My Films

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Processing Peace Boat

It's been three weeks or more since I disembarked the TSS Topaz in Yokohama. My voyage around the world is quickly becoming a dream: some scenes I can forward and rewind in my mind and somethings clearer while other memories quickly becoming fuzzy. I remember the port hole being open in my three bunk cabin in New York, where else it remained pretty much closed for the rest of the journey. I remember the halls in where guest educators lectured and the neon lighting in the Topaz dining area. More importantly, I remember standing out on the front deck and watching the glorious sunsets. I remember thinking how I had never seen the ocean so blue before. I originally wanted to go through and write brief blogs on each port of interest but I'm finding that my life moving forward and my desire to write about others things emerging. So as my journey on the 53rd Global Voyage of Peace Boat fades into the background, ideas and new understanding begin to surface.
In our last week at sea between Seward, Alaska and Yokohama so much changed in the world. My job as the web writer has me more obsessed with media than ever. That week North Korea launched missiles over Japan, Hezbollah kidnapped two Israeli soldiers, and thing in Iraq looked grim as ever. While we visited 19 ports around the world, most of our time was spent at sea. And while at sea, we learned about issues concerning the regions we were traveling to. We learned about the effects of Agent Orange of the Vietnamese people, the Sri Lankan civil conflict, the Israeli-Palestinian issues, fair trade, small arms trade, nuclear weapons proliferation, and Article 9 of the Japanese constitution. The ones that I have highlighted have left a discernible impression on me.
As far as the ports, the one other port that stood out to me is Jamaica. Jamaica, of course of it's warm weather and people. I participated in an eco-tour and it was refreshing to think about caring for the environing and take a break from the heavy conflict issues that I had been writing and thinking about. In Jamaica, I drifted on catamaran through a protected lagoon learning about the mangrove trees (probably the most important plant to the world's ecosystem ) and the endangered sea life. I remembered how much I love the tropical ocean, how easy it is for me to call it home. In my search to create peace, I had forgotten how important our environment is and how vital it is to sustaining peace. It reminded me how so many conflicts have been caused due to lack of resources and how our carelessness is rapidly depleting those resources. It showed me how in every person is the capacity to be in tune with nature and easily connect with the one. I leave you with a photo of my journey there. (Pic up soon)

Thursday, August 17, 2006

A refugee camp in Jordan

Jordan. I have barely begun to understand the depths of the Palestinian Israeli conflict and I am no position to say who is right or who is wrong. But my time in Jordan has given me first had experience of the life of a Palestinian refugee and I cannot deny that my heart goes out to them. I visited a refugee camp called Baqa'a just outside of Jordan's capital city Amman. The camp began in 1968, after the second wave of refugees fled Palestine in the Israeli-Arab conflict in 1967. About 80 participants from Peace Boat stayed overnight in the camp with host families to experience the daily life of a Palestinian refugee.I felt welcomed and comfortable from the moment I met my family. Five participants and I stayed together in a three story concrete dwelling.
Since I've come back to Japan, I went to see the film Ghada about a Palestinian woman. What the film showed me was that how in my short time in that refugee camp, I had experienced so much. I met with extended family member after family member ( I certainly lost count and how everone was connected rather quickly) The immediate family that I lived with had 13 kids, the youngest being 23 and the oldest 40. With exception to the 23 year old, all of the siblings already had three to five very young kids. They spoke little English and we spoke zilch Arabic and so we mostly played with their kids. They served a huge plate of rice with whole chickens (there must have been a dozen or so chickens) at nine, and we dug in hungry. After dinner, a family friend and the two eldest brothers took us up a mountain to see the nightlights of the camp. We shared a traditional sweet tea with them, customary to be given to guests before saying goodbye, as well as trying the Arabic coffee. We slept in the guest room, the large space next of the bedrooms, on coushons propped agains the wall that we had earlier sat on.
I think I got a real sense of their situation when I met Ismail Suboh while I was walking around the camp. He was an English teacher at one of the schools in the refugee camp and spoke at ease with me. He shared that his daughter had married a man who lived in Palestinian, and left the camp to live with him in Palestine seven yeasr ago. After the seond intifada and border control tightened, he has been unable to visit them. He showed me pictures of his grandchildren, four of them, on his cell phone. That's all he know of them since he has never met them. He wasn't angry or a suicide bomber plotting a revenge, just a concerened grandfather. He told me that he desired a free Palestine, like the one he remembered from his youth, and all he wanted to do was play with his grandkids. You can't deny the pain.
One of the first generation refugees spoke the following day. He said, " If someone came into your home and took it away from you, wouldn't you try to defend it?"