Monday, March 2, 2009

International Foreign Students Forum - Part 1

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A forum, entitled "International Foreign Students Forum Chuetsu 2009 - Living Together in a Multicultural Society & Disaster Prevention" was held yesterday at the NC Hall of Hotel New Otani, the same place where I attended the Chikyu Lab Symposium recently. Organised by Chūetsu Organisation for Safe and Secure Society and several others co-organisers, such as the Japan Association of Disaster Recovery and Disaster Recovery Science Center of Niigata University, it was open to everyone to participate in this forum.
Already one week into my spring break, I took the opportunity to attend the forum because I somehow had the feeling that it would be an interesting one. I'm glad that I made the right decision. I went there not knowing anyone but only Mr Haga Tomonobu, the head of the Nagaoka City International Culture Exchange Center. However, when the event ended late in the evening, I left the place having learned and listened to lots of stories and experiences, as well as making new friends with other international students.
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"International Foreign Students Forum Chuetsu 2009 - Living Together in a Multicultural Society & Disaster Prevention"
Although it's going to be the second year studying in Japan, I guess it is still never too late to give a kick-start in widening my circle of friends by creating networks with other international students from all parts of the world, and not only remain inside the Malaysian circle. After all, if I don't grab this opportunity to get to know new cultures and new people from different backgrounds while studying oversea, I might as well just remain at home.
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A simple opening speech to welcome the participants.
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Followed by a short talk to warm up the participants.
The number of participants was close to one hundred people, which consisted mainly of international students from universities around Niigata prefecture and the public who took the weekend off to attent the event.
The forum started with the opening speech by the representative of the main organiser, followed by an orientation speech by Mr Haga Tomonobu himself. He began his speech by asking the participants a couple of simple questions. He showed us two body languages, which have totally different meanings when they are used in different countries.
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He continued his talk by describing his experiences when he was in Sichuan, China during the disastrous earthquake which struck the region last year. Being someone like his age, most of us would be spending our time drinking a cup of coffee while checking out the latest news in the newaspaper on a Sunday morning at home, but not Mr Haga, who is heavily involved in various voluntary work around the world, especially in the Asia region.

Next was a talk by Mr Tajiri Naoto with the theme - "Promotion and International Cooperation Among the Society in Disaster Reduction". The talk mainly detailed about the ways to help and educate the foreigners living in Japan regarding the correct measure to take whenever a disaster occurs, like an earthquake or typhoon, for example.
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Mr Tajiri Naoto giving his talk.
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The construction of Disaster Prevention System in Japan.
One part which I would like to highlight is the slide in which he discusses the different measures taken after a particular disaster occurred over the past fifty years. The main part is the second point, in which after the Miyagi earthquake in 1978, buildings and households in Japan which are built after 1981 have ability to withstand a strong quake, in accordance with the 1981 Standard Reinforcement of Building for Earthquake Prevention.
That is why nowadays whenever there is any earthquake happens, the majority of the collapsed buildings are wooden houses in the outskirt area, because they were built without taking care of the ability of the building to withstand strong quakes.
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Panel discussion which consisted six panelists.
The next on the agenda was a panel discussion with the theme - "Bond Surpasses Boundaries", which was also saw three international students going up the stage to be the panelists - Mr Yang Kunyong, a Master course student from Chiba University, Miss Wang Hou who is from China and Mr Zaw Zaw Aung, from Myanmar. Both of the latter panelist are from Nagaoka University of Technology, and doing their Master courses as well.
Joining the three international students were Mr Tajiri Naoto and Mr Yoshitsubaki Masamichi from CODE (Citizens towards Overseas Disaster Emergency).
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From left: Mr Haga Tomonobu, Mr Tajiri Naoto and Mr Yoshitsubaki Masamichi.
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From left: Mr Yang Kunyong (South Korea), Miss Wang Hou (China) and Mr Zaw Zaw Aung (Myanmar).
I will only highlight a few interesting parts which were discussed by the panelists. The two representative from the two NGOs mainly talked about the measures taken to enlighten the foreigners living in Japan about the immediate actions they should be aware off whenever a disaster strucks. One main obstacle faced by the Japanese volunteers is communication problem. Both sides speak different language, and messages are hard to be passed down to the foreigners.
Recalling his experience during the Chuetsu Earthquake in 2004, Mr Haga mentioned that he received a telephone call from a Brazilian who told him that "the world had broken apart", because that Brazilian saw huge cracks on roads after the quake occurred. The world of course, didn't break apart. This happened because the foreigners didn't get enough information about such natural disaster which is never being heard off in their country.
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Mr Yoshitsubaki, who went to Sichuan as volunteer last year, explaining the efforts made by CODE.
Besides that, the panelists also talked about the efforts taken to help the victims of natural disasters like the earthquake in Sumatra and Sichuan. As for the three international students, Yang Kunyong from South Korea presented his research about the disaster information transmission for foreigners in Japan. I couldn't help but to listen to his Japanese which sounded as if he was speaking in Korean. Two main Japanese words which he kept on pronuncing in his Korean slang was 在住 (zaijyū) and 情報 (jyōhō), in which he pronounced it as chaichū and chōhō respectively. I guess those Coreans love the letter C very much.
Mr Zaw Zaw Aung talked about the efforts made by the Myanmarese international students with the help of their Japanese counterparts in collecting donations and channel collected money to the Cyclone Nargis victims which hit the Irrawaddy Delta on May 2, 2008 which caused at least hundreds of thousands of casualties. As for Miss Wang Hou, a Chinese who has spent nine years in Japan and speaks Japanese so fluently that you would thought that she is a Japanese, she talked about her first earthquake experience during the Chūetsu earthquake in 2004. Luckyily for her, she was at her Japanese friends' place when the quake occured and they helped her to calm down and not panic, and aso taught her the right actions to be taken whenever there's an earthquake.
That however, was just the first part of the whole forum. The second part of it was a concert, followed by a get-together party and it was a super exciting one. This entry will be too long if I carry on, so you will have to wait for the next entry. Trust me, it was so much better and interesting than this first part.

2 comments:

specialhuman said...

ur post became very solid recently.

i m having hard time to digest la =_=

calvin said...

@ specialhuman:
give yourself a pat at the back if you read till the end of this entry because honestly, i expect people to browse through the pictures only.

yes, this entry is heavy and the next one will be no different either xD