I've been incredibly busy the last couple of days seeing people, which is my excuse for not writing part 2 of my "Big Post." Luckily, for you my reader, I have 2 whole hours before I board my flight so I'll spend my time remembering my adventures before I leave this fine country.
The last post I wrote took me to the end of the first half of the camp. In fact, I went to the ophthamologist on the same day the second group of international volunteers arrived. My doctor's call gave me the opportunity to meet them shortly after their arrival. The new set of volunteers were representing France, Turkey/Ireland, South Korea, and of course Canada. Throw in 4 Japanese volunteers, including Eiji from NICE, and you have a nice complement of volunteer staff to supervise 11 Japanese children aged 8-12.
Now let me tell you a bit about the structure of this camp. The main theme of this camp, and what drew me to in in the first place, is that it emphasizes the children's autonomy. Children set their schedule, decide/cook their meals, and are generally supposed to make their own plans. The staff, referred to as 'anima', are there to support and help the children execute their plans. One of the consequences of this approach is that sometimes the children make mistakes or are plain lazy and the anima suffer. A typical example is making breakfast, one morning early in camp the children took 2 hours deciding what to eat in the morning and ended up preparing next to nothing, which managed to satisfy their tiny stomachs but put a major crimp in the adult's style. While the adults had a secret stash of food for just such an event, it was still an incident worth noting.
This kind of camp has been run for over 10 year by a Japanese group called Kodomo Art (kodomo being the Japanese word for child). The location, length, and contents of the camp varies from year to year. This was the second time the camp was held in Nakatsue-mura, Oita, the first time being 2 years ago. Nakatsue-mura is famous among Japanese people for having been the training camp site of the 2002 World Cup Cameroon team. As such, it's not uncommon to find the Cameroon flag plastered on various buildings, or to find people who can say "bonjour, je m'appelle ____". Other than that the area is known for it's old gold mine, which during it's heyday before the war was (apparently) the largest in Asia. Other than that Nakatsue is indistinguishable from the many rural areas in Kyushu. Like much of rural Japan, Nakatsue is populated by the elderly, with the vast majority of young people choosing to move away at the soonest opportunity.
It was to such a place that 11 children arrived on July 22nd. While I will refrain from getting too specific due to privacy concerns, I will definitely say that we welcomed a group with many personalities. Out of the 11 only one had previous Kodomo-mura (what the camp is called) experience, and the group as a whole was extremely young. While this meant a bit more hand holding at the beginning of camp, it also meant observing tremendous growth during the 2 weeks of camp. The children all had their moments and I think they all enjoyed themselves.
I'm going to hold off writing about the specific activities we did until I get home and upload my pictures. See some of y'all soon, and those who I'm leaving behind... I'll be back.