Tag Archives: experience

This Gaijin is Game

Daily Prompt: City Planners
If you could clone one element from another city you’ve visited — a building, a cultural institution, a common street food, etc. — and bring it back to your own hometown, what would it be?
Child Dancing with Chrysanthemum Branch by Katsukawa Shunshō This file is in the public domain.
Child Dancing with Chrysanthemum Branch
by Katsukawa Shunshō
This file is in the public domain.

Years ago, I got a chance to visit Japan for a month. One thing I could not forget in the heart of Tokyo was the child center that had something different for children to do on each floor. I would love to take that to all cities I go to.

I went there for a youth camp. A group of gaijin and myself together with our Japanese counterparts built a horror ship for children in the basement and took part in various activities on different floors.

I love building things from boards, wood, nail, glue as well as decorating rooms with all sorts of materials. I also love “low pressure” acting. Once we were done building, painting and adding a tint of horror to the ship, we got to pretend we were the ship’s crew and walked children around on the ship and comforted them when they got too scared (I do hope we were not the object of nightmares for the little ones).

On another floor, children with a musical knack explored their limits. Well, children have no limits, so they explored different instruments from piano to weird pieces of sticks that make sounds when you knock them…

Let’s not forget how talented Japanese can be, so these kids had me left agaze. The room was filled with a tiny potential symphonic orchestra.

Moving up one floor, I found materials for children to show their creative skills working with clay, plaster, paint and any other possible artistic and crafty material you can imagine.

Of course there were playrooms all over the place. There were sections for all ages and I loved watching tiny toddlers move about and make a fool of every adult around them.

One day, we played games with primary schoolers for a few hours. It was love at first ice breaker! Especially one girl with an artificial leg transfixed me! Her English was impeccable, so we had a nice long chat. I never knew a ten year old could be so wise! When I told her she seemed very mature for her age, she said: “I have had a tough life.”

The whole building was constructed child friendly, offering them diverse possibilities they could not normally have easy access to. Every floor of the building allowed children to get a chance to explore all skills they may possess but be unaware of, play until they are too tired and need a rest doing a little painting, and go on adventures in worlds created for them. Plus, through international projects such as the one I participated in, children got to interact with gaijins, while foreigners unaware of the existence of such facilities were left with an unforgettable experience.

Yes, this is definitely one thing I would want to see in all cities I step foot in.

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18 year olds are the best to remind you you are no longer young!

Below is a list of moments I gathered working with freshman college students from different parts of Turkey. These instances struck me like a slap in the face, reminding me the gap that opens between two generations cannot be helped and can become an advantage only if embraced…

When you play charades, no one understands you are fishing for the word “typewriter”. Even after you say the word out loud…

When you give Brad Pitt or Johnny Depp as examples for cute guys, the reaction you get is “but he is old” with a grimace.

The healthy meals including a salad and juice you look forward to are tossed aside for McDonald’s meals without the slightest bit of guilt.

Ideals are defended so heartily that you do not have the heart to contradict them and be the one to break such strong beliefs “just yet”.

When they find out you are thirty something, the look they give you is mingled with a major disappointment and pity for someone who has few years left to live.

When you talk about social media, and you proudly talk about your facebook account to show them you are hip enough to be part of the virtual world, it turns out that facebook to them is old fashioned and they prefer, what was it again?

When you talk about Nirvana, you lose your audience.

When you do your best dance that earned you a prize back in the day, your “funny” moves are appreciated for a good laugh.

The music they are crazy about is too damn loud, but you still join the rhythm, just to show that you are different from their parents.

You try hard not to tell them how much they are likely to despise some of the singers they are currently scheduling their moments of wakefulness by.

You buy a smart phone just to be able to catch them if they play online games with each other during class.

Finally, you embrace the age gap and try to learn as much from them as they can from you.