Hello from Ikata, Japan!
Today ends with a rainy day after a full week of high temperatures and humidity.
There have been changes within the past year that I, the Ikata CIR, would like to address in this short blog post.
First, starting in August 2015, Philip Moyer - the CIR for the 2015 exchange - left his position to start a new job in Tokyo. A new CIR (Maggie Thorpe, originally from Tucson, AZ) replaced him that same month.
Second, starting in April 2016, the Ikata International Exchange Association (IIEA) has been moved from the town's Policy Implementation Division to the Board of Education.
During this shuffle of new persons and organization, this blog as well as other social media accounts went by the wayside due to a town-wide no-Internet access implementation* until the beginning of April 2016.
So it is with great happiness that I will be able to write and update the blog as well as other social media accounts moving forward.
In ten days, the 13th Annual Ikata Homestay program will commence with two students and one chaperone arriving in Japan on July 18th. Despite the number of participants being smaller compared to previous years, they will fortunately be able to tour around Japan for four days more! They are planning to visit Tokyo, Kyoto, and Hiroshima before arriving in Ikata on July 25th. I will also be meeting with them in Hiroshima to guide as well as accompany them on the ferry ride over the Seto Inland Sea to Matsuyama.
In less than a month, the 20th Annual Ikata Overseas Red Wing Sister City Exchange program will commence. We have six 9th grade students (3rd year junior high) as well as two chaperones (1 English teacher and 1 CIR) going over. The Ikata group will leave on August 3rd, have a short stay in Chicago, followed by about 10 days in Red Wing.
Since early June, the Ikata students have been reviewing and learning English in preparation for their homestay as well as customs and cultural differences/similarities in the U.S. They have also read short passages on certain regional specific things such as the Mississippi River, hot dishes, and Chicago's World Fair.
I have also been researching as much as possible about Minnesota (and Chicago) as it will be my first time in the region. Not only will this be a great opportunity for the students to experience America, it is also great for me to learn more about the country I am from!
Last night, we had our second-to-last English training session and this time it was about U.S. customs and security. We reenacted a dialogue between a customs/security officer and a passenger so as to increase their confidence in their English skills despite how nerve-wracking it can feel! The group has certainly gotten more friendly with each other, giggling and laughing even over silly mistakes - I am incredibly looking forward to seeing how much more their friendships will deepen with this first step into a different world as well as to making lifelong relationships and connections with the people of Red Wing.
*The No-Internet rule from October to April happened due to the Japanese government's implementation of a new system called MyNumber (which is like the U.S.'s social security system).