D5 – Kyoto Exchange – Back to School

We arrived in Kyoto on the first day of school. We had originally planned to be at the school to be presented to the students in their morning assembly, and to present them with a plaque to commemorate our visit. We had to change this to Monday due to other constraints.

This next Spring Break when we go we have planned to be there the day before school starts so we can greet the new students and their families to Kyoto Gakuen, and then to be presented to the school at an assembly on the first day of school.

Everyone was told to bring a nice set of clothes for this day. All of the students would be in their school uniforms and we would be speaking to them in a general assembly outside.

I had quite an adventure coming to school.  My host family had loaned me a bike to ride to school on.  I was unfamiliar with the area, but they had given me a map.  The mother was worried about me and rode with me to the school to make sure I found it (she is a teacher at the school).  The bike was very small for me, and I was wearing a suit.  I must have looked very funny riding this bike.

Nathaniel, the student who helped out with his Japanese when we got lost on the bus, was going to give a speech to the students assembled in Japanese and present the plaque commemorating our visit. He was both excited and nervous once we arrived at school this Monday morning.

We all met in the school’s café before heading out to the assembly area. Everyone looked very sharp in their good set of clothes. Take special note of the brown indoor slippers everyone’s wearing in this shot.

The principal, Mr. Sasai introduced the students. They had a long narrow platform set up for the students to stand on so the whole assembled student body could see them. Some of them looked at this narrow platform and looked at us like we were crazy to expect them to step up there all together.

We all waited in the wings for our turn to speak to the student body. Chris Flesuras II (who has been running the Kyoto Exchange for over 20 years) came to Kyoto while we were there to visit his new grandchild. He came with his wife. Both of their sons, Nick and Chris, are teachers at Kyoto Gakuen. Both have previously taught at Modesto City Schools.  Mr. Cornwell and I are the far right of this picture waiting to speak..

Chris was greeted with cheers and claps as he took to the microphone. I am sure there are not many at this school who do not know who he is, or how long he has been running the exchange program. Chris is the Deputy Superintendent for Modesto City Schools and was a principal of one of the high schools when he first took on this exchange program. His knowledge and experience were critical to me as we prepared for this trip.  His participation in the parent/student meetings was also invaluable, as this was my first time planning a trip of this magnitue and I had never been to Japan. 

Chris said some kind words about the PacRimX program, how it had taken time but we were finally getting our side of the exchanges going again, and then introduced the students.

I was then introduced as the new person running the exchange program for Modesto City Schools and was able to say a few words of thanks to the administration of Kyoto Gakuen and the students for participating in the project.

Mr. Cornwell was then introduced and he said a few words to the assembly.

The students were then formally introduced and assumed their positions on the long stage.

The sight that they saw when the stepped up was all of the Kyoto Gakuen students assembled in the courtyard for this presentation.

Two students gave speeches to the assembly. One gave his speech in Japanese and the other in English with a translator. 


Chris Flesuras Junior and his son Chris Flesuras III posed for a picture together after the assembly.

Chris also posed for a picture with his long time associate and friend Mr. “Mickey” Kuromiya. They’ve been doing this exchange for a long time now. I was very thankful for Chris being in Japan, and dropping in a few times during the trip to see how we were doing. He has been a a patient mentor to me throughout this process.

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