GCD Reflection Global Understanding – Cambodia Trip

The Cambodia trip was an exceptional learning experience for me in many perspectives. I believe my participation and multiple learning outcomes shows my engagement to the community, namely the HOPE Cambodia service group as an extracurricular activity, and also the NGO HOPE International Development Agency through the Cambodia trip. The experience has taught me Power/Privilege in the following ways:

Firstly, it allowed me to demonstrate engagement with issues of global significance, as I interacted with communities outside my own local areas, or in other words, another country, which allowed me to broaden my perspective of economic issues such as poverty in a more global scale.One of the biggest things I learned was the importance of access to clean water, which I have an privilege to having easy access, because of economic resources. Although I had prior knowledge about clean water, they were quite superficial because they were from news and other internet websites about water. However, during the trip we visited a two families on the waiting list for a well, and we came face to face with their harsh lives of having to get water (which was contaminated and unsafe) from a stream 1 km from their homes. This really was a moment when I realized the difference installing wells can make – it provides safety from illnesses such as typhoid, it allows families to grow more water rich crops which increases their income, and it reduces their labour from having to walk all the way to a river.

The trip also taught me about the power from a political perspective, through learning about the radical communist party Khmer Rouge, and the impacts it has had on the country. Khmer Rouge had forced most of the areas in Cambodia to become rural farmlands, and it is still apparent in the present that many areas in Cambodia, such as Pursat where we will be visiting, still economically developing, and is an impoverished rural area. Additionally, the Khmer Rouge did not favor high education, in fact executed many intellectuals, and focused children to work for agricultural labour, rather than encouraging them to go to school.

I’ve attached a video I made after the trip about the things we did. Kim Leng from HOPE is also (very briefly) in the video – it was such an honor to meet her and learn things about Cambodia from her.


GCD Reflection Intercultural Communication – Bilingualism

Being Bilingual

I have grown up speaking two languages Japanese and English. Being bilingual allowed me to realize how different my attitude and register between speaking the two languages. For example when I speak English I tend to be more confident. So when I’m in a position where I teach, like when I tell my friends something about school, I tend to speak English. Although this is influenced by the fact that I learn most of the material in English, I also found my self talking about a Japanese literary work in English, and I found myself more comfortable. On the other hand, when I speak Japanese I tend to be more modest and respectful. For example, when I talk to a new student or a when I ask a classmate favor, I find myself using Japanese, because it has a more polite tone. Additionally, although not quite about language, I noticed that when I talk to someone older in English, I find myself doing typically Japanese gestures such as bowing, or using passive/indirect expressions.

Learning Korean

Inspired by a friend who speaks 3 languages, English, Korean, and Japanese, I started to learn Korean online (outside of classes). I definitely still a beginner, but I find it fascinating that there are many similar pronunciation between Korean and Japanese words. For example, library in Japanese is “To-sho-kan”, while in Korean it is “Do-seo-kwan”. I found this interesting because it shows the way words diffused across countries, and how words were traded long time ago.

GCD Reflection Community Engagement – Combatting Human Trafficking

I have joined the combatting human trafficking group from the start of G11 and am continuing to contribute to it in G12 as well. So far, the CHT group has worked alongside with the NGO Lighthouse, founded by Shihoko Fujiwara. The NGO has greatly contributed in taking action against human trafficking through consultation services, educating the law enforcement/government officials, organizing awareness campaigns and lobbying the government to change legislations.

CHT has made continuous communication with Lighthouse, which has made us aware of the ongoing issue of human trafficking in Japan, and the severe situation the victims need to go through. Through donations and advocacy, we seek to make a change, and push for a difference.  CHT can support the Japanese community by spreading the knowledge that we’ve gained through our time working as a group – this is through actively communicating to our people in our school community during food fairs and other school events, and bringing it up our interpersonal time, such as transferring it to our school subjects, or sharing our knowledge to our parents. I am committed to promoting Lighthouse, and making sure younger students would be interested in joining CHT in order to continue YIS’s support to the NGO. Personally, I contributed to this, by attending speaker events, advocating for the cause and promoting the NGO during food fairs and other school events.

I believe this has contributed to the Japanese community,  because it diffuses the knowledge beyond the school community. Perhaps  once we talk about it to our parents, they’ll talk about it to their friends or relatives. This helps to make our knowledge on human trafficking more common among Japanese people, which is a small step to making a change, especially since the Japanese government still has this attitude to overlook the serious national and international issue of human/sex trafficking.

From this experience, I learnt practical skills, such as  the skill to organize effectively. As mentioned before, we’ve had the honor to invite Lighthouse to our school for speaker events, but this required operative organization and effective collaboration, which I believe I have developed more through this experience. Additionally, I also learnt the skill to communicate effectively – for example, in food fairs we are aware that we have both parents and elementary students visiting our booth, so we make pamphlets about our cause in both levels of language (one type of pamphlet for small kids, and one type of pamphlet for adults). This is needed because sometimes our younger audience could have a difficult time understanding what human trafficking is, and we can potentially get complains from parents by telling their children something that is stigmatized. For these reasons, the experience has taught me the skill to critically think what an appropriate form of communication is for our audience, to fully fulfill our purpose to raise awareness.

GCD Reflection Artistic Expression – Koto

I have played the koto, a traditional Japanese lute, for 9 years. At first it felt like a chore, but I have grown to enjoy playing it, now that I learned a lot through the process of improving. During middle school, I played the koto both in music class and in an extracurricular ensemble, and in high school I took part in a subunit of the extracurricular ensemble called K8.

During the period where I took koto as a class, I explored different formats of practice logs, such as videos, audio recordings, calendars, etc. This taught me how to find the right practice log for me to continuously record my practices in a way that fits me, which turned out to be recording a video of me playing – I still record my practices this way even for music pieces I play for the extracurricular group and K8. This allow me to listen to how I play objectively, and made the reflection process easier. More importantly, I learned the importance of recording your practices to keep track of your growth and be reflective of your improvements – I found this a challenge because this requires a degree of self-analysis, so I developed the skill to think critically of myself in order to effectively improve, especially if a performance is nearing. It also taught me the importance of putting the habit of practicing to stay consistent and naturally advance at the instrument.

One significant event where I was able to demonstrate artistic skill, was when I participated in a koto competition held by publisher Shueisha at the Tokyo International Forum on January 2, 2018. I, along with fellow members of K8, performed a musical piece called “Esoragoto”.  Leading up to this event, the 8 of us met up during the break several times to practice and rehearse. I developed new skills, because during the process of practicing a rehearsing, I really felt the challenges of synchronizing with the group whilst focusing on your own part, but by the last days of the rehearsals, I felt that I was able to do them simultaneously, whilst making the music sound whole as a group. Additionally, among the judges of the competition was the actual composer of the music piece we played, so we felt a huge pressure to meet up to his expectations and the way he wants to hear the song. Despite the pressure, I believe we were able to convey the hard work we’ve put in to both the judges and the audience, and we were able to enhance the beauty and essence of the musical piece. This effort resulted in us winning the competition in first place. Challenges were undertaken, because we were up against professional koto players from Tokyo University of Arts and other incredibly talented people, but I learned that rivalry and competition drive you to give your best performance.

I believe this experience also proved the benefits of being a global citizen. Despite the koto being a traditional Japanese instrument, we surprised the audience and the judges because we had many multicultural/biracial members. Their reactions were positive, and they commented on our performance saying they were happy to see Japanese culture being passed on not only by young people, but international people, because the culture can be spread to a global audience. I developed and reflected upon how playing  an instrument transcends culture, but also taught me the importance of preserving traditional artistic expression.