Author Archives: zhovde

PSCI 397: Journal Entry #11


Today I did some more cataloging for the library. Something I have noticed is that I prefer engaging with the people involved at WFC. I prefer joining the classes and talking about my perspective on things.

Peace and love,


Becoming More Comfortable


I have spent another week in Japan. I realized I only have a month left here and that feels surreal. This week I became a lot more comfortable in the city. Hannah and I travel around the city much more often now.

Last Monday, we spent time with one of the volunteers, board members, and English students at WFC. She taught us about one of her hobbies: calligraphy. That was a really nice experience and I appreciate her willingness to teach us about one of her passions. I mentioned in my journal earlier this week that my name does not easily translate to the Japanese alphabet, so I used “Zo” instead of “Zoe” in my calligraphy piece. “Zo” means elephant in Japanese and, oftentimes, when I meet new people here, they ask me, “How can I remember your name?” so I tell them it’s similar to an elephant. Everyone finds that hilarious, and I think “Zo” fits me now.

Calligraphy with Yoko

On Tuesday, we joined more English classes. I always enjoy joining these classes because I get to engage with many new people, and they all seem interested in knowing more about me, whether it be my hobbies, where I am from, or how I became interested in peacebuilding. I have become much more comfortable asking the students questions and helping them with their English. I have noticed that sometimes I struggle with English as well while trying to answer their questions. Sometimes the words the students learn are difficult for even me to pronounce or I cannot think of an easy synonym for words they are learning.

On Wednesday, we toured the park alongside one of WFC’s volunteer guides. I learned so much about the monuments in the park. Some of them are more difficult to notice or find when walking around the park without a guide, so I am glad we had a guide there to show us some of the more hidden monuments. One monument that I think really spoke to me was one that included a poem, which was a message to President Truman, pleading for world peace and no more bombs. Some of the other monuments were dedicated to foreigners who, in some capacity, gave aid to victims after the bombing. One monument was a large tomb that holds a portion of the ashes of victims- it is unique because it combines two styles of tombs- shinto and Emperor.

Poem monument in Peace Memorial Park
Monument dedicated to Korean Victims (the turtle points towards the Korean peninsula)

Thursday and Friday included more English classes for us and some library organization work. Outside of our internship on Thursday, we went to Hondori and looked around until it was late and time for us to go back to our homestay. Hannah and I love going to Hondori because there are so many places to shop and there are a lot of tourists, so we constantly meet new people.

We also went to the Peace Memorial Museum, in the park on Thursday. We could not stay long, but we were able to visit most of the exhibits. Honestly, this was a very emotional day for me. The museum is very intense and impactful. I am very passionate about issues surrounding human rights and peace, so seeing images and descriptions of individuals who lost their lives or were directly impacted in some way by the bombing is difficult for me emotionally. I knew coming here that I might struggle to control my emotions, but I did not think I would be so emotional so soon. I have been taking time to reflect and talk to others about my feelings, so as of recently I have been feeling better. I would be lying if I said I was too nervous about how I will feel after attending Hibakusha talks.

I learned how to make a peace doll on Friday. Peace doll making is a tradition that has been carried out over many years at WFC. They were originally made by a Hibakusha, and one of the crafty volunteers at WFC was able to teach Hannah and I how to make them. We also received many handmade gifts from her, which I appreciate deeply. Making the peace dolls was a beautiful experience. I was able to engage with more people involved with WFC and they were able to teach me some origami. I also learned how to make a paper crane. Paper cranes are very symbolic here. Sadako, a young girl who survived the A-bomb, but was later diagnosed with leukemia (due to radiation exposure), was passionate about world peace and completing a project that represented her passion. Her goal was to make a thousand paper cranes while she was in the hospital. She was unable to finish this project, but because of her, paper cranes have become a symbol of the desire for peace.

One of my peace dolls

Hannah and I made dinner for our host family on Thursday night, and they always seem to enjoy our food. This time we made spaghetti from scratch (except for the noodles) and a side salad. I love cooking for them because I love to cook back home. It has made me much more comfortable being here because I am able to pursue my hobbies.

Hannah and I decided that, after work on Friday, we would get dinner together in the city. Typically we eat dinner with our homestay and we love doing that, but we wanted to try a new place close to WFC this night. It was a small restaurant with vegan options, which is great because it has been a struggle for me to be vegan here.

Saturday was a long day for me. We did not have to work long at WFC. I listened to some of the volunteer tour guides give a sample of their script for the peace tours and provided my feedback. Hannah left to visit her aunt for the weekend, so I ventured off on my own for the rest of the day. First, I walked to a cafe I have not tried before to get some lunch. They had some great vegan options, I was able to get a bento box and eat it in Peace Memorial Park. After lunch, I visited the hypocenter, which is the area right below where the bomb was dropped. I walked from there to the Hiroshima Castle. The original castle was destroyed by the bomb, but it was rebuilt and contains a history museum on the inside. This history museum focuses on feudalist history in Japan. Some parts were interesting, but I went mostly because I was interested in seeing the castle from the outside and learning about its reconstruction.

I walked from the Castle to the Shukkien Garden. This garden was beautiful, it contains Shinto and Buddhist-affiliated objects. I loved seeing the fish and turtles. The bridges were also very cool, and I got some great photos. I learned that this garden was also destroyed by the bomb. Many victims took shelter there but were unable to seek medical treatment in time. The bodies of these victims have been buried in the garden.

I was so exhausted after Saturday’s solo excursions. Luckily, I woke up the next day with enough energy to go to Mitaki-Dera with my host family. We tried a new lunch spot that had a lot of vegan alternatives for things- such as soy milk, soy meat, etc. Mitaki-Dera wiped out all my energy. It includes many Buddhist and Shinto shrines and temples. “Mitaki” means “three” in English and “Dera” means waterfall, I learned. This makes sense because the place has three main waterfalls that you can see if you climb to see them. I wrote an “ema” while I was there, which is a Shinto wooden plaque that you write wishes on and hang on a shrine, so deities can receive them.

Temple at Mitaki-dera

Again, I want to end this blog post by summarizing things I have learned this week and some of my plans for the future.

I have learned so much this week that it has made me much more comfortable and excited about being here. I learned more about the people involved with WFC, such as their passions, hobbies, lifestyles, etc. I learned how to do some origami and I learned more about the A-bomb and radiation exposure after. I learned more about Shinto and Buddhism, temples, shrines, as well as the former kingdom that once existed in Hiroshima.

I am still planning on going to Kyoto, but all of my following weekends before I leave are busy for me. I am working with Hannah and the directors of WFC to figure out that trip. I plan to visit RERF (Radiation Effects Research Foundation) on August 5th and that will be an interesting experience for me because it has some questionable history. I plan to explore more restaurants and give another visit to the ones I have found so far. I plan to cook more because my host family seems to really enjoy the food I make and I think it takes some weight off their shoulders. I plan to work more on cataloging the library because I am behind and need to catch up so I can finish it before I leave. I plan to concretize my research question, it has been taking me a while because there is so much information I am learning here that I would love to include in my paper, but not all of it is relevant. I plan to attend some Hibakusha talks and take some time to reflect on those because sometimes my emotions can get the best of me.

It is obvious I have a lot in store for the rest of my time here. I am excited to have and share some new experiences with Hannah.

Mata later,


PSCI 397: Journal Entry #10


What a day I’ve had. I was at WFC briefly this morning to see the volunteer peace tour guides give their sample tours of Peace Memorial Park. After that, I traveled on foot to a lunch spot, Hiroshima Castle, and Shukkien Garden. I am going to talk more about Hiroshima Castle and Shukkien in my blog post tomorrow because I have so much to say. I am happy that I discovered a new lunch spot today and was able to go off on my own. Typically, I struggle to travel alone and do new things by myself. I finally found an almost fully vegan cafe. I was feeling like it was virtually impossible for me to be vegan here, but my hope has been restored! Maybe I will become a regular there instead of the konbini (convenience store).

Peace and love,


PSCI 397: Journal Entry #9


Once again, we attended an English class today; however, this one showed the dynamics there are between classes. The class today had 3 Hibakusha in it and other students who have been involved with WFC for many years. The Hibakusha in the class are learning English because they want to be able to tell their stories to a larger audience. This is something profound to me and it truly shows their dedication to Peacebuilding.

PSCI 397: Journal Entry #8


This journal entry is coming to my blog a day late, but I’ll go ahead and repopulate my day yesterday. Hannah and I attended and assisted in two English classes, the first one focusing on teaching English through conversation and the other being a reading course. I have been meeting a lot of new people through these classes, and I enjoy sharing my perspective on conflict and the bombing with them. The reading class is reading “Global Hibakusha”, and because of this book, the students and myself are learning about the impact of nuclear weapons and energy on the environment and atmosphere.

Peace and love,


PSCI 397: Journal Entry #7


Earlier this afternoon, Hannah and I received a tour of Peace Memorial Park from one of WFC’s peace guides. We saw the different monuments and learned about their meanings. Some of the monuments are dedicated to foreign individuals that were involved in helping victims after the bombing. One of the monuments displayed a poem that represented a plea for world peace and nuclear weapon disarmament after President Truman said dropping a third bomb was a possibility. One of the larger monuments was a lounge that holds the ashes of thousands of victims. It’s interesting because it includes designs from Buddhism, Shintoism, and traditional emperor’s tombs. There is another monument close by that is dedicated to all the Korean victims. The monument points towards the Korean Peninsula. The A-bomb dome was nearby so we were able to learn about its history as a museum and its architecture.

Peace and love,


PSCI 397: Journal Entry #6


Today Hannah and I attended the English classes hosted by the WFC. We got to speak with the students and learn more about their lives and when they started learning English. From them, I learned about their perspectives or assumptions on American education on conflict. One important thing we talked about is how, in America, there are many people who are defensive of the United States’ actions in the war. This seemed to be something we all condemned.

PSCI 397: Journal Entry #5


Today Hannah and I learned how to do calligraphy. Since “Zoe” does not translate to the alphabet well in Japan, we used “Zo” instead. I learned from my host family that it means elephant. As much as I love elephants, I am going to try and find a better alternative for my name soon.

Peace and love,


Learning Along the Way

Konbanwa from Japan!

I arrived in Hiroshima about a week ago. Being here and interning at the World Friendship Center (WFC) is a surreal experience. Hannah and I have spent our time so far learning the ropes of living here as foreigners who do not speak the language. We have definitely put our problem-solving skills to the test as we have had several trial-and-error experiences.

I flew from O’Hare to Tokyo on July 2nd, approximately one week ago. The flight was long and I was already struggling to communicate my needs and dietary preferences with the flight crew. I was able to do that, but that was just the beginning of my communication issues. I landed in Tokyo and had to make a connecting flight to Hiroshima. It seemed easy enough until I got to immigration. Immigration looked at my paperwork and told me that I needed a visa. I attempted to explain that I did not and gave them the contract explaining my internship. It took about an hour for someone to allow me to pass through. With my flight in another terminal and my baggage nowhere to be seen, I was in a time crunch. I ended up missing my flight, so I had to reschedule, but the airline employees struggled to get me on a new flight. After about two hours, I was put on a new flight that night. I had no difficulties landing in Hiroshima, getting on a bus, traveling to the station, and meeting up with Hannah and Satoko (the wonderful woman hosting Hannah and I for the first two weeks).

My first day at WFC was great. I enjoyed meeting all the staff and touring the facility. Hannah and I were allowed to explore more of the city that day, so we went to Peace Memorial Park and Hondori to look around. We were only at Peace Memorial Park briefly, but we will be getting a tour of it from the WFC Directors soon. In the park, is the Atomic Bomb Dome. The building mystically survived the bombing and had become a symbol of nuclear weapon abolition. I plan to talk more about it in my blog next week. After the park, we walked to Hondori, a large shopping center that has arcades, restaurants, cafes, and clothing stores. We were exhausted when we got home, but we knew we wanted to go back to Hondori in the future.

Our second day, we were assigned our first project from the WFC directors. Our first duty was to organize the library at the center and log all the books into the online catalog. This tedious project is one we are still continuing now. We also were able to meet other interns from the local university and learn about the history of the center. One of the directors gave a presentation on Barbara Reynolds, the founder the WFC. She was a peace activist that stood up for Hibakushas (survivors of the A-bomb) and attempted to amplify their stories to the world. It is important to note that she is also a somewhat controversial figure as her husband once worked for the ABCC- an American-ran organization that utilized Hibakushas for their data research without their permission. Nevertheless, she did play an integral role in displaying the Hibakusha’s stories to the whole world through her peace pilgrimages. After the presentation, we had an insightful discussion with the local interns about peace education in Hiroshima and contemporary, differing attitudes toward remembering the city’s history.

One important topic of discussion was that the bombing, because of the frequent education and memorials, has become a part of the locals’ everyday lives. It has become trivialized by some of the locals. This prompted another important conversation. We discussed how people feel about moving on from the past. To some, moving on from the past includes memorializing the violence, but to others, moving on may include forgetting the past completely and removing the symbols that commemorate the past.

In the following days, Hannah and I tested different methods of transportation to commute to the WFC. We tried biking, walking, and the bus. We came to a consensus that we will walk to the center unless the weather is bad. Then, we will use the bus. We constantly have issues with transportation. We typically are late and miss the bus or cannot find the bus stop. We also had issues with the IC cards. I was able to out money on an IC card on my phone in the United States, but I have not been able to put more money on the card since I have been in Japan. I was stressed out for a couple days about it because I did not bring much yen with me, thinking that I could put money on the IC card once I got here. One of the WFC employees was able to get me a physical IC card and I was able to exchange some USD for yen as well. I was able to mostly solve those issues.

We continued to organize the library in the following days and explore more of the city. One struggle for me has been finding meals that fit my dietary preferences. Being vegan is not a popular lifestyle here like it is in the US. Satoko has been very kind in making me meals twice a day that are vegan. She also helps me translate ingredients at supermarkets. I am very grateful for her generosity.

Outside of work, the past two days we have been able to go to Hondori and look around some more. One night we got food and the other night we went shopping.

Yesterday, Hannah and I formally introduced ourselves to the board of directors at WFC. It was brief- we talked about our hobbies, interests, and education.

Today was our day off, we spent time with our host family. We went shopping and got lunch with them. Later that night, we made them dinner. Hannah and I made soup and spring rolls with peanut sauce. Our host family seemed to really like the food we made.

That was my first week recapitulated. I want to end this week’s blog post by summarizing what I learned and what my plans are for the next 5 weeks.

I learned more about the public transportation system and became more familiar with using it. I learned to never forget an umbrella and wear shoes that are easier to slip on and off. On a more academic note, I learned about the founding of WFC and different perspectives on peacebuilding in Hiroshima. I learned more about my role and what is expected of me at my internship.

As for my plans, I plan to go to Kyoto at some point. I had planned on going next weekend for a festival, but my plans fell through. I also plan to get a local sim card for my phone because wifi has been a real issue for Hannah and I. It has caused us to be late and get lost a few times. I want to do a currency exchange as well when I have some free time and explore more parts of the city. Another one of my plans is to find some more places that can cater to my dietary preferences as that has been a bit of a struggle so far. More importantly, I want to start my research project. I plan to explore the younger generation’s perception of the bombing and compare that to the past mobilization efforts against nuclear proliferation.

That’s my blog post for this week. I can’t wait to give more updates. I’ll also be including some details in my daily journals, which I complete for my internship credit. I’ll check back in briefly tomorrow.

Mata later (a new Japanese-English phrase I love),


PSCI 397: Journal Entry #4


Today I had a new experience: I rode the bus to the World Friendship Center instead of biking with Hannah. My host family taught me how the buses work and everything was easy, I had no issues. I would like to ride the bus more, however, my IC card is malfunctioning. I can pay with exact change, but I am constantly low on coins. My goal for today is to finish my assignment, fix my IC card situation, and go to Hondori after work. Hondori has a lot of places to shop and eat, so I am looking forward to that.

Peace and love,