The Arigatou Event In Toride

Arigatou karate

Day of activity: July 29th 2015

Yesterday we had our very first arigatou event of session 3 in Toride. This was a special day because we got to both thank our host families and the LOC (Local Organizing Comittee) for their hospitality and all of the hard work that they’d done for us until now. It was both a very entertaining and emotional event that brought even the toughest of crowds to tears.

We started the day off by preparing for the event and doing a final rundown of everything. After setting the place up, we started receiving the host families and other guests. Things had to run smoothly, so I think it’s fair to say everyone was a bit anxious. Before the main event started, we had to preform what we had learned in the Japanese cultural experience we had the day before. In my case, that was karate. I have done Karate previously, but I was still a bit nervous about showing off what we had practiced the previous day. It all went really well in the end though.

The main event started with Hiro Nishimura’s speech, after which all of us entered the room waving country flags to a happy song. The flags were collected again by the staff, and we soon began our introduction by stating our names and country in our own language and then in Japanese in an ordely fashion. After the introduction, representatives of each country went on to tell trivia about their own country and the audience had to guess whether those facts were ‘maru’ (true) or ‘batsu’ (wrong). It was a fun experience to see what the audience thought of our countries.

After the introduction and trivia, we took our positions on the ‘stage’ and performed 4 different dances that the children in the audience especially liked. I was too focused on not falling to look at everyone’s reactions to be honest, but I like to think that they loved it. As everything was so rushed, we quickly sat on the floor in a semi-circle to sing to Annie’s “Tomorrow”. Each country representant sang a part of the song in their own language, so it turned out a nice mix of all sorts of languages, dialects and accents, which was nice.

The most fun- and definitely the most terrifying part- was what we did next. A select few of us had volunteered to write a letter to their host families and read it to them at the Arigatou Event… In Japanese! Not knowing what I was getting myself into, I of course, had volunteered too. So yesterday was the moment supreme. I was the second to read my letter to my host family (which WCI staff Espen had kindly translated for me), and oh boy, I never in a million years could have anticipated how hard and emotional it was going to be.

Not only was I under pressure to perform well in front of a lot of people, I was also cracking under the weight of having to perform well in front of the woman who had taken such good care of me, and who had been patient and giving beyond believe. As I got to the end of my letter, and the content got more emotional, I could see the tears forming in my host mom’s eyes, and I started to feel the same happening to mine. The hardest part was realising it would be a while until I would get to see her again, if ever. And that is one pretty difficult thing to deal with. My host mom and I couldn’t always understand each other, but the bond we formed was certainly understood mutually. I will miss her and her daughter and granddaughter so much, and I hope that with the Arigatou Event I’ve made that clear to them.

So to anyone who is thinking of joining WCI next year or in the future, I can definitely say that the Arigatou Event is the second best part of this journey (the first of course being the host families themselves).

Carla De Oliveira Silva (the Netherlands)