October Kyoto Gakuen Entire Class Exchange

Every year in October we have the entire Junior class from Kyoto Gakuen visit the Modesto area. This exchange predates the start of the PacRimX project, but since the start we’ve been able to fold in meetings and trips with the visiting administrators, teachers and students to compliment the PacRimX exchanges. It’s a great time to maintain our ties with our Kyoto friends and partners, and a time to squeeze in some planning meetings.

This past October the teacher (Rob) bringing out the delayed summer school exchange students was part of the trip, as was the administrator who coordinates all exchanges (Daniel). They are only here for a week (bordered by two weekends). I spent a Saturday driving around with them while discussing the February exchange (see below for a detailed blog post about the delayed summer school class). We also had a lot of time to talk to talk to all the teachers and administrators who were visiting at a BBQ held at the Flesuras’ household. And final plans and discussions were had between Rob and I on a field trip with the students to Yosemite (a favorite of theirs).

We were so fortunate with our group and their visit to Yosemite. There was a typhoon in Japan when they left for Modesto. The storm followed them and we had horrible rain for the first part of their visit. This rain was from the remnants of the typhoon that reached California. The Sierra’s had a freak storm that dumped snow at the higher elevations, and heavy rain at the lower. Normally this time the year there are drops of water where the falls usually are. This year, due to the odd weather, the falls were gushing like they usually do in the Spring during the winter runoff/melt.

We were also very lucky to be in Yosemite with the late start of the Fall colors in the trees. Everything was bright orange and yellow throughout the valley floor.

We had lunch at the Yosemite Lodge under some amazingly colorful trees. The Kyoto students and teachers had Japanese Bento lunches (cold fish and rice). I got Rob’s attention when I went into the food center and came out with a hot turkey lunch (Thanksgiving in October). You see, they don’t have turkey in Japan. As soon as I took the cover off my plate, and I saw Rob look at his lunch then at mine, I had to give him half of my lunch. There was way too much, so it was easy to share with him. I heard after Thanksgiving that Rob’s girlfriend went out at Thanksgiving to try to get Rob turkey without success. I will have to find out why they don’t have turkey in Japan.

And what’s a trip to Yosemite without a stop at the famous tunnel view made famous by the Ansel Adams photograph of the valley? Here the students are milling around while the teachers try to get them to line up for a group photo. As you can see, it was literally a picture perfect day in Yosemite.

And here’s a picture of Rob (left), me (to his right), and several of the Kyoto teachers at the Tunnel View.

The last stop of the day was at the south grove of big trees. The Mariposa grove is famous for its redwoods and the tunnel tree. We had two large charter buses of students on this trip. We were group three. Each of the three groups flew on a different plane, on staggered days, and took the trips separately. Being the last group, we had the best weather. In total there were around 250 students on this trip.

What was really great was that they had audio programs for the tour of the grove in both English and Japanese. We filled two full flatbed trailers with our students alone.

Unfortunately, this area had already been sealed up for winter, so the museum halfway through the grove was closed already (as were the bathrooms). But the students did get the opportunity to pose with some of the local wildlife.

And our final stop in the grove was the famous tunnel tree. By this time the sun was dipping below the tree tops and the temperature was falling very quickly (everyone was cold). It was a long (but warm) drive back to Modesto. The Kyoto students always love visiting Yosemite. It is one of the top California destinations.

Rob and I were able to finalize the itinerary for our Spring Break Modesto exchange to Kyoto during this trip. We had a travel book and comments from last year’s students. We made significant changes to the schedule from last year based on the input of the students. This year’s students are in for a much wider variety of Japanese cultural sites and attractions.

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