Sooke council's Committee of the Whole received an expression of gratitude for its support of a cultural exchange trip to Japan last year by Journey Middle School students.

Sooke about to return the favour

Exchange students express gratitude

A group of about 20 Japanese students will be arriving for a cultural exchange visit in the coming weeks. If all goes as planned it’s expected the experience will be every bit as rewarding as a trip to Japan by Sooke students was last year.

A delegation representing the group paid a visit to Sooke District Council’s Committee of the Whole meeting on February 21, to thank the municipal government for a donation toward the cost of the trip.

Students Austin and Brandon Willson and Jesse Malloy were present along with teacher Ms. Gerow.

“The trip was a lot of fun,” the Willson brothers later related. “We made good friends that we are still in touch with. It was very interesting how they reacted to snow, they didn’t have snowplows, people just came out of their houses and shoveled in the streets.

“We really liked visiting the Golden Palace and Toyko Tower. Their customs in Japan are a lot different than ours but we have lots of common interests.

“Our host families were really good to us and we liked staying with them.”

“It was an amazing trip,” related Journey Grade-6 teacher Martha Gerow.

“We were gone for 10 days total from March 3-13. We spent one day in Chiba one day in Tokyo, five nights in Natori, one night in Kyoto and the rest was spent traveling. In total, we were 22 in total, 19 students from Journey and EMCS and three chaperones: myself, Ruchi McArthur and Raman McArthur. Mrs. McArthur was the primary organizer for the trip as she had been on a previous trip. She has since left Journey for a vice principal position, which has left me as the primary organizer for the upcoming visit from Natori of 22 students and four chaperones. They will arrive March 29 and be hosted by Journey students and three EMCS students.”

Students raised money to finance their trip last year through pointsettia sales, and by participating in the Christmas fair. Some students also raised money through other odd jobs on their own.

Ms. Gerow expanded on her reflections of the journey to the Orient.

“For me the trip was one I will always remember. Our hosts bent over backwards to make the experience wonderful. Japan was a country that I had always wanted to visit as I had studied Japanese history at university a while back.

“I have never taken a group of students for such an extended trip before. The longest trip has been to sleep with the whales at the Vancouver Aquarium which we have done as a grade six end of the year trip on two occasions. We will be doing that again this June.

“Whether we will return to Japan again is up in the air.  Costs are increasing, etc. and it takes a great deal of time and commitment for anyone concerned.”