Monday, May 14, 2012

Tamagetamonda (たまげたもんだ)

              Tamagetamonda is a Japanese word that would best describe the whole experience I had with the homestay program. Homestay, I believe, is one of the most incredible opportunities that a foreigner should not miss. Opportunities only come once, and it should be grabbed without hesitation or else it will not pass again. I came to Japan not only to study but also to learn its cultures and tradition. In order to learn those things, one needs to live them. Experience is the best teacher and the three (3) day homestay program I sure did learned a lot.

Everything is New
I am totally new to homestay so I do not know what to expect or how to prepare myself whether mentally, emotionally or physically. However, what motivates me to be excited about was the whole new experience that I could get out of this activity. New people, new friends, new place and new family, everything is new in a sense that I have never experienced such a rare opportunity to live like a Japanese living in the countryside.

Going to Takahagi City not knowing what lies ahead spells excitement. I experienced playing Koto, a traditional musical instrument, strumming to the tune of Sakura. After that we went to see how a traditional tea ceremony is prepared, served and actually making one.

The evening came, and we still do not know who our homestay parents would be and that made me more anxious. Looking at the stage, where a bunch of families gathers, one of those are possibly my homestay family. After a few minutes, they announced the family and were excited in finally meeting them. I saw how nervous they were, but, at the same time, I saw that they were happy to have finally met me. The same goes with my feelings towards them.

The Challenge

Staying in Japan is the most challenging experienced that I have ever encountered in my life. I easily adapt to every culture, food and traditions to different countries that I have ever been into but not on language. Communicating in Japanese is a challenge of my adaptability skills. I tried to prepare myself for this program, but I failed on learning the communication part. I know how to read and write but not on conversing in Japanese. However, that challenge gave me even more motivation to learn Japanese and to apply everything that I have learned by heart. It may not be an easy road to marvel, but the whole experience gave me enough strength to muster and accept the greater challenges that lie ahead.

My Homestay Family

All my life, I have lived with relatives. They reared me as their own. I have never felt the love of a mother and father, although, that love was filled by my Aunts. However, this experience is a totally different one. It gave me an opportunity, not only to live like what a typical Japanese family lived, but to experience what a father and mother do to their children. In a short amount of time staying with my おかあさん and おとおさん, it gave me a glimpse of love a child could get out of their parents. Although I have to process everything what they have told me (they only speak in Japanese); however, the experience is really worthwhile. One advice from my おとおさん that I wont forget is not to worry about life or what it brings. Everything happens for a reason, and I need to accept that. In order to grow, we must live by these reasons and allow oneself to be strengthened by the circumstances in life.
One thing that helped me get through my Japanese was my homestay brother who helped me understand the things that my parents were telling us. I am the youngest in our family so I have not experienced in having a younger brother. This experience gave me another opportunity to be an older brother. I could not ask for a better family than my homestay family – the Tobita Family.

My homestay family lived near the coast. I could still hear the rushing sounds of the waves, the whistling hum of the shells and the cool breeze it brings. Being there and experienced all of these made me really happy. To end the family bonding was a beautiful rainbow floating at the sky wishing us well and happiness.
I may not have thanked them enough, but I wish to thank them again for the splendid hospitality that they have shown. I would like to thank also the Takahagi City government for having such an incredible program and for the Internal Christian University for taking part on this program. I will certainly treasure every bit of this these experience all my life.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Mapanuring Mata: A Changed Man: A year after the great Tsunami

Mapanuring Mata: A Changed Man: A year after the great Tsunami:         “One is not defeated by a great struggle of life; instead, one is defeated if he ceased on living”. I do not know where this phr...

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

A Changed Man: A year after the great Tsunami

        “One is not defeated by a great struggle of life; instead, one is defeated if he ceased on living”. I do not know where this phrase came from or was it just a product of watching movies or reading novels, but I do know that this was the summary of what I have gotten out of the SINTAP Experience. A year ago, I am just a viewer who watched the tsunami that hit Japan on television. It is an experience where, in some way, you just sit there and do nothing. I wanted to do something, but the question is how? I wanted to be a part of something that could make a change – even just a small, simple yet meaningful change. A few days after, I got a call saying that i'll be staying for two (2) years in Japan. Could this be it, the significant change that I long to do? Now I am ready to go to Japan with a simple thought of making a significant difference.

     The thought of making a significant change excites me. A change of uplifting other people's burdens, seeing them smile and having a joyful spirit kept me on looking forward to this day. SINTAP created that opportunity for me to realize such a simple dream. However, that was not the case. Instead of I creating a significant change, It changed me. Change in a sense of seeing my perspective in a different light - a change of self and purpose.

           March 5 - 8, 2012, almost a year after the tsunami incident that hit Japan, ICU SINTAP group went to Oshima Island, Kesennuma, Japan to lend a hand. We volunteered to help unload stuff that has been washed away by the tsunami, hear stories of the survivors and even play with school children. One of the activity that we had was to interview families and hear them tell stories of their life after the tragedy. Our group was assigned to interview the Komatsu family in a temporary shelter meeting room.

           Interviewing Mr. Komatsu gave me a thought to ponder. After the tsunami, Mr. Komatsu said that he seems to have no aim or purpose at all. It was only after joining Obakatai that he sensed his purpose – that is to help others. It is unheard of to see people who were the victim and yet are able to help build and motivate others in putting their feet back together. For a man, who lost everything – a home, a job and a purpose – gathering enough courage to stand up and help is the greatest inspiration. It inspired me not to wait for an opportunity to appear but instead to create that opportunity. Not to wait for others to help you stand but for you to try to stand up on your own. It does not mean that they were not struggling inside, nor the pains were already gone. Instead, they replaced those struggles with optimism, hope and love. One Zulu proverb says “A person is a person because of people”. Mr. Komatsu became a man of purpose because of people. He became a true person because of people that surrounds him that needs his service and people that have the same heart as he does – the volunteers. He had an opportunity to stay with his children in Sendai, but he chose to go back. Mr. Komatsu never ceased on living his life, on what he believes in and on what he does. This is what makes a person, person.

          One of my favorite quotes is of Thomas Merton: "If you want to identify me, ask me not where I live, or what I like to eat, or how I comb my hair, but ask me what I think I am living for and ask me what is keeping me from living fully for the things I want to live for. Between these 2 answers, you can determine the identity of the person. The better answer he has, the more a person he is - I have all the time trying to make the answer as I go on living." I believe that Mr. Komatsu is living his life fully for the things he wanted to live for.

         A former owner of a sushi restaurant, Mr. Komatsu was asked about the comparison of his sushi with the rest of sushi restaurants in the island. “Mine were the best”, he exclaimed. One thing struck me was the next sentence that he said. “All sushi are the same, but what makes it best is when it is made from the heart”. I took that phrase in a different light. It may sound foolish of me to interpret such a simple sentence in a totally different manner. I never saw it as a sentence that talks about sushi alone. Rather, I took it as words from Mr. Komatsu's life's journey - full of wisdom and truth. The volunteers came from different parts of the world. Volunteers who has the passion to help, serve and create a significant change. Although we came from different backgrounds, beliefs, struggles and point of views, like the sushi, we are all the same. We are in this group for a purpose of helping and uplifting people's lives. What makes us best is the sincerity and pureness of our hearts. That's what makes this experience a memorable one - an experience of victory over downfall, joy over pain, life over death. Before Mr. Komatsu bid us farewell, he had spoken to me and said “make your sushi from your heart and continue to smile, it helps”.

           I remember the boys of Room 231 sang the song “Sakura” by Naotaro Moriyama. In such a short time, like the sakura, the experience has to end. It seems that three (3) days were not enough. I wanted to stay longer in order for me to know more about the lessons of life. Furthermore, I wanted to grasp the wisdom that I could get from the stories of people's lives and to deepen friendships with fellow volunteers.
       To end, I stumbled upon a japanese drama series that featured the song “Sakura”. In one of the episodes, the actress/actor read a poem entitled “Be not defeated by the rain” (this was the english translation).

Be not defeated by the rain;

Be not defeated by the wind.

Succumb not to the snows of winter,

Not be bested by the heat of summer.

Be strong in body. Unfettered by desire.

Not enticed to anger. Cultivate a quiet joy.

Count yourself last in everything. Put others before you.

Watch well and listen closely. Hold the learned lessons dear.

Go forth and nurse him to health.

Go forth and relieve her of burden.

Go forth with words of courage to dispel his fear.

Go forth and beg them to stop such a waste of effort and of the spirit.

In times of drought, shed tears of sympathy.

In summer's cold, walk in concern and sympathy.

Better be dismissed as humbled, than flattered as a great man.

This is my goal, the person I strive to become.


Boarders ni kuya