New Faces New Friends

By Carlos Daniel Ramirez

Recently on the Japanese Plus program, we got the glad visit of the KAKEHASHI trip. A few of us were exhilarated, anxious and fearless, but also with concerns since our confidence with our Japanese is not the greatest. Mostly, people were nervous because a few of us never went to Japan before, or have not met anyone Japanese around the same age as us, but because some of us had already experience with them, we were absolutely excited for meeting new people.

Since their stay with us was nothing but a quick break from their busy itinerary, we tried to make their experience the most authentic possible – teaching them the Cha-Cha Slide dance. Something that will keep their memories vivid any time they hear “left” or “right,” or even when they hear the word “Cha-Cha-Cha.”

For instance, that was only on our side. The kids from Okinawa did clever presentations to express and share their culture with us. Although some of us were interested in what the food may look like in Okinawa (not me), most of us were interested in the art, traditions, and everything that involved that part of Japan. It’s interesting to perceive that every part of Japan is unique, as every prefecture appears more different than the others. We did not only learn that there were 160 islands in Okinawa, but also that they were the main founders of Karate, and also that they have a ton of rare species of fish.

We had a little conversation with them to seek any new long-lasting friendship, talking to them and seeing their kindness, and friendship that they are characterized by and that they are well being known for. We figured out that we had nothing to fear. Perhaps, our confidence in asking questions in Japanese and watching them be impressed by our great pronunciation (and because they were able to understand everything) the time passed as a gazelle in Africa running away from his predator.

Sadly, even when we wanted to know them better, we had to say bye-bye to our new friends. The emotions were mixed in that small time when we saw them running towards the bus to the last goodbye. “It felt like 10 minutes,” someone said. To which I added: “It was 3 hours. Boy, I am hungry, let me go home,”- me. Well, that was both me, but the importance is that it felt like time just flew away, and I am looking forward to visiting Okinawa, maybe soon. Who knows?

Sharing appreciation

Before winter break, we asked students to take time to express appreciation or recognize the accomplishments of one or two of their Japanese Plus classmates. The results:

Angel: Asa, thanks for always having a smile on your face. It’s really nice talking to you. You make the learning environment brighter.

Maria: I like how Angel tries hard and takes lead of our group. I also appreciate how both Carlos and Luis did the performance the other day alone.

Cyrus: I like hearing Alexx and Theo’s Japanese, because it sounds close to what I’ve heard in media.

Asa: I’m thankful for the encouragement of Lucca for helping me practice and also Che for being the person to help lighten the mood and make me laugh.

Chetachukwu: Carlos is a nice and funny person. It is really helpful and helps me grow educationally. Asa is a funny soul and I like her skirts.

Alexx: I’d like to thank Che for always being on point. She did a lot for our group and was really responsible. I’m glad I have her in my group. I’m also thankful for Gabe who always works really hard. He inspires me to push myself even harder.

Gabe: Jonah, keeping the class always positive and giving heartfelt thanks to visitors. Alexx, for helping a ton in my group, especially during the skit.

Jazmin: I would like to thank Theo and Elena for helping me a lot when learning my katakana. They always make me laugh, and I’m glad to have them in my group.

Katie: I’m really happy that Asa is here with me since she told me about this program and that she’s been with me this whole entire time, even if I am annoying to her. I’m also really happy that Jazmin is here since I can ask her about Japan since she has been there and that she is someone I know who can be there for me.

Jonah: Carlos is very optimistic and a good friend always willing to help. Kenny seems to always want to learn and never bummed and is fun.

Arjernae: I’m proud of Alayshia for being dedicated and not quitting even with people telling her to. I’m proud of Cyrus because he’s one of the few people I see and he acknowledges me when I come to class. Also he’s becoming more open and not as shy as he was in the beginning.

Theo: Jazmin is a very hard worker and I really respect her drive. Alexx has a strong grasp on the language and I find her very impressive in general.