Return to the motherland

Going back to Portland after being in Japan for seven months was a surreal experience. To be honest I didn’t need to go back; I wasn’t homesick. As much as I love my friends, family, and the city I consider home, I seem to have never developed the “homesick” bone. Of course I miss people as well as things about the States, but I don’t pummel into pits of despair thinking about them. I’ve always been more comfortable living in the moment, and at the moment, I live in Japan.

However, I was excited to go to Portland. I was going along with a group of ten Japanese students and two other adult chaperones. The best part of the deal was that the students would be experiencing home stays in Lake Oswego (which is just outside of Portland), as well as attending classes at Lake Oswego Junior High School, the school where I used to teach.  This all worked out pretty nicely to my favor.

Although my home town is only about a three and half hour drive from Portland, my week long trip didn’t really allow for enough time to go there. So instead, my parents, grandma, aunt, brother and his fiancé all came to Portland for the first weekend I was there.  My parents stayed in Portland for the entire time I was there.

Here I am with my aunt:

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From Monday through Thursday I spent most of my time with either the Japanese students or my former Lake Oswego students. I was technically working from about 7am to 10pm every night, with all the various activities I needed to attend. It was really exhausting and didn’t actually allow for me to spend that much time with my parents or friends.

It was really rewarding seeing my former students, though. I couldn’t believe how much they’ve grown! Some of them I didn’t even recognize.

The students from my first year of teaching are now in their first year of high school. Four of them in particular always make an effort to catch up with me, which I really appreciate. The first picture is from their last day of middle school last year, and the second picture is from my trip last week.

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I was also really happy to see my student, Ron, from last year. At the beginning of the school year, Ron could speak only a few words in English. By the end of the year, he had improved so much and I was so proud of him. But I couldn’t even believe how well he was speaking English when I visited last week! It was so moving I almost cried. He’s really worked hard and there’s nothing more rewarding as a teacher than seeing students succeed.

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It was also great to see how excited my former students were about learning about Japan from the Japanese students. They were really interested in sharing experiences with them and put in every effort to make them feel welcome. I was really proud of them for giving it their best effort.

My former students singing along with my Japanese students:

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Students having their names written in Japanese:

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Former students showing off their names written in Japanese:

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Former students enjoying their time with new students!!

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But it wasn’t just my Lake Oswego students that impressed me. My Japanese students also did an amazing job. All of them had never left Japan before, and at least a few of them had never been on a plane! I know there was some homesickness and nervousness amongst the students, but they really embraced the experience. I honestly could see improvement in their English skills after only one week in the States. It was really satisfying! And they really had a great time which made me so happy!

Performing for the adult community center:

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Cute origami:

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Getting “arrested” by LOPD.

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Being firefighters!

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I’ll post more later about my time with family and friends!

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