“We just can’t know what we don’t know”
Words of the journalist
Since I’m not quite done with the frogging-story I’d promised to share this week, I’ll tell you about our time with Yuta. His stay with us reminds me of my own years of roaming and the people who allowed me into their homes when I didn’t know much about being a guest or hanging out in other cultures.
I made my first trip to live in Glasgow for a year when I was the same age as Yuta, 20. The Chinese grad-student who sat next to me on the flight from Vancouver, British Columbia to London was kind: She let me ramble. She answered questions. She never turned away or made me feel like the lost-kid I was.
The stuff I said and thought back then should be embarrassing, and I used to grit my teeth at the memories. Now it mostly keeps me a bit humbler than I might otherwise be– and sometimes more patient.
I worried about finding solution for my contact lenses! I was a kid who’d never traveled, and I didn’t know how little I knew.
People opened their lives–like the men who drove me from the airport in Glasgow to my dorm on Sauchiehall Street, Ken at Strathclyde University who greeted the seven of us who came from different regions of the United States. All year he helped us with academics and the miscellaneous.
Fiona McCrae invited me to spend some days (or was it weeks?) on the farm where her parents still lived. And so many others–including a German family (Andreas had been an exchange student the year before at my university) invited me to spend the holidays with them. They all put up with me, welcomed me, and I doubt I was as grateful for the generosity as I hope my 40-something self would be.
For a long time I’ve hoped to someday extend a welcome to others, and now we could. Through ANDEO International, Yuta arrived on a Thursday evening with a suitcase too heavy for me to carry up the steps. He giggled a lot and smiled. I cooked up some fish as we asked him questions from the list ANDEO provides as suggested exercise for “breaking the ice”. This young man had chosen to spend most of his spring break practicing English at PSU.
ANDEO arranged for the group of visiting students to see the Trail Blazers whip Denver, to see Multnomah Falls, to take a day-trip up to Seattle–and plenty of shopping. Shopping tops the list of favorite activities for visiting students we’re beginning to understand.
Yuta taught us a lot about the geography of Japan. Fukui is due west of Tokyo, and Kyoto is south of Fukui. Thanks to Google maps, we could see where he lives, the streets that look a lot like the streets here, the corner business. He lives in the outskirts of Fukui, in a town called Echizen
ANDEO, a non-profit, wants the visiting students to experience a home-stay and asks them to stay away from each other when not in class. The students spend Monday through Friday, 9-5, with teachers on the campus of Portland State University or on an outing. In the evenings and over the weekend he would hang out with us.
Over the weeks we enjoyed a hike in Forest Park up to Pittock Mansion. Though we couldn’t see Mt. Hood that winter day, we could sit at the picnic table and eat our sandwiches and nibble potato chips.
Ludger took him out for a bicycle tour one Sunday. They rode north to the Columbia Slough and then further west and south again, into the city. Last weekend we drove to the coast–roamingaround Canon Beach, checking out galleries and little shops, visiting Tillamook Cheese and Blue Heron. Yuta found gifts for his parents.
If you’re on the North-coast of Oregon, check out Bell Buoy on Hwy 101 for the best-ever fish-n-chips. A hole-in-the-wall sort of place, the people are great and so is the food (especially the haddock or salmon, depending on preference)! The place began as the market nextdoor but added this little eat-in/take-out spot. We didn’t realize they were soon-to-close when we showed up. Instead of rushing us out the door, they didn’t even let on that we’d failed to read their sign. As we waited for the fish, they offered Yuta some chowder on the house. Really, that place is worth a stop.
For his farewell dinner, we took him out for a steak last night. His first email told us his dream of eating steak. Since we’re mostly vegetarian, we wanted to send him off happy. Tasty & Sons on N. Williams had him smiling.
This morning, before Ludger took Yuta to the airport, Misa visited. A student on a different ANDEO program, she lives with a family only a few blocks east. The two met riding the bus back and forth to PSU each day.
“Smile!” she said, snapping photos. Yuta had invited her over for a photo-shoot, and it was fun to meet the mystery-girl we’d heard mentioned. Unlike Yuta’s focus on physics, Misa plans to teach Kindergarten–and it’s easy to imagine her in front of those kids leading them in song.
Yuta’s on his way home as I write–a long flight to Tokyo and then a bus ride, another flight and finally his father will fetch him from the airport in Fukui. Before starting up classes again, he says he’s moving to his own place near the university. Until now, he’s been commuting from his folks’ house, an hour south. His grandma also lives with the family since his dad is her oldest son.
Spring has sprung during the time of Yuta’s visit. We weren’t sure he’d see much Northwest sun, but now the daffodils are in bloom. From where I sit I can see the neighbor’s Hawthorn tree growing green. It’s lovely to enjoy the turning of seasons.
Yesterday Ludger and Yuta created the foundation for the greenhouse that he’ll build in our backyard. We’ll be able to plant our tomato seed in a better spot than the attic–which was Yuta bedroom. All in its time. . .
Come back for my favorite frogger next week!
ANDEO International Homestays