Chance Edmonds returned in July from a one year foreign exchange trip to Japan, sponsored by the Gananda Rotary Club and Rotary International.
He left August 18, 2012 for a trip he had been dreaming of since he was 6, according to his parents, Marla and Kent Edmonds of Gananda.
In the time he was at the Japanese school, Chance lived with 4 host families. The first family had children aged 21, 18, and 15 – three girls, and the Mom and Dad spoke fluent English.
To get to school from the first host family, Chance would have a 10 minute walk to a 20 minute train ride to another 10 minute walk.
The second host family included 3 boys, ages 3, 7 and 10, who Chance described as a “lot of fun”, but the family did not speak English. He studied very hard, but was able to take occasional field trips while there.
One trip with that host family was to Osaka to a famous restaurant there, which is noted “served Chinese” food.”
He also visited the tallest mountain in the Perfecter which is 1900 miles above sea level. “I got about half way up.” Chance explained.
His classes included two English classes a day, and 2 Geography and Social Studies classes a day, plus electives.
Chance explained that, after elementary school, the high schools are arranged by subject: like a trade school. You choose your preferred subject to continue your learning. His turned out to be a Sports School. He admits he is not a sports-minded kid.
Trips to Hiroshima and Nara were also included, and Chance expressed that seeing the many temples in Nara really fascinated and excited him.
The third host family had a boy of 14, closer to his age, and Chance discovered that the son was very good at ping-pong. “It is not like here where Ping-pong is a hobby. Ping-pong is a serious sport there and very well respected,” Chance stated.
His 4th family included an 18 year old girl, who left 7 days after he arrived for a trip to Australia. There was also a 10 year old sister.
Chance took a Japanese language course for 10 months (2 times a week) and still managed to speak and understand only slightly better than when he arrived. His writing work in Japanese involved 2 of 3 of the Japanese alphabets. He remarked that he learned maybe 250 of the 5,000 characters. Chance explained that you need to know about 1500 words to read a newspaper.
In his host Rotary Club, Chance found that the members were “very old,” and spoke a very different dialect of Japanese that he did not understand well. In Kyoto, he went with the club to a karaoke event.
For food – Chance found that there was lots of fish on the menu, but was surprise that the fish is more of a side dish to everything. “They eat a lot of rice at every meal, but they do eat meat – just with a lot of fat on it.”
He met with some other exchange students while at his school. They came from Buffalo, New York, Pennsylvania, Australia and Canada. Chance became good friends from a girl from Toronto, and he hopes to visit here back here.
The occupations of the host family parents varied from a mother who worked in a shop, a Dad who was a factory worker and rice farmer, two stay-at home-moms, a Dad who worked for a large company, and a dad who stayed at work all week and only came home on weekends.
Chance Edmonds entered the Rotary Exchange program as the youngest foreign exchange student in the Rotary Outbound program. He was just 16 and a freshman at Gananda High School, but was seen as an excellent choice by the committee due to his long time enthusiasm for the trip and the country.
Last year, I marched into the Guidance Office at Gananda and said, do you know about this Rotary Exchange Program…and how do I sign up?”
Japanese people do not always tell you what you are eating, so that you won’t be afraid to try something. “I remember being given fish eggs and cow tongue, before he realized it,” Chance admitted with a grim face.
He did not have to the breakfast generally offered him at the host family homes,
so he would bring money with him to buy something on the way to school at a convenience store. The stores were more prevalent in town that the fast food restaurants. He also found that Japanese families to not each out much. They eat large mushroom and use chopsticks, but mostly by using them to push the food from the bowl into their mouth, not necessarily as we use them. The rice is much more sticky and easy to hold onto with your hands.
Most of the host families were upper middle class families, Chance noted.
In the snow, it was recommended that you carry an umbrella to keep snow off of you, since it would be so heavy, it would knock you over.
The Northern area of Japan where he stayed, Chance found was safer from typhoons and the weather was not as fierce.
School in Japan is in session 6 days a week from March to March. Some families also send their children to English classes on Sundays. Education is foremost in Japanese Society.
The sports school he was in had a 240 person softball team and a 60 per son soccer team. Chance who does not like sports, took a “fighting club” class, but it was ancient fighting and most synchronized. Nothing dangerous. He also tried to play a musical instrument, but he said, he was asked politely to cry another elective instead.
“I found that sometimes I was a distraction in class, because the studies are very serious and they didn’t always have time for a student who was not able to participate well, due to language issues. I took a lot of history, social studies and English classes.
Chance called home once every two weeks; sometimes only a month. He did not feel he had to do that, as the questions always seemed the same: “What are you doing?” and I wasn’t doing anything new since the last time.”
His mother was aware that Chance would not be homesick and was excited to immerse himself in the culture. She expected the short phone visits.
The things that excited Chance most about Japan were the language, which he hoped to learn well enough to have conversations with his on-line gaming pals; and he loved the culture – the old culture of geishas and temples and ancient warriors and language. He said he found all of that and more. Chance hopes to return for a visit when time and circumstances allow.