Every year, our schools’ field studies provide us with experiences that are different in their own ways, and I was always excited and eager about the day of field studies. When I think about wilderness engagement, the Nakasendo trip in my junior year comes to my mind. The junior field studies, despite it being our last field studies before the final exams, the learning trip had taught me a student life beyond academics, extracurricular activities, and friendship, but our appreciation of the natural surroundings and the world as it is.
The trip this year was on an off schedule. A few weeks before the Nakasendo trip, my calendar, filled with deadlines, had kept myself in school mode. On the back of my mind, I was thinking about when and where I had to buy equipment lists for the trip. It was evident that I was struggling to set my mind off anything besides trying to accomplish each deadline, and I could not be as excited about field studies as I was in my previous years.
The first day of field studies had arrived. With my 60-liter camping backpack, foot tightly fitted in my new hiking shoes, we began to walk. First, on a smooth flat surface, but the road was not as simple. The more we walked, the more the trail became steeper, and I had begun to feel the heat under the layers of clothes I had worn. I was used to steep hills, but I realized that my pace was slower than usual because of my backpack, and one by one, my group members were passing by me.
I began to breathe heavily, but the air was clean and fresh, and there was a hint of a cold breeze in the bright and sunny weather. The heat did not bother me anymore, and I had felt the vast and spacious sky turning clearer and bluer as I had walked along the Nakasendo. My worries and distress about school were hiding somewhere behind the clouds, and I indulged in the tranquility that nature had prepared. Things like this, not even our advanced and developing, the fast-paced world could offer. It is no doubt that our world has become more convenient, but it could not be replaced by the artificiality.
We arrived in a small, old postal town of Magome, our first stay along the Nakasendo road that connected Kyoto and Edo, where we had stayed in a traditional Japanese Inn. We were required to follow a “no cell phone use rule” in order to interact and socialize with one another. I was not keen on this idea at first, but I realized that I was in a social environment away from school settings, and I had the chance to become closer with people I see every day in the halls, classrooms, canteens, and anywhere in the school campus.
The next day, we left Magome and continued to walk up the hill along the old highway. A few walks past, we were welcomed by an endless path of trees and had walked along the unevenly shaped rocks, where in ancient times, horses used to step foot on. Different color shade greens had surrounded us, but on other days of the trip, we were walking on top of pure, white, ice. The snow had piled up deep that it was tough to walk through. One of the tour guides had shown me a photo of a different day, during the winter, when the snow was just above her stomach, and it could not be compared to the one I was struggling to get through. I noticed that I was not used to the snow, and the obstacles. This was not just because it had barely snowed in Yokohama, but I was also too used to living in an urbanized lifestyle and forget to take time to engage with the natural environment. From afar, we saw Mount Ontake that had erupted four years ago, that had exerted great force and power. It had reminded me of how people, under great pressure, undergo mental breakdowns and release all the negativity out, and the outcome may be messy and unpleasant at first, but gradually, it can bring a positive result. This made me think about how nature was a different organism in comparison to people, but you could find similarities when you open your eyes and observe carefully and expand your wonders and imagination.
The trip had turned out to be a perfect getaway from the busy schedule. The school’s competitive academic environment may have shaped my ability to persevere in the challenging uphills, but perhaps my journey with nature had brought me a positive mindset; a refreshing experience that would prepare me for the next challenges in my life that I had to overcome. Even unpleasant moments, like walking in the mountains on a rainy day, or walking on deep snow, we are unable to control the weather, and the wonders that nature offers, just as we have no control over everything in our life. Yet, you had to keep moving forward and meet your goal, despite the negativity in life and grow as a person. This experience had reminded me of a time in my childhood when I was first introduced to the benefits of nature. Back then, the Motomachi-Chukagai Station that connected Motomachi street and Yamate was not yet built, and my mother, sister and I, had to walk to preschool by the stairs next to the cemetery. Whenever it was pouring heavy rain, I would put my raincoat and boots on, and walk up the slippery stairs, cautious of every step I took. This was not easy for my four-year-old self, but I had gradually become stronger and ready to face any challenge. The extreme weather strengthened my mental health. This year’s field studies had motivated me to take the time to explore and carefully observe the natural surroundings despite our daily distractions.
Although we had finished our journey through the Nakasendo, with our final stop at Narai, another beautiful small town located in Kiso Valley, traditional style wooden buildings stretched across the narrow road. I began to see that my trip had offered me both the importance of preserving nature and the Japanese culture. Being in my mid-teens, I felt the responsibility of carrying down old traditions in our modernized world and conserving the environment in innovative ways.
Despite the economic growth and improvement of Cambodia during the past few decades, many still live in poverty, receiving only $0.45/day. In the present day where education is valued and believed to strive future success, they are not yet available for everyone. Families in Cambodia still struggle to provide education for their children. With HOPE’s partnership with YIS, our goal is to provide educational opportunities for these children for a brighter and sustainable future.
As part of the HOPE group, a student-based project made in 2007, the YIS HOPE group has supported 10 schools in Pursat, Cambodia where constructions have been done in different villages. In most cases, students perform additional constructions for existing elementary buildings. As the school construction project has been going around for nearly nine years, the relationship between the YIS committee and HOPE has impacted over 1,700 children. The requirements of this project are that each year, a core group of 11th graders engages in fundraising and school-wide awareness-raising activities to help fund the construction of a school.
What you can do to help us continue this project and support the children receive the education they need is donate here to makes this happen!
Other ways you can help is to share this blog post or link above and share our story with a wider community!
This week’s trending topic: The spreading gossips on Romeo and Juliet still make many of us wonder today on what really happened to Verona’s hottest couple? We finally got Nurse Angelica; to reveal Verona’s buried secrets and fill us up with the truth under the tragic incident.
Thank you so much for coming here with us today. We’re very sorry for your loss and greatly appreciate that you have finally opened up to us. But first, what is it like working for one of the richest families in Verona?
“Very busy. I can barely have the time to sit down and have a little chit-chat. In times like this, it’s hard to find free time.”
What did you really think about the feud between the Montagues and Capulets?
“[Rolls eyes] Aiya! Always fighting and fighting and never fixing the problem. So much hate and anger! I’ve always hoped that it would end someday…but you can’t expect everything to go your own way…”
Tybalt seemed to be getting himself involved in those fights a lot, but tell me more of what he was actually like behind his hatred for the Montagues?
“Aaah yes, Tybalt. Good to hear his name after a while, eh? He was always a true gentleman and an honourable member of the family. Even a good friend of mine. But there was always something that kept him angry all the time…and angry men are hard to like. I’m not exactly sure what but he didn’t seem very fond being the tough one in the family.”
What exactly do you mean by that?
“He told me once that he felt that he was only responsible for protecting the family. Tybalt was under pressure in everything he did because somehow, the way he was built and his skilled sword fighting made him look ‘strong’. He hated the idea of “failure” and was always too strict on himself.”
Moving on, on a rather different topic just to make things more interesting, rumours are spreading that you were the secret “messenger” between Romeo and Juliet. Is that true?
“Yes. That is in fact very true. It was my only way to help those poor, lost children. I cannot imagine how difficult it must have been to have no one around to be supportive of their relationship. As the only nanny for Juliet, it was my job to make Juliet the happiest young woman so I had no choice but help.”
What was your initial opinion on Romeo and Juliet’s love for one another?
“Young people in love…you can’t take it seriously these days. Boys play with their toys all the time and the next thing you know, he becomes bored after a while and moves on to his other toys. Young people are always distracting themselves for something fun and better in their confined lives. Poor Julietta, my beautiful little girl…her distraction was her only enemy. ”
Did your opinion change over time?
“I realized later on that Juliet and Romeo were really in love. [sigh] It wasn’t just two young people fooling around. But I was too late to realise that…[glances at the ground]”
Why did you change your mind about Juliet marrying Paris?
“[Sighs deeply] Well I only wanted what was best for her… she was all miserable and hopeless; I couldn’t bear to watch her like that so I had to let her marry Paris [long pause] Even so, Mr.Capulet was going to let her rot in the streets! I could never let that happen to my Julietta! After all, Paris did truly love her and gave much help to the company. He is a true gentleman.”
If you could go back and change one thing, what would you have done?
“[Looks away with teary eyes] I should’ve never told Juliet to marry Paris. I never wanted my Julietta to be hurt more than any other thing. I know I was being selfish and taking sides but I wish I’d never done that.[Covers face with hands and sobs] It was all my fault.”
The Phuket trip was just about half a year ago, but the memories are still clear in mind. They are so clear that it feels like the trip was just a few days ago. And now, I will like to share some of the memories with you.
Ever since grade seven, I dreamt of going to the Phuket trip. But it was because I longed to travel someplace far away from home and I had no knowledge of what was coming ahead of me. But it was until grade eight that I got to know the meaning of the trip and thankfully it didn’t change the fact that I still wanted to go on the trip. After graduating middle school and entering 9th grade, I was ready to leave to Phuket at any time as I was so thrilled. But then I realized that I wasn’t ready at all because we had to do some research about the Thai culture as well as the planned activities for the trip. For instance, information on the coral reef for snorkeling, mangrove rainforest & gibbons for planting mangrove trees, etc.
On Sunday evening of October 18th, we arrived at Phuket. I remembered the air felt really warm and humid. It was definitely a big change compared to Yokohama where my home is. We stayed at the British International School in Phuket for 5 days. The trip consisted of 30 people including myself, and we were split into two groups and then would switch tasks after a lunch break. On the first and second day, my group and I visited a Burmese school with 40 students. Students were about the age of 5 to 8 and they were learning in an environment which was no comparison to our school. Therefore, it was our mission to recreate their school by painting on the plain white walls.
While my group and I were painting, the other group were interacting with the children by playing games and sports. I think this was one of the main things that I will never forget because seeing the children smile made me feel happy even the fact that language was a barrier we still had a great time. The children only had this once a year, so we tried to make their time as special as possible. Since we use our laptops all the time, social media seems to dominate most of our lives. But with this experience, it reminded me that I don’t always need that to help me socialize with people and I can physically be there in person.
In every Hello, there are always Goodbye’s. On the second day of our trip, it was time for us to part with the children from the Burmese school. This was difficult for all of us because even in such a short period of time, we became close with the children and they were more used to our company. One thing in particular that I learned from the children was how fortunate my life was and complaining wasn’t worth it at all. These children were always patient and did what they were told to do. And in certain about the fact that they were younger than all of us, as a 15-year-old I was very privileged to be able to have the money to travel and spend time with them.
On our final day at Phuket, we were introduced to the children from the SOS Orphanages. Though by the evening, our plan was to departure Phuket, we made the last hours worth spending. For instance, we played games with the children for a start which was entertaining and created laughter within both the children and us. We even headed to the elementary pool at BISP and taught them how to swim. From this, I knew that speaking the same language doesn’t matter sometimes. And since we only had a day with these children, in the future there should be a lot more time spent with the orphans so a stronger bond could be created.
Besides interacting with both groups of children, we planted mangrove trees, snorkeled to observe the affected coral reef from the El Niño and went on a hike which included visiting the Gibbon sanctuary. Some of the challenges were carrying the mangrove plants until the place we were supposed to plant them since it felt like every step I took, the plants became heavier. During the planting process, my feet were stuck in the mud and it didn’t matter if I was covered all in mud because everyone else was too.
After 5 days of Phuket, it made me realize how much service is important in general as well as for myself. I value this especially because helping people and the environment makes everything better every time you commit to service, you’re making a change. Even the smallest events like picking up trash on the ground or larger events like this trip. By doing these actions, it inspires others to help others. Service for me is absolutely rewarding as it gives me a sense of pride and I feel like I did something right and be grateful afterward. This whole trip has become a huge part of my life as every now and then, I would think about the events that happened during the trip and wish to go back again. Thus, I would strongly recommend future freshmen’s to go on this trip.
The last five days were my first week of High school. New faces, old faces, and ones that I’ve passed by in the hallway but never got to know them. It was different. Not just about being the smaller ones compared to when being the older kids in Middle school. The classes, atmosphere, and the people.
I think the high points of this week was meeting new people, both students and teachers. But what was even more better was that I got to actually talk to them and share same interests. Another thing that I thought was great was that I tried out for the junior varsity & varsity x-country team. The running was really intense but I felt successful after I ran. Even though I wasn’t as fast as the seniors and previous students who joined the team, I enjoyed it.
I think the low points of this week was not being able to spot an open seat in the cafeteria because it was very crammed. Even if the seats were available, I wouldn’t have the courage to go up there where all the seniors are. Another thing that I thought was a bit difficult was being in the extended math class because everything went really fast and I had to keep up with everyone else. But at the same time, I learned something new.
Recently, we’ve been working on a project about building a city. However, not just any city, but to create a sustainable city. After all the research and reading the most/least liveable cities , we came up with a lot of ideas to incorporate and not include in our own city. We made three information to promote Reltin City.
The city speech
This is the actual map for our city:
This is our promotion for our city: (Quote inspired from Disney)