Thursday, March 31, 2011

Cherry Blossom Festival on Sunday, April 3rd

There will be a Cherry Blossom Festival at Japanese American Historical Plaza this coming Sunday, April 3rd, from noon to 3pm.  Come and enjoy picnic and taiko performance under cherry blossoms!  Japanese American Historical Plaza is right next to Saturday Market in downtown Portland.  It's free and open to public event, however, Mercy Corps will be collecting donations for Japan Earthquake fund. I love going to this park this time of year, to view cherry blossoms.  This year, they are not yet in full bloom, since we are having such a cold, rainy spring.  I hope it'll still be a nice sunny day for a picnic and cherry blossom viewing.  Here is more info.

I love the Japanese tradition of cherry blossom viewing.  Cherry trees blossom around the end and the beginning of fiscal year, so it's also a reminder of ending and beginning of school and work in Japan.  It's usually a busy time of year for events such as farewell parties, welcome parties, weddings, festivals, and cherry blossom viewing parties.  But since Japan had recently suffered a huge disaster and still dealing with a lot of issues, I hear that many businesses and schools are canceling such events.  A lot of people are also refraining from going out.  I understand that the whole country is still mourning, but this is not good for the economy.  People who are not affected need to try to go on with their lives, so that the economy can still circulate.  I am glad that Portland is still having a cherry blossom viewing celebration, and actually using the event as a way for people to come and donate for Japan.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Art Show at Collins Gallery!

I am very excited to announce about my art showing at Collins Gallery, the 3rd floor of Central Library in downtown Portland!  My origami art pieces are in one of the glass cases there, along with 11 other teaching artists who regularly teach at Multnomah County Library locations.  They are on display from now through mid-June.

I have been teaching library classes now for the past three years. Back in last fall when I heard about this opportunity to show artworks at Collins Gallery as a teaching artist, I jumped at the chance.  I've always loved the historic building of Central Library.  I still remember when I first stepped into the building... with the big open staircase, marble floors, and high ceilings.  That was probably when I was a college student, and I never could have imagined that I'd be doing this back then.  I feel extremely honored to exhibit my art pieces in such a beautiful place, as my first "formal" art show!

Please visit the 3rd floor of Central Library, if you are ever in the area!  Here is more info about the exhibition.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Paper Cranes for Japan

For the last couple of days I was helping the children at my school make paper cranes.  An organization called Students Rebuild is collecting paper cranes, and they will receive $200,000 donation from the Bezos Family Foundation, once they receive their goal of 100,000 paper cranes.  The donation money will be used to Architecture for Humanity's reconstruction efforts in Japan.  The cranes will also be woven into an art installation.

Each paper crane means $2 donation to Japan, so the children were quite eager to fold.  I also worked on this project with the residents at the assisted living place where I teach monthly, and they were also happy to contribute.  With the children and the seniors combined, they have made 400 paper cranes, which means $800 contribution to reconstructing efforts in Japan!  Tomorrow, our flock of cranes will be winging their way to Seattle, where Students Rebuild is, as a goodwill donation for the people who lost homes in Japan.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Evacuee children making paper cranes

I just read a Japanese news article about a group of 27 evacuee children making paper cranes at an evacuation center.  It's in Japanese but there is a small photo.  Here is the link.

Their goal is to make 10,000 paper cranes, with a wish to overcome this disaster.  Their school principal suggested doing this, hoping that it will bring them a project to take on and a sense of coming together.  They don't have access to origami papers, so they are folding out of newspaper cutouts.  Older evacuees and volunteers joined to help, and so far they have made 3,200.

An 8-year-old boy said his house and toys got swept away but wants to go home so he is folding.  A 6-year-old girl, who is about to enter grade school and lost her older brother by the tsunami, said she lost her brand new school bag, so she is wishing it to be back.  They are working hard with their little hands.

I hope they will get their wishes soon!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

From Oregon with Love

Like many others who have friends and families in Japan, I have been shocked and saddened by the recent disaster in Japan.  It is heartbreaking to know that there are hundreds of thousands of people in the northeastern Japan, who used to live normal life like everyone else, and suddenly lost everything, including homes, jobs and loved ones, in the matter of minutes.

The photo below shows a part of Iwate, before the earthquake and tsunami hit.  Doesn't it look so peaceful and beautiful?  This photo from a fishing guidebook was sent to me by my friend Jack Sanders, who conducts tours to rural Japan.  He had spent time touring in the affected area before the disaster, and he is now trying to reach out to some local TV stations to inform people about what he knows.  From the photo, you can see how close to the ocean people lived.  Now most of these little fishing villages are wiped out by the tsunami.  A terrible tragedy.

Right after the disaster, I received a lot of calls and e-mails from friends in the U.S., asking if my family in Japan is OK.  Luckily, my hometown is further down south and far from the affected area.  Three days after the disaster, my husband and I were, in fact, supposed to fly to Japan to attend my sister's wedding.  But because of the nuclear radiation scares, we had to cancel our trip (Thank you very little to CNN, for reporting the news over-dramatically).  I never thought I would have to miss my sister's wedding.

I was very bummed, but what I had to experience is nothing compared to people who were directly affected.  I want to do everything I can to help the people in need.  Besides making a donation, I thought what I could do is to spread the word out.  I believe that watching the news doesn't always make you feel that it's really happening, especially for children, who are so used to seeing what's not real on TV these days.  I visited every elementary classroom of my school, with a permission from each classroom teacher, and I made a presentation on Japan.  I hope that a personal connection, through me, helped children understand what's really going on. 

After the spring break, I plan to help the children at my school with a fundraiser for Japan.  How will we raise the fund?  By folding paper cranes!  An organization called Students Rebuild will get $2 per crane from Bezos Family Foundation to help rebuild in Japan.  Read here for more details.  I actually already have 1,000 paper cranes that are created by the children at my camp job last summer, which I planned to take to Hiroshima Peace Memorial this month.  But since our trip to Japan was canceled, and I heard about this fundraiser, my camp director and I decided to send the cranes to Students Rebuild instead.  I'm sure our children will be happy to find out that our cranes are going to another good cause.  We can raise $2,000 for Japan by sending these cranes!

Last night my husband and I went to a benefit concert for Japan at PSU.  A couple of taiko groups as well as a few music and dance groups performed.  The concert hall was packed, and I felt people's outpouring love for Japan.  I've been feeling like I had a big cloud over my head ever since March 11, but I finally saw a crack of light through it.

Hang in there, people in the northeastern Japan!  We are all trying to reach out and help!  Don't lose hope!

Please consider making a donation, if you haven't yet.  You can donate to Mercy Corps, Japanese Red Cross, or Save the Children.