We arrived at Kyoto Gakuen High School earlier than expected. What this meant was that we arrived a full hour and a half before our host families. Nothing was planned for this situation. So we took the students to the library and let them catch their breath and a quick rest. After all, we had left San Francisco on Wednesday at 11:30am. We had arrived in Osaka on Thursday afternoon at 3:30pm. There’s a 16 hour time difference between California and Kyoto. It was around 6:00pm Kyoto time when we arrived at the school. That’s 2:00am for our internal clocks
These guys were all tired. And they still had the evening and night to get through once their families picked them up (some families live as much as an hour away from the school by train). Talk about flipping your body clock over a few times. Some just sat down and waited for whatever was next.
The excitement started to build when we were told to go to the theater, as families were starting to arrive. Chris Flesuras (co-founder of PacRimX) gave the students an idea of what was going to happen next, some tips on how to behave, and when they had to be back the next morning.
At this point, I was amazed most of the students were still able to stay awake. I guess it’s amazing what a little (ok, a lot) caffeine can do when mixed with excitement and adrenaline.
As each family arrived they were introduced to their student. It was really great seeing some of these meetings, as many of the students had exchanged email with their families and had met the students online.
Families continued to show up over the next half hour. Students whose families had not arrived yet were anxiously awaiting theirs to show up. My son signed up at the last minute for the trip and did not get matched with a family with a student. He stayed with a teacher from the school, her husband and two small children. The theater quickly filled with people as the students were paired off with their host families.
Once the room was filled we had several teachers and the principal making short speeches and filling the students in on what they could expect during their visit to Kyoto and time at the school in the coming week. Mr. Sasai, the Principal, was very pleased that this exchange had finally come together. After the 9/11 attacks both Modesto and Kyoto stopped their exchanges with each other. Kyoto restarted after a few years, but Modesto did not restart for a variety of reasons. After the PacRimX project started up there was hope that the exchange could be restarted. Being an English learning private high school, exchange programs with schools from English speaking countries is a big draw for new students. Kyoto Gakuen also has an exchange with a school in the U.K.
Mr. Sasai gave his speech in both Japanese and English for all in attendance. Once everyone had been introduced and given instructions on how and when to get back to the school the next morning we were dismissed. The students filed out with their host families to awaiting cars or the local train/bus stop. Their adventures were just beginning.
Now that we were in Kyoto with Chris (center), Brad Cornwell (far right) and I breathed another sigh of relief as we handed the students off to their host families. Daniel (left) was one of the graduated student chaperones on the trip staying with Chris and Brad at Chris’ apartment.
I was soon to receive news that my arrangements to stay with Mr. Kuromiya (ICT Director) had been changed, as his mother in-law had fallen ill and had to come to stay with them while she got well. The school was nice enough to put me up in a small residential hotel a few miles away from the campus (walking distance).
I quickly realized that everything in Japan is much smaller than what we are used to here in the States. This was the room I stayed in during this trip. It was small but I quickly learned that everything needed was neatly and tightly organized into very small spaces. Space is at a premium in Japan and it is really amazing, being a Westerner, to see just how little space is actually needed for things to still keep them functional and comfortable. This next picture needs no description.
Water is at a premium in Japan. I was amazed at the variety of bathroom facilities I encountered while visiting Japan. Here’s one example of how the sink and shower in my room were connected.
I finally got settled in after having a very nice dinner with Mr. Kuromiya. I finally drifted off to sleep after midnight. I think that was the longest day I had ever experienced in all of my life. Amazingly enough the jet lag did not get me until after I returned to the States the following week. But then I don’t sleep much, and I am known to stay up all night from time to time. So this really wasn’t that far out of the norm for me.