Sillin Chen: Volunteering at Bazaar Cafe

I was recommended Bazaar Café  by my classmate as my CIP. Of course, since I do not have a high cooking skill that could be compared to a professional chef, volunteering at Bazaar Café basically equals to helping around chores like washing dishes or ironing aprons. Yet, when the kitchen is not very busy, other volunteers or regular staff are very willing to teach me using some special kitchen tools or allowing me to do some side works while preparing the orders.

Clearly knowing how poor my keigo is, I was very nervous on my first day. Luckily, Bazaar Café is a place where everyone is here to support each other, and thus keigo is not something mandatory even when you are speaking with the manager. Regardless of that, I was still able to learn some nuances in workplace culture. For example, there is a co-volunteer, nice middle-aged lady, who always greets me with “おはようございます” even though I usually go to Bazaar Café around 3 pm. Then my friends, also my co-volunteers explained it to me that in Japanese workplace culture, one would always greet his or her co-workers with “おはようございます” when starting to work. Besides, sharing snacks or small souvenirs after a trip among co-volunteers is rather common as a way to build up the relationship.

In addition to my new findings of unique Japanese culture, meeting different kinds of people at Bazaar Café is my best memory within these several months. As some of us might have known, Bazaar Café is like a harbor for minorities, LGBTQ, foreigners, and immigrants. It is also the reason why on my first day of work, the manager suggested me to not ask some sensitive questions on personal background. I then struggled a while on how to get into the group without being sure about what are the topics that I could talk about. To my great surprise (in a good way), they accept me naturally by leading me through the things I could help around and inviting me to share food. After around three weeks, although my co-volunteers are still trying to memorize my name as I was struggling on writing down everyone’s name, I was settled in the kitchen as well as I know where I should put dishes back.

I haven’t mentioned the details of my conversations with these lovely people because it might involve a lot of personal information. Nevertheless, if there is one thing I have learned from this experience, it is how to communicate with your heart. I know it really sounds like preaching or those old talks, but to treat other people with respect and trying to help whatever is within one’s ability range is never a wrong thing to do.

2 thoughts on “Sillin Chen: Volunteering at Bazaar Cafe

  1. I’m delighted to see that Bazaar was a fulfilling experience for you! During my time there last semester, I had many similar experiences — there’s definitely a need to speak from the heart to make connections. I’m sure that you’ve had lots of profound conversations and been able to learn a lot (beyond kitchen skills!) over this semester.

  2. It sounds like this has been a really meaningful experience for you. Sharing food is a wonderful way to connect with people! Broadly speaking, did you end up speaking more about your experience as part of X or Y demographic, or about other aspects of daily life with your coworkers?