Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Very Big Grin

Many many years ago, in a far off land called the Land of Rain (Seattle) we were a host family for Japanese students. 
One of the local Universities had an IEL (Intensive English Language) program which had many Japanese students in it.  The Japanese students, more than those of any other country, preferred homestay housing over other choices. Another college offered the middle year of a three year Japanese program in Hospitality (Hotel and Restaurant Services). They did the first and third year of school in Japan but the middle year was out of country to better learn other languages and cultures.  Both of these programs placed Japanese college students in local homes for approximately 9 months.
In the course of our experience as a homestay family we had 4 boys and one girl. Every student who stayed with us was very different from the others, such a good lesson in stereotypes and overcoming expectation.  Of course they were similar in their cultural uniformity, but personalities went from one extreme to the other.
My favorite was our first student, Shigeki.  Unfortunately, he was with us the shortest time, too. 
Naoyuki (Nao for short - sounds like "Now") was the most energetic, enthusiastic and outgoing of all of them.  He traveled around the states and into Mexico on a rail pass on his holidays. He played softball on our co-ed softball team with us and was generally very gregarious.
Hironori (Hiro - "Hero") was perhaps the most involved with his Japanese friends in his classes and not around as much.
Toru was the oddest of them all.  He was seriously mentally disturbed and we actually were a bit relieved when he asked to be re-assigned to a new homestay family.
The last student we had was a girl named Akiko.  She had the most difficult time of all adjusting to our culture and particularly our family. My daughters were small and the time and I was working full time and not very patient. Unfortunately, I raised my voice to my kids too often and they cried as kids do. 
Today, I received a customer referral from my Close to my Heart business.  Somehow Akiko had contacted them via email and requested a referral to me.  When I saw the referral I was amazed at the name I saw on it.  I emailed her immediately. 
We have been emailing back and forth for the past hour. It's so exciting!  She is 30 years old now (OMHeck, how did that happen????).  
I love the things we can do via the internet now days!!

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