Somewhere between Madagascar and Mozambique, Peace Boat volunteer interpreter Moe Sasaki lost her shadow. For a few hours around midday the Ocean Dream passed directly under the December sun and it was as if Sasaki’s shadow had unstitched itself and run ahead to the African continent on which she grew up.
A month later, volunteer English teacher Montse Perez-Gonzalez watched the moon flicker in and out of view from the 9th floor deck. After having lived in Viet Nam for a year, and before that the United States, she had come home to Latin America. “I could connect with people immediately, not just because we share the same language but because we share the same cultural background. I had forgotten how that felt,” said Perez-Gonzalez.
Hundreds of jishu kikaku, or self-organized events, packed the onboard space as Peace Boat rounded the two Capes. In one, volunteer English teacher Alda Lizzi led passengers on a tri-lingual hunt for Carmen Sandiego, in another complex diagrams filled a projector screen as yoga instructor Iwayama Jin explained regression hypnosis.
The ship’s newspaper announced a different gathering everyday: Sendai residents gather! Lovers of 1980s cartoons gather! Antisocial people gather – we’ll be in the corner!
Below is a sample of other events that took place onboard.
Sweat beaded on Kolwane Mantu’s brow and his glasses misted as the tempo picked up. On the second violin chair, Mantu’s daughter Khothatso kept time. Lesego Pheleu played cello, and Neo Madiehe and Lerato Ntsoseng sawed their violins for the crescendo. Mantu grinned: he was holding them all, and his transfixed Peace Boat audience, in perfect balance.
The African Youth Ensemble (AYE), formed by Mantu during apartheid, gives young people in Soweto access to classical training in string instruments, and provides a nurturing environment in South Africa’s largest township.
However the orchestra has yet to receive any government grants. Mantu, now 53, said that keeping the organization afloat was a struggle but he had no plans to quit anytime soon; “when you get young people come to your door, you just can’t stop – it keeps you going.”
Peace Boat has been a partner of AYE since 1999, and on the 86th voyage, Mantu and four of his students treated passengers to a series of music recitals and lectures on Soweto’s past and present.
An onboard auction raised around $5000 for AYE, which will go towards running costs and instrument maintenance.
Tanaka Toshiko was six years old and on her way to school when the atomic bomb hit Hiroshima on August 6, 1945. She remembers a tremendous flash before the sky went dark, the crunchiness of the dust that filled her mouth, and the giant mushroom cloud that formed above her.
All of Tanaka’s classmates, and 140,000 more people in Hiroshima died that day. A further 70,000 people were killed in Nagasaki.
“I was not able to talk to anybody about my personal experience of the atomic bombing. Not even to my own family,” Tanaka told an audience of international passengers and volunteers on Peace Boat that had gathered to listen to her testimony.
Tanaka, who is a sculptor and mural artist, would sometimes insert anti-nuclear symbols into her work, but it was not until she turned 70 that she decided to start telling her story.
After her first testimony on a Peace Boat visit to Caracas, Venezuela six years ago, Tanaka realized how important is was to share her experiences with future generations. As a hibakusha, or nuclear bomb survivor, Tanaka advocates for nuclear disarmament, and spreads a message of peace and forgiveness.
On Peace Boat Tanaka refined an English-language version of her testimony with the help of volunteer English teachers Julie Pliner and Ian Kennedy. In May, she will give a series of talks in New York City during the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference through the Hibakusha Stories organization.
Argentinian filmmaker Roberto Fernandez, who has produced documentaries on survivors of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, gave a series of lectures related to nuclear issues as Peace Boat sailed from Buenos Aires to Ushuaia.
Fernandez discussed the experiences of villagers exposed to radiation in Brazil – the subject of his documentaries “”Portraits from Nagasaki” and “08:15 de 1945”; US weapons tests on Micronesia’s Bikini Atoll and the indigenous islanders who lived there; and the progress of international nuclear disarmament accords after the Cold War.
Fernandez is the director of the production company O Movimento Falso Filmes, and the Latin American coordinator for the International Uranium Film Festival, which aims to raise public awareness of nuclear issues though film.
On the Pacific stretch between Valparaiso and Rapa Nui (Easter Island), Peace Boat was joined Rapa Nui-born guest educator Sergio Manuheuroroa.
Manuheuroroa, a Rapa Nui park warden under Chile’s National Forest Corporation (CONAF), introduced passengers to some of Rapa Nui’s indigenous flora, such as Nga’oha and Toromiro, and gave lectures on the island’s history, ecology, and culture.
Before disembarking, Manuheuroroa taught Peace Boat passengers a variety of Hoko, or dances that illustrate traditional Rapa Nui life. Kiea told the story of or searching for good earth to make body paint and eventually finding it in a cave; Hahave of a flying fish extending its fins into the depths of the night.
Members of the Rapa Nui-based NGO Toki treated Peace Boat participants to a performance of traditional music and dance as the ship docked off the island.
Toki aims to instill young people on Rapa Nui with a sense of pride in their culture, which has been ravaged by ecological fallout and colonialism.
In Rapa Nui, some participants visited Toki’s nascent Earthship. Toki’s new sustainable headquarters, based on designs by architect Michael Reynolds, will be able to function off the grid and generate all of its own energy through renewable sources.
At the culmination of Peace Boat’s onboard Global English and Español Training (GET) programme, students and teachers delivered impassioned two-minute speeches in a new language.
23-year-old Kodama Chisaki’s speech chronicled her experience working at a funeral parlor. “Mostly I wanted to say, everyone will die – it’s a fact of life. So please remember to say I love you and give big hugs to the living people in your life,” Kodama said in English.
The GET programme aims to build student confidence and fluency by de-emphasizing native pronunciation and shifting the focus to communication.
According to GET coordinator Nicholas Sutton, Peace Boat’s speech festival embodied this principle. “You are using language to share an opinion or a belief or a story. Because you are limited to two minutes, you have to make it brief and exact, so you get people sharing things that are really meaningful to them,” Sutton said.
Peace Boat marked Earth Day 2015 with a smorgasbord of onboard events. There were expositions on sustainable agriculture, a fair trade café, letters from inmates on death row, an exhibition of passengers’ nature photography, and a workshop on human rights for children.
Volunteer English teacher Ian Kennedy, who is a high school history teacher off the boat, gave a series of interactive lectures onboard Peace Boat.
In a lecture entitled Does Pizza Really Come From Italy? Kennedy discussed the unintended consequences of the Columbian Exchange; in Networks of Exchange he introduced a framework for analyzing geopolitics and challenged popular notions of why some states are affluent while others are impoverished; and in Empire of Cotton – inspired by Sven Beckert’s book of the same title – he critiqued the development of contemporary capitalism. Another recent lecture included a talk on the Sam Il (March 1st) Korean Independence movement.
“As a teacher I’m interested in giving people knowledge and ideas they did not have before,” said Kennedy. “I tried to pick themes that I thought would do that.”