On Saturday, we had gorgeous view of golden rice paddy under the blue sky. In order to protect skin, we needed to wear long sleeves. The sunshine was so strong. All of us sweated from the beginning. Mr.FUEKI Akira, a local farmer, taught us the important and difficult skill, to bundle the sheaf, called “Meruke,” in this area.
However in one hour or so, people acquired the ways. Some were just keep cutting and bundling works and some were doing the work taking neighboring persons joyfully. Fresh green colored frogs were jumping out from the ground. Red dragonflies were coming close to us. From a tiny structure to introduce water to the paddy, small fishes were caught and a local biologist explained those as one of endangered species in Japan, called “Shiny-Motsugo.”
On Sunday, weather condition totally changed. We started the work one hour earlier. It was cool and comfortable at the beginning. The work went smoother than the day before. Close to the noon, the rain started. The temperature went down, too. At the end, all of us worked hard to finish. Surprisingly we finished all works from cutting, budding and hanging by shortly after 1 pm.
“I somehow felt appreciation when I thought each of those grains was a ‘seed’ when I faced to those rice. The shining golden rice field might not be illusion. Rice was shining because they were celebrating the final phase to pass the life to the next generation;” a young participant commented.
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.