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 week begins with an opening ceremony and greeting at the House of Seven Gables. Here’s my gang just after we met Shino.
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.
The kids made bracelets and watched the Olympics together. It was fun to have them visiting during the Olympics.
They hung out in the yard. Shino is a baton twirler and she treated us to a wonderful demonstration!
We made s’mores over the grill. What could be more American than s’mores?
Many of the families met the students at Canobie Lake Amusement Park for a day.
These girls had just experienced the big splash at the end of the Yankee Canonball (except for my little one who was still dry).
The families relaxed and picnicked under the trees.
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.
We saw a wonderful karate demonstration.
and traditional Japanese games.
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!
Just like the students we’ve hosted before, Shino became a member of our family.
The good-bye, or as we say in the Salem-Ota Club “until we meet again”, was the hardest part of the week. It always is, but it’s worth every tear.
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!