I asked my parents to also reflect on the evening. I thought it was pretty amazing and wanted to know their opinion. Seems like we are on the same page!
- What an incredible evening last night was. I will confess I found myself choked up at several points. What stands out for me is how incredible it felt to me, personally, on a deep level, to watch these beautiful Japanese kids standing up so proud and tall and stretching to speak our language and communicate a bit about themselves and to extend a hand across the sea. The sound of their voices–pushing through the “accent” of their dialect, straining to match ours, caught me by surprise. Their repeated statement was so simple, and so moving: “I am happy to be your friend.” As I watched them, one after another, on the big screen, I felt touched, and suddenly aware of this feeling of hope, about what it means to believe that, against all odds (oceans, time zones, languages), a real connection can be made.
And then it hit me that, as each of our American kids got up to the camera and extended their own gesture. What the Japanese were seeing on the other side was exactly what we were seeing. Here were our kids, standing tall and proud, stretching to speak another language and communicate a bit about themselves, and to extend a hand across the sea as well. To us it just sounded like they were saying foreign words, but suddenly, somehow, I began to imagine how it must sound on the other side. Surely we were not all nailing the accent perfectly. But therein was the sweetness of it. Each of our kids was equally earnest, extending, stretching, trying.
I knew to some degree that there was a chance our kids were just doing this because they were told to. Their teacher was watching. Perhaps a grade was on the line. Their parents were watching. Perhaps the wanted to follow the rules and avoid trouble. (“Remember: model students,” as Mrs. E had instructed and reminded). But then I saw the most magical thing of all. At the end of the night, after each student had stood in a line, as instructed, and shared their script. After the collective had sung their songs, as instructed, to their friends across the sea, Mrs. E walked up to the camera and began to speak. She made some closing comments, expressed her gratitude, and happiness about the success of the night, and she even offered up the thought that perhaps some of these kids would meet someday. And bigger still–perhaps the world they all grew up in would be a more peaceful world. I was pondering this–loving Mrs. E for the way she takes everything and extends it to the next level, connects it to what else might be possible. And then it happened.
The students began waving at each other. It was one or two kids at first, sneaking in a little hand-flip behind Mrs. E’s head during the closing comments, sort of the way onlookers wave their hands behind an on-the-scene newscaster. But then a few more kids did it, on the other side of the sea. Then a few more on our side. And before I knew it, unprompted, natural, sweet, and full of the joy of finding their own way, together, to put their stamp on the moment, kids on one side of the ocean and the other, began to wave their arms all around signalling to one antother: I am here, I see you, we did this, thank you for your letters. Their simple waving seemed, to me, to hold all of that.
Water sprung up in my eyes, and my throat tightened up, in that good way throats sometimes do. For all the preparation, and rehearsal, and anticipation, and review, this moment sprung forward as naturally and flowing as the current of the river out behind the school. I was cracking up, and tearing up, and I thought to myself, “What a sight to see.” And what a moment to be a part of.
I am grateful for the creativity and above-and-beyond-the call aspect of our kids’ teacher, for an opportunity like this. I am proud of our kids—my son, who popped right up there and shared a beautiful artistic rendering of his view of Christmas–and all the kids, one after another, who, together, created an event of import and, at the end, a moment of meaning. And I am delighted that somehow, I was lucky enough to be there to see it all.
- We had a fun time meeting our penpals. I liked how the kids sang songs to one another. I thought it was neat that we had that capability. Thanks to the advance technology! With the time difference, I know my son was trying to figure out what time it was in Japan. With Thailand, it’s pretty easy. They are 12 hrs ahead of us.
- Wow! What an experience for the children, as well as the parents in attendance. Watching the students speak with their pen pals in Japanese nearly brought tears to my eyes. This was such a special lesson for them. I so enjoyed watching the kids interact with their Japanese peers and thought they all did amazing with their foreign language.
- Fantastic event. It was a lesson in global humanity and the power of technology used in the most creative of fashions. It gave my son and I an opportunity to discuss how we are all connected and that it is a big small world. I thought the name signs were a solid idea on the other end that you may want to shadow. Overall, it touched my heart. Thank you.
- I thought the Skype night with Nanai was a wonderful experience for the kids. They really seemed thrilled to “meet” their pen-pals face-to-face–the many many miles and time zones separating them just seemed to melt away. It was terrific that each class took the time and effort to speak to the other kids in their own language–what a feeling of accomplishment that must have given them. The songs were wonderful because
- singing let the kids be a bit less formal with each other while conveying a bit of local culture.
It really was amazing.
I second that sentiment!