Sunday, August 4, 2013

Community Development

This semester I took mostly Japanese courses. Compared to last semester, I was studying by myself a lot in the library. In addition, a lot of my Japanese classes conflicted with the school events, so I was unable to sign up for them. The only other course I took this semester that was not Japanese was this course called "Community Development."
I signed up for "Community Development" because as an exchange student, I did not have that much classes with Japanese students. Also Keli'i recommended this class to me after taking this class during the fall semester. I did not know what to expect when I signed up for this course, but I am happy I took this course because I made a lot of great friends, and I realized that I want to do something in the future where I can cause positive impact on the community.  

For this course, I had to learn about the definition of community development, find examples of how community development is related to Japan, and give a presentation with Japanese students in Japanese about what we learned about the rural areas in Akita and how can we improve a community like Akita.

 For this class, I had to work with three Japanese students, and I had two times to interview a local farmer named Ayako Konishi from Akita with them. Before meeting Ayako, I spent several weeks learning about community development with my class, and we tried to think of good questions to ask our interviewee. After learning about community development for several weeks, I learned that community development is the process where people in the community work together to find a common solution to a problem. 

One way this relates to me is that in Hawaii, Hawaii has a major traffic problem. Usually from 4pm to 7pm the roads get congested so it takes people a while to return home. There are many cars in Hawaii, so the government is trying to build a train for more people to use. Unfortunately, due to the legislation, it is taking for the train to get built. In addition, even if the train gets built, that does not mean that Hawaii's traffic problem will improve. 

Most of the interviews were performed in Japanese, so I had to rely on the other students for translations. According to their notes, Ayako was born on a farm at Akita, and she returned home after being requested by her mother to quit her job at Tokyo and come home. Shortly after returning, Ayako’s parents arranged for her to be married, and she spent the remainder of her life living on a farm. Farming was very difficult for Ayako because she had to learn how to do bookkeeping, learn what types of plants to sell, and do a lot of house work.
Ayako Konishi
In addition, due to her continuous routine as a farmer, Ayako had become depressed for several years until she went to Europe to study green-tourism with other farmers from Akita. This event had changed her because she could talk to other female farmers about farming, her problems related to farming, and make friends. After this event, Ayako had joined the newly opened store Freshland Maguro Kawabe after being asked by an acquaintance to sell vegetables. Thanks to that store, Ayako had made many friends, earned money, and a lot of her customers really enjoyed coming to the store to eat her products.
My group members with Ayako
After interviewing her, my group and I worked on our presentation. We knew that we would not be the only group presenting for our class, so we did our best. During the meetings, my group members spoke mostly in Japanese so I could only understand some of the things they said. I knew I could have requested them to do things in English, but I did not feel like it. Also because they spoke in Japanese a lot, I felt that helped me with my listening.

On the day of the presentations, we presented her life story in front of her and other people in the audience. For our presentation, we talked about her life story and how inspirational her life story was. I admired her enthusiasm because as a young person, I am unsure of what I want to with my life. Although I am studying marketing at my home university, that does not mean that I want to go into marketing. In addition, besides the classes am I taking at my home university, I do not have much marketing experience. Currently I am trying to look for a marketing internship. 
After all of the groups presented, the audience voted, and unfortunately my group did not win the competition. However, Ayako was satisfied with our presentation and requested that I could tell her life story when I return to my home country. I was nervous presenting because I could not memorize my lines, but my group members praised me.

Compared to my group members, there were not too many questions I could ask, but one of the things I asked her about after my group presented was if it is possible to grow foreign fruits and plants at Akita such as guavas, mangos, or blue corn. Tropical fruits such as guavas and mangos are very popular in Hawaii, and they can be bought at any supermarket. Blue corn is an essential ingredient of New Mexican cusine, and it is an ingredient for my New Mexican friends' favorite dish, green chili stew. I felt that if people could grow those types of foreign plants in Akita then more people would want to come to Akita. Unfortunately because of Akita’s cold weather, it may be too difficult to grow tropical fruits such as guavas or mangos. Also at Akita, there is no fertilizer to grow corn, so it is difficult to grow blue corn.
Group picture with my class and the audience members
Before taking this class, I did not know what community development meant, but after taking this class I realized that community development is not only about improving the community, but also about increasing the happiness within the community so more people are satisfied. For Ayako, it seems like nothing was more meaningful for her than hearing her life story being told. Even if I do not speak the same languae as the person I am talking to, I can still help that person by telling their story.
Goodbye Ayako-san