A Clueless Gal Swimming with the Little Shrimps
I am Cher Boon, a volunteer from Singapore at the Spring Season of the 2019 Setouchi Triennale. When I first mentioned I was going to sign up as a volunteer for the Triennale, several jaws dropped “Really, you…working in an art festival? Erm….cannot imagine…” Yeap, I am not the typical art festival going sort among my friends. Yet, here I was, arriving in Takamatsu in late April, to embark on a month-long adventure into the arts, nature and islands.
Where do I start? How about being an art receptionist? The journey starts each day eagerly awaiting the assignment notifications from the Koebitai staff. I must say, some of the memorable ones must be shared, so here they are:
* A lion dancer? With only 2 hours of rehearsal, I learnt lion dancing! And guess what? We pulled off a great opening ceremony with students from Kawaga University and the professional lion dance troupe. What a start!
* A multi-tasking receptionist? Juggling everything from crowd control to tour guide to translator, there was never a dull moment! Try managing the golden week crowd in mangled learn-on-the-spot Japanese + hand gestures (hey, desperate times require desperate measures). Yet some sites were so quiet you could savour the tranquillity, make conversations with visitors and villagers, and glean much interesting things about the artists and exhibits.
* A waitress? Who would have thought? At the island eateries or cafes, the crew was amazing and helpful with first timers like me, showing me the ropes patiently. From kind grannies – who made the most delicious gigantic onigiri (rice balls) I have ever seen, to chefs who could whip up a storm in the kitchen and brew the most aromatic coffee, but nothing topped the satisfied smiles on everyone's faces after a hard day of work.
We little shrimps like it bright and early so every day kicked off at 7am, with morning assembly at Takamatsu port. Depending on how far my hotel/guesthouse was from the port, I would walk (enjoying the peace and quiet in the early hours), or take the local tram (A retro and convenient mode of transport) or cycle (Everyone cycles in Takamatsu!) to the port.
A gal has got to have her beauty sleep after a fulfilling day of art and fun. Unlike most of the Koebitai volunteers, instead of living at the Koebitai dormitory, the adventurous side of me led me to find alternative accommodation so I could soak in the different parts of Takamatsu city, from urban shopping streets to quiet residential neighbourhoods. You would be amazed how easy it is to find comprehensive hotels and guesthouse listings on various hotel websites, something to suit everyone’s preference.
Food glorious food! Exploring local cuisine was a big part of my trip (and maybe life). With culinary skills pegged at expert level (ahem, instant noodles, that is), fear not...dining options were aplenty and conveniently located around the main shopping streets near the port. Supermarkets were available if you needed to shop for groceries or daily necessities.
By the way, we get off-days. I would use the free time to explore Takamatsu or other Setouchi islands like Oshima, Inujima or Shamijima. Mountain tops, beaches, museum in an abandoned refinery, roving tea ceremony cart and postcard worthy sunsets…..Argh, so many places, so little time!!!
As the whirlwind Spring season draws to a close, I thank everyone whose paths have crossed mine in these four unforgettable weeks and filled my heart with so many fond memories to bring back to Singapore.