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@@ @Letfs go to LaosIParticipant Interview

On the 19th of July, The Kanoya International Exchange Association co-hosted a 7 day in-country study program in conjunction with the Kagoshima Prefecture International Cooperation Youth Experience Program called eLetfs Go to Laosf. The purpose of this program is to allow youth from Kagoshima prefecture to directly experience the work done by Japanese volunteer groups overseas as well as deepening international ties through global cooperation. We talked to 2 of the students Ms Chigusa Tsuruno (Takakuma Junior High School) and Ms Miku Tanaka (Kanoya Central High School) who participated in the program and asked them about their thoughts on Laos.

While you were in Laos you got to observe Japanese volunteer groups in the workplace, what were your impressions of their work over there?
We were able to observe Japanese volunteers working at a water purification plant and a nursing centre. I was impressed by their enthusiasm for their work and also how they used their individual skills to help people from other countries.

Tell us about your impressions of Laos itself.
The roads in Laos arenft paved and there are ducks and chickens roaming around everywhere. There wasnft a shower at my host familyfs house and I had to use a bucket when I had a bath. I imagined that this is how Japan used to be in the old days.

How was the food in Laos?
There was a lot of spicy food. However the omelet that my host family made me was delicious. I really missed Japanese white rice and miso soup.

How did you communicate while you were in Laos?
I donft speak much English or Lao so I ended up pointing at the phrase book that we were given before we left. I also used a lot of gestures.
After about 3 or 4 days though, I understood basic everyday conversations. I also realized the importance of English.

What surprised you most about Laos?
When a whole duck was served at the dinner table!
In Laos the houses donft have wooden floors or tatami mats like they do in Japan; their floors are tiled. The schools over there arenft like Japan where every student has his/ her own desk. 3 or 4 children often used the same desk in cramped classrooms and it didnft seem like they used textbooks. Also the childrenfs school uniforms were an ethnic costume called a eshinf.

Tell us about a memorable experience you had while you where there.
My host family decided to take me to a local waterfall but instead of going by car we all rode in a tractor.

What did you think about the Lao people?
Everyone was so kind and took good care of me. Unlike Japanese people, everyone over there was so relaxed, although at times this annoyed me because even when I needed to hurry nobody else seemed to care. Also everyone was really friendly with their neighbours.

After participating in this program what are your feelings toward volunteer work?
Laos has its own culture, so I think rather tying to push Japanese technology onto the Lao people, the Japanese should try and share their technology while at the same time respecting the Lao culture.

Did you think about Japan while you were in Laos?
Of course in Laos we were surrounded by Lao people but I became really good friends with all the other Japanese participants who were staying in my neighborhood. I also became good friends with all the other junior high and high school students who participated from Kagoshima prefecture.
I realized that here in Japan we have more awareness around protecting the environment. In Japan we separate our garbage properly but over there people throw their garbage into their front yard. Japan is a convenient and easy country to live in although both countries have their good and bad points.

How do you think will use your experiences in Laos in the future?
Ms. Tsurumaru:
In the future I hope to become a doctor. By going to Laos I experienced the lack of doctors in developing countries. Because of this lack, a lot more people die in Laos than in more advanced nations. If I do become a doctor in the future I think I would like to work in a developing country.

Ms. Tanaka:
After seeing and learning about Japanese volunteers in working in developing countries Ifm thinking about joining the Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteers (JOCV) and working as a specialist in the field of medicine.

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