Space Planning & Sustainable Design.
As ARI is starting to rebuild, community members keep saying that God has sent me here as gift. The interiors of the building designs have not been done and so comes a perfect opportunity for me to share my skills and get some practice in with some space planning. I feel very grateful for certain professors, organizations, and classes that I chose to spend time with in University that brought my interest to sustainability. There are endless circles of connections in life and I can share my knowledge here as we try to make ARI’s campus reflect it’s sustainable goal in daily life.
I was asked to join the staff to the Organic Farming Center in a near city to see what their campus had done in their sustainable efforts. The center had taken things into their own hands using local resources like rice husk charcoal, fermented feed, and rainwater collection to heat and cool the house, not to mention the building was beautiful with natural materials. Energy is supplied through solar panels. Japan is a wonderful place to employ solar panels due to their very sunny winters and due to the awareness of nuclear energy and its dangers.
If we are going to teach sustainable techniques for our health and the sustainability of our world then our lives, our environment, and our actions must reflect that.
Radiation and farming
The lecture also included a talk on the effects of radiation on farming in Japan. Here are some key points:
Radiation in ARI area
.005% risk cancer
.1141 mac per hour
1 msv on our area
-Compared to Hokkaido farming chemicals, which is worse?
-Can harm nervous system and can remain in body for years
-Extremely harmful to children, still in research, but is linked to intellectual disabilities in children from chemicals in crops
Radiation is in spots.
Japanese farmers have scattered fields, which is good for this spotted radiation, but consumers don't understand. They think if you are close then you are affected.
Even in extremely contaminated areas with 8,778bq/kg in soil, areas which evacuated, one 84 year old man planted with compost and only 127bq/kg in rice. Lower than Japanese standard.
Goodbye Main building
With rebuilding comes destruction of the old. These past two weeks have been spent moving our office, library, and classroom out and the beginning stages of demolishing ARI’s historical main building.
This building has a long history with ARI and is going to be missed, but starting fresh will hopefully lift some spirits after the earthquake took its toll.
This month I am in the pig section. I have already had some experience on weekend assignments with the pigs, but I am learning so much. They are very sweet and loving animals, who are only really angry when they’re hungry. The smell is not too enticing and it seems to follow you even after you leave, but the smiling faces and happy greetings make it not so bad. It’s a plus that I even get a workout while moving the maneuver to the compost up the mountain when I’m finished.
This little guy gets up on the wall when you call him, especially when he’s hungry.
Out & About
American life in Tokyo
The American School in Japan invited ARI to participate in their Christmas bazaar in Tokyo and the West Tokyo Union Church invited ARI to fellowship Sunday morning. I didn’t make it to the bazaar because of the sustainable lecture, but was asked to give a speech at the church Sunday morning.
One of the staff members and I stayed with an American/Japanese family Saturday night. There house was beautiful, it is a mixture of a log cabin and traditional Japanese, including a tea-ceremony room, and we made delicious crepes Sunday morning. At church I spoke about ARI’s challenges with radiation this year with the program and a little bit about my experiences. It was a bit of a culture shock for me to be around that many Americans at once again, but everyone was so kind and the two staff members said that they enjoyed visiting the ‘U.S.’.
Jingle bells, Kimonos & Fish heads.
A local international university invites ARI’s community members to its Christmas banquet every year. The fish heads were a surprise, but the food was delicious, my roommate and I got to wear a Kimono again and we had some laughs as we were asked to sing jingle bells with everyone. Christmas is such a special time; it brings peace and smiles and it is wonderful to share it with so many different cultures.
One staff member guided the other American volunteer and I to the nearest city on the weekend for some Christmas shopping. It was so nice to walk around and to experience more of Japanese culture and to learn how to use the train system.
Woodworking and Soba
With construction going on around campus and a couple of us being interested in woodworking, the general contractor of our new buildings taught us about some of the Japanese tools and let us help.
The next weekend he took us to a woodworker’s shop and gallery and also to a very famous shrine construction company.
The woodworker studied in the U.S. and had a wonderful blend of Japanese and American techniques in his work. Everything in the shop is done by hand, even some of the tools are handmade. He showed us around his workshop and gallery, introduced us to his three adorable dogs, and took us out for some soba, buckwheat, noodles.
Ikaruga Kousha, the shrine company, is a very famous and competitive place for young carpenters. In order for the very traditional and cherished shrine building techniques to be passed down, the more experienced elders work with the young adults to prefect their craftsmanship.
Some staff and my roommate and I went to sing and have dinner with Santasan last night; The form of respect to an elder is to add -san at the end of their name, kinda like Mr.. So Santa is of coarse called Santasan! The kids were extremely excited and the dinner was wonderful. Sometimes I realize how lucky I am to live in a community that will take me to see Santa. I love my family here.
Winter life would not be complete without community trips to onsen, hot springs. Yeah, you have to be naked with other women, but you get used to it, and the relaxation from the water is more than worth it.
This is quite a different Christmas for me. It is my first time away from home. I am missing family and traditions for sure, but it is an opportunity to really focus on the blessing of Christmas. At home there is always so much chaos surrounding presents. What should I get them? I’m broke, how am I going to pay for this? You know, the usual thoughts. Here it is different. We are still doing some gift exchanging and there are still many activities going on, but the atmosphere is focused on what Christmas was founded on, Jesus’ birth. I see God in these people, in the preparations we are making and even in the animals. It is a holy time. It is the fist time in my life that I am actually reflecting immensely on what a blessing the birth of this child was, what an amazing night that must have been. A time of music, a time of sharing, a time of food, and a time with compassion.
There were so many things going on this Christmas. We started the events with a candlelight service at the local church got back just in time to go caroling around the neighborhood, and then ended the night at a Catholic monastery about an hour away. The two services were so peaceful and the perfect combination of music and quiet time of reflection was just right for the occasion. The caroling was cold, but full of laughs, snack times and peaceful moments with a true feeling of what Christmas is.
Sunday, Christmas day, included a lot of needed rest, present wrapping, Grinch watching, playing, and eating. We had a party Christmas night where we completed a chaotic but very funny version of the birth of Jesus and exchanged our secret Santa gifts. It was a needed night full of laughs and love.