Port of Call
Cultural Exchange Event at the Sri Yasodara Orphanage for Girls, Sep 18, 2017
One of the matrons playing drums at the entrance of the orphanage.
Peace Boat participants were greeted by music and dance as they approached the Sri Yasodara Orphanage for Girls while at port in Sri Lanka on September 1. The orphanage was established 36 years ago as a place where girls who had lost their parents, or were otherwise unable to be with their parents, could live together and prosper. Peace Boat started its relationship with the orphanage nearly 15 years ago, and the girls and the matrons there look forward to this exchange event which has been held nearly every year since. The event is a chance for both the girls and the participants to play games, dance, and make friends as they learn about each other's cultures.

The girls performing a welcome dance for the participants.
The participants were each given a small bouquet of flowers as they entered, and the event began by gathering together to light an oil lamp in the centre of the room. A stage was arranged and decorated with art from the girls and a sign that read, "Welcome, Peace Boat Family." One of the girls, now a university student, gave an opening speech about her experiences growing up at Sri Yasodara, and MC'd the event. The performances started with a welcome dance by the older girls, followed by an upbeat dance done by some of the younger girls while waving around colourful sticks. The girls also sung some songs in Sinhalese and English, and even performed some Japanese children's songs. The Peace Boat participants did their own performances, dancing and singing Japanese songs such as "Furusato" and "The One and Only Flower in the World."

One of the young girls sending some bubbles out into the air.
The energy started to pick up as everyone moved into an open area for more music. One of the participants played folk songs on the sanshin, an Okinawan instrument, while teaching the girls to dance a style from the region called eisa. When the folk songs finished, participants brought out some fun things for the girls to do, like try on yukata (a Japanese summer garment), do calligraphy, blow bubbles, or play jump rope. Once in small groups everyone started to make friends. Participant Takahashi Izumi was doing calligraphy with the girls and said, "Although Japanese are said to be shy around strangers, at first the girls were actually shyer than us. But, when the girls started opening up to us, they really opened up, and the fun atmosphere left quite an impression."

Plating a delicious Sri Lankan curry.
As Sri Lankan curry was highly recommended by those onboard who had visited before, participants were excited to try a curry meal that the orphanage had prepared for them. Along with three different curries of fish, chicken, and vegetables, participants got to try some fresh coconut water. Local fruits were served for dessert, along with some mango ice cream. Here too there was cultural exchange, as the girls showed the participants how to eat a curry by handthe orphanage was also kind enough to prepare spoons for those who wanted them.

A participant handing out some support goods for the girls.
Beyond just having fun, participants had a chance to learn more about the history of Sri Lanka and the orphanage from the Buddhist nun and head matron, Loku Maniyo. Participants offered the girls support goods such as coloured pencils and notebooks, and as the event drew near closing the girls and the participants gave warm thank yous for the nice experiences from the day. Participant Ise Midori reflected on leaving the orphanage, "I heard that at the end of the event, some of the girls had said that they enjoyed The One and Only Flower in the World' so much that they wanted to learn it to perform when Peace Boat visited againit really made me feel the value of this kind of exchange."