Wednesday, March 4, 2009

International Foreign Students Forum - Part 2



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Baima Yangjin introducing herself to the participants.
Continuing from the first part, the second part of the International Foreign Students Forum was a concert by Baima Yangjin, a singer-cum-vocalist who hails from Tibet and lives in Osaka at present. She started off her performance by talking briefly about her country and how she ended up living in Japan.
It was a simple love story, which started when she was studying in the Vocal Music Faculty of Sichuan Musical University in China. Back then, other international students always thought she is a Mongolian from her physical look, and they often teased and made fun of her. It was during one night when she just finished her performance at the graduation ceremony, that a guy went to see her backstage. She couldn't believe that even during her final days in the university, she still was not spared from the teasing by the students. So, she thought she would not tolerate these nonsense and allow them to bully her anymore. This time, she would declare a war, for once and for all. However, the first few words from that guy took her by surprise.
"What a wonderful performance!"
A few exchanges of word made him got to know that she is a Tibetan, and his reply was, "Tibet is marvelous!". That was the first time a foreigner not only knows anything about Tibet, but also heaped praises for her motherland and she was so excited about it. They continued chatting through the night and from that incident, one thing led to another thing with her ended up marrying that guy, who is a Japanese. She has been living in Osaka with her husband since they got married. Coming from a small village in Tibet, she was taken aback by the advancement of technology in the country; the speed of the bullet train that she can't even read the name of the train station when they go pass every station, the high raised buildings in the city, the number of cars which is more than the numbers of cows in Tibet, when she just arrived in Japan. For the Tibetans who live in a harsh environment, all these are something the people in Tibet can only have in their imaginations.
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At the same time, she also recollected her time when she always got mistaken as a Japanese, because she posses all the characteristics you will see in a Japanese - fair skin completion, and a pair of small eyes. One funny incident was when she was asked for directions by an elderly lady who was lost in the town. She just barely came to the country without knowing how to speak any Japanese, yet she was asked for directions by a Japanese. Her first Japanese word she learned was 外人 (gaijin), which means foreigner. So, every time somebody asked her for the way to somewhere, her reply would be, "Sumimasen, gaijin desu".
It took her some time to get the participants in the hall warm-up, but with her friendly and humorous approach, it didn't take long before they listened to her stories and experiences attentively. She shared a rather hard experience of hers when people ask her where she came from.
"Ohhh, Tibet. I see..."
"But, where's Tibet?"
That was a common reply she often got. Same thing when I tell the Japanese that I come from Malaysia and in return, they tell me they have been to Singapore. It is something hard to accept at first, because people recognise such a small island but not our country.. However, I have gone through too many similar experiences that I guess most Malaysians studying in Japan have already got used to it. Back to Yanjin's story, she tried her best to explain to the people about her country as much as possible every time.
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There was one time when she tried to teach us some Tibetan language, starting with "Good morning" and "Thank you". But it was just too hard for us to follow her. She never gave up , as she chose something different. counting the numbers from one to ten. We still couldn't follow her, but the pronunciation was quite similar to Chinese and Japanese. Next, she showed us how to write her name in Tibetan language. Since the language doesn't use kanji characters, she tried using the Chinese kanji when she was studying in China. However, when she used the same characters in Japan, the Japanese read it as something totally different from what it should be.
They called her, "Hakuba" (white horse).
All these stories were told in between her performances. She sang almost ten traditional Tibetan songs in total, including a few Japanese songs as well. I am not a pro when it comes to music, but I must say she got a powerful vocal and voice, that the hall was so quiet every time she was performing, because everyone were clearly impressed by her performance.
Yangjin came from a poor family of six siblings, and both of her parents were farmers. Her illiterate father didn't want his children to end up like him, that he sent all six of her siblings, except the eldest son to have a proper education. Now, her siblings are teachers and nurses, and currently serving the people in their hometown in Tibet. The village she lived in was in an outskirt area, where the nearest town is located not far from her village (according to her) - just two days of bus ride. Living in such a high altitude place, where the average land is 4,000 meter above sea level, they have to fight against the freezing weather, cold winds and lack of food source. Vegetables can hardly grow in such place and they rely mostly on the cows and goats they rear.
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So determined to change her own future was Yangjin, that during her schooling years, she went to the public toilet outside at two in the morning, with the temperature going as low as minus twenty degree Celsius, just to study using the little bulb in the toilet. This is because there is no electric supply in their house and that is the only source of light for her to study at night.
Her struggles and hardships during her childhood time had certainly paid off, as she is now happily married to her husband with one three-year-old son today. To promote the Tibetan music, culture and lifestyle, she does various concerts and talks all over Japan. It doesn't stop there, because she also participated in concerts throughout the world, such as the Music Festival at the United Nations headquarters in New York in summer 1999 and the APEC conference in Osaka. She was also featured in NHK documentary programme a few times.
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Despite all these achievements, she never let the fame she got make her forget her roots. Listening to her story certainly made myself realised that while we always complain about things not going to our way and we often lament that life is unfair, there are still millions of people out there who are much worse than us, barely living their everyday life with minimum and limited source available.
That made it understandable when she told us the average lifespan of Tibetan is just around fifty years-old. On the other hand, it is not something surprising to see a centenarian Japanese. As almost half of the participants in the hall came from the elderly category, she told them they would be in the border line and their time is almost up already if they were to live in Tibet. Realising the hard times both of her parents had gone through to make her as what she is today, she hopes to repay their gratitude one day.
Her efforts of school constructions in Tibet have achieved great results, as there are nine primary schools and one junior high school opened in her hometown today, attended by more than two thousands children. Besides that, she also organises interchange programme between Japanese and Tibetan children which was received positively by the people there. Sharing her personal experiences, whenever she goes back to Tibet, she will turn a smuggler for one day, involving packing the Japanese rice into small packets, and bringing along a few bottles of yogurt for her family to try. Although she get detected by the immigration officers at times, she will try to persuade them because she really want her family to taste something which is alien to them.
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There was one time when she broke into tears when she talked about the current situation in Tibet; the conflict between their government and the Chinese government. Currently, the PRC government and the Government of Tibet in Exile still disagree over when Tibet became a part of China, and whether the incorporation into China of Tibet is legitimate according to international law. Her hope is very simple - to have a peaceful world so that we will be able to live happily. She ended her performance with a song which convey a universal message - wishing peace to the people of Tibet and the world.
The session ended with Mr Haga Tomonobu handing in a sum of money to Miss Baima Yanjing (relief to help the poor Tibetans), Mr Zaw Zaw Aung (Cyclone Nargis victim), and Mr Yoshitsubaki Masamichi (Sichuan earthquake victims). But before that, there was a ten-minute Q&A session between Mr Haga and Miss Yanjing, in which the final part caught my attention. He asked her what are her visions and what does she wish to do from now on.
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Q&A session with Mr Haga Tomonobu.
Her answer was simple, which is to bring the school kids in Japan to see the reality of life, the hardships the children in Tibet are going through just to attend a school. She also stress the importance of education and only with knowledge, we can go far. When our stay in our own comfort zone is too long, we tend to forget that we are so blessed with everything we have at present. We will never work any harder to improve ourselves and that will soon be the starting point of our downfall. So guys, stop saying that your life sucks but instead, cherish every single thing you have because you will only realise the value of each thing once they are gone.
The second part of this forum was only less than two hours, but within this short time, there were countess of things that I've learned. That is why I mentioned earlier that attending this forum has brought a huge positive outcome not only to me, personally, but most probably to all the participants as well. The closing event was a get-together party at the Yukitsubaki Hall.
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Kampai session.
Just like any other party, they started off the event with a kampai session and everyone were free to mingle with each other while having a sumptuous buffet dinner after that. It took me a while to approach and open my mouth to the international students there because it was my first time seeing them and I do not know them at all.
However, everyone was really friendly and from a conversation with this Myanmar student, I got to know that he has graduated from Nagaoka University of Technology not very long ago and currently working at an automobile factory in Kashiwazaki. After finishing his two-year internship course, he is expected to be transferred to the company's plant in Shah Alam.
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Let the party begin.
I also got to know this two decent-looking ladies, who are working at Chūetsu Organisation for Safe and Secure Society and they were kind enough to gave me their name cards. One of them even gave me her personal name card, but I noticed that the surnames in both cards are different - one was Suzuki while the other was Takano. To avoid making me confused, she told me that she is already married.
"Crap, there goes my chance", I said to myself.
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Group photo with the staff and several international students. Among those inside this photo are Mr Zaw Zaw Aung (forth from left), Miss Takano Tomoe (fifth in black skirt), Miss Kitamura Ikumi (sixth in green top) and the Myanmarese guy who was in the white jacket.
Anyway, after the group photo, a guy approached me looking so excitedly. I thought he was a Chinese, but Katō Ryō turned out to be a 2nd Year Master student whose major is Law. I was told he took one year off from his university years and spent it at INTI International University College in Nilai. Our further conversation brought me to know that he came from Chiba, a town near Tokyo. Talking about what a small world this is. Anyway, what took me by surprise was his knowledge about our country; for example the May 13 incident, ISA policy and many other stuff, in which I would not note them down here.
To have a foreigner who put so much interest and have such deep knowledge about our multiracial country's history, it was something that I didn't expect at all. However, one main factor I can deduce here is because all these subjects are closely related to his graduation research paper. Just before the party ended, I went to have a photo with Mr Haga, and it so happened that the Chinese student who was one of the panelist earlier, Miss Wang Hou was there too and I think she was already half drunk.
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I think she got mixed up between a person's length and height.
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Group picture; from let: unknown guy, Miss Wang Hou, Mr Haga.
In a nutshell, it was an eventful forum which has certainly bring a lot of positive notes and memories to me.

12 comments:

specialhuman said...

I also finished reading this one.

Should be Bai Ma Yang Jin, not Yan Jing. Totally different k?

and I would love to travel to Tibet one day. :)

Anonymous said...

dude , ur so talllllll

=chuan guan= said...

she is asking long...definitely not tall..if she is half drunk..probably she would be asking da other thing..hahahahaha...if u get wat i mean...LOL

MichelleG said...

what chance!!?? T___T

calvin said...

@ specialhuman:
hehe, pardon me for my poor command in hanyu pinyin. i spelled it according to her name in katakana.

perhaps air asia will fly to tibet in the future xD

calvin said...

@ anonymous:
that is the second most common comment i got from people i meet for the first time =P

calvin said...

@ =chuan guan=:
no, i don't get you lol xD

calvin said...

@ michelleg:
my chance of getting laid wtf.

=chuan guan= said...

pretendous!!!

MichelleG said...

SO SAD T___T

calvin said...

@ =chuan guan=:
hehe, you know me well xD

calvin said...

@ michelleg:
just kidding, baby. i still love you =)