I read sometime last week somewhere in BB, I think, that the next Youth Ship Program is advertising for participants. It brings back memories as I was the Brunei Group Youth Leader for the 1990 program - full title "Ship for Southeast Asian Youth Program (SSEAYP)". For those who have no idea what SSEAYP is - it is a youth program fully sponsored by the Japanese Government where they take a group of Japanese youths (18 to 35 years old) and 10 groups of ASEAN youths on this grand cruise ship and go cruising round selected ASEAN ports and Tokyo. Activities will be held during the cruise on board the ship as well as when at the ports of call where all the youths get the opportunity to stay at foster families to experience family life in those countries.
During my time, we were the first to use the new Nippon Maru (replacing an old vessel) and since there were only 6 ASEAN countries then, we get to visit all the 6 ports as well as get to stay for about a week in Tokyo and a few days at various cities in Japan (for me it was at Fukushima). I remembered my foster families - in Penang was a caterer (lavish meals), a reflexologist in Singapore, a devout Buddhist family in Bangkok, a businesswoman in Jakarta (enjoyed durian juice by the roadside), a very wealthy Filipino in Manila (originally placed with the Mayor of Quezon City but he did not turn up to pick me up - turned out that his house got bombed! - shudders - one day earlier, I would have been at the house!) and an apple farmer in Fukushima (very delicious Japanese apples served at every meal and help pick the apples as well).
When I first applied, I thought it was just a cruise and all I had to do was mingle. Nobody told me that the 6 weeks I spent on that ship plus the 3 months preparation time was the most hectic I had undergone in those days. The 6 weeks on the ship were spent doing cultural presentations at every port, discussion forums, sharing of social and cultural activities, national information days, sports days, debates, flag raising ceremonies, aerobics etc. At the ports, same thing, cultural performances, singing, dancing, talking, mingling with other youths - in short we become ASEAN youth ambassadors to other youths. We spent literally a few months preparing for all these. We had with us a complete pelaminan (wedding dias), all the paraphanelia, all the clothings, costumes, musical instruments, tons of books and leaflets, presentation materials plus all sorts - all representing Brunei. And yes, we know all the dances, music performances and all the songs etc. If you are not multiskilled, don't even bother to get that application form. Or be like me, be the manager and get all the planning headaches.
There is an upside. You get to mingle with people of the same ages. People who can talk your language and really, you will never ever have such an opportunity to meet people. During the cruise, you don't feel lonely. There will always be someone who you can share with and really really feel that you belong to this group of youths of the world. The other thing too - you really feel Bruneian - that was the first time in my life that I have known all the traditional songs of Brunei, be able to sing them too, and sometimes be able to dance to some of the Brunei dances and really really know so much about Brunei. You get to know about other countries as well. So, if you are thinking of applying, by all means go ahead. But be prepared, it is not a cruise. Take the pportunity, it will be one of the best things you would have ever done in your life.