A Travellerspoint blog

April 2007

The 2007 World Athletic Championships

My attempt at volunteering

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The 2007 World Athletic (Track and Field) Championships are being held in Osaka at the end of August. I'd seen posters up in the train station advertising tickets and about a month ago I went on their website to check them out. This is when I discovered they needed volunteers. It was also at this time I decided it would be a good idea and fired off an application.

I received a letter back from them 2 weeks ago and they had scheduled an interview for me for today at 3:30. Now, this letter was written competely in Japanese, so I had to get someone else to read it for me.

For those who don't know, I've been studying Japanese for about 6 or 7 months now. I'm not very good, but can put a few sentences together and can read and write some. But, it's fun. To be a volunteer you have to be able to speak and understand some basic Japanese. I think I might qualify, but I'm not sure about that yet.

So, today was my interview. I had no idea what to expect, and even though I had no expectations it was still completely different than anything I would have guessed. I arrived early and had to go wait for our group to be called. At this point I was already lost, and resorted to the old trick of just watching to see what everyone else does. About 10 minutes later someone came in and said something and everyone else got up to leave, so I did too. We then had to go into another area to wait again. (Side note: this was held in a Lion's Club hall (den maybe?), so yes they are everywhere.) In this area we were also given two sheets, an information sheet and another sheet in Japanese that we were supposed to fill out.

This sheet asked us two questions, after a while I kind of figured out what they said. And to be on the safe side I said no to both of them. Once I did this I was just hanging out and I noticed another English guy come in and sit down. At one point we just looked at each other with a What the F? look on our faces. He came over and sat down and we just kind of laughed.

At this point things got strange, other than everyone being dead quiet and nobody talking. We were split up into two groups. I went one way and the other English guy went the other way. I was on my own again. Then we were led up behind the stage where there were 12 chairs set up in a line and a desk with two men sitting behind it. Yes, it was a group interview.

Luckily, I was #10 and at the end of the line. The men behind the desk started speaking and looking at their notes and then asked a question. I had no idea what the question was, so I had to concentrate hard to try to guess it. So, I listened to all 9 answers before me and guessed that the question was "Why do you want to Volunteer?". So, I gave a very short answer after I apologized and said my Japanese is not very good. It seemed like I guessed correctly. So, we moved on to the next question.

Question #2 - I heard him say something about Osaka being hot and humid in the summer and then he asked the question. Again, I had no idea what he said so I had to try my guessing game again. I listened to all the answers then guessed it was, "what days can you work?". So, I told them I work at ECC and my days off are Sunday and Monday. I finished and the whole area was eerily quiet. At this point I knew I guessed wrong. It turns out the question was, "What sports are you doing to stay healthy?" (or something like that). So, I told him that I jog and play golf, which at this point are lies, but the words are the same in English and Japanese and I had to redeem myself. They seemed ok with this answer. But, I think I made everyone else in my group really really uncomfortable with my completely wrong answer.

After my wrong answer I started to about the complete absurdity of this situation. Me sitting in the back of a Lion's Hall in Japan doing an interview with 9 Japanese people in Japanese to volunteer at the World Track and Field Championships. And I was having a hard time keeping it together. Then it was on to question #3.

Question 3- I guessed correctly, that this question was, "Would you like to be a team leader?", but I couldn't answer. So, i gave him a look and just sort of shrugged and he said to me, "muzukashii?" which is difficult in Japanese. I said yes and we moved on. Which was a life saver.

Then we left the backstage area and we all went and sat at tables. Someone came along and collected my name tag and folder from me. I was just sitting there and then I noticed everyone else leaving so I got up and left. Thus ending my interview experience. Once I left I just started to laugh at this experience and realized even if I don't get picked I am still glad I tried. So, hopefully I do get picked and then I will have lots more crazy stories!

Posted by agc_cwm 03:17 Archived in Japan Comments (0)

Sakura o mini ikimashita

or, in English, we went cherry blossom viewing.

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This is the time of cherry blossoms in Japan or sakura. There are cherry trees everywhere here, after they were imported from the Himalayas. Here they symbolize rebirth; it's sort of like seeing the first robin or the first flower of spring back home, except on a nationwide scale. The cherry blossoms usually come out at the end of March or the beginning of April which is when the new school year starts and all the new recruits start at their company. It takes about a week for them to come into full bloom and then another week or so and they are all gone. And, because Japan covers quite a bit of distance from south to north, the trees blossom in a wave going north, and some people will take time off to "ride the cherry blossom wave".

During this time everybody does hanami which means cherry blossom viewing party. This means that everyone goes out and sits under the cherry blossom trees and eats and drinks. I don't there is much cherry blossom viewing going on, I think it is an excuse to go eat and drink outside which I think is great (side note: it is legal to drink in public here). One of my students was telling me that he is going to bring a generator to his party so he can set up some lights.

Some areas are very very famous for their cherry blossoms and are extremely popular. We live near one of these places, so about two or three days ago we noticed there were a lot of blue tarps on the ground near the river. People spread their tarps out days in advance to reserve their party spot. The great thing is that the tarps are still there when they come back; no one steals them or rips them.

And last week Courtney started to notice that all these tents were being set up along the river. They are all sorts of different food stands and carnival games and vendors. One of the biggest parts of Japanese culture is food. For every festival there is special food, every town has a special dish and if you tell someone you went somewhere their first or second question is always, "How was the food?". Courtney also noticed next to the little park on our way to the grocery store someone set up a takoyaki (octopus balls) stand. It is a quite a little industry here.

Yesterday we decided that we would go look at the cherry blossoms. We left in the afternoon went into Osaka and took the train to Sakuranomiya (Sakura = cherry blossoms). We figured if they name of the place had cherry blossom in it, it would be nice. It is a large river that had cherry blossom trees along each bank. We wandered down one side and back up the other. After all that rambling here are some pictures.

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On our way back we met another couple we taught web with last year. While we were standing there talking a Japanese kid was biking by and stopped and said, "Excuse me" then he started to think of his next question, but he froze. He couldn't get it out. He eventually said something in Japanese which we recognized as the time. One of the other guys showed him his watch and off he went. Even though he choked we were very impressed that he stopped and tried to ask us what time it was.

After this we caught the train to go do some shopping and eat some crepes. Which were delicious as always.

After the shopping and crepes we made our way back to the river near our apartment to look at some more cherry blossoms. We actually preferred this river to the bigger one because it was a little smaller, less noisy, fewer homeless people and not as much garbage.

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We walked along the river and then went up to the tents to check them out some more. There were all the food stalls, but also people selling toys and a goldfish scooping trough. We watched a little girl start to try, but then something happened and she started to cry.

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By this time we were near the end of the river so we just walked home to make supper. In Japan it is quite popular for little kids (I think mostly girls) to unicycle. This is our neighbour's unicycle with kick stand waiting to be ridden again. You can see behind the unicycle a couple of plastic totes, in which kids keep their pet beetles. Presumably this spring they'll get another beetle.

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Posted by agc_cwm 20:00 Archived in Japan Comments (0)

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