Christmas in January

We tried to coordinate a Christmas gift exchange between the Kyoto and Modesto students before the holidays. Because of the holiday break and getting started late here in the US, we did not get all our gifts together and shipped until just after Christmas. So we had a late Christmas party and gift exchange over video conference yesterday for the students to exchange gifts and introduce themselves to each other.

The students were drawn by raffle ticket to pick a gift and open it with a partner on the other side of the video link. Each gift had a note card with a greetings and contact information. The Modesto student would call out the name of the Kyoto student that had sent the gift and they would come to the front of the seats to watch their gift being opened.

This event had a loose agenda and it went really well as the students worked through the exchange and opening of their gifts. Students on both sides were very expressive and asked lots of questions about what some of the gifts were. Each Modesto student would attempt to pronounce the Japanese names, in almost every instance the student would jump up and come to the front on the first try.

The gift cards were passed around so everyone could see what was written on them. The Kyoto students did a great job writing them out in English and including pictures, stickers, and other flourishes that added to the greeting and invitation to exchange emails (SL names and email addresses were on the back of the cards).

After the gift exchange finished up, the Kyoto students demonstrated a popular game that is played during the New Year’s in Japan. It’s a variation on the ‘Pin the tail on the Donkey’ game played here in the states.

A Japanese student explained the rules and how it worked from a prepared script.

A popular cartoon character or person has their facial features removed (eyes, nose, mouth, ears, etc.) and then the player must place these items back on the face while blindfolded. While not all of the Modesto students recognized Pikachu (the lead character from Pokemon), everyone knew immediately who the second animated character was.

After a few rounds of this game the Kyoto students sang a children’s fairy tale song for the New Year to the Modesto students. Like the Modesto students, not all of the Kyoto students were willing participants in the singing. These students are more alike than they are different. The only thing holding them back is the language barrier, which I suspect will be lessening as the trip approaches.

Since a number of the students from Modesto have been in the multimedia program for the past few years, we have our own camera crew for all of these events.

The video conference feed and the activities in this room were both recorded. By the time we get back from our trip in April we will have enough video to put together a great video documentary of this trip for all of the students involved. This is a great bunch of students and we should have a wonderful experience on this exchange. This year will be the first full cycle including students going to both host countries (these same Kyoto students will be coming to Modesto this summer for summer school). We’ll continue to update this site throughout this exchange.

The next phase of this exchange will be the Kyoto students giving basic Japanese lessons to the Modesto students online in Second Life. We will be building an area where a few Kyoto students can come online and give half hour classes to a group of Modesto students. We’re going to start it up in a few weeks and have at least one session a week until our trip in April. Some basic survival Japanese might come in handy on our trip to Japan.

One girl’s parents came and saw that we only had cupcakes and drinks for the students and ran out and bought pizzas for all the kids. That was an awesome treat for the students (what teenager is going to turn down hot steamy pizza on a rainy day). I’ve never seen that many pizzas disappear so quickly.  It was a fun time for all involved, and a nice treat to have Christmas in January.

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