Friday, not an ordinary one. I was busy preparing for my station that was in charge of the Chinese calligraphy. My team stuck the whole wall behind us with the word 旺,and hopefully everything would turn the right way.

After the other students welcome the Japan students, our team sort of went our ways, and I headed to the hall to enjoy the dance exchange and to listen to the speeches.

It was a very significant day of our lives, perhaps once in a lifetime, having to act as a vanguard to represent Malaysia in this Japan-Malaysia cultural exchange. When the headmaster of the Japanese school deliver his speech, he used full Bahasa Malaysia. However, on our side, we used plain English.

Japanese cited that Malaysia is ‘hotter than hot’ and their English is quite bad while apologising at the same time. The Japanese are very, very well educated in manners and discipline. Throughout the opening ceremony in the hall, they sat quietly, no phones, paid very close attention to the speeches and even being very attentive to the flow of performances (not even taking up their phones to record).

The stark difference between us and Japanese- a major disgrace, was that we Malaysians did not give a damn to the speeches, scrolling endlessly through their phones, snapping pictures relentlessly to be posted on Instagram or Snapchat, and chatted throughout the ceremony. I, a Malaysian, felt ashamed to have to witness or realise the fact that we were far, far less civilised, disciplined compared to the Japanese.

Comparisons aside, one of their videos in the opening ceremony showed that Japanese also have their version of calligraphy, which were far more superior than ours, making me shitting my pants at this point. They are good. I was scared.

Nevertheless, I kept my cool, as well as my teammates. We were able to carry out our obligations quite successfully. The Japanese got to try out our calligraphy, we got to witness some of theirs indirectly and they got our samples back home.

A fruitful exchange. However, at the start, I, we, had an extremely tough time communicating with them, almost half of them only know how to listen to single words, the rest could not even comprehend what we were talking about, definitely there were the minor exceptions of being converesable in English.

When I was introducing my station for the first go, I used a little too much English words, and they were clueless. I changed into a broken English and incorporated some hand gestures for them to further understand. Most of the times, they did not understand at all. It was definitely a valuable lesson about the importance of communication.

After the Japanese students went for lunch, their headmaster- a serene, sturdy, stoic old man glazed with strands of white hair dressed in turquoise trousers and a navy blue suit, stood handsomely and politely in front of our team, accompanied by a buffed teacher, a typical Japanese uncle with accentuated body built and some facial hairs to show some prominence, and an African dude, like those sidekicks in those spies’ movies.

I also used quite simple English to explain everything to the trio. As I invited to write their names on their calligraphy work, I made a colossal blunder, addressing the wrong noun to the headmaster, I immediately apologised, bowing 90 degrees and a generous ‘sorry’. After our exchange, I gave him some of my calligraphy work as a souvenir for him to bring home, he received them with gratefulness and humbly, he kept them well in his folder. I was on cloud nine, my heart was flung across the skies.

After all of those, it was time to say goodbye. I did not take any pictures with the Japanese, recently I had a change in trend in my phone habits, so instead of taking pictures, I shook their hands as they visited my station and I learned some of their names and their culture. Overall, a very fresh experience for me.

P.S. 23/2/2018
Japan X Malaysia
A learning curve, an eye opener.

Astral

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