I write with dismay the callous and insensible action of the VC,governing board and management of the great citadel of learning located in the heart of the beautiful city of the land of beauty Adamawa state.
It is unfortunate that in their desperate bid to cover up their trail of siphoning the treasury of the university, staff were paid some money in the month of december which when they inquired about the motive or what the payment was for, they were told that it was bonus for the year; something they called thirteenth month.
At the end of december lecturers and staff were paid their salary in full, however, the staff got the shocker of 2015 when they received their pay slip just to discover a new item stating that the purported bonus (thirteenth) month is actually a loan. A question I will love to ask the VC and management…
“A man only learns in two ways, one by reading, and the other by association with smarter people.” Will Rogers
The best way to know everyone in the game is to attend a party of the players. The best way to acquaint yourself with fellow engineers is to attend their activities. There are numerous engineering associations and societies you can engage with; either as a student or an engineer (graduate, licensed or unlicensed).
Merits for students
Participating in such professional associations will give you an opportunity to interact with certified engineers practicing the profession. They get to answer all your curiosity about the career you want to pursue, and if you have none, they can give you a heads up of what’s going on.
By the time you graduate school or sometime close to it, and you begin searching for jobs and places you want to intern at, the members of the engineering societies you have been interacting with will help you in either absorbing you in their companies or at least recommend you to others. This is because of the commitment you have shown to grow as an engineer. Your participation in their activities translates to how you can balance your academic challenges with extra-curricular activities.
Just by mere acquaintance of the professionals in your field can be fruitful for you if not in the present, then in the future. You might want to get your bachelor’s degree and proceed for a Master’s; maybe one of those members in your professional organizations might be the person in charge of reviewing applications in the department you are applying. Maybe she is in charge of scholarships or best, she is highly respected in the field and when she writes you a recommendation letter for the job, scholarship or graduate admission applications, your chances of success dramatically goes up. Christine Comaford-Lynch said, “Networking is marketing. Marketing yourself, marketing your uniqueness, marketing what you stand for.”
Merits for graduates
You also get to grow in networking and knowledge. Attendance at weekly lecture series, meetings, guest lectures will enrich your database beyond what you will learn from classrooms. And if you have figured out where you want to go in your engineering career, you will most likely find someone practicing that and you might want to approach her or him so that she or he can mentor and counsel you, for free.
Often times, when you grow professionally as an engineer, you might come across opportunities in form of contracts you can’t accomplish alone. You need to supplement your knowledge with others’ in order to deliver the project. The acquaintances you met by networking at those events would have probably matched the right person you are searching for. The network you created also gives you an opportunity to talk to many professionals who will help you in finding the right person for the job. It saves you a lot of time if you have a trusted network which you can always refer back to for suggestions.
While I was on vacation/job hunting in Dubai, I got the opportunity to attend a networking event of Young Entrepreneurs in Property UAE at the Hilton Hotel, for free. I was able to make acquaintance with the professionals practicing in the Middle East. It was there I met a British lawyer working for an engineering firm, who suggested to me a powerful networking event that holds on every month in Dubai and other member countries. The events are normally attended by highly influential company owners who have the authority to employ you on the spot. As a trusted friend of mine always says, “it’s about the dots, the ww (world wide) dot in your life that matters.” And I couldn’t agree more with him. He always advocates that we should know people from all over the world and from all spheres of life.
Societies, associations and affiliations
Here, I have identified some professional associations I suggest you visit their website right away and register. However, the first association or society you should associate with is the local association around you. If you do not know any, ask your colleagues or lecturers. Engage in both student and professional associations. The second association you should engage with is the national association of the country. Most countries have a national body of engineers. In Nigeria, you can visit www.nse.org.ng which is the website of Nigerian Society of Engineers. There are different membership levels in all of these bodies from students, to graduates to professionals and fellows. And you should choose the membership level according to your profile.
For those of you who will like to have titles and affiliations after your names, the societies are the fastest bet for you to get one. For example if you are a member of NSE, you can append MNSE after your name to mean (member of the NSE). So here is the list.
Have you participated in any professional association’s activities and you found it very useful? You can tell us about it in the comments box below by naming the association, the activity and the experience you took out of it. Do you belong to any student or professional association? Go ahead and list it in the comment box so that someone might attend your next event.
“No one realizes how beautiful it is to travel until he comes home and rests his head on his old, familiar pillow.” Lin Yutang
Zanzibar is a very old and historic island in Eastern Africa. The expansive island, with about 2614 square kilometres is 6 times the size of the beautiful island of Barbados. Hugely influenced and dominated by Islamic culture, tourists from all over the world are seen on this beautiful and serene island. You can either get there by air or water. I got my ferry tickets with Sada at Dar Es Salaam, the commercial capital of Tanzania and off we sailed for a short vacation, a week before our much awaited graduation. Arriving just before sunset, we saw the beautiful view of the sun as it sets down far in the Indian Ocean. Once we made it out of the port, a swarm of taxi drivers bug you to advertise their transportation services. We shunned the taxi drivers as we were to be received by a humble AIESECer, Saeed.
We headed for his apartment to relax before the next day. The next day was all I craved for; a day out in Zanzibar. We started with the historic Stone Town built in the 18th Century which is a UNESCO Heritage Site. It is still inhabited by Zanzibaris today. Stone Town is a small neighborhood embedded in Zanzibar, built in an olden day’s type of architecture. It is characterized by narrow cemented streets, tall shabby looking buildings and encompasses many historic places such as the Palace Museum, House of Wonders, Hamamni Baths and the Old Fort. For one reason I do not know, we really didn’t need a guide to navigate the many narrow streets and turns of Stone Town as we saw many tourists had one. It appeared simple as we went round twisting our necks in so many directions. Of particular interest among those places we visited is the House of Wonders, known in Swahili as Beit al-Ajaib.
The people of Zanzibar called it so because of the wonders it possessed, and which amazed them beyond comprehension. Zanzibaris have never seen electricity before the era of House of Wonders, in 1913. Talk less of an elevator. It was the first building in Zanzibar to have electricity and also an elevator. A tall clock tower rises from the House of Wonders and can be seen from a distance as you arrive Zanzibar on a ship. In most photos of Zanzibar you will come across, you will also notice the clock tower, as that location faces the seaport. It is the face of Zanzibar on most post cards and picture frames. Soon, we were done treading in and out of Stone Town after visiting the Old Fort which houses the amphitheatre, the Palace Museum that contains timelines and artifacts of the history of Zanzibar rulers, called sultans in Swahili. And the Persian Hamamni baths, designed by an Iranian architect. It comprises of a hexagonal pool and fountain, steam room, and hot and cold dips. It has distinct places for washing feet, taking baths, hanging clothes and keeping your shoes.
We finally started another journey on the island towards the beautiful beaches it possesses. We travelled for more than one hour, in a truck used for public transportation popularly called Dala Dala in Tanzania (Matatu in Kenya, Molue in Lagos, Nigeria and Fula fula in Congo). They are the cheapest form of transportation on the island. We spent 2, 000 Tanzanian Shillings ($1.25) each for the transport fare. We arrived Paje Beach with anticipation of just how beautiful it will look. And its looks were marvelous. Palm trees stand in rows along the long coastal line of the beach carpeted with beautiful white sand, and littered with sea shells. There were lots of tourists seen around, engaged with one water activity or the other. Our first meal on the beach side was definitely sea food. Italian pasta with sweet tomato sauce, served with mackerel. By the time we filled up our tanks, we continued another short journey to the next beach, Jambiani, where we had reserved half of the rooms of a beach resort.
As I lay on the upper deck of the resort in the night, the cool gentle Indian Sea breeze blew and caressed my body. The sound of the beach dominated the distant hearing. Closer to me, a cool music emanates from the stereo of the hotel’s chef. As I waited patiently for the chef to finish preparing my dinner, a shelf of books caught my eye on my way out of the hotel. I loved reading and I quickly skimmed through the 6 novels on the shelf. Of the 6, 2 were more fascinating to me. One was a travel guide for Zanzibar written by a couple bitten by the African bug. They were both non-Africans both could not help living outside Africa after their first experience.
The second, which I read for hours, was about maps. Simon Garfield’s On The Map: Why the world looks the way it does. I got captivated by the narration quickly as I read how the first maps were made, presumably correct, but concluded erroneous afterwards. Thanks to Christopher Columbus, who set out for a quest to ascertain the true shape of Earth. He decided to go round the Earth and thought at a time, his ship would fall into a deep hole, as earlier generations conceived and concluded that the earth is flat and not spherical. However, Pythagoras argued persuasively that the earth was spherical in shape. Another misjudgment, was Herodotus’ composition of the world; Europe, Asia and Libya (Africa) only. Simon Garfield has discussed extensively, the big deal about maps in that book, including famous map thieves. I recommend to lovers of history of the world and Geography.
That wasn’t the only book I found hard to drop in Zanzibar. While in the Palace Museum, I took 2 books from a shelf, which
were for sale and glanced through them as I chilled after going round the museum to acquaint myself with the history of Zanzibaris. In fact, I bought one of the books and Sada, bought the other. Tippu Tip: the story of his career in Zanzibar and Central Africa was the title of the book I acquired for 35, 000 Tanzanian Shillings. It hooked my attention when I read the synopsis. It narrated the surprising manner in which Tippu Tip became Sultan of Utetera. For your pleasure, I added the photo of the synopsis here to see if you will find it interesting. The second book was about Salme, the audacious princess of Zanzibar. It was an autobiography unlike Tippu Tip’s. Princess Salme, a Zanzibari was married to a German and lived most of her married life in Germany. She didn’t consider the cultural and religious background as a barrier to her social life. She eloped away from the island and made a new life there, but returned a year before she died.
Zanzibari is an Islamic dominated island with Arabian and Islamic culture, still evident today. Mosques are located everywhere and ladies still cover themselves with hijabs. During the night, both foreign and local people patronize the market that bubbles up at Forodhani Garden. When it is daytime at Forodhani, you did never imagine it to be filled with people, let alone turn into a market place. Neatly kept and scarcely populated. However, as the sun goes down, the night life comes up. Sea food sellers mostly dominate the markets. Others hawk ice cream and sugar cane juice. We had a taste of different sea foods, including an octopus, which I was having for the second time, after my first in Tokyo.
The next day, we walked to the famous Spice Bazaar (market) for some Zanzibari tea recipes. Tea masala, natural vanilla tea plant and cardamom. Tea masalas are very popular additives in tea. With that, the Zanzibari experience was paused. We boarded the Kilimanjaro Ferry back to Dar es Salaam. The ferries are very much comfortable compared to airplanes. Only that the seats don’t come with seat belts. The occasional galloping of the ferry across the sea tides can be fun as well as sickening, as I suffered motion sickness on my cruise back. After a cruise of one and a half hour, we were glad to alight from the ferry; thrilled and joyous.
“We can do no great things, only small things with great love.” Mother Theresa
I arrived Cairo ecstatic of my motive for embarking on this long planned trip. I had made up my mind the year before to travel to another country to volunteer in a global community development programme. I had volunteered and participated in community development projects back in Nigeria, but none came close in sacrificial grandeur as this. The closest however was when I was obligated under the Nigerian Law, as a university graduate, to participate in a community development service. I was attached to the Road Safety Corps. If I and my colleagues were not controlling the traffic at some busy junctions under the hot sun in Nigeria’s busy capital Abuja, we were at some primary school teaching brilliant kids about road safety ethics. You know, the look left, right and left again before you cross. Or look to your right, left and right again as the case may be. For the former task of being a traffic warden, I did dare not do it in Cairo. I thought Nairobi Matatus where the most reckless drivers, not until I met people who drive in the City of Cairo. Freaking crazy. Gladly, my volunteer work in Cairo was totally different from the ones in Nigeria. Resala, which is an Arabic word which stands for message, is the name of the NGO I volunteered with. It is the biggest NGO in Egypt, with over 27 branches across the country and some present in other Middle Eastern countries. The NGO coordinates community projects dealing with orphanages, donation of food items, selling of second hand clothes, recycling work and teaching primary school education in its schools. They have a lot of native volunteers. Some have been volunteering for the past 5 years, while others less than that. I felt a lot of admiration for those people who had volunteered for such a long time. I saw the compassion and kindness in these people who had given up their holidays to a service they gain no material benefits from. It is true that volunteers aren’t paid, not because they are worthless, but because they are priceless. It was an inspiring act that made me question so many times I spent doing really nothing substantial to my life, when I could have actually added value to my life and somebody’s also. But seeing and hearing from these long term volunteers made a permanent impression on my mind.
Group photo in front of Resala branch office at El Hegaz Street, Cairo.
Behind, L-R: Ahmed, Amr, Ameriki, Ahmed.
Front: Myself and Abu Bakr on my left.
I started working with Resala with my forgotten understanding of Arabic Language. The little I learnt in Islamic Schools bac then I later came to understand was, Fusha, the classical Arabic of the Holy Qur’an, the Holy Book of Muslims. Unfortunately, not spoken but understood in Egypt. Theirs, was very much casual. Even with that, I had forgotten most of what I learnt, because of lack of practice. I felt so dumb in Cairo because I could not relate the way I wanted. At Resala, not all could speak English fluently, even with their basic understanding of it but prefer to speak to me via a kind human translator, Abu Bakr. Whenever the sign language or our poor Arabic and English failed to make any sense to both of us, we go looking for Abu Bakr. A very kind gentleman who really made me feel at home at Resala. Most of my work was in the clothing section. People normally donate their unwanted clothes, shoes, bags, etc. When the items reach Resala, it is the job of the volunteers to first of all screen the donated clothes, whether still useable or not. Those not suited for reuse are thrown away. Thereafter, they are sorted into sections for different ages, sex and times of usage (summer or winter). It was exciting to me.
Volunteers about to start putting the clothes on display. Front: Ameriki
Selling clothes to Um Salam and Um Sabr (both in black)
When all the sorting is done, on a scheduled day, we travel to a poor location of Cairo. There, we put the clothes on display, you know, like how they do in shopping malls. All designers could be available. From used Marks and Spencers to Dolce and Gabbanas. The first people who enter the ‘mall’ to buy the clothes presumably choose the best clothes. The idea of selling the clothes to the poor people was elaborated to me by the kind translator, my namesake. He said, the poor feel more valuable and maintain a higher self-esteem when they purchase the clothes, even though at peanuts prices. The costliest items cost 7 Egyptian Pounds (LE). However, some could go up to 10 LE, because of how new and genuine they are, especially ladies’ hand bags. I accepted and denied bids for certain clothes. It was really an exciting experience as I sold items after items to many people. I could have earned some bonuses if I was working in Sales department of Tuskys or Nakumatt I thought, due to the cash in-flow I brought. I felt a great sense of accomplishment as I left Cairo for Dubai late that evening. Resala was home to me during that short period. It was a great opportunity to work with kind-hearted people like those, whose only mission is to help others. Volunteering for community services or development projects should be a hobby to everyone, especially in Africa, where it is needed the most. It not only gives you a sense of accomplishment, but also makes your life more valuable.
Final pose with the volunteer team of the day.
Traveling to Egypt to volunteer for a kind cause is one of the most important decisions I am glad I have taken in my life. I had the opportunity to volunteer in the beautiful charity works conducted by the largest NGO in Egypt, Resala. The work increased my understanding of what kindness is. As smile is a universal language, so is kindness. I was also privileged to meet other beautiful people both from Egypt and around the world, which has added depth to my perception of living in multicultural environments. We have made compassionate and inseparable bonds while living together for a short period of time. Furthermore, being in the historic Land of the Pharaohs increased my love for history, especially when I visited the Pyramids of Giza, passed through the Suez Canal and ascended Mount Sinai, the purported mountain where Prophet Moses (A.S) spoke to God. The journey has been fantastic so far. Special thanks to AIESEC AAST in Cairo, Resala and everyone who was part of it.
This volunteer work was facilitated by an international student body, AIESEC JKUAT (in Kenya) and AIESEC AAST in CAIRO (Egypt). If you want to volunteer in any international projects and have no clue how to secure them, feel free to contact me for suggestions.
“We cannot teach people anything; we can only help them discover it within themselves.” Galilei Galileo
When the workshops and assimilation of how to create regional innovation was completed in Tokyo, it was time to go and put what we learnt into action. We will travel to Tohoku region, an area hit by the tsunami (3.11) caused by the Great East Japan Earthquake of March, 2011. There, a group of 24 brilliant High School students will await us to learn how to use the regional resources in their city to create innovation. In anticipation, I wondered how I could relate and teach High School students how to create regional innovation considering I learnt it a few days ago. Saturday morning, and everyone treaded down to the local train stations that conveyed us to the bullet train station. The bullet train, Shinkansen (in Japanese) travels at a ground speed of about 325 km/h. After about 3 hours of travel time, we dragged our feet out of the train station and headed for the buses waiting to convey us to Otsuchi town.
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Otsuchi town was almost decimated by the 3.11 tsunami. We stood with our faces painted with compassion as a tour guide narrated to us how it all happened. On the unfaithful day, some of the residents have wrongly gathered at the Mayor’s office when they felt the ground shook. A good disaster evacuation procedure preaches that you run to a higher ground when the tsunami is expected. Unfortunately, the tsunami walloped the entire people together with the mayor. The aftermath of the disaster left huge cracks about 20 mm wide on the wall. Much more than an anticipated tensional cracks structural engineers normally design against. Japan has been championing the design of earthquake resistant structures for long. However, no one saw that coming. There is an interesting story about how 99.8% of some Elementary and Junior High School students in Kamaishi City evaded the danger and helped other villagers along. This story is now known as the Miracle of Kamaishi. We left Otsuchi town for Tono City.
After 2 days in Tono City, our sole aim of being there was about to start. We were assigned 5 students to teach how to create regional innovation. We sat round a small table with Mai (Japanese), Neysa (Indonesian), Naka Chan (Japanese) and Professor Alex (British) discussing how to accomplish our goal. We were stuck on what best innovation teaching method we should employ to teach the students. It became more difficult as we envisioned that the High School students might not comprehend all what we will teach them. As we thought. We need to take it slowly with them. And the phrase “do not underestimate High School students” was born within us. We joked with the phrase constantly in order to reinforce our belief in the students. Thereafter, we simply concluded they are smart and will perform duly. And we were right. All the 24 students wowed all the university participants with their creativity. They came up with many different innovative ideas that harnesses the resources of Tono City. I was more than impressed and captivated by their creativity, elocutionary skills (they spoke in Japanese though) and their emotional individual reflection and farewell speech to us.
Behind, L-R: Professor Alex, Naka Chan, Akihiro, myself, Gonzalo.
The quote by the famous Italian Philosopher, Engineer, Physicist etc. mentioned at the beginning of this piece signifies what I took out most from my Innovation Camp in Japan. In my own words, it helped me realize the great potential for innovation lying both in my hands and existing in my environment. It is truly unlocking hidden potentials.
When the news reached my email that I made the 7% out of 300 applicants as the only African participant to attend a Summer Innovation Camp with the University of Tokyo in Japan, I was eager for July 29th to clock. I joined other 29 international colleagues who made the 7% and undertake their studies in high ranking universities of the world such as University of California (UCB), Oxford, Cambridge to mention but a few. Nationalities at the programme rang from USA, UK, France, China, Switzerland, Slovenia, Finland, Hong Kong, Thailand, South Korea, Indonesia, Pakistan, Spain, Bangladesh, Germany and a few I might have missed. We were to be joined by 30 other Japanese participants from the University of Tokyo and a single lucky participant like me, from Chiba University in Japan. The main goal of the innovation workshop is to teach us how to create regional innovation. Regional innovation is innovation for solving challenges of local regions. From the foregoing, the need for regional innovations cannot be overemphasized.
The founder of the programme and Director of Centre for Knowledge Structuring at The University of Tokyo, Professor Hideyuki Horii, narrated to me how he veered from the technical practice of civil engineering to focus solely technology for social innovation. He, along with his team had started i.school in 2009 in order to teach students how to think creatively and to give them confidence to be innovative. This year, they teamed up with another innovation school, Royal College of Arts (RCA), from the UK to organize two different innovation workshops for us. The workshop from RCA was mind blowing, funny and crazy in terms of ideas created by participants.
Professor Horii on my right and the Vice President of The University of Tokyo at the Farewell Party in Tokyo
Horii Sensei started his innovation workshop of i.school by asking the 60 participants to write down as many ideas as we can in 3 minutes. A Japanese student acknowledged writing up to 15, the highest. One third of that is what I did. He again asked the same question, however, restricting our thinking to ideas that only create new services in a shopping mall. I came up with 2. No one had more than 5. It was harder to think that way. And that was the main lesson. To think while making reference to an analogy. It is an ideation method that makes taylor-made proposals based on a certain service or scenario. With analogic thinking, a challenge is put by thinking about how to improve a certain service or product while making reference to another and better analogy. The i.school workshop lasted for two days.
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Group work by participants
On the second day, all participants have mused about new ideas to attract people to the 2020 Olympic Games. It was showtime as a member of the design committee of 2020 Olympics will be present to give his remarks on the proposed ideas. Japan has won the hosting rights of the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. One of the most, if not the best city to live in the world. You cannot miss a valuable item like stockings and don’t have it returned or mailed to you as someone enjoyed after having forgotten her stockings in a hotel room. Cleanliness, orderliness, hospitality, security and you can go on mentioning. Cases of bag or phone snatching are not heard. Yes, you can leave your bag unattended at a train station and ‘Tokyo 911’ and City TV won’t show up. People do not know terrorism in this part of the world.
Professor Horii facilitating i.school workshop
Thinking method proposed by RCA was the opposite of that in i.school workshop. While they also centered the workshop around a theme-Washi which is a traditional Japanese paper, however, they did not limit the extent of ways you can use Washi. The idea was to think outside the box with just a single piece of paper at your mercy. Interesting, exciting, mind-blowing and crazy ideas were proposed by different groups either through a skit or a narration. The main goal of the workshop was to think extreme. To break all borders of limitation and assume you can create anything you like with a resource you possess. Many participants liked it because of the freedom and no-limit obligation.
A group makes a skit of their idea of a face mask made out of Washi paper that clears your face from any illness or ugliness in a few minutes. Instant makeover. This shuld sell anywhere.
While we have assimilated all these knowledge passed to us by two innovation schools, we moved into a less popular region of Japan, Tonou City, somewhere close to where the great 3.11 tsunami decimated. We mingled with High School Students and taught them how to create regional innovation. The ideas the kids presented were impressive. Post 2 of this blog will detail our interaction with the beautiful High School students. It is with such enthusiasm and results I witnessed at Tonou City, that I feel the need for regional innovation is universal. Every particular region has its set of resources that needs to be harnessed in certain ways not only by rich entrepreneurs, capitalists and multinationals, but also by the common man who will feel the impact more than anyone.
And our programmes caught the eyes of an Asian Newspaper Nikkei in Tokyo and Iwate Local Newspaper in Tonou City. In case you cannot read the Japanese script, you can watch the video here.
And for a summary of all our workshops in Tokyo City, please watch this video here made voluntarily by an amazing student staff, Demeturie.
Have any questions about the Innovation workshop, the work we did with High School Students, please do not hesitate to ask.
Saku City, Nagano Prefecture,
Between 13th and 15th of July or August every year, depending on the region, Japanese people usually celebrate a festival called Obon (called Bon at times, addition of the letter o before a word in Japanese Language means an added respect to the word). Obon Festival is a time in which Japanese people go back to their different hometowns and honour their ancestral spirits together with their families. On the night of August the 14th, I got on a bus with my Japanese Language Sensei (teacher in Japanese Language) and friend Ikkan, in Tokyo and headed for his hometown, Saku City to celebrate the Obon with his family. The journey was memorable to me as that was my first and longest journey by bus during my short stay in Japan.
At the beginning of the 3 hour journey, Ikkan was fast asleep. He had not slept much last night because he spent the night performing a Karaoke at some place in Tokyo. I placed my laptop on my laps and continued making some minor corrections to my masters’ thesis, which was supposedly due for submission the next day. Halfway through the journey, we started to chat about the time he came to Kenya last summer. His pleasurable experience and how he looked forward to going back someday. Three hours passed, and the luxurious bus we sat in glided on the best highway I have ever travelled on. There were no potholes nor security road blocks, as it was the case of highways in my country, Nigeria. The bus pulled over at around 11.00 pm and we walked down the aisle and exited the bus. It took us a while of trekking before we arrived home, to his waiting kind parents, who had already bought a Yukata for me.
Yukata is a light traditional Japanese cloth that is also used during the Obon Festival because of the summer heat. Before I wore mine, Otousan (a respectful way of calling someone’s dad in Japanese Language) had said he did not know I was this ‘tall’. Okaasan (a respectful way of calling someone’s mum in Japanese Language) and Otousan were amused because my Yukata stopped mid-way between my knee and ankle, instead of covering my whole legs. Well, even if they did know my exact height, I believe it will take them a long time to find my size considering am taller than an average Japanese person. Otousan is a very kind old gentle man, who waited till midnight the day I arrived to have dinner with me. Octopus Sushi was the main meal on the table. He had told us by 12.45 am to wake up by 5.00 am the next day and go to his farm for some corns.
Japan is popularly called the land of the rising sun, asahi. By 4.00 am, the sun is already up. A challenging location for a Muslim person like me, who will have to fast for 19 hours before he/she starts to eat or drink. I did not sleep till around 1.00 am, 3 hours before the sun comes up. I barely managed to wake up some minutes before 4.00 am to say my morning prayers, then I prayed that Otousan abandons his plan of taking us to his farm for toumorokoshi. Around 6.00 am, in my sleep, I overheard Otousan trying to get Ikkan up. Thank God it was unsuccessful. We did not wake up till 10.00 am, Obon’s day. The day the monk will come and pray together with the family.
And he did come, around evening. And I did join the prayers, as an onlooker though. After the rites, through Ikkan’s translation, he told me about the practice. In the room where they prayed, there were pictures of Ikkan’s great grandparents, who they believe their spirits will come back, in the name of Okagesama to protect them. In the room lies a big box, where the spirits normally reside in, but today, being Obon, they will move to a smaller one just for that day, because of the sacrifice to be made. In my short stay in Japan, I have visited for more than 5 temples and shrines, in short, I have condensed a lot of knowledge about their religious beliefs. He left and we had dinner.
The sacred place used for Obon prayers in Ikkan’s home. The black door on the right is the box that normally houses their ancestral spirits.
The small box middle from both left and right with vertical writings is the smaller box the ancestral spirits will move in to honour the Obon sacrifice.
Considering the large number of people coming back home for the Obon, the Hanabi community had organized a Hanabi show at a place just overlooking the river, made just for Hanabi. Hanabi is a Japanese word for fireworks. It was raining cats and dogs, and we had thought Hanabi will be cancelled that night. Suddenly, the loud bangs of the fireworks reached our ears. And off we went to the scene, been driven by Okaasan. Within two seconds of normal time, she changes transmission. Such an aged woman with excellent driving skills. One hand always on the gear and the other on the steering wheel ofcourse. She swings her body slowly from left to right as she navigates the roads of Saku City.
With my basic understanding of Japanese, I was able to tell her how I exciting the Hanabi was, when she drove back to pick us up. The Obon Festival will be completed the next day, with a type of slow dance called Obon Odori. Will they also dance in the rain? We shall know in some few hours.