Maya Nakamura: Bazaar Cafe

My CIP this semester was the same as last semester’s, which is volunteering at Bazaar Cafe once a week. As I explained in my last blog post, the cafe functions more or less like a regular restaurant, but aims to help give work opportunities to people who may have a difficult time finding a job and generally to just be a welcoming space to people of all backgrounds. Similar to last semester, I go once a week usually to help out around the kitchen while the cafe is open to the public. And recently, one of the supervisors asked if me and another volunteer could help translate their menu along with some other miscellaneous restaurant related tasks. However, since the cafe is in the process of trying to become an official NPO/NGO, they are closed this month, while hosting and catering occasional private events during the week. Thankfully this means that I still have plenty of opportunities to help out each week.

What has been really great about my time here is since I’ve been volunteering since September, I’ve grown rather close with many of the workers, volunteers, and managers. Definitely more so than last semester, I’ve been looking forward to every volunteer opportunity each week and sometimes end up staying for as long as 4 hours (compared to my usual 2) simply because I enjoy everyone’s company. By spending time with everyone, I always have opportunities to speak and practice Japanese; not only that, everyone else is also very eager to help teach me new words or handy phrases, which I am always very appreciative of. In this regard, I could say I’ve been doing a lot of out-of-class learning and practice with the Japanese language, but I’ll be honest, I’m not sure if I can say I learned anything “new” this semester by continuing my time with them. Rather, I feel like I am building some very special bonds and friendships with an incredibly unique and welcoming community and to me, that is a lot more important. If I had to attribute how I achieved this sense of community to anything, I would say it came from consistently going every week and not only helping out on regular days, but also helping out and participating in their larger events, which I had the opportunity to do both last and this semester. I think that it showed them that I cared to even be a part of their community in the first place and so they welcomed me and other volunteers with open arms.

If you want to have a flexible CIP and have the opportunity to meet a lot of different kinds of people, volunteering at Bazaar is definitely a great place for that. And for anyone who does choose this as their CIP, do your best to committing to going every week; ask a lot of questions and keep an open mind. They are always very grateful for any help they receive and I personally have no regrets with choosing them. Knowing that I only have about a month left with them makes me really sad so I plan on doing as much as I can to help out before I go!

2 thoughts on “Maya Nakamura: Bazaar Cafe

  1. Wow, that sounds like a such a worthwhile, wholesome activity! I was curious, since the cafe is a safe space for minorities, did you get to interact with any LGBT people? Were there special events or anything like that?

    • There was actually an event a few weeks ago for LGBT people in the community or anyone who wanted to learn more about the community. One of the speakers there did a really excellent job on explaining what it meant to identify as “LGBT”.