Through the Eyes of a Dragon

Through the Eyes of a Dragon: Japanese Visitors Experience America Through the Eyes of a Mike Moses Student
Posted on 11/06/2018
Through the Eyes of a Dragon: Japanese Visitors Experience America Through the Eyes of a Mike Moses Student

Japan and America has had a very conflicted and fractured past, but towards the end of the 20th century, attitudes changed and an interest in learning about each other’s cultures has grown. George Santayana once said, “Those who do not remember the past are doomed to repeat it.” Thus, in 1993 a relationship began between Nacogdoches and Amami, Japan where we are able to grow through the celebration of our diverse cultures, appreciate our differences, and celebrate what we have in common. The last twenty-five years has given us the chance to send students from Nacogdoches to Amami and Kagoshima as well as host students from those towns here with us.

This year, the 25th anniversary of the Nac-Amami exchange program, fifteen students from Amami Oshima travelled to Nacogdoches. After arriving into Texas in Houston, we quickly helped them grab their luggage and climbed on board the Dragon Express. Our first stop was at Whataburger, a Texas icon. They enjoyed their first taste of Texas burgers and were treated to Whataburger souvenirs and a group photo with the Whataburger crew. After driving through rain for two hours we finally pulled up to Mike Moses and were welcomed by colorful signs and banners that the host families made.

The next morning Japanese students got their first taste of Chick-fil-a and then were led down to the performance gym by our fantastic Student Council members. Imagine walking into a gym filled with 600+ teenagers from another country! Flags are waving, pom poms are shaking, and Duke the Dragon is greeting you! The band welcomed our students with a few songs while twirlers and cheerleaders showcased our school spirit. After nervous introductions and speeches both in English and Japanese, our visiting students left the gym excited to explore their school for the next week. They spent the remainder of the day visiting classes with their host students.

On Thursday, Japanese students had the treat of adventuring downtown and creating stained glass pumpkins, sitting in the mayor’s chair (and banging her gavel), and experienced huge burgers at Dolli’s Diner. We later explored life in East Texas like it was 100-200 years ago out at Millard’s Crossing where students learned how to spin wool, scrub clothes by hand, make corn husk toys, husk corn, and write with quill pens (made from real turkey feathers). Evenings were filled with the Pineywoods Fair and other epic adventures.

Friday provided Japanese students a chance to experience a day in the life of a Mike Moses Middle school student. They visited classes all day and practiced their English speaking skills. They enjoyed getting treated by Mike Moses students both in Japanese and English. That evening many students went to the high school football game or the SFA Planetarium for Anime Night. Fun times!

This past weekend was filled with a plethora of memories. Students had the opportunity to go shopping, visit the Houston Aquarium, meet new animals at the petting zoo at the fair, visit the zoo in Tyler, carve Jack-o-lanterns, ride horses, go to the SFA football game, go kayaking, eat more pizza, and play Fortnite. Adventures were had all throughout East Texas! Sunday gave them a total new adventure: Japan Exchange Program party at Hijinx trampoline park, in Lufkin, TX. After bouncing for two hours we enjoyed pizza and homemade cookies that a Japanese student, Anri, made. That evening many students went to a barbecue or visited a family’s farm where they had a traditional Thanksgiving meal.

Monday we explored SFA and had a purple day.  We climbed all over their ropes course and their climbing wall at the Rec Center and then headed to the East College Cafeteria.  After lunch we went to watch the volleyball team practice, met with the International Student department, and spent time in the new STEM building conducting chemistry experiments and visiting the Planetarium.

Their visit was brief, but the memories we’ve made and the bonds we’ve formed will last a lifetime! Who knows, maybe some of our students will stay with them when we visit Amami in May?  Special thanks to our host families for opening up your homes to these students. It allowed for memories that will last a lifetime for all who were involved.

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