Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Hosting guests from Japan

Ever since I began working for a Japanese company back in San Francisco, Oscar's been quite interested in Japan, and now he's been learning the language at school. And every year his school hosts students from Tokyo's Shukutoku Sugamo Middle School, so we signed up to be a host family for a weekend. It's a good way to get a taste of hosting exchange students, and it's just a three-night commitment. Chris met our students after school on Friday, they stayed through the weekend, and went back to school with Oscar on Monday morning.

In their suits and penny loafers, Koto and Ryunosuke looked strikingly different from the rumpled T-shirt-and-jeans-wearing kids at Hamilton. They were painfully shy, didn't smile, and either were too shy to speak or just didn't know very much English at all. Uh-oh.

I'd been thinking about them a lot before they got here, and asked everyone for ideas of what to do with them. I compiled a list of activities for each day and night, along with menus. I wanted to give them a good taste of typical American life.

Over the weekend, we ate pizza, salad, hamburgers, spaghetti, bacon and eggs, pancakes, and french toast, and lots of different fruits. We made s'mores on the barbecue grill. We ate on a barge on Lake Union at Ivar's Salmon House. To their credit, they tried some of everything that was offered to them. I'm not sure if they actually liked the food or if they were just being polite, but they ate a lot more than I thought they would! Judging from portion sizes, I'd say they definitely liked the watermelon and s'mores, but I guess 14-year-old boys eat a lot no matter what. When the kids were allowed to choose their own snacks from a museum cafe, they took a long time selecting what they wanted! They both picked ice cream cones and a soda. Ryunosuke's strawberry Fanta was too sweet, and I offered to get him a new drink. He took a long time picking out another one--finally deciding on peach tea--and got some disgusting nachos with fake cheese as well. Blech.

We took the boys canoeing on Lake Union, to the Ballard Locks, to see the King Tut exhibit at the Pacific Science Center, and we rode the monorail to Gameworks arcade downtown. They fell asleep often; they were still quite tired and jet-lagged even though they had been in Seattle for a few days before we met them. The only time they really seemed like they were relaxed and having fun was when they were playing videogames together. Oscar was able to play with them, and the language barrier seemed to evaporate.

All in all, in was frustrating trying to communicate with our guests, but I feel like maybe even if my Japanese was better and their English was better, they still might've felt too awkward to have conversations. I felt victorious every time we actually exchanged information. For example, I learned that Ryunosuke had been in the U.S. two times before, once when he was very small, and once to Portland. I learned that their favorite sight in Seattle was "downtown."

Oscar enjoyed having the kids stay with us, and wants to sign up to host again next year. It seems there are plenty of opportunities to host students in Seattle. If any Seattleites are interested in hosting a Japanese student, Azumano International is looking for 50+ more families to host students this summer for one- to three-week stints. (The kids will attend ESL classes at UW or SPU in the morning and do sightseeing and cultural activities with their class in the afternoons.) If you're interested, contact Megan or Sharon at seattle.edu@azumano.com.

1 comment:

  1. Love the video game connection -- universal language of tweens/teens everywhere. ;)