Japan trip excites students

Published 6:04 pm Monday, August 3, 2009

A sleepy-eyed group of ten middle school students and five chaperones recently returned home after a most exciting 10-day trip to Montevallo’s sister city, Echizen Town, Japan.

The trip was a facet of the sister city relationship and was coordinated by the Montevallo Sister City Commission.

That organization’s mission is to foster cultural, economic, industrial, athletic and educational exchanges between Montevallo and communities in other parts of the world.

The students who made the trip were Gabe Bridges, Gabe Evans, Faith Frost, Ashlyn Persich, and Brianna Busenlehner, along with Frances Pope, Kerrington Maddox, Heather Wallace, Colton Jones and Xan Shivers. Accompanying the students were Julie Caine, Rick Evans, Freda Shivers, Kathy Weese, and Tamika Whitt.

Echizen Town families hosted the students. “The whole trip was incredible,” said Gabe Evans, “the most beautiful place I’ve ever been, and the best part was staying in the home of the Japanese family.” Just for that week the students were “adopted” by their hosts and referred to them as mom, dad, etc.

Each day was crammed with activities. They planted memorial trees at the school and they visited museums, galleries and other town attractions.

There were lessons in Japanese skills such as fencing and making pottery. Times were set aside, too, for swimming, bowling and other family fun..

The Americans learned quickly to take their shoes off at the door and to enjoy Japanese food sitting on the floor at a low table eating with chopsticks. Communication was through hand signals and pointing to words in the Japanese-English dictionary.

On Saturday, Bridges wrote in his journal, “I just got back from the festival; the fireworks were amazing. There were over 10,000 shots. There was a great drum show. A group of girls attacked me and Gabe; just like at the school.” He explained that because both of them were blond with blue eyes, the girls were very curious.

In her journal, Shivers recorded a visit to the school, “We go to eat lunch at the school which is kinda scary because the adults separate us so we have to be mingled. It was so weird to have everyone stare at us. By half of the day, we’re thinking we must be famous.”

The Montevallo children disclosed some of their interesting observations: Evans talked about the efficient use of the land.

Some of the others were surprised to see that doors were never locked. All were impressed with the generosity of their host families.

Strong bonds were formed during that visit. The returning students reported that all of the moms were crying at the farewell celebration and the Americans were sad to leave and eagerly planning another trip to their sister city.

Catherine Legg can be reached at clegg2@bellsouth.net.