorry because we all look and feel like zombies. Introductions, food, shower, sleep. Goodnight.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Orientation Day 1 and 2 - UC Berkeley

Day 1
Yesterday morning the first thing I did when I woke up was to practice in front of the mirror on how to say "I love you". Why? Because my mom was seeing me off to the airport and I was determined to let her know that I loved her before I left. It's one of those... go to a far away college and you will come back a different daughter kind of moments. Anyways, it's not hard to guess that I still couldn't do it. No matter how many facial exercises and elaborate "I love you"'s I had to pull out in front of the mirror. But you know, a part of me felt that I didn't have to say it. I think the soft "bye" we both waved at each other while I drove away encompassed everything we felt and more. Yup. Thanks mom.

From sappy to confusingly tired, I have always found an enemy with Delta airlines. I left at 8am in the morning to get to LAX to catch a flight at 11:30. Flight got delayed several times and then finally canceled. In the end, I took a 3pm flight and barely made it to the waiting JASC buddies at SFO. Literally, I had to run onto the bus and we were off. Surprisingly I didn't lose my temper and start yelling at the rude staff that became annoyed when us passengers went up to ask about the flight status. Weren't they supposed to be sorry? Well, no point in being upset about something not in my control.

Anyways, when I stepped onto the bus I received such a warm welcome from everyone, it finally hit me that I was about to go onto an amazing journey with some amazing people.

Once we arrived at Berkeley we checked in to the dorms and went out to eat some typical dining hall food. At night we had some more introductions with everyone and played a couple of ice breaker games. We played the blanket name game and well even though I think I did a good job in looking like I was trying to remember a person's name, I knew that there was no way I could recall. I'm sorry I'm so bad with names.

By the time we ended it was 10pm and everyone basically knocked out. I mean knocked out. Be it the jetlag or the full day schedule, we were all tired.

Day 2

Breakfast - pretty straightforward. Some people actually woke up earlier to go for a run. Respect. Mad respect.

Japanese Etiquette Intro - So, So Nakayama gave us a quick intro about what to watch out for when we are in Japan and generally reminded us that we are "special" people and are going to be constantly watched for mistakes. I'm not that worried, I feel like we are a good group of mature people and any mistakes would be followed quickly with apologies.

Special Topics - To get us prepared for discussing our Round Table topics we were given some special topics to discuss about. Split into 4 groups we talked 25 minutes for each topic. The topics were questions like: does god exists, our take on spying on citizens for national security, social responsibility as people, racism in our legal system. It was made for us to be able to not feel reserved in voicing our opinions on touchy subjects and getting used to the idea that discussions aren't personal but academic. It would be impossible for me to write about everything everyone said but in a nutshell..... whether we had the same opinions or not, everyone's thoughts always made sense and had good reasoning. I found myself nodding and agreeing not just to the opinions, but to their ability to reason so well in justifying their answers. Well, that and we seem like a very liberal group. Open and liberal. I like it.

Lunch - Some fish taco and pizza? And nodding off every once in a while? Yeah.

Round Table Time - So at this point we split into our RT groups. Groups include: Social Minority, Aglobolization (agriculture+globalization) <--- The way So says it is just priceless, Security, Social Responsibility and Gov, Education, Cultech (culture+tech).

My group was Social Responsibility and Gov. Today we basically talked and discussed about education and its effect on economic equality, LGBT in Russia, aging population issue in Japan, and what are we going to do in the upcoming Tomodachi event which I will talk about tomorrow. Again, great discussion and beautiful ideas. Two hours passed in a flash and the communication that passed left me thankful for language. I can't wait for Japanese delegates to come in and show us their perspective on things. We finished quite early ;]

Free Time - Some people went out to shop and eat at Cream. I napped.


Skit - We had 3 hours to come up with a skit about American Culture to present to the Japanese Delegates. All thirty something of us needed a part and line. Normally I would think such a feat would be impossible, but there was something about this group of people that led me to have so much confidence in them. Everyone wanted to help and everyone had good ideas to pitch in. Nobody was sitting in a corner waiting for all the others to do all the work. There's just something about being around these people that makes me want to contribute and help out. The respect and trust is amazing. There's really no fear of being judged at all. It's a group and place where everyone's potential is reached.

Our JASC group gets along so well it's as if we decided to be friends even before we met each other. I suspect we all walked in with a open mind and open heart. For that, I am thankful.