Saturday, 26 June 2010

Celebrating the Lives of Yasuo "Pepe" Hara and Mizue Hara

I don't really remember if I had an oppotunity to come to a tribute that remembering passed away friends. Tributes for singers or musicians perhaps, but for friends? I think a Tribute celebrating the lives of Yasuo "Pepe" Hara and Mizue Hara was the only tribute for friends that I have attended. I don't know why I felt the strong need to come. On the same day I had a wedding invitation. The bridegroom was a long time neighbour from my childhood, but our family are really close that it's like we have a family relation. That morning was the wedding ceremony, I usually don't miss the church invitation from relatives and close friends. It would be better to skip the wedding party than skipping the wedding ceremony in the church. Yet, there was an urge from within my heart that brought me to the Jakarta International School where the Tribute was held. May be because I wasn't been able to pay my last respect before that event. But, I gained lots of life messages, a better way to learn how a married couple complemented each other, and how they supported each other.

After signing our notes either in the book or on the white clothes which were hang on the wall, we went into the Fine Arts Theater. Some very gentle boys assisted us. They are perhaps the students from the Jakarta International School. "Good manner, good upbringing...," whispered one of my friends.

The Tribute was opened by a welcoming bow from the three children of Yasuo "Pepe" Hara and Mizue Hara; Yuichiro, Chisato, and Mizuho. Smile were on their lips. It is really comforting to see them so tough. They did sent their family note to the Japan Embassy concerning that the impact of the press coverage might affected the good relationsip between Indonesia and Japan. I think as an Indonesian, I do feel somehow guilty that they lost their parents through a tragedy like that in our beloved country, but seeing them in the willing, so caring and tender...It showed how their parents guidance and examples had ripened in them. They shared the life story from their parents:
Yasuo [原 康雄] and Mizue Hara [原 瑞枝] were both born in Japan; Yasuo on 23 November 1940 in Tokyo and Mizue on 11 March 1943 in Kanagawa prefecture. Yasuo is an alumnus of Sophia University, where he majored in Spanish; Mizue is an alumna of Yokohama Futaba Gakuen, where she discovered her love for culture and languages.

They met through a matchmaker in the traditional manner, were married on 04 October 1968 and honeymooned in Nikko. The family moved to the United States in 1977, when Yasuo was transferred to Houston, Texas, to open a representative office for Satake Inc. [サタケ], a manufacturer and distributor of rice milling and processing machinery.

In 1986, the Hara family moved to Jakarta, Indonesia, where Yasuo opened a general representative office for Satake. He worked towards establishing a Japan-Indonesia joint venture to help develop the country's agricultural sector until the financial and political crises of 1998. Yasuo, believing that the time presented an opportunity to create jobs and alleviate the situation, took early retirement from the company and sought another job that would allow him and Mizue to remain in Indonesia and contribute to its future.

This opportunity came in 2000, when he became Director of Cultural Affairs at the Jakarta Japanese School (JJS), a post that falls under the auspices of the Japanese Ministry of Education and Culture. Over the next three years, Yasuo worked to expand the school's ties with its surrounding community, local schools and students, while encouraging JJS students and teachers to learn about the culture, history and people of their host country.

Since the Hara family came to Indonesia, Mizue has been involved with a variety of community associations, such as the Women's International Club, the Indonesian Heritage Society, and the International Community Activity Center (ICAC). She has held several executive positions in her career as a community service volunteer, including chairman of the Jakarta Japanese Club's women's division and chairman of the Indonesian Heritage Society. As a Heritage member, she studied the cultural wealth of Indonesia and established close ties with the Museum Nasional.

Mizue found her calling in the ICAC Leadership Development Scholarship Program, which provided support to exemplary university students who did not have the financial means to complete their studies. The program was created by the ICAC Community Service Committee in 1999 as a direct result of the 1998 crises.

In March 2004, the program was established as an independent foundation, Yayasan Goodwill International, and Mizue was appointed its Executive Chairman. The scholarship program marked its tenth anniversary in October 2009, by which time it had supported 540 students at the University of Indonesia (UI) and the Bogor Agricultural University (IPB).

When Yasuo's contract at JJS ended in 2003, the couple decided to retire in Indonesia, which had given them their life's purpose. Yasuo and Mizue were looking forward to celebrating their 25th year in Indonesia on 26 January 2011.

The first tribute came from Juliana Roe. She was a long time volunteer working through the Indonesian Heritage Society. She told the story of how she met Mizue in the transition between the Ganesha Volunteers into the Indonesian Heritage Society in 1994. How Mizue worked not only in the Japanese section, but she chaired the Indonesian Heritage Society for four years. Being a close friend of the Hara family made her shaken a bit in delivering her tribute. She didn't forget to mention Pepe's ponytail while describing how supported he was to his wife's activities.

It seemed that all friends who delivered their speeches were shaken. Budi Iskandar Dinata from PT Rutan was giving the second tribute. He was an ex colleague from Pepe. He said that Pepe insisted that his colleagues called him Pepe instead of Mr. Hara or Hara-san. He also mentioned how Pepe was describing his ponytail when he saw that his friend looked at his hair, "This is the mark of my freedom. While working I need to cut my hair to have a neat appearance. But now I'm not working, I'm free to have it long." It shows that he was low profile and very committed to his responsibilities. He was also very dedicated to his colleagues, he would stand to defend them if they were accused wrongly.

I didn't have the chance to meet Pepe, or perhaps I was just not giving my attention. His face seemed familiar, but it might perhaps blurred with other Japanese faces that I've seen before. Those who knew him seemed to agree that he was quiet and he loved taking pictures (which reminded me of my uncle), and he was always the best supporter of his wife's social activities.

After two tributes, we were given the chance to see the Goodwill Dancers performed Tari Piring from Minangkabau, West Sumatera. Tari Piring as written in the Indonesian wikipedia is the symbolization of the farmers' movement when they are working in the field. While holding the plates on their hands they moved their hands in quick movement to show how they plant and harvest their plants.It is also a way of showing gratitude for the result of their hard works. A friend who understand the Minangkabau traditional language told me the translation of the words they shouted; they were apologizing to the audience. In the middle of the dance one plate was accidentally broken. Seeing how good and smooth that girl dancer was dancing, I whispered to my friend, "If my grandma was still alive, she would say that the couple was here saluting us." As I've mentioned in my post "Good Bye...", older Indonesian generation believe more in spirits. When I was a little girl and my grandfather passed away, I was probably about five years old. I stumbled and lost an earring. People said that he was greeting me. Off course if we used our logical sense we would say that it is only an accident. Yet, the magical atmosphere was felt when the boy dancers broke their plates and dancing on those sharp broken glasses. Reviewing it now, I knew the meaning of the dance (this is personal view) that the couple had worked hard during their life, planting and harvesting their works and then they were showing their gratitude to all the audience who helped them during their work and who will help them to continue their works.

I was being sentimental...lots of friends were sentimental that day. I'm glad that we were seated in a theater where the audience was covered by darkness, the light was focused on the stage.

Next tributes came from Charles Pollard (Yayasan Goodwill International), and also from Toru Asai (Jakarta Japanese School/JJS). I couldn't write notes as it was really dark in the seat where I seated. And I shed tears so many times that I couldn't really remember words by words. But from both of them I learned how dedicated this couple to their works, especially in their volunteer work. I remember Toru Asai said about how Pepe became the consultant, even after he was retired, for teachers who teaches in the JJS. Both Goodwill International and Jakarta Japanese Scool are working in the field of education. The Hara couple believe that education is the key to change the future.

There is a poem wrote by Mizue Hara, printed in the flyer of Program.

An Open Horizon (by Mizue Hara)

Fly Students, fly high

Fly and see this world
A world of people
A world of nature
A world of endless horizons

Fly and open your eyes
To people in joy, in agony
To people living
And others, merely surviving

Fly high, Students, fly
To discover what we can do
For the world around us
And the people within

We can only do so much, perhaps
And a little at a time, at that

But believe, we can make life better
We can change this desperate world
Into one united in its diversity
And joined by its humanity

But only if we try
Try,try very hard

So fly, Students, fly
To discover yourselves,
Your happinesses
Your sorrows

Above all, uncover your strengths
And fly, Students, fly high...

Let's fly, and learn to soar

From the songs that the Goodwill Singers sang that day, I remembered mostly Bengawan Solo a very famous Indonesian song (I've just heard this song yesterday sang in Chinese language in a Chinese film through the television. This song is very popular in Japan too). The writer of the song, Gesang passed away on the 20th May 2010. The day he passed away was also the day to commemorate the Indonesian National Awakening days. The foundation of that awakening movement was also the education.

M. Rashid Izada was introduced in the program as Pepe's Indonesian brother. He was sharing the story of how Pepe helped building the relation between Jakarta Japanese School with An Nissa school. Yos Dappu, who was introduced as the Goodwill family, is actually one of the first alumni of the Goodwill International Foundation. He shared how hard work and commitment were the two basic things he learned from the departed couple. I think from other tributes we also traced the same essence: hard work and commitment. One specific note from Mizue Hara that he delivered to us is the magic word "share your life". Pepe and Mizue had share their life with others, and that is how they coloured their lives. I was not a close friend, but I can still grab their messages. The Goodwill International Foundation had helped more than 500 students to finish their study, no wonder if so many people were mourning for them. Another in memoriam notes was from a recipient of Goodwill International's scholarship, written in the Jakarta Post. Then, a love letter was published in a blog of another alumnus.

Three little girls came forward as Taiko players from the Jakarta Japanese School. They ended the tribute with their beautiful drum play. The closing remark was given by Yuichiro, Chisato, and Mizuho. I remembered that Yuichiro said that his parents was intended to write a book about their journey in Indonesia, and that we who came to the tribute will continue writing it. Perhaps not in the literary meaning, but to continue their hard work and dedication to the education and to create a better world.

I remember reading a poem from David H. in the slide show (it's only the essence, not exactly the same words as I just put it in my forgetful memory) "You can choose to cry or you can choose to stand up and celebrate their works." It seemed to me that Yuichiro, Chisato, Mizuho, and Kartini have chosen to stand up and continue their parents' works. I can hear my heart promised them to try my best to share my life too. Happiness or yourselves!

We went outside to free colourful balloons to their journey to the sky. Another friend asked me whether I knew the meaning of it. I don't know, I only knew that the Chinese do this with sky lanterns to pray or to make a wish.

They made announcement of no photographing during the tribute, but this was already outdoor and I couldn't stand not to take a picture. I tried my best not to take a picture with faces on it. I took it with my cell phone. While seeing those colourful balloons flying high and higher, a small boy cried briskly for loosing his balloon (or perhaps the whole balloons?!). I thought we are sometimes act like that boy, we want to hold tightly things that we like, persons that we love, and never let go...

We let the Hara couple go, keeping their memory in our hearts, and trying to write more in their colourful book by continuing their good works. All the money contribution at that event will go to the Hara Tribute Fund. Pepe and Mizue, arigato gosaimazu!


Anonymous said...

nice pictures.
salam kenal

Retty N. Hakim said...

thanks...salam kenal juga :)