A cozy corner of the Bazaar Cafe, just to the right of the front counter, and to the left of the stone fire place.
At the Bazaar Cafe, I spent most of my time washing dishes and putting dishes away. When things were less busy, which happened semi-frequently, I was assigned to recycle old containers, or clean trays that had been used by customers. However, the unique atmosphere created by the diversity of experience, character, and age of all of the volunteers truly makes for a great group of people to work with, as well as chat with. People were very polite with me, in spite of my limited language skills, and wanted to make sure that I was comfortable during my time there. For those curious about volunteering at the Bazaar Cafe, I recommend doing your best to engage with others while on the job, and not being afraid to ask questions, whether they be work-related or not. The more you engage with the people around you in the kitchen, the more enriching your experience will feel, and the more supported you will feel in your work, and ultimately, as a member of the team.
For my CIP, I volunteered with the Nikko Nikko Tomato Program at the Kyoto University Hospital. The program organizes fun events for the patients in the ward reserved for terminally ill children age 3 months to 18 years old. One event the program organized was a bazaar. I helped the other volunteers set up an elaborate towel and handkerchief display in preparation for it. I was really impressed with how much time and thought the volunteers put into the displays for the bazaar, as well as how many things had been donated to the program for this event. Since the children’s ward is pretty small and the number of items for sale so large, there were a lot of things left over. The other volunteers and I were then allowed to buy the things we wanted from the bazaar. All the proceeds went to fund Nikko Nikko events.
I think the events the program organizes are great for kids who are unable to leave the hospital. Unfortunately, I did not get to interact as much with the children as I expected I would. However, I was always able to chat with the other volunteers. Besides the 5 KCJS gaijin, the other volunteers were (very sweet) middle-aged Japanese women. They were always interested in hearing about my experience so far in Japan.
While at the hospital, especially during events, I often felt really awkward, like I was getting in the way of the program’s organization. Also, I felt like maybe I sort scared the kids with my height. My only regret is that I was not more outgoing with them. From this experience, I’ve learned that I just need to get over my insecurities with my Japanese speaking ability. I need to take advantage of all these opportunities available while living in Japan and talk to as many Japanese people as possible.