Tuesday, May 04, 2010



Teenagers are crazy. All over the world.
I love this picture. My silly kids. I adore each of them.

We just finished a two-week adventure.
I know that two weeks can change your life.
It's happened to me before.
But I never expected that having two Japanese students stay with us for two weeks would be so amazing.

Here's a picture of Koki and Masamichi.
They came to Walla Walla.
For a cultural exchange.
Some of you might find that funny.
I wonder what it was like for them. They live in a big city in Japan - Yokohama. They attend a private school that used to be a boarding school, with beautiful gardens and gorgeous views. One lives in an apartment building with pets like hamsters and turtles. They arrived in suits and ties, pulling their hard-shelled suitcases.
I wonder what they thought.
The loud and crazy Americans, waving signs, dressed casually, giving them Walla Walla t-shirts and cookies.
They smiled a lot.
And we brought them home.
Through rolling hills and running streams and acres of wheat and lots of grapes.
To two giant, enthusiastic dogs and four fuzzy cats who actually own a section of our kitchen counter.
Their English was pretty good. My Japanese non-existent. I quickly learned a few phrases and used google translator. I can now confidently count to three. Their English teacher has a British (or maybe Australian) accent, so I'm certain we sounded odd to them.

We ordered pizza. "Do you like pizza?"
Smiles and nodding heads. They knew pizza.
They changed into jeans and sneakers.
We were going to be okay.

They brought lovely gifts...so many of them.
Intricately crafted wooden frames and key fobs, Japanese toys, a book about Japan.
Towels and Japanese mugs and embroidered pouches for purse-sized tissues.
We marveled at the beautiful things.

Masamichi showed us a card trick. We discovered that we laugh in the same language.

We played games. Ping pong, badmitton, baseball, hibachi ball (wait, hibachi...that's a grill...well, you know what I mean.) Jumped on the trampoline and played basketball and threw those weird little balls that you catch in a funky basket.

We took them to the grocery store to choose food.
Ramen and oreos.
Sprite, not Coke.
I wrote to my friend, Stephanie, living in Japan, to ask, "What do I feed them?" She said, "Pizza and burgers until they're sick of them! And if all else fails, rice."

I fought the strange urge to repeat what I'd said in Spanish during the times they didn't understand me.

Oh, and the competitive table games.
Othello, Uno, and Jenga. And puzzle games: Dice Stacker, Log Stacker, Jacob's Revenge. (Wonderful company, go to http://www.elversonpuzzle.com/ and check them out. Great people with hearts of gold who run it. And really fun puzzles.)



Zach played a round with 4 Japanese kids and said, "That was the most fun game of Jenga I've ever played and I didn't understand a word."

Although Walla Walla is really full of culture for a small town - some of the things that went on that week: plays, speakers, art shows, world-class restaurants, roller derby (yeah, roller derby), operas, concerts and symphonies. We took them to Ice Burg and Bowlaway Lanes with disco lights. And baseball games!




And we did decide to go to Seattle.

I marveled at the Japanese boys. They're like babies. Put them in the car and they immediately fall asleep. They missed the mountains. Both directions.

We saw the Space Needle, Pike Street Market, Seattle Center, the pier/waterfront and a Mariner's game. Kailee got to come with us. We had such fun.




And then we went to see the Haroldson's. Pure bliss.



We came home. The boys went to school with Zach.
There were quiet moments.
Times where the kids just draped themselves over the couches and played x-box.
Times when they ran the neighborhood.
Times when we laughed ourselves silly.
And soon, home meant...our house, with us...and Koki and Masamichi.

I found the boys who were nervous about the pets, sitting on the couch with a cat on their lap and a dog underfoot.
I listened to Zach and Sarah call them "my kids."
I watched Zach panic like a new dad when he couldn't find Masamichi one night. (Masamichi was behind the couch, asleep.)
I had to take the puzzle dice away from Masamichi so he'd go to bed.
I watched Kaitlyn at the cultural night see a Japanese boy bust a move. She smiled and did it back. He and his friends said, "Oooohhh!!" And it was on. He popped. And she did it back. Her jazz turn, his robot. Music and movement, transcend all language.
And laughter belongs to every culture.

On cultural night, Koki, dressed in a traditional Japanese kimono, danced a traditional Japanese dance. Masamichi gave a karate demonstration that was unbelievable, culminating in breaking a board with his foot. They taught us to write Japanese characters and to wrap a kimono and to eat with chopsticks. They played music for us...everything from intricate-sounding Japanese instruments to the Bay City Rollers - S-A-T-U-R-D-A-Y NIGHT!




And all too soon, it was time to send them home.
They put on their suits at 5:30 am.
I took them to WaHi. I hugged them and hugged them.
And they hugged back. And we all cried a little.
And then the bus pulled out of that parking lot.
With a piece of my heart on board.

Ai, misheru