The international organization known as Rotary promotes yearly travel that all people between the ages of 26 and 40, male and female, and of all backgrounds – should know about – because it is a Rotary-funded six week study aboard and anyone can apply to be a part of this significant life experience. If you are this age group – you could enjoy the kind of experience that is described in my notes in this article. To find out more about the program go to Rotary.org and search for GSE – Group Study Exchange – and contact your local Rotary Club for more information.
Our adventures continued:
April 17th – Sunday:
My GSE team is doing very well in Japan – they are generous and appreciative. I talk to them about “making it up as we go along (same guideline in my Rotary Club) – and just being gracious with all that they do. The hospitality of our hosts has been so enormous that when there is a glitch I invite them to go on to the next thing. There is good spirit in the team – and Get This: They are blown away by this experience from Rotary.
The Rotary District convention opened today with a big assembly in the convention hall. It started with a blessing by three monks, and many spoke in Japanese, including the Governor. When the RI Representative spoke, Mika translated for me. I liked that he said that we are all in Rotary school (for 12 years) – and that the most important thing was a connection of hearts – that this would do more than anything to solve the world’s problems. He said that membership in Rotary has declined by 15% in Japan, is up 30% in Korea – and that more Rotary is needed in Russia and China. The audience was 95% men – so of course I’m thinking that a few women in Rotary here could help their membership – since I’ve only met two Rotarian women so far. But then again, we could invite more Japanese in our District to increase membership.
This time we wear our “happi kimonos” and are seated near the stage – with the outbound Japanese team in front of us. We were invited to the big stage – my team on the right of me and the team leader and Japanese team on the left. Izumi introduced us briefly – and then I spoke – saying that we were bringing greetings from our Rotary District Governor, thanking all and giving the example that I am a past president of my Club. We all took hands – Japanese and American teams, and bowed for the audience. It was touching – and I did OK speaking my limited Japanese in public.
We had lunch with the Japanese team – and time to meet them individually. They are four men and one woman as follows: Kenji Ogawa (Rotary team leader and specialist in wine), Akihiro Kuroki (one of the top three wine stewards in Japan!), Tamaki Oi (works for an environmental company, also a student of wine), Toshihiro Terada (systems engineer), Masayoshi Nagamatsu (civil engineer) and Nobuyuki Tanaka (staff writer, city news section). I think that we should call the return team the Group Study Wine Exchange – because their prime interest of study in America is wine – and they would like to see Ridge, Bonnie Dune, Silver Mountain and more. I asked them each what they wanted to see and do in America – and it was all about wine.
Our team headed back to the big house where I am staying – and thank you Antonio! – for getting the info out on our website about our trip – I can just see Roy smiling back home.
5PM rolled around and we gathered in the Hotel Ohana lobby for the evening festivities. After a short cab ride, we were at the dock on the Canal – with beautiful Venice-type boats and men with long sticks to maneuver them – it was so picturesque in the sparkling sunshine. We were about to board – but first they loaded dinner, and much to drink – I’m beginning to like this champagne! The boats were one against another, and perhaps 20 – and there were other locations where people where boarding. We took off our shoes, and both the American and Japanese GSE teams sat Japanese style in the boat – with Izumi, Mika and Hiroshi joining us. “Chi” – a toast of champagne – the excitement of others settling into their boats – flowers along the canal – a beautiful arched bridge – bento boxes opening – Rotary spirit – Mr. and Mrs. Tachibana and the other Governors settling in – the light changing – it doesn’t get more beautiful. Monica was so swept away by it all that she was close to tears – and said that it was the best time that she knew. The boats started to be steered away, one after another, with the men and the big sticks. It was fun to see the smiles go by – as a parade was formed down the canal. The Japanese do things in such a lovely manner – instead of taking a direct shot in the American way. The boats eased through the waters, past generously flowering trees and the banks – Japanese flower gardens – and pulled up so that each boat was previewed. Lots of faces were becoming familiar now. We glided under small and tight bridges – around the bends – and then past a myriad of musical venues. On the canal were Tyco drummers, a women’s choir, kids with string instruments, a group with the traditional Japanese long flat guitar-like instruments, and many more – making beautiful sounds on the canal. We went under a big sign for Rotary’s 100 years – and a tent of paper dolls that others had made asking for good weather for the conference – and their wish was granted. The boats circled around the last musical venue, a big stage on the canal, with a full band. We were all surprised in our boat because we glided through the line of boats and were headed toward the stage. Like playful kids, we scurried out of the boat (all of us) – and were escorted to the stage – to dance and wave to the many boats in the canal. We’ve been honored as the GSE team, mentioned often, and enjoyed by the Japanese Rotarians. It was beautiful to see all the lanterns on the boats in the dark and feel the fun. Back in our boat, we were at the front of the line (well taken care of as usual) – and a magnificent display of fireworks was set off in front of us. The Japanese fireworks were lower to the ground on structures that they had built. Mr. Tachibana, the RI Representative and I stood in the middle of the bridge, with others, and waved to each boat as it went through with “konnichiwa” and “arigato”.
You might think that the evening was over – but oh, no. The team (now a bit high with the drink and play) – walked down the canal and a Japanese theater was set on the side with the mimes and Japanese masks. The boats continued to cruz by to their finish. I stood at the hotel entrance to see that my team was all off to their respective host families – and turned to go when Chizuka invited me for more drinks – more?. She lead me down the opposite hall of the hotel (one was American style) – and the other where we were going was Japanese style. As we entered the Japanese style room with twelve or so tables full of people, and more food, I was seated next to the Buddhist Monk, Kyoin Fujikawa – also a past Governor and RI Training Leader. This was clearly the after-party celebration and just as festive. Looking around the room there was an altar wall, and many many balls that hung in rows from the ceiling (lots of red and gold color). Mr. Tachibana got up to speak, as did others, and I was asked to speak also. Kyoin, the monk, was the only one who spoke English and translated for me -and although I did not get an answer to my question, I was dying to know how one went from being a Buddhist Monk to being as important as he seemed to be in Rotary. As I spoke, I picked up on the Governor’s theme that we need to connect world-wide with our hearts – and when you don’t speak the language you are much more aware of that. We communicate with our hearts, our expression and our laughter. All good.