D8 – Kyoto Exchange – The Long Way Home

As the students arrived in the morning it became clear that all did not go as planned since the goodbye party. One student had left a camera at the restaurant she had eaten at the night before with her host family. Another student had left her shoes on the train (she had bought new ones at Kyoto Station). One had left her cell phone at her host family’s house. And several other loose ends also needed to be tied up before leaving.

The students were scheduled to tour the temple grounds next to the school this morning to fill time before leaving for the airport.  This was the only activity this week during school hours that the Kyoto students were allowed to get out of class to attend.

While the students and teachers were touring the temple grounds next door to the school, I took one of the student chaperones and headed out to try to recover some of the items left around town the night before by the students. I was also on a mission to return to Bic Camera and pick up another PSP for one of my other sons. He had seen a picture of his brother on Twitter with his new PSP, and decided he wanted one as well.

When I got down to Kyoto Station we had a little time left before we had to be back at the school, we could not resist taking a quick trip to the top of Kyoto Tower. The view from up there was stunning. I definitely need to add this activity to the next trip as a must see for the students.

After securing the packages, we headed back to Kyoto Gakuen. We got back just after they had finished up with lunch (they ate at the school with the students). Having not eaten lunch myself while running around Kyoto that morning, I picked up one of the famous American Dogs at 7/11 by the school to try it for myself.

I must say, not being a big corn dog connoisseur, I was impressed with how good it actually tasted. Not sure if it was just me missing American food after a week away from home, but it was pretty tasty. 

While I was eating my quick lunch, Daniel came over to show me his PSP that he had bought the day before at Bic down at Kyoto Station (a green one).

Time to say Goodbye

The time had finally come. It was time to get in the shuttles and head to Osaka for the airport. Not many wanted to leave their friends at KG. There were lots of hugs between the students as they said their goodbyes. The principal’s assistant said “Awe, they’re really going to miss each other”.  No question about that, as some were already planning to return to Japan on their own for visits next year. 

As we got on the freeway to Osaka it was immediately obvious that some of the students had been out very late the night before with their Kyoto friends.

We made a quick stop halfway to Osaka at a different rest stop than on our trip in. This was the last time we had access to the Japanese vending machines.

Our time was up quickly and it was back in the shuttle and back on the road to the airport in Osaka.

The airport was pretty empty when we arrived. We had no problems unloading our bags and getting into the terminal with time to spare before our flight.

Several students had money left over that they wanted to convert back to dollars before leaving (the fees were a lot less in Japan and in San Francisco for converting currencies).

One student had purchased a lot of food items and got hung up in customs.  I was not there, but other students said it was not a quick check, and that some of the items she had packed were removed from her bags under protest from her.  She came very close to missing the loading of the plane due to the arguments in customs over the contents of her luggage.

Once we had everyone one on the plane and accounted for we breathed our second to last sigh of relief on this trip.

Now we just had to keep ourselves from going mad on the long flight back to the States. Many of the students slept.  It was very odd, we took off from Osaka in the late afternoon.  We flew into the night, were in the dark for a good part of the flight, and then watched the sun rise as we approached our midway point by Alaska.  I can’t sleep on planes, but I had an older Japanese lady from San Francisco that seemed to think my shoulder made a really good pillow.  It was a very long flight home.

Families were waiting for us when we landed in San Francisco.

There were even signs being held up by some to welcome their children back home.

It was only after the last student left with their family that we breathed our final sigh of relief. It has worked. We had pulled it off. We had taken 19 high school students to Kyoto Japan for over a week without incident. We had a great bunch of kids. They were polite, level headed, and stayed on task the whole time they were in Kyoto while still having fun. I can only hope that future exchanges will go as well as this one. I miss Japan and am looking forward to our next exchange during the 2010 Spring Break. We have been asked to bring 30 students next time, since this one went so well. We have already started the planning for the next trip. It can only get better from here as we build more experience in planning these types of exchanges.

Now we have to go back to meeting virtually online until the students come for Summer School. I know most of the Modesto students are anxiously awaiting their three week visit. I also want to thank all the parents as I sign off on this recap of the Exchange. If not for them, this would never have happened. It was their support, their trust, and their children that made this exchange possible. I already have several of the students that went on this exchange that will be 18 next year that have asked to go back as student chaperones. I would say this first PacRimX Exchange Trip was a success. And thank you Mr. Cornwell, I could not have done this without your tireless assistance in the planning and execution of this trip.

And a final Thank You goes out to the School Board and the Administrators who approved this trip and continue to fund the PacRimX/Skoolaborate project. Here’s looking forward to next year!

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