Monday, June 18, 2007
Visiting American students
Last week, my high school got a sister- city school visit from Delray Beach, Florida. The 7 students had homestays with Miyazu high school students and their families, and participated in regular classes and clubs. In typical Japanese fashion, not a single minute was wasted from their late night arrival on Saturday night until the morning they left on Thursday!
Unfortunately, I was really busy and stressed out preparing for many of the classes and "field trips" but it was fun to have native English speakers around. I was curious to see what their reaction to Japanese culture was. Their uncertainty and awkwardness when they first arrived at school on Monday reminded me of myself when I first arrived. However they quickly bonded with their host brothers and sisters and amazingly never complained about their packed schedules and jet lag... Many of the Japanese students were sooo shy, but it was really cute that the girls kept covering their mouths when they laughed.
My 3rd year class did a cultural exchange with them, introducing them to different aspects of Japanese culture (food, holidays, clothing, kanji, etc.) while other classes mainly relied on games to promote internationalization. As a foreigner myself, I was also invited to participate in some of the other tours and classes. I got to go to "shodo" (Calligraphy) class, and had 2 Japanese students instruct me on how to hold and use the big fat brushes. I was even able to get a tour of the private Catholic high school in town and then participate in a tea ceremony there!
One of the highlights was going to my marine high school with the Americans to see the 3rd year "boat class" students off on their 10 day journey to Russia! The school has their own boat, and the 14 students looked great in their starched white uniforms! There were the usual ceremonies, but instead of the traditional Japanese bows after each speech, they saluted each time. Shipshape!
When the time came to leave, each student threw one end of their colorful streamers to their friends or parents who came to see them off, and as the boat pulled away, the streamers stretched out until they finally broke. It was such a nostalgic scene, kind of like soldiers going off to war in World War II!
I felt so proud when I watched the students finally succeed after struggling to communicate with each other. As cheesy as it sounds, seeing the smiles of relief and understanding was gratifying for both them and me. And one of my favorite students now has been so inspired by his homestay brothers that he has initiated lunchtime conversations and emails with me, and has already made plans to visit them (and New York) next spring!!!