Apart from smartphones and convenient shops, Students learned how to live harmoniously with the nature in Yap
Yap-Japan Cultural Exchange Program 2019 was held from 13 to 25 August with nine students from Tokyo and Kansai area including one graduate student. We stayed at Maaq village, Tamil and experienced traditional and local lifestyle of Yap.
We stayed at the Men’s house which is the community house for men in the village. The villagers finished two-year long reconstruction work of the house in June. Because the old one was damaged by high waves caused by sea level rise, villagers decided to raise the ground 1 meter up and reconstructed new build using old techniques. Their new Men’s house was shining beautifully at the seaside. We were staying in the house hanging the mosquito nets and laid on the coconut frond mat that they weaved by themselves.
For the first half of the program we took time to gain the skill and knowledge for living. Weaving the bag by the coconut frond and walking around the village seeking for some food, washing their clothes with lemon, making fire, learning how to cook taro, bananas, bread fruits and fish which was kindly shared by the villagers, husking the coconuts and so on. By receiving the blessing of the rich nature of Yap and learning the way of living and kindness of Yapese, the students slowly acquired their knowledge and skills of the island.
In the middle of the program, the students experienced the daily life of Yapese by home-staying for 2 nights and 3 days. They were experienced the diversity of lifestyles in Yap by cooking, fishing, learning traditional skills, and attending mass at the church. They came back from the homestay with shining smile and kept sharing about their different experiences and their lovely family until 2 am in the midnight.
The behavior of the students who created the “family” in Yap has been clearly changed. Each began sharing their knowledge and skills taught by their families at the homestay and enjoying “living” itself with feeling the freedom. In addition, they expressed their appreciation to the village as a “thank you activity” by cleaning weeds and picking up trash around the men’s house.
In addition, they were learning the serious problems what Yap island is facing and what the people are doing to solve those problems by joining the activities of TRCT which is an organisation to protect the environment in Tamil area, visiting landfill site, recycling center and the local plate factory made by the beatle nuts tree’s skin. For the students who get precious “family” in Yap, what is happening in Yap is no longer somebody else’s problem.
At the final sharing meeting at the Narita airport, the students shared what they have learned and some people were talking about their anxiety to go back their “everyday life” in Japan with tears. The beautiful nature and the people’s wisdom and love will continue to live in their heart forever. Reported by NAOI Saki
On December 1, at a community center in Chiyoda, Tokyo, the reporting session of Yap-Japan cultural exchange program was held. Among nine participants of the program, excluding two who are in an expedition in Costa-Rica and in busy study before exams, seven university and high school students were gathered in front of family members and friend, in total of close to 30.
During the session, the word, “Love”, was repeatedly mentioned. “I was strongly held by armes when I was slipped over the floor”, “The family made me local medicine when I got sick at home-stay period”, and other stories were told. In Japan, those students are surrounded by smart phones and convenience stores. For such spoiled life, direct communications seeing each other in Yap was so impressive.
Family members told that “I believe surely that they had very significant experiences in Yap”, or “He had so exciting days, I am feeling” after hearing their presentations.
Some participants came from far away, like Kochi or Osaka. They kept talking just before the final train and the day after, many of those spent fun time at Tokyo Disney Land together. They did not want to be separated again. They look like understanding that the real program would begin after the whole activities in Yap.
We really appreciate strong support of people in Dechmur village and Yap island.
ECOPLUS conducted its flagship program, Yap-Japan Cultural Exchange Program 2018 from 18 to 29 August with nine students from high school to university in Dechumur village, Tamil, Yap. Provided cooked and un-coocked food like bread fruit, taro, fishes, crabs and others, students learnt a lot of locals skills like, weaving coconuts fronds or fishing in the ocean.
The Program started 1992 and since then ECOPLUS continued the program almost every year. For Dechumur village, it was the first time to host the group.
The base of the program was the women’s house of the village. Next to the concrete building, local toilet, shower room and cooking place were set. Next to the toilet, some trees had very soft leaves called “toilet leaf,” so students used those for their daily use. It was easily degraded rather than toilet paper. Low impact was one of the key words of the program.
One of the most impressive experiences was homestay. Each student was accepted by a different family for 2 nights. Modern economy and culture are changing Yap’s traditional lifestyle but the situations are different family by family. A host family was living in thatched roof houses under a huge tree and another host family has electric washing machine. However, family ties are quite strong in all families. During the stay, some families held a celebrating gathering. Through the stay, student impressed by the strong bond among the family members.
Having so many new experiences, like going to fish with local boys in the lagoon, hunting crabs in night time, being surprised the brightness of the moon, students safely return to Narita airport in the morning of 29 August. From students, such comments were continued. “It looks like the program is not yet terminated. We will digest so many things we learnt and those will guide us toward the our own lives for long time.”
They will work together to make an activity report of the program and will held a reporting session in late autumn.
A reflection session by volunteers for “Welcome Yap” Project in past two weeks was held in Waseda University in Tokyo in the evening of Friday, 23 March. Among eleven volunteers, eight persons and a videographer who had been with us almost the period joined the meeting.
They donated their time and money for the project heavily since the first meeting in last November accumulating meetings and site visits to identify the most ideal places for the Yapese students. All of activities of each day was organized by responsible team members of the day. One of volunteers was an IT engineer who took days off for this project and joined almost entire period.
During the meeting, they exchange comments and fanny stories during the time, watching photos of Yapese students during the project. Many commented they will come back to Yap to see students they spent time together this time.
The project was supported by so many students, families, ex-participants of ECOPLUS’s program in Yap, and organizations, like Keidanren Nature Reserve Fund, United Airlines, Patagonia, Minamiuonuma City Board of Education.