Hosting Japanese students in Sooke

Sooke student writes about the pleasure of exchange students

Imagine this: a gym filled with eagerly waiting school children. Chatter fills the room. Then the doors open, and in walk  the amazing exchange students for the first time. Kids hold their breath in anticipation, as music starts to play. The exchange students gracefully show off their dancing skills for us all, completing the moment.

This was the scene in which we got a full first glimpse of the exchange students who would be in our halls for a few days. The exchange program from Natori, Japan, and Sooke started at first as just a friendship between two cities in different continents. As the friendship progressed, it turned into an exchange between the cities. From 2001 the exchange was going strong, until the great east Japan earthquake and tsunami. This brought the exchange to a halt, and devastated many of our friends in Japan, for they were in the area that the tsunami hit. Canada helped with the rebuild of the destroyed area, by sending enough lumber to make three brand new buildings. The first is the Donguri Anne Public Library, with about 2,500 books inside. The second building is the Port Market, where seafood from the local ocean is sold. The last, but not least, building that we donated was the Maple Hall, which sells food, local produce, and, of course, Canadian maple syrup. We started our exchange program again last year, where some students went to Japan and had a great time. This year we were lucky to have 22 students from Japan join us in our halls and homes. I even got to host two of them! We had a blast!

On our first day, Friday the 27th, we had a pizza party for all the exchange students and their hosts, and we ended the school day with an assembly, where the exchange students put on quite the show! After that we took our exchange students home with us for the start to an amazing week.

On Saturday we all met up at French Beach and had a fun scavenger hunt on all the things you would find in a typical Canadian beach. After, we all went to Mrs. Szadkowski’s place for lunch. We ate hot dogs as well as marshmallows. Afterward we fed some horses, and kissed some cows! It all came to a very wet end where all us hosts decided to go swimming in Mrs. Szadkowski’s pond! We all went home feeling pretty tired, but everyone had a great time!

On Sunday, we had a day to ourselves with our exchange students. I took my exchange student to the Shaw Ocean Discovery centre, and they had lots of fun petting the sea animals! After, I took them out for a late lunch, which was poutine of course, and went shopping! They loved going in and seeing all the Canadian shops. We then went to the Old Spaghetti Factory for dinner, and after we got to see the Parliament buildings light up!.We got home late and exhausted, but all in all a good day!

On Monday, we got up and went to school, from where we left to walk to the Sooke Museum. After a tour that the hosts gave, outside we played an exciting game of Ninja. From the museum we went to EMCS and walked around for a bit, they were very impressed by the whale skeleton. We then took a bus to the fire hall, where we got a tour and a lunch from the Mayor, Maja Tait. We did an exchange of gifts, and all the students got a Sooke pin. We walked back to school and we did our last two blocks of the day. For me it was sewing and science, and went home at a regular home time.

Tuesday was a bit more exciting, because we went into Victoria. We first went to an IMAX, and then we went on an whale watching tour. After we walked around Victoria a little, and then caught the bus home. For dinner we went to a potluck, where there was a performance by the Japanese students, and a slide show on our time together.

Every Japanese student went home with a little Canadian package full of all sorts of stuff. We went home lighthearted, and with a full stomach.

The next day was pretty sad however, the Japanese students were leaving. Even though we had spent such a short time together, it already felt like they were family. As they filed into the bus, forlorn looks on their faces, we still held strong and bowed to them as their bus left. I have a little book that they gave me, with pictures of their lives, so I always have something of them, and that is something I will hold on to for a long time.

The one thing I learned while they were here though, was that you always make a peace sign with your fingers as they are taking a picture!

From Journey Middle School,

Mia Tanner