Monday, March 29, 2010

From the Land of the Rising Sun

Emily and Itsuka, shortly after meeting

This week we have a young student from Japan staying with us. Her name is Itsuka and can I just tell you what a doll she is? She is 14, polite, kind, fun... everything you would want in a guest! She is here through Emily's school, Chinook Middle School. There are about 33 students total coming from her town in Japan and they are all 12 to 16 years old.

We greeted the students Saturday at a potluck lunch, complete with clowns for entertainment. Can you imagine? You travel many hours on a plane, feel the effects of having been up all night yet it is only 2PM, and you sit down with complete strangers to eat an American potluck... with clowns there to entertain? I wasn't sure how that would all go over with the Japanese students. My own children all expressed their distrust of anything "clown" and wondered if the Japanese kids wouldn't leave America terrorized by the experience.
The potluck spread

Despite our wonderings, the potluck lunch was pretty tasty and gave us a good chance to become acquainted with our new little friend.

Us with Itsuka on the left, the "J" family and their student on the right

After the lunch, we were amazed to see the Japanese students were actually interested in the clowns, who, it turns out, weren't so scarey after all! They made balloon sculptures for the kids and pretty soon kids were showing off their newly obtained balloon-flower or animal. Some of the boys were having balloon-sword fights. Everyone was smiling, and that was the goal. I guess the organizers of the event really did know what they were doing!
waiting a turn for the clowns

Thomas and his balloon-sword, Clown, and Itsuka with her balloon-flower
The students all came with brightly colored, hard, suit cases. When all 33 were lined up, it was quite a site. Almost pretty, as far as a bunch of suitcases go.

We drove home, pointed out a "very American farm" along the way. Cows, red barn, farm house. It brought a clear and loud, "Oh! Yes!" from our shy and quiet Itsuka.

Once home, Itsuka got the tour of the house and was introduced to the cats. She quickly presented us with gifts from Japan; me- a beautiful scarf, Jack- a bank in the shape of a Japanese good-luck posed cat, Thomas- a wind sock on a stick with cool Japanese writing on it, Amanda and Emily- each received a little make-up type of bag. Very sweet gifts and she was so cute giving them to us.

About this time, we looked up the time difference between Olympia and her town, Oita. They are 15 hours ahead, so it was 9AM Sunday in her poor, jet-lagged body. It was only Saturday afternoon in Olympia. Poor thing, she had a whole evening to go before she could go to bed! Her eyes were beginning to really droop, so off we went to Tolmie State park to get some fresh air. It was just the ticket!
The forest part of Tolmie

Throwing rocks at Tolmie beach

A pretty cute bunch, don't you think?

We came home and I made hamburgers and fries. She ate like a champ, took a shower and went to bed. I forgot to show her how to open the sheets to get into the bed, so she slept on top of the cover and used an extra blanket to cover herself. I don't think it mattered, because she slept for 12 hours!

Sunday she was spunky and awake. In the morning she at Rice Krispies (they have those in Japan, we were told) and she played Wii Sports with my kids. That afternoon, we drove to Seattle and took her up the Space Needle. It was Thomas's dream come true. He has wanted to go up there for a couple of years now! Itsuka recognized Mt. Rainier as "Mt. Tacoma" from Japanese TV shows. Of course she understood about the Mariners (and Ichiro!) and was interested in seeing Safeco Field.

Introducing Itsuka to some of the fine snacking done in America

Today, she and Emily are at school together. I can't wait to hear how the day went! The two girls get along nicely and I am impressed at Emily's way of speaking simply to Itsuka in a way that is understandable to her. I'm sure they will have a fun day!
the Wii has been a great way to start a friendship!


  1. So fun Brenda. Thank you for sharing! And thanks again for hosting!

  2. Hope your week is going as well as that first day! :)

  3. Oh, Look! It's Sprout and Bean Sprout the clowns! Glad that no one was traumatized.