Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Home stays in Toyo and returning to Tokyo

**Note: Due to the extreme variety of the opportunities students had for their three day, two night home stay experience, it has been decided that it is virtually impossible (and logically impractical) to give an accurate summary of the team's home stay experience. All students had unique and life changing experiences with their "buddies," and I encourage you to talk to any of them to hear about their time spent in a Japanese home.

The team was sent to Ushiku High School in a suburb of Tokyo, Japan. Ushiku, dotingly nicknamed "Toyo" after its affiliation with Toyo University, became a large part of the team's life as it became the central hub for the home stay experience for the students.

One of Ushiku High School's many courtyards.
The school has multiple academic and extra curricular buildings on campus.

The first day at Toyo (11 March), the student musicians had the opportunity to practice their music. Students of Toyo High School made a surprise guest appearance and played music with the LHS team. The local students were able to play alongside the LHS crew by sight reading. Even though they had never seen the music before nor could they speak English, they were able to speak the same language as the heart of the LHS team: music.

The second day at Toyo (12 March), students gave their first of two school performances and attended classes with their host brother or sister (nicknamed "buddies"). The team left their buddies' classes for the afternoon to participate in a special calligraphy class and help local students practice their English.

Students practice writing Japanese characters (kanji) in a calligraphy class.
They were able to write words such as "love," "happiness," and "flower" on paper fans.
Senior Thomas Kennedy practices his kanji before transferring the characters to his fan.
Junior Austin Sonju practices an answer and question conversation with an English student.

On the third and final day, students gave their fourth and final performance in Japan at Toyo during a closing ceremony. The audience included the students' buddies and their host families, as well as the Toyo administration and a representative from the Laurasian Institute.  A crowd favorite was their performance of "The Devil Went Down to Georgia," narrated by senior Kurt Schreiber.

Principal Amy Oaks and music instructor Don Emmons had the opportunity to participate in a gift exchange with Toyo's school administration.

LHS receives a scroll with calligraphy writing.

In return, they gave Toyo the Coloradan flag and a book that has
photographs of Colorado.
After a tearful goodbye, the LHS team left Ushiku High School behind and headed back to Tokyo, where they had begun their Japanese adventure.  On their way, the team stopped at a natural disaster safety awareness center, where they were able to experience earthquake simulations and work their way through a smokey maze to practice escaping a fire.

"In the fire simulation, you couldn't see at all,"senior Tom Sehon. "There were things knocked over so you would fall."

The earthquake simulations ranged from scale 4 to 7, giving the team a hands-on experience of what it would be like to undergo an earthquake.

"The experience was pretty shocking," Sehon said. "If I had to go through [an earthquake] when things weren't secure and there were aftershocks, it would definitely be devastating."

"If I had to experience a real situation, I would definitely be scared out of my mind," said junior Leroy Lodewyk. "The idea of buildings falling over and hurting somebody is scary for me."

Afterwards, the team enjoyed dinner at the Tokyo tower, a radio tower designed after the Eiffel Tower in France. The next few days during the remainder of their stay, the team will continue to sight see in Tokyo and interact with locals before flying home Saturday.

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