Yesterday was our first official interaction with Peace Boat. As you may have read, Will and I have been working with 2nd Harvest for the week we are in Tokyo. Our departure with Peace Boat is this Friday, the 17th, but yesterday there was a mandatory orientaton/information session. Had this meeting not been mandatory, we probably wouldn’t have flown into Japan until this week. Not complaining though because we have enjoyed 2nd Harvest, and the meeting was very informative.
We arrived to the JICA center outside of Hiro station around 2 pm to attend a presentation by former and current volunteers about their experience. The entire program was in Japanese which would have made following a two hour talk quite the challenge; however, Peace Boat is very aware of non-Japanese volunteers and are accomodating to those lacking language ability. They provided personal one-way radios that broadcasted live translations of the panel’s presentation.
Armed with an English translation in one ear, Japanese in the other, and a few visuals, Will and I were able to get an insiders view on Peace Boat’s current operation in Ishinomaki, Miyagi. Long story short, the panel thought two things: three months after the events, Peace Boat has been able to establish an effective, organized work force; but with temperatures rising and interest waning, volunteer numbers are down. Essentially, Peace Boat struggled to fit in the affected area at first; found the best areas to help and the best method to structure the relief effort; benefited from eager volunteers and peaked at the Golden Week Holidays; but now are seeing a decrease in volunteer numbers.
A funny anecdote from this first meeting is that some famous Japanese musician was on the panel as a former volunteer. I think his name is Sugizo? I haven’t looked him up yet, but after the presentation a lot of girls flocked to him. During the talk, Mr. Famous was wearing big sun glasses–in the dark room–and sporting leather pants and a Bon Jovi haircut. He went on a rant at one point about being famous and how even superior god-like rock stars can be volunteers. I shoudn’t be too mean to him though. He did seem sincere and did volunteer for two weeks in Ishinomaki. Also, he did raise a good point–albeit in a slightly pompous way–that anyone can be a volunteer.
So, the post is titled “Pick me! Pick me!” and you might be wondering why by now. I’ll get to the point now. The second and third meeting of the day were for volunteers and volunteers leaving this Friday, which Will and I will be doing. At the second meeting we learned a lot about what to expect, what to pack, and how to prepare. The third meeting was for international volunteers that were leaving on the 17th. The Peace Boat representative told us that she was going to make the groups. Once we arrive in Ishinomaki, we will work in different groups likely at different locations. At this meeing, those groups were decided.
It might have just been me, but I got pretty tense. We were introduced to the three team leaders for the trip who were then told to stand up and go stand by the wall. Flashbacks of elementary school kickball team selection came rushing though my head. Additionally, I wondered how we were going to be picked as the Peace Boat representative didn’t know anything about us other than basic info (e.g. name, address). I was also thinking about how big of a decision this was. So much rests on what group you’re in ranging from the work you do to the chemistry between members. Peace Boat is big on teamwork and being a collective unit, so I figured the team assignment might be more important.
It wasn’t. The Peace Boat rep even admitted that she was basically going to wing it. When she asked Will and I if we wanted to be together, we said “Whichever.” She said she thought it would be better to join different groups. So we did. Each group ended up having two Japanese speakers (meaning they’re bilingual)and three others.
This Friday when we leave for Ishinomaki, we’ll be in three grous of five and various Peace Boat staff. I’m looking forward to working with the group and having an awesome week helping out in the affected area.
Below are some pictures from the meeting and two forms we had to fill out. The latter will give you an idea of the organization. It’s mostly meant for people looking to work with Peace Boat.