I am Parin from Thailand. Let hear my story in international work camp in Japan. This work camp is called JAVS (Japan ASEAN Voluntary Service). It is the first year for this work camp (first batch J). It’s organized by NICE (Never-ending International workCamps Exchange) and NVDA (Network for Voluntary Development in Asia). The work camp is hosted in 5 different countries; Indonesia, Japan, Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam. Since this project is to support youth exchange in Japan and ASEAN, 20 volunteers are coming from ASEAN countries and 5 from Japan. Each country project site has 5 volunteers from different ASEAN countries included 1 Japanese. My team members are Japanese, Laos, Myanmar, and Vietnamese.
The camp is from 24th January to 22nd April 2015. We start with 4 days orientation in Japan to get to know each other, exchange culture, learning more of organization, project sites and of course having fun. The work camp is last for 2.5 months. At the end, we have 4 days evaluation in Thailand when we will meet everyone again and conduct final presentation to other volunteers.
Each country project has different aims from environment, development, culture, education to social welfare. My work camp is about environment. Apart from my love of nature, I am interested in Japanese culture, people, language, and food that why I select this work camp. Our accommodation is in Mashiko Town, Tochigi Prefecture. We live in Japanese style housing (1 floor) and definitely sleep on the floor with cushion provided, if you don’t want to feel the floor just pileup cushions to create your own bed. We can have single room or double room; latter is better during winter time. We have kitchen, common room, washing machine and the best part is wifi. Nevertheless, we have Japanese style bathroom which two people can take shower at the same time. One of the Japanese experiences that you can’t be missed is Onzen, Japanese public hot spring bath.
In this camp you will learn many things which you might not do at home. For example, Japanese is very organized and punctual, you should not be late even 5 seconds (letting other people waiting is bad manner) and show appreciation in everything other people do or act. Furthermore, we cook almost every day depend on the meal. Our volunteer from Laos, finally know how to cook at the end. If you are enjoyed eating like everyone in this camp, prepare yourself to gain at least 3 kg because the food is super yummy. We experience cooking of many Japanese dishes like okonomiyaki, takoyaki, nabe, don, and yakiniku. Once a week we cook our country food on rotation. It is better to bring ingredients from home since many things are not available in Japan.
We work around 7 hours a day, 5 days a week with 2 day off, but be flexible according to working schedule and festivals. There are many local festivals that we join here according to the season like Fukuju sou Festival in March when Fukuju sou flower start to blossom. We stay from winter to spring, we have a chance to feel the cold below 0 and see the snow in the beginning and before leaving we are watching plum and cherry blossom and hearing the voice of nightingale (sign of spring). We have weekly open meeting to share our feeling, evaluate past week activities and comments for improvement to accomplish our goals
There are 6 project sites in this camp. The frequency of work on each site is varying. We work in bamboo field in Motegi, elementary school play area in Ichikai, forest and hill in Utsunomiya, shoreline and forest in Iwaki. In Iwaki, we have to spend a night there which is in different prefecture. I enjoy beauty in all work site like little waterfall, blueberry field and sea. One good thing of working in Japan is that they concern on safety. Before start working every time, we have to exercise to wake up our body. We have to wear helmet, gloves, goggles and safety boots. It might not feel comfortable in the beginning, but they are really helpful as I often knock my head with branches during work. It also helps to protect from accident when we are working with tools like handsaw, machete, and hoe. Many times we are working with local people so learning some Japanese language before coming is helpful.
Apart from work, there are education days which we visit NGOs, educational forest and learn about leadership that we practice during the work camp. One of the parts I like is making hand wood craft as souvenir for love one.
On day off, we are free to go anywhere we want and taking care of our own meal. Host member can assist to drop off and pick up for near places. The most remarkable for me is the strawberry field where I can pick fresh strawberry and eat as much as I want with no time limited. Have you ever eat strawberry until your tongue is hurt like when you are eating pineapple? If you like drinking, you can visit sake house with free sampling of all kind they have.
Lastly, if you love the nature and want to protect environment for the future generation, you can reach your goals and get self satisfaction from this work camp as I am.