A busy school day in Arao

I honestly didn’t know what to expect when I went to the elementary school today. A little interaction, some fear probably is what I thought. I’m a whole different kind of person compared to a Japanese person so it’s hard to tell how Japanese kids will react. When we were sitting and the kids started to file in, I realized that our audience was a whole lot bigger than I had imagined. They also were all small and cute.

When we performed the Japan medley we usually perform at the Arigatou events, the kids reacted so strongly it was hard not to put my all into it. When we did the bread song, “alele”, Thomas had a fun time instructing the kids, and they matched his enthusiasm. It was fun to see their reactions and see them sing along with the songs we prepared. When we finished and we were left with just the 6th graders, it was fun to meet all of them and hear their reaction to our countries. The kids were a little shocked that American football stadiums are so big. One kid even knew the Golden Gate Bridge. It was kind of hard to talk fast about the country, sign our names and give them a sticker.

After we did that game with the 6th graders, we visited classes. It is so hard to say what class I liked most because all of the kids were so sweet and friendly. In the 1st grade class, we made paper snowflakes, which I was so relieved because I’m horrible at origami. The kids gave us their snowflakes as a present – so cute! However, as we went through 2nd, 3rd, 4th grade, I realized this was the case for all of these classes. They gave us little presents like pictures or origami animals. I had them all sign one so I could try to remember their adorable generosity in the future.

Sitting in the classes with four other people with you is much less intimidating. Plus, all the kids – plus the teachers – were super, super nice. I had lunch with Juuso (a WCI counselor) in 5th grade, and some of the girls were impressed with my multiple ear piercings and my heart tattoo. Even the 5th grade boys were willing to talk with me, which previously wasn’t really the case. It was nice to get to know them a little. Then, when we got to have free time with the kids outside or recess as we call it in the US, a lot of the kids wanted to play with us. One little 2nd grader grabbed my hand though, and led me around the large playground with a friend. They both chatted with me despite my broken Japanese, and gained other girls who joined the conversation of what Disney princess they liked and if I could understand Japanese or if they could understand English. When they said goodbye to me when the bell rang and ran towards the middle, they kept looking back so it made me want to run in with them and just stay. Maybe stay forever.

When I made it back to the library where we had breaks, we arranged ourselves to talk with the teachers. The teachers were all very nice and were super impressed with Juuso’s and Isak’s Japanese proficiency. It was a little funny because if Isak spoke Japanese, he translated what he just said into English for me. It was interesting to hear the discussion about diversity, English and bilingualism, how school systems work not only in Japan but also the U.S., Sweden and Finland, and learn a little more about the teachers who help mold those sweet kids into fully functioning members of society. Overall, it was a wonderful experience, and I was very tempted to volunteer as an ALT for free. I hope that everyone from WCI gets to experience this kind of school.

Whitney Herbert (USA)

Bamboo cutting and mosquitoes in Omuta

Bamboo crafting in Omuta
Bamboo crafting in Omuta

“Another day another dollar” is an American phrase with the meaning of “everything is as usual”. Well why am I telling you this? Because it is NOT and ordinary day, AND neither am I an American!

World famous World Campus Japan had its day at a bamboo forest! Bamboo forests also known as “mosquitoes’ heaven” are quite fun. First, we cleaned out path through the forest reaching the bamboo tree. After that we got equipment to cut down the bamboo tree. Several minutes later we then made cups, chop sticks, and a flute which is barely tuned in C#. We had lunch inside a shrine and had a great time. Then he had to make stamps for a rally, we had a great ol’ jolly time!

When it came time to say goodbye it was very difficult but luckily everyone survived besides Yana who cut her leg off during the chopsticks craft sessions. To finish off such a spectacular day of course we had to go to a shopping mall. World Campus was generous enough to supply all its participants with 1 hour of walking around the mall! If it seems like a short time you can look at it as 60 minutes or 1/24 of a day (you see, it’s all a matter of perspective…) Being provided with such a wide variety of products I thought to myself why not be more organized and get a backpack like the rest of the WCJ members? Exploring the mall realizing how little i like shopping and spending money, I bought a Ghost Pokemon type bag. It doesn’t make me more organized but at least I look cool while being messy.

Thank you, World Campus Japan.

Sami Batescoff (Israel)

Host family day in Kumamoto

Charlotte making soba noodles with her host family
Charlotte making soba noodles with her host family
Charlotte with her host family at the soba restaurant
Charlotte with her host family at the soba restaurant

Even though we couldn’t complete the original plan of going on a boat ride to see dolphins because of the predicted storm, I had so much fun! Instead of going to the coast we went up into the mountains. Coming from the Netherlands, where there are no mountains at all, it was amazing to see all the sights. We never saw the predicted storm but the mountains shrouded in clouds were very beautiful.

After stopping a few times to see the view we arrived at our first destination: a soba restaurant where you can make and then eat your own soba. After mixing the dough you roll it out into a big square, then fold it a few times and cut it to make the long soba noodles. They may not have been the prettiest, but they were the best I’ve ever tasted!

On the way back to Kumamoto we stopped at the Shirakawa fountainhead, a spring where you can see the fresh water bubble up. This water becomes the big Shirakawa river that flows through Kumamoto city. The small shrine there is very old and placed in a very quiet piece of forest, it was a very peaceful place.

During all these car rides we were watching the movie finding Dory. I’m still not used to the fact that so many Japanese cars have a television screen installed in the dashboard. This television doesn’t only play DVD’s but can show live TV as well.

When we arrived back home I taught my two host sisters the ninja game, which they proceeded to play for the rest of the afternoon and evening. In between they also found time to teach me a counting game where you have to name the right amount of raised fingers and two card games as well.

After having made our own lunch of soba noodles we also made our own dinner, takoyaki! You have to turn these small balls of dough filled with octopus and anything else you want around very quickly in one movement so they become nice and round. My host sisters (11 and 7 years old) were very good at it. I was not.

Because this was the last day in Kumamoto and with this host family I felt a bit sad to have to leave so soon after meeting them. I’m looking forward to meeting a new host family in Omuta, but leaving my Kumamoto host family will be very difficult because my stay there was so amazing!

Charlotte Lamping (The Netherlands)

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