GCD – Community Engagement

In the first semester of this school year, I joined the GIN Chiku group, hoping to learn more about the state of the homeless people in Japan, particularly in the region I live, and how we can help them effectively. I also thought that participating in this service would help me perceive the specific issues the homeless people around Yokohama, where I live, face.

My first visit to the Chiku center was in October. I participated in the morning session from 7:45 to 9:00a.m. to help prepare lunch for the homeless people. I cut vegetables with the other volunteers who were also helping out, while I learned about their past sessions and the afternoon session when they serve the food to the homeless. For example, they told me that they made 800 meals last time and that it was very busy. I also learned that since some of the people have difficulty with swallowing food, the vegetables need to be cut into small pieces, especially for those with leaves, so that they do not get stuck in their throats or cause any health issues. I still remember being impressed by the care and thought the volunteers put for the homeless people as well as their detailed knowledge on the homeless people.

I visited the Chiku center again in November for the morning session. This time, my role was to wash the vegetables. I felt that I was able to communicate more with the volunteers and get to know them and the Chiku community, compared to last time. I worked closely with one of the volunteers as seen in the picture below, and I had the opportunity to learn and ask various questions. For example, she taught me that the food they serve always changes depending on the ingredients they receive on that day. Not only that, I also got to know her better; for example, she told me that it has been less than a year for her to join this community and that she was impressed with how people get together to help the homeless. She also said that it would be even better if more schools, including Japanese schools, were involved in this so that more people would be helping out too. This experience made me realize how meaningful it is for our school to be involved in these services, and how significant it is to keep this service ongoing in order to keep providing food for the homeless people. By helping out, we would be able to lessen the work of the volunteers, who were mostly elders, in addition to helping out the homeless people.

GCD – Inter-Cultural Communication

This year is my 6th year of studying Spanish, as I have been taking the Spanish B course from my first year of middle school. Recently, there was an exchange program with an IB school in Spain, and we had the opportunity to communicate with the native Spanish-speakers. We had a session where we had to speak one-on-one or in small groups, and we were only allowed to speak in Spanish. Through this session, I was able to gain a further understanding of the Spanish culture and their Spanish lifestyles, which were quite different from my Japanese culture. For example, I learned that ‘bullfighting’ is commonly held in Spain and that it involves killing bulls with a ‘cuchillo’, a knife. Another thing I found interesting was that some of them spoke Gallego in addition to Spanish. They told me that although they speak Spanish at school, they speak Gallego at home and with their neighbors. I also learned about their gastronomy. One of the students told me that the rice in Spain is generally cooked with salt and other ingredients, different from what I usually eat in Japan. She also told me that people in Spain rarely eat raw seafood, which was also very different from the Japanese culture. I found this interesting because these were things that I had never heard of or something that I was able to relate to my trip to Spain two years ago. For example, the fact that they do not eat raw seafood linked back to my trip, helping me notice the fact that all of the dishes I ate were cooked and that I did not remember seeing any dishes with raw fish.

During the meeting, however, there were a few times when I could not understand what the Spanish students were saying as they spoke very fast. In order to overcome this, I asked them to speak more slowly, asked questions to clarify their points, or told them that I did not really understand. When I did so, they spoke slower or with easier terms so that I could understand, helping me share opinions, relate to their stories, and understand them better. Additionally, whenever I could not come up with terms and expressions, I tried to explain them in a different way using simpler terms, words with similar meanings, or body language. When I did this, the Spanish students understood me or asked me questions to clarify my point, allowing us to understand each other and develop our conversations. They also corrected my errors or gave me suggestions to help me convey my point, helping me learn and notice my grammatical errors.

Overall, I think the session with the Spanish students deepened my knowledge of the Spanish culture and their lifestyles, while also strengthening my oral and listening skills in Spanish. I was able to learn about the difference between our cultures, discuss the differences between our programs at school, and learn about the different languages spoken within Spain, including Gallego. When I had trouble communicating my point or understanding them, I found and applied strategies, including body language, asking questions, and finding alternative ways of explaining my point. I believe that it was also a good opportunity to realize my weaknesses: conjugating verbs quickly and correctly, and understanding native Spanish people who speak very fast. Hence, I would like to focus on my oral skills as well as listening skills by, perhaps, practicing explaining things (possibly an image) in Spanish at home and by listening to music or watching videos in Spanish.


GCD Wildness Engagement: Niigata Expedition

For expeditions 2016, grade 10 went to Niigata for hiking and camping, Okinawa for diving, or Hiroshima for a cultural tour. I chose to go to Niigata because although my family and I go to Niigata often for skiing, we never go there for hiking. Therefore, I thought it would be a great opportunity to try something new that I would probably not do if it weren’t for expeditions.


View from Mountain Park

On the first day at Mountain Park, a ski resort in Niigata, we had orientation, did group activities, and got ready for the 2 nights-and-3 days hike. We were told to not bring our phones, which we usually frequently use, to the hike. Although I was a little reluctant to leave our phones at first, surprisingly, I was able to adapt to the situation easily without any concerns. Every day was fulfilling, as it was filled with activities and beautiful sceneries, and I realized that not having our phones by our side enabled us to enjoy the scenery and our time with friends to the maximum extent because we were not occupied in using our phones. I believe that it would have been different if we had them because we would probably have been busy taking photos and using our social medias, which is what usually happens when we have our phones, instead of having man-to-man conversations and enjoying the sceneries with our peers.

Furthermore, we were also asked to decide on our roles for the hike. On the first day of hiking, I was the time keeper, who keeps track of the time we arrive at certain points. The difficulty of this role was having to keep on reminding myself to record the time because often after the arduous paths, I was very exhausted that I forgot to check and record the time. It was also difficult to stop at paths, where it was narrow or unstable, and to keep up with the boys in our groups, who had more stamina, to ask them to stop at certain points for rests and recording the time. In order to not forget to check and record the time, I asked a few of my friends to remind me regularly. They sometimes even helped me out by taking out the notebook and pen from my bag for me, as it was not easy to take them out from a gigantic bag stuffed with many things, in a short amount of time and without bumping my bag into someone. It was especially helpful in steep, unstable, and wet paths. I realized how asking for help can help me very much mentally and physically and also prevent accidents, such as bumping my big bag to others and making them lose balance, which can lead to a serious injury. I also learned that it is important to be aware of my surroundings in order for myself and my peers to stay safe, although it can be harder since we may be very tired to have the ease to do so. From this experience, I learned to consider how I organize my things and pack, depending on how frequently I would use the object and when I would use it. For example, towards the end, I made sure to put notebooks, pens, and snacks in the small pocket where it was easily accessible so that I didn’t have to swing my bag and bump into others.

Foggy view from the mountain

During the hike, other than fulfilling our roles, it was essential to care for each other, especially towards the end of the long hike. Towards the end, we found the path especially more tiring due to fatigue. This lead to the group separating into groups: the faster group and the slower. For example, although our group was usually together on Day 1, there were times when we separated on Day 2. However, we managed to come back as a group again and finish as a group by encouraging each other and pushing ourselves to keep on going.

After dinner on Day 2, we were told that there would be an optional short hike on next day morning to see the sunrise. Despite the fact that we had to wake up early and the path was still wet, I chose to go because it was a great opportunity to do something new and because I did not want to regret it afterward. We woke up at 5 a.m. on the next morning, and although we were unable to see the sunrise due to the thick fog, I felt proud of myself for being a risk-taker and for choosing the more challenging option.

In addition to being a risk-taker, I had to push myself and maintain a positive mind in order to keep on going during the hike. For example, when there were many slippery, steep hills, I tried to overcome my fear and worry by encouraging myself that it is not dangerous and that I would be able to do it. I also tried to keep a positive mindset by thinking that if I finish the hills, I could take a rest or would have a stable, wide path. Furthermore, my peers also encouraged me and helped me complete the trail. Watching my friends also trying hard gave me the strength to push myself harder and keep up with the group. Additionally, I really appreciated when my peers told me about the slippery places because I was able to pay more attention and be careful.

Overall, although the hike was very tiring and challenging, I really enjoyed working together with my peers and seeing the beautiful sceneries every day. It was a great and new experience for me, as it enabled me to learn many new things that I could apply in different situations. As an example, through this hiking expedition, I learned that when packing, putting the heaviest things at the top makes the bag feel lighter, as the center of gravity focuses on the hip. I could apply this knowledge not only when I go hiking again but also when I go traveling or have to carry heavy, stuffed bags. Another thing I learned was to adapt to unexpected situations, such as the sudden changes in the weather in the mountains. For example, after I experienced how it can become very chilly or rainy suddenly, I made sure to pack a jacket and a raincoat at the very top so that I was able to take them out easily whenever I needed to.