A cultural exchange



Language has not limited learning another culture.
By VANESSA SCHUTZ
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
AUSTINTOWN -- Both Japanese exchange students Yudai Terasawa and Junki Nojiri have had mishaps with the post office since their arrival in America.
Yudai, 13, addressed a letter home in Japanese writing, causing great confusion for the postman. Junki, also 13, was under the impression that the stamps were supposed to be placed on the back of the envelope.
But the two are learning more about American culture as they spend three weeks with area host families through the Ohio 4-H International Exchange Program.
The program, which has been in existence in Ohio since 1972, sent 93 Japanese exchangees scattered throughout the state to live in different family situations until Aug. 17.
The 16 Japanese students assigned to this area were dropped off July 23 in Canfield Giant Eagle's parking lot, where they met their new families for the first time.
"It's actually really cute to see the little Japanese faces glued to the bus windows when they pull in," international county coordinator Laura DePizzo said.
Host families
The Kidd family and the Bogadi family, both of Austintown, were among the crowd anticipating the arrival of the students. They volunteered to host exchange students after Zakary Kidd, 13, and Jordan Bogadi, 12, heard about the program through their classes at Frank Ohl Middle School.
The families were subjected to a background check and received several visits to their homes by program coordinators before they were selected, according to DePizzo.
"We wanted to help him [Junki] out and show him what the United States is like," Bogadi said. "Especially with the war going on, we want to show him that we are good people and that we're normal people that like to have fun."
DePizzo said the families are encouraged to live their everyday life, as well as treat their visitor as another member of the family.
So far, the Kidds said that Yudai has acted like an American teenager, partaking in skating, bike riding and jumping on the family's backyard trampoline.
"They're here to be immersed in what the American family is, and the American family doesn't go to the amusement park every weekend or go to a ball game every night," said Scott Kidd, Zakary's father.
Learning to adjust
While they are teaching Yudai American culture, Kidd and his wife, Lisa, agreed that their three children are learning just as much from the foreign teen.
"We thought it would be a good experience for Zak," Kidd said. "He's always been fascinated with things that were Oriental or Japanese."
Zak and Yudai have expressed a common interest in a Japanese comic series called Shonen Jump, swapping copies and establishing their first trade of ideas.
"This experience opens up the door for him to go to Yudai's next year for three weeks," Kidd said.
But for now, both families are noticing that the living situation requires adjustment for the Japanese students.
Despite the book given to each host family with popular Japanese words and phrases, communication can still be a problem.
Junki, who came prepared with copies of his information card to hand out to people he meets, uses pictures in his scrapbook to show his background and culture to others.
Both families use their own kind of "sign language" to establish an understanding on bathing, eating and everyday items.
Diversity
In Japan, meals are served three times a day at a regular hour. In the Kidd household, like most American families these days, mealtime is scattered depending on work schedules and activities.
And not only has mealtime changed for Yudai and Junki, but the meals themselves are not familiar.
The two have tried everyday American cuisine, each deciding that pizza was their favorite. Yudai had no problem expressing his dislike for macaroni and cheese, while Junki was turned off by the taste of root beer.
The idea of utensils is also new, but Yudai is teaching the Kidd family the art of eating with chopsticks.
DePizzo feels the experience will also enrich the American students involved in the program.
"It plants a little seed for them to go into international affairs or other things," she said. "You never know what that one little home stay can do."
The Kidds feel that everyone can learn something by being subjected to diversity.
"There are different people in this world-- we're all different," Lisa said.
"Well, we're all different but we're all the same," Scott added. "It's about learning to respect each other's cultures."
vschutz@vindy.com

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