My 3rd week marks the halfway point of my time as a World Friendship Center intern in Hiroshima, Japan. This week was quite stressful for me truth be told, but I was still enjoying my time. Check out the highlights below!
July 17th – WFC Crew Bonding
As I mentioned in my first weekly blog post, I live in the WFC house. Laura and Malachi live there too; Matthew lives in the guest house. This means that we see each other every day to the point that we’re all on the route of becoming friends (if we aren’t already 🤔). I bring this up to introduce the fact that, aside from cleaning again, this day was all about having fun with each other.
At 10am, Malachi made pancakes for everyone. They were pretty good and we sat around joking and talking about our plans for the day. We planned to go to a Vietnamese Potluck a university was hosting that Malachi’s friends invited him to. However, he got the time wrong 😅, so it looked like the day was bleak until he got an invite to Guest House En.
Guest House En is a restaurant and hotel that expatriates, or expats, frequent. They hold events sometimes and that night they were hosting Koto (a traditional Japanese string instrument) and drum players.
We left at 6pm and stayed until 10pm, it was a night of getting to know new people, eating new Japanese food, and hearing music I’d only heard on YouTube. It was a great experience.
July 18th – Jogakuin University Visit
At noon, Laura, Malachi, and I visited Jogakuin University, an all-girls school. Robert Dormer, an English professor, hosted our visit. He wanted us to meet some of his students, one of which will be interning at the WFC in August, to talk about our work at the WFC and what our lives are like as American University Students. The university was on the base of a hill and was very beautiful, the greenery reminded me of IWU although there was much more here. Robert and the students were very kind and we ate many snacks while talking about various topics. It was pretty fun.
July 19th – Shudo University Visit and Tech Set Up
At 10am, Jim Ronald, a WFC Board Member and English professor at Shudo University, invited Laura and me to sit in on his classes to engage with his students. It was very similar to our visit to Jogakuin University. The difference was that we visited two of Jim’s classes. The first class was very casual, and although the students were a little shy to speak English we talked about American vs. Japanese culture similarities and differences. I was also able to get quite a few food recommendations from them. The second class was for English majors in their final year who were writing dissertations over various topics such as American irony, comedy, loan words, etc. I’m glad I was able to help my fellow university students with their studies. Laura and I took the streetcar part of the way home from this university which was a first-time experience for me 🤩.
At 4:30pm, Laura, Mirei. Matthew, Malachi, and I worked on the tech rehearsal set up for WFC’s August 6th Hibakusha Talk. It was a new setup that they’d never done before, so it took a lot of time to work out the bugs, but in the end, the style looked very professional.
July 20th – Intern Work and Kido Sensei’s visit
This day was a simple work day, which I was glad to have because I had been feeling a little exhausted at this point.
After breakfast, Laura and I were tasked with putting up some nameplates of the past directors, which I thought turned out pretty well. I also continued working on my label project, which I was beginning to have trouble with concerning formatting issues on google docs. (Note To Self: NEVER use google docs for formatting again.) Thankfully Laura, being a graphic design major, saved the day and helped me format the labels with more congruence.
Later in the day Kido-sensei, a WFC board member, a writer, and a teacher of the tea ceremony and flower arrangement, visited the house. She offered to perform a tea ceremony for Laura, Matthew, Mirei, Malachi, and me. The date has been set for August 9th, and I am so excited to attend!!
July 21st- Aja’s Rough Day
Being an intern at the WFC and living in Japan has been completely amazing. For all my remaining days here “awe” will be the background emotion for everything I experience. However, life is still life and I am still me. I can get burnt out very easily, so it’s always my personal responsibility to take care of myself by meditating, journaling, or singing my heart out. Unfortunately, I had been putting all those routines on the back burner since coming because of the need to adapt to my new environment and experience as much Japanese culture as I can in my six weeks here. I know that’s a lot to put on my own shoulders, but what can I say I want it all.
Anyway, all this to say that the inevitable happened and from the start of the day I woke up upset and stressed. Every emotion I had put to the side came rushing back into me at once, I needed a truly restful break, but I wouldn’t allow myself to. I did not speak to the directors about how I was feeling. I tried to push through and focus on my work, but then I got distracted. I tried to sing my heart out a bit, but then got annoyed at my own voice. I tried to ride my feelings out on my bike, and in the end, I scraped my finger badly on a wall. I was too reckless with myself and this was a clear sign. My director, Matthew, could tell I was having a hard time and graciously took a moment to speak with me. It was a good talk and I felt supported afterward. He kindly allowed me to be absent from the events planned for the day if I wished, and I gratefully accepted. I feel blessed to be interning at an organization that not only cares about the work I do and sharing its message with me but also about me. Yes, this place is the World Friendship Center indeed. 🤝🏾
July 22nd- Sou-san’s Testimony and August 6th Rehearsal
At 9am, we listened to WFC member and hibakusha Sou-san’s testimony of his experience of the A-bomb at six years old. He lived outside the hypocenter, closer to the sea. To my recollection, everyone survived but his father who was burned at his workplace which was in the hypocenter. Sou-san saw two horrifically burned junior high school children who made their way over to his home after escaping the flames at the heart of the city. He said that he would never forget them.
Listening to Sou-san’s testimony taught me how untrue the wide belief is that Hiroshima only suffered the initial devastation of the bomb via those that died that day and the destruction of the city. Radiation from the A-Bomb seeped into everything and remained for weeks following its detonation. Many hibakushas who were not wounded physically developed radiation poisoning, and so did first responders. Hibakushas are at high risk for developing cancer and researchers believe that this is due to the radiation they were exposed to. Sou-san developed cancer in his 70s, and luckily he overcame it and is an energetic man today, but others have not been so blessed. After his testimony, I asked Sou-san “Do you believe you are the same person today as you would have been had the A-Bomb not been dropped?” He said no because his family, like many hibakushas, became impoverished after losing their home. The death of his father also deeply impacted him. I am very grateful to have heard Sou-san’s testimony. Hiroshima is such a lively and beautiful city today, so it is hard to imagine all of the suffering that occurred here not so long ago. Knowing Sou-san and hearing his testimony makes it more than just real, it makes what occurred here a part of my story too.
At 3:30pm, many WFC member’s arrived at the house so that we could begin the technical rehearsal for August 6th. The woman of the hour, Tanaka-san the hibakusha who will share her testimony, was there too. Everyone did their best and rehearsal went well, but unfortunately, we had some technical problems that could not be resolved. We decided to move to a regular zoom format, but no worries if you keep up with WFC’s programs in the future I’m sure you will be able to see the new professional format we intended soon 😉. I will not mention any of the details of Tanaka-san’s testimony, you will have to view it yourself on August 6th. See the flyer below for details!
July 23rd- More Label Project and Blog Post Work
This day was another simple work day. Laura and I ate Mos Burger for lunch, then worked at the coffee shop Tully’s for the remainder of the day.
Third Week Conclusion
My third week was quite mentally overwhelming, but I’m grateful to have met the university students and to have heard the hibakusha’s testimonies. I hope to finish my 4th Week Blog Post soon and get the food blog page up and running. Thanks for tuning in and see you again soon! またね!!