So here I am, on the 2-hour long bus journey back to my hostel in Kure after a 2D1N long camp in Fuchuu City, Hiroshima.
Honestly, I have a ton to say about my experience here but I’m not sure if I am able to put everything into words (because I’ve learnt so much from the kids and had a great time here with all the other international people) ((and also because my English vocab sucks)) so I’ll try my best to write out whatever I can 😊
Starting off with my journey to Fuchuu, I was kindly escorted by a representative from Hiroshima just so that I could get on the right bus ((as you can see, I am an amazingly easy-to-please person because I can just ‘sakai’ off everything I see)). Then, I met Ada, an AFS exchange student from Bosnia! From there we exchanged stories from our respective countries and shared our thoughts on the whole experience here in Japan.
Upon reaching the camp site, we were greeted with warm welcomes by the organising committee and started right off by helping the kids. There, I got to meet Chun Yang (my friend from Malaysia who’s in the same program as me but in a different technical school), Connie, Megan, Joy, and Tony (who are teachers under the ALT program from America, Jamaica, Phillipenes, and Ireland)
It was definitely awkward for me at first, for an international student to help out local kids (it wasn’t the first time for me though, because I usually help out with my school’s 「インキュベーションワーク」Incubation Work – where we dedicate about 2 hours every week to serve the community/ create events to achieve a certain goal) but I guess it was quite different this time, as I was to be with them for 2 whole days. It’s in their (the kids) nature to be shy towards people like me but after getting to know them for a while, I can see them opening up, and they can actually be as noisy as us Malaysians 😁😁
We started off by helping them introduce themselves in English, as they were preparing for their Skype session with a group of elementary school kids from Queensland, Australia. No doubt, they were quite nervous about it as press was even present in the room to witness the Skype session but I’m glad everything went well 🙂
I guess that this Skype session really made a huge impact on them, because usually, they only get to talk to ((older)) volunteers like us- with a minimal age gap of 8 years or so(?), or international teachers. We had a 「振り返り」(Furikaeri- reflection/post mortem) session on the second day and I was really amazed to see how well they were able to express how they felt about themselves during this activity. They were instructed to write it out in Japanese in their files and they executed it perfectly. ((I mean, comparitively, I wouldn’t be able to write so much about my feelings when I was at that age)) They wrote stuff like (I’m writing it out in my own words but the main point is there): ‘ I felt like I wasn’t good enough and I would want to improve myself if I had a second chance to do so.’ and also ‘It was my first experience talking to people of my age from another country! But I felt like I wasn’t speaking loud enough, and so, I will try harder to improve next time.’ (This is just a small part of it, they were each writing a paragraph of their feelings in Japanese). So, there, it taught me how Japanese people see this ‘Furikaeri’ as something important in their daily lives. I’m required to write out these personal reflections in school as well, but learning how they’ve been doing it since they’re young, it has become a habit and in a way, I feel that it’ll make them strive to be a better person and make them want to improve themselves constantly.
Okay, going back to the Skype session, the Australian kids were just sooooo adorable!! The responses they gave out were mainly 「はい」(Hai- yes)「ありがとう」(Arigatou- thank you) 💕💕 If you were in the room you’d be able to hear everyone squeal with joy whenever they said those in unison 😂 I could see the kids feeling very happy in their gleaming eyes because it’s an experience you they won’t get on a daily basis. Maybe to some, Skype is something they use everyday but to the kids, nope nope, it’ll be something they’ll remember for some time 🙂
We then had a culture exchange activity in where the international students were divided into different rooms where we introduced our local culture and gave them a brief introduction about our country. Since I was there with Chun Yang (my friend from Malaysia), we went into the same group, along with Megan (from Jamaica). As an ice breaker we played a traditional Jamaican game- ‘Bruk Rockstone‘. Traditionally, rocks are used but since it was in a classroom setting, we used rolls of tapes instead. Passing tapes while beating it on the floor in a circle, we sang:
Go dung a Manuel Road Gal an Bway
fi guh bruk rock stone
Bruk dem one by one gal and bway
bruk dem two by two gal and bway
bruk dem tree by tree gal and bway
bruk dem four by four gal and bway….ect
finger mash nuh cry gal and bway
memba a play we deh play
*bruk: broke; dem: them; nuh: no
It’s a game describing how they’re passing the stones and at the same time trying to break them(?) ((correct me if I’m wrong hehe)) and if they accidentally smash each other’s fingers while passing them, it tells them not to cry because it’s after all, just a game.
Then, we gave them a brief introduction on Malaysia, on how our country is made up of different races and cultures, boasting away on how we need to use many different languages to communicate with each other, ah, the usual. 😌 It’s always nice to introduce my Malaysian culture 🇲🇾 to other people because it makes me feel prouder as a Malaysian, to be immersed in this deep pool of culture, and at the same time I’ll get to learn about the similarities and differences between the cultures with the people I’m talking to (in general).
ps: we had to repeat the above^ for about 5 times because the kids were divided into 5 groups. Here, I’m finally able to appreciate how teachers have to repeat teaching their class content like 2748372974937 times every time they teach another class the same content
For the next activity, we were divided into 3 groups- ‘Cooking’ (where they made Filipino banana pancakes), ‘Musical’ (I was in this group- where we reenacted a story entitled ‘Little Blue and Little Yellow) and ‘Sports’ (where they played handball)
We (Takeda-san, Connie, Ada and me) were all literally clueless about what to do with for the musical but yea we managed to pull it off in the end with our ‘chapalang‘ & spontaneous skills and creativity we had within us. Briefly, the story is about these two good friends- little blue and little yellow, whom changed colours when they hugged each other, making them unrecognizable to their parents, resulting them to cry till they went back to their original colours, thus being recognizable and then showing how their colours change when they hug each other. And, they lived happily ever after. The overall illustration was really simple because it was just dots of colours with a plain background, but I guess the story had much more to it. From my point of view, it’s about embracing our differences and then turning it into something new, which we can all accept after being able to see it from a new perspective. We tried our best to explain the story to the kids and hoped that they were able to picture the image we were trying to send to them. A few Japanese English teachers were there to help as well, and they translated the story word by word to the kids. I understand how they’re unable to get the initial meaning of the story but I actually hoped for them to understand the story fully in English, because when I was young, I learnt each language based on the language itself, using the language itself to learn, instead of translating everything to my preferred language. I mean, yea, we all have our own preferred language and we do translate it in our own brains but when we study a new language, that language will stay as our ‘main language’ in our own minds. I think it’s practically the same for all of us Malaysians as having a second/third/fourth language is really normal. So if you’re reading this and you’re Malaysian, you’re prolly on the same page as me now. Well, maybe they translated it so that they could understand it faster as time was limited so I’m just probably wrong about this 😊
Dressed in green vinyl bags, layered with yellow vinyl bags, and finally topped off with some laminated coloured spots on our hands, ending it with dancing a short chorus of High School Musical’s ‘We’re All In This Together’, it made me feel like a child again to act out these scenes together with them because I don’t think I’ll get to do stuff like these in my school at this age(?) We then presented it to everyone on the second day during one of the last few activities. Here, I learned how they can be perfectionists for things like these even though we had such limited time. For me, it’s okay to have slips on stage and then just go with the flow, but for them, they made sure everyone got enough practice till we could remember the whole flow of the musical and put up a great show to all the other campers and teachers who were going to be present on the following day.
During dinner, we (the international students) got to tell the kids about our culture shocks and After a yummilicious dinner:
We got to play with fireworks with the kids!! Never in my life had I ever attended a camp where I get to play with fireworks so once again, I was is this super sakai mode and instead of using that time to socialize with the adults and international people present, I shamelessly played and frolicked around with the kids because sometimes I have this need to get out of my age zone for a while 😅
Kicked started day 2 with the usual morning ‘Japanese Radio Taisou’ and a few games to wake ourselves up. Then we had a Japanese breakfast and got back to work. (omg I’m updating this draft a week later during my free time in another camp so my memory on this English camp is really vague rn😫😫😫- have been really busy with a lot of things lately)
The kids got a chance to talk to other/former ALTs in another Skype session after a Furikaeri振り返り on the one they had a day before (I mentioned this in the beginning). The kids really hoped that they could talk to the same Australian kids as the day before but unfortunately the last minute plan didn’t work out. Oh wells, they still had a great time though!
Presented our ‘Musical’ after that alongside the Filipino bamboo dance performance after lunch. Then, we, the international students were asked to convey a message of peace to the kids and try to educate them on the bombing occurred in Hiroshima on the 6th of August 1945 and in Nagasaki on the 9th of August 1945. It’s not easy to convey such a touchy topic to kids though, because well, they’re still kids right?? Ada has a lot of experience in talking about the topic ‘Peace’ so I’m glad that she could say everything she could in her own kid-friendly way!
We then assisted the kids to write a peace message in Hiragana or simple English to be sent to the Australian kids they talked to through Skype🙂
Sadly, we had to go back early due to our loooong journey back to the city, so we left in the middle of the activity and bid our goodbyes.