Last Saturday we welcomed a new member to our family. No, no, no… not a new baby, or a new pet, we welcomed a wonderful young girl named Shino. She was visiting from Ota City in Japan. Every year residents of the city of Salem, Massachusetts and the city of Ota visit each other in a unique exchange program. Ota is Salem’s “sister city” and for the past twenty or so years the two cities have fostered an ongoing relationship. Groups of middle and high school age children and adults travel across the globe to visit each other’s cities. When the students visit they stay with host families. We have served as a host family for three years. It’s an amazing week full of cultural exchange, family time and fun!
Throughout the week the Ota students travel in the Boston area. During the day their group visits historical spots in Salem . They also travel in to Boston to see Fenway Park, the State House and lots of other interesting and important attractions. The students meet and have lunch with our Mayor and our State Representative. In the evenings the families are invited to accompany their student to optional family activities like Y night, mini-golf and a lobster pot luck supper. It’s a chance to spend time with families that we wish we saw more often.
The students experience a week of typical American life.
They become familiar with our food, customs and traditions. It must be a huge adjustment for them, but they rise to the challenge with so much grace and kindness.
Many of the families met the students at Canobie Lake Amusement Park for a day.
At the end of the week the students hold a Sayonara (good-bye) party for the host families.
They served Japanese food and shared aspects of Japanese Culture.
At the end of the presentation the students sang for us in English and Japanese.
There were speeches by students, teachers and members of the Salem-Ota Club. It was a wonderful party!
As the bus pulled away from the curb taking the children back to their families in Japan, the parent standing next to me said “this is what the world needs, there could never be too much of this”.
What a perfect way to summarize our week together!