The next day Matt and I finished Sara's flooring and decided it would work out fine to host a student considering we had one week to put the house back together. I did not get all the projects complete that I had hoped; however, we were able to put together a guest area for our exchange student to have his own space.
Rintaro joined us Tuesday evening. He's studies English for 3 years, now to put it all to work! The biggest challenge is that he has learned proper English and we speak with a Utah accent. A perfect example of this was the morning after his arrival I asked Rintaro, "How're you doin' today?" He gave me a funny look. So I said, "How are you?" He said, "Oh, I'm good!" I just needed to enunciate and not slur my words together. Imagine that!
The cultural differences in some situations are huge! We were told when we picked up our exchange student to be sure to explain how the shower works. In their culture, they don't have a tub or a shower. Instead they have a drain in the floor and the shower head and simply shower in the middle of the bathroom. So if we don't teach them how to use the tub and keep the curtain inside the tub, we're due to have a flood in the bathroom. Also, in America our children are allowed to eat pretty much at any time. If they need a snack after school, they get one themselves. But in Japan, children only eat what their mother gives them. So we were told to be sure the students understand they are welcome to eat when they are hungry, especially since we don't serve big bowls of rice with every meal!
When we arrived home the first day with Rintaro I wanted him to see the food so he could know where to forage when hungry. I opened one side of my double door pantry and gave examples of snacks and then opened the other side of the pantry to show him other options. "Woah!" Now I'm not sure this was an English word he was taught, I believe this was a natural cross cultural response as he was surprised to see the amount of food we have on hand. Then of course adding to that the fridge full of fruits and veggies due to my wonderful bountiful basket purchases!
Another cultural difference is our beds. I think the Japanese sleep on mats, they don't have mattresses to sleep on. My guest room has a queen size mattress, which is super convenient for my folks when they come visit! Rintaro is about my height, 5' 6" but he is very skinny, probably 100 lbs. soaking wet....maybe. So this bed is huge compared to the little space he takes on it. Also, I left a smaller blanket on top of the bed in case the blanket on the bed was not enough. But I have neglected to tell him that he is supposed to sleep under the bigger blanket, so he has simply covered up with the smaller blanket each night. I asked him if he's been warm enough and he says yes, so I guess being summer he's fine. I'm thinking I should show him how the bed turns down with soft sheets inside for cozy sleeping! Why have I waited this long? Well here's why:
The Japanese exchange students want the full American teenager experience. I figure why not? He is Zack's buddy so to speak, so he is to do everything Zack does. After being here only a day we sent him off to Youth Conference! The youth in our stake went up to the stake property not far from Park City to camp for Youth Conference. Our ward leaders were more than accommodating and even bought Rintaro a Japanese Book of Mormon. How cool is that! So Rintaro has been able to experience the craziness of young Mormons camping as well as experience the Spiritual aspect of Mormonism being taught to our youth. I honestly don't know how he feels about it all, but I do know that he is reading the Book of Mormon!
The boys arrived back home Saturday just before noon and were very tired. After Zack took a nap, I shipped the boys off to the pool at the Rec Center for some swimming! We've got to keep Rintaro busy so he doesn't get too homesick. Matt and I went on our date so the boys had to walk home. Nobody seemed to mind at all.
My three boys are very much into playing "Wizard 101" on the computers, which is an online multiplayer game for youth. I figure, why not? Rintaro should experience it all, right? We had him open an account and create a character! Any time he doesn't have something to do, he heads to the computer to play. I figure it's great exposure to American fantasy linguistics, right? LOL! I don't even know what they're talking about as my boys play. They have cool names for everything.
The Japanese are big on gift giving. We were warned in advance so that we could have gifts ready for Rintaro as well. Holy Cow, he brought a lot of gifts. Matt was given a bandana, which has a cool fancy name and can be folded in cool ways. It's rectangular in shape rather than square like our bandanas. I received a beautiful key chain made of cloth. It looks kind of like a bell. So once the keys are attached, they can be pulled inside the fabric. The little boys each received a ceramic frog on a leaf that holds a picture as well as some fancy Japanese paper. Sara was given some paper flowers that are meant to be window decorations. Zack was given a Japanese hand fan and Japanese chess game, which has a cool name. In case that is not enough, he gave the family two kites, and three pieces of hand made artwork made by his grandmother. Besides all that, he gave us a scrapbook about him, showing his home, his town, and things about his culture. SO awesome to learn about his home and lifestyle.
Some foods we eat are common world wide. For example, I was excited to take the kids to In N Out Burger for dinner the first night. But McDonalds is worldwide so Rintaro has eaten hamburgers in Japan. Darn it! Other foods are new to him. Tonight we had Bratwurst, which I typically serve with hot dog buns. We also had baked potatoes and salad with dinner. Rintaro took a bun and left it on his plate and was going to eat the bun separate from the bratwurst. So I showed him mine all tucked in with some mustard. He had a heck of a time figuring out how to open the bun. After tearing the bun into two, he tried to put the bratwurst between the two pieces and added some ketchup. In the end he ended up eating them separate anyway, the bun with ketchup on it, and the bratwurst. Oh well. He loved the baked potatoes, though! We oil the potatoes, sprinkle them with salt, then bake them. YUM! Apparently he thought so, too!
Rintaro likes playing games. Besides the Japanese chess game, he played American chess with Zack, who enjoyed having a good opponent, opposed to a younger brother who's not so great at the game. Rintaro also likes card games like Pokemon, YuGiOh, and several others. He brought some Japanese Pokemon cards and gave them to Elijah, who was excited to receive them. I'm hoping Rintaro can help my younger boys learn to play these correctly!
Week one down, three weeks to go. We have a long list of fun activities to do in order to help Rintaro experience American culture!