By Margarita Munoz Salazar
Yesterday February 5th, Globalize DC was able to meet with 18 high school students from Hiroshima, Japan, thanks to Kakehashi. We were notified of the meeting around 3 weeks before the set date, so the whole class started studying more than ever. We had a sheet of paper with questions we wanted to ask them and basic Japanese phrases to use. I was so scared of messing up my Japanese that I would stay up revising lines like なんさいですか (How old are you?) and なんねんせいですか (What grade are you in?). Ms. Sally told us a few days before that the Japanese students would probably be shy and that we would have to initiate conversation, but that was the farthest thing from the truth.
When we arrived at Z-burger in Tenleytown, we got to finally meet the students by having lunch with them. I was able to sit down with こうあさん (Koa) and こはなさん (Kohana), along with D’Amonie. At first I was really nervous that I forgot a lot of my Japanese and I was only able to say what my name was. But that was not a problem because both Koa and Kohana were so nice that we were able to ask each other questions in both English and Japanese. It was so fun to ask them about what they like, what shows they watch and what type of music they listen to (K-pop). It was nice to see what things we have in common even though we live so far away.
When we were on the bus to the church, where we would continue the rest of the activity, I sat next to あやなさん (Ayana). She was probably the most social person I talked to and was so easy to talk to. Getting to know how excited she was to be here and talk to me in Japanese was very exciting. When we finally got to the church I was more confident in my Japanese. I also got to sit with こはなさん (Kohana), まいかさん (Maika), まやさん (Maya), ちひろさん (Chihiro) and かえらさん (Kaera). There we were all able to talk about our family, what we like, and I was able to learn some Japanese ‘slang’ that I would never learn in a classroom. Unfortunately, it was soon time to say goodbye. Although most of us were able to exchange Instagrams and take many pictures together, we still didn’t want to end the conversations. But I am confident enough to say that I have made new ともだち (friends).
This whole experience motivated me to get even better at Japanese. Being able to communicate with native speakers my age was probably my favorite thing that I have ever done in this program. I will always remember this moment and smile with joy. I hope to one day be able to meet my friends again whether it be D.C. or in Japan.