Developed a skill / understanding through interaction with our natural environment :
Last spring I went on a hiking trip in the Nakasendo. The hike consisted of us walking on the roads and mountains that connected Tokyo and Kyoto in the Edo period. Many trades were made through these roads and the routes we walked on holds a lot of history which was very entertaining since it told a story about Japans past.
This trip was very useful since it helped extend my appreciation of the outdoors, but also taught me some skills when it came to hiking on snow. It was my first time hiking on snow and my first time wearing the snow cleats, which scared me a bit since the snow cleats’ area on the show was so small I questioned if it would be beneficial at all. Turns out it was very helpful but did not mean I was able to put all the work on the cleats. I learned how to grip on to the snow if you put a bit of pressure on the ground where the snow lies you reach beneath the surface of the snow and the cleats will be “stuck” and grip on the floor so you won’t slip.
Another skill I’ve learned was how to be adaptable to the environment you are in. This was not that hard as I enjoyed my time during the hike but there were difficulties along the way with the weather constantly changing from cold to hot so you have to have a lot of layers and carrying most jackets at times. Also, the people around you could be in different moods than you, times, when I was frustrated other people were happy but then when I was in a good mood, others were a bit irritated so I also learned how to be even more adaptable to the people around me than usual as this hike was all about sticking together.
I’ve always enjoyed hiking since it is a slow way to be active as you are technically walking. But it also has the right amount of challenge since you have to think about your next step, or at least I did since I wanted to avoid falling as much as possible. It is also a very beautiful experience, especially this Naksendo road and has inspired me to hopefully go back and possibly make the entire trail once in the future.
Committed to connect with and understanding others within and across cultures. Engaging with people in another languages and communicate thoughtfully and appropriately :
This summer, I worked at a 海の家 which transaltes to Beach house in English. It was my first ever job, but also the first time I ever spoke Japanese for a long period of time. My mother tongue is English. Even though I grew up mostly in Japan and I occasionally communicate with my mum in Japanese, I only use very basic words and speak in a mix of English and Japanese.
So of course the biggest challenge of this job was speaking Japanese since I can’t call myself fluent in Japanese. As I mentioned before it was the first time I ever spoke Japanese for that long in that period of time so it really helped me push my boundaries and helped me show how being bilingual is a true privilege and a reward. Also as there were many tourists I learned to pick up on certain words in Chinese and Korean or use universal language like hand gestures to communicate which was very new to me but at the same time helpful.
However, most of the customers were Japanese, and since it was a beach house and not just an ice cream stand, I was expected to be able to hold long conversations in Japanese with the customers. Also to my boss I was very careful with my choice of words, and tried my best to use more formal vocabulary even though my vocabulary knowledge was limited, in Japan there are certain phrases you cannot say to people older than you, and though I am always cautious of that I wanted to impress my boss more and prepared what I was going to say before speaking.
Identify and understand an authentic need in the local community. Taking meaningful action to affect positive change :
Homelessness in Japan may not seem like a big topic. But it does not mean it doesn’t exist. in my school, there is a service group called Sanagitachi and it informs the school community about homelessness near the Kannai, Yokohama area but also we go on weekly patrols at night to give essential items such as blankets, socks, even soup to the homeless. Going to the groups meeting every week keeps my mind fresh on the issue and as someone who recognizes the problem myself, it is also good to raise awareness of this. I have been a part of this group since my freshmen year and in this year being my final year I am ‘co-leading’ the group alongside the leader.
Some examples of raising awareness in the school community were having a trivia game set up about homelessness to see if volunteers know the true facts about the issue. Having this booth helped attract kids and provided entertainment for them but also helps get the information through to the audience. Being a part of this service group has taught me about privileges, and how we can and should use our privileges to help improve someone else’s life.
In the photo above it shows some people in the service group and me on one of our night patrols. We not only go on the patrols but we also give the Sanagitachi organization the fundraised items we collected in our school. This patrol happens every week so all the homeless people will be able to live more comfortably. By physically engaging with the homeless people and seeing them face to face it can really help people understand the living condition they are in and individually makes me want to try my best to help out. I go on these patrols at least once a month. There are quite a lot of people in this service group so it is important to let everyone experience going on patrols, therefore, everyone cannot go every time including myself. However when I do go on these patrols it help me cherish the memories since it might not be so common for everyone to do but a great reminder that helping someone even a little is not hard to do and can mean more than we think
Seek a personal understanding of how life in different countries varies relative to the interaction between power/privilege and economics, ethics, politics, religion, and/or the environment.Exploring multiple contexts through experience, and reflect on the growth of your global understanding as a result :
Last spring I went to Cambodia, to help with the organization HOPE Cambodia. In this trip we helped build the school for future students and also help store a well for a family so they can have access to clean drinkable water. In the video of “Building school” and “Teaching kids” you can see that I and the rest of the team is helping the community. We are working with the kids passing rocks to make a solid floor. The issue HOPE Cambodia is solving is the lack of education available for children, so we have fundraised money, and then went there ourselves to help, so before we were helping as a secondary source, but then we were there to help as a primary source. HOPE Cambodia doesn’t only build schools but also helps build a well for families in need and are on the waiting list.
The reason why it is significant to help people in this condition is because I believe that improving one life can benefit many others. The more people out of poverty the more beneficial actions they can do, in the world they can help each other to build one another up. It is especially important to help those in need or people who had no choice but to be put in these conditions since they couldn’t have the privileges we were given. We also helped teach the kids english (Video : “Teaching Kids“). Learning english is a great opportunity for kids because it gives them a wider option in future job opportunities. They don’t have to stay in Cambodia if they don’t want to and broaden their choices. But also teaching the kids and engaging with them in person was also a great lesson for me and everyone on the trip. It is easy to feel sympathetic when you read about people in need in books or posters and everyone gets this feeling of wanting to help, but experiencing it in front of your eyes and then seeing what conditions they are under could almost make you feel guilty, but then that guilt will drive you to helping more and engage more with them. You get to truly see how strong those people are and is very inspiring.
Before going to this trip I knew I would learn something, but now I not only learned something going on this trip but I have left with the thought of how I made an impact to the people of Cambodia, and that some people in the world don’t get to experience. Being in that environment and putting rock after rock made me cherish my surroundings. It is what most people say after they go on trips like this but it truly is a real statement. You will never understand what people around the world is go through until you see it and feel with yourself so I hope everyone gets to experience this one day when they can. This trip also made me cautious of my actions. A big impact going to Cambodia had on me was when we took a visit to two families with and without a watering well.
In the photo above we are making the well for the family that was on the waiting list, the next day we visited the living area of two families without a well and witnessing and hearing their story of not having a well was heartbreaking. The stories told were stories most people hear, about traveling a long way for dirty water and having to send their kids to work and not school to survive, and it really hits you once you are in the environment with them. These stories could be labelled ‘typical’ as we hear them time after time, but seeing the pain and hearing their pain in their voices is a memory I will keep with me forever. That experience made the Cambodia trip worth it. Before the family visit we saw the kids and built the school which is also worthwhile, but seeing the family was the biggest and greatest experience I had because it changed my view of my life. It has been about half a year since the trip but I am still in the mindset of being cautious about my food and especially water. I have always tried to not waste food and water, but now I take it more seriously than ever since giving back is important but also appreciating the privileges you were given is also important so I am determined to do both.