My lack of recent blog posts isn’t a sign of lazy fingers. Rather, I have been busy typing reports for my new career as a graduate student. My Project Management class entailed less writing and a little more doing. Shocked to learn that Japan’s recycling rates are not what they had been led to believe, the class opted to organize a project around waste management and, naturally, selected me as their manager. The highlight of the class (for me, at least, was the recycling and composting workshop that I gave (see photos) which resulted in me befriending a compost-eager Japanese woman named Chieko, with limited English skills and more enthusiasm for composting than I think I may witnessed anywhere (expressive enthusiasm is one of the most endearing qualities of Japanese women, I am discovering). My composting worms have been eating and reproducing at such a rapid rate that the bin has grown quite heavy, and I was unable to take it to the workshop. Instead, I invited Chieko to my house, where I gave her a couple of bags of worms and taught her all she needed to know to make a bin of her own. I knew she was fit for the job when, upon seeing the tiny white baby worms, she shrieked “Kawaaaaiiiiii (cute)!” –a typical Japanese response to cute, fuzzy things, but not one I have ever heard in reference to worms, composting or anything of the like. The only technical task in making a worm bin is to drill small holes in the bottom of the liner bin, for which I lent her my electric drill. Teaching her how to use an electric drill was one of the more hilarious and gratifying experiences of my trip thus far, inspiring me to teach every woman I know how to use an electric drill. I definitely won’t forget the drill at my next workshop!
My belated mentor, Ray Mitchell, always said “don’t let school get in the way of your education.” While I love the reading, writing and occasional teaching that my classes require, I am not letting it get in the way of a well-rounded education. Here is what I have been up to lately beyond the classroom. My friend Kazuko invited me to volunteer helping to make a straw bale building for a local Buddhist temple in Totsuka. There, I learned that straw bale is a traditional Japanese technique, for which they ferment the mud/straw mixture for up to a year before applying it to the building. One of the builders spent some time with me explaining the structural requirements of building in Japan, including diagonal supports for earthquake proofing. Below are some photos of Kazuko and me scooping, hauling and applying the mud.
Another photos shows my friend Houko giving a workshop on making things with discarded umbrellas. Check out her CASA Project here: http://casaproject.com. And, finally, one of the most inspiring and fitting scenes I have seen of Tokyo: Tokyo Tower looming over the famous Zojoji Temple.
Finally, a little bit about my fellow peace fellows. Details about our work will soon be distributed in the latest ICU Rotary Newsletter (I will include a pdf link as soon as I have one). Beyond that, I can say that we have become fast friends and have created something of a family for ourselves. Never have I met a group so genuinely dedicated to getting along and doing good for the world. Rotary, you chose well.
Taylor Stevenson is a graduate of U of O. She is an aritst and waste researcher. Her artwork, which is created from reused materials, is inspired by people around the world who survive from garbage or who, similar to garbage, are rejected by society. She founded a program called Live Debris which demonstrates reuse as a tool for social integration and personal growth. She has taken this project to Brazil, Lebanon, Myanmar, the US and now Japan, where she is studying at the Rotary Peace center in Japan to earn a Master in Peace Studies.