Crack That Whip!
When I received a reply to my inquiry about volunteering, I was thrilled silly because, one, they replied and, two, they didn't tell me to "go away, you pitiful non-Japanese-speaker, you." In fact, I was so pepped, I agreed to a 10am (ouch*) meeting, I dutifully did my reading on Oxfam, and I even debated with myself as to whether to wear a skirt to the "interview."
Turns out I could have been spared the wrenching torment of an early rising, I didn't need to wear the skirt, and it wasn't an interview. The meeting I attended a few weeks back was not, as I'd assumed, an interview but an orientation. I was not being asked to come in to fill a position several times a week; instead I was pointed to a shelf of brochures and told, "Do whatever you like." With perhaps one or two full-time staff, Oxfam Japan is extremely new and virtually unheard of in this country. In fact, from what was explained to me during the orientation, they were having a hard enough time that, just last year, a foreign volunteer group was created in the hope that the Japanese public would be inspired to get more rigorously involved. Because it is the support of the Japanese people that is needed; most foreigners just don't stick around long enough.
There seem to be quite a few volunteers, but everyone does his or her own thing at his or her own pace. It is this casual flexibility that has allowed me to be so readily welcomed, and for that I'm grateful. But--and here comes the big, horrifying revelation--I fear I won't accomplish anything in this environment. It's not that I lack initiative--okay, yes, I lack initiative. Why do you think it took me 27 years just to admit that I need to actually *do something*? Hell, if I were brimming with solutions as to how to be more socially/politically active, wouldn't I have done something by now? It's not like I've simply been waiting to don a lime-green Oxfam t-shirt or to be told to "Do whatever you like" in order to burst into action.
Please don't get me wrong. Ignore my bitchy attack of the lime-green (which in fact is rather fresh and charming). I don't fault Oxfam Japan--they're doing the best they can on extremely limited resources. And don't think I'm apathetic. I want so much to help in any way I can. But I had hoped for a bit of direction, a bit of a crash-course intro into everything. I'd imagined ongoing projects that I'd assist with and through which I'd learn a bit about the workings of an NPO. Instead, I got what felt like a brisk handshake and a "So long and good luck!" Not even a pink Mary Kay starter kit, damn it. What worries me is that I don't feel that my situation is any different from when I was first flapping my hands about, uselessly crying, "What should I do?"
And now that I've grumbled a bit, now I've got to figure out what the heck to do, start setting projects for myself, because it would seem that Oxfam Japan is what I've got to work with, and if I don't act soon, I'll just get lost in one great big dither. I'm a ditherer! And a slacker. I am the Goddess of Slackery. Anyone feel like helping to crack a whip over this goddess's head? I need all the help I can get.
Note to foreigners in Japan: Don't be discouraged by my dung-headed pessimism. If you've got more energy and creativity than me--you do, trust me--please join Oxfam and help with what I think is the most crucial mission at this time: to increase awareness of the organization, particularly among the Japanese people. Or, as I was encouraged: Do whatever you like!
*You may roll your eyes, but 10am is no laughing matter. I sleep at around 4:30am, have a dog that needs to be walked, and live an hour's commute from anywhere. For me, waking up at 7am is like asking someone with a nine-to-five job to wake up at 4am. Seriously!