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A Letter from our Rotary Youth Exchange Student in Japan

Each year Rotary Youth Exchange provides thousands of young people worldwide with an opportunity to experience the cultures and accomplishments of people in other countries.  The ambassadorial nature of the exchange promotes world understanding and peace. Youth Exchange is an official program of Rotary International and allows around 8000 students to exchange annually to around 60 different countries.

This year Fremantle Rotary is sponsoring  Jaimee Martin who is staying in Japan.  Below is a recent letter we received.

Dear Fremantle Rotary,

I have had some amazing experiences so far. My time in Japan has been a lot more challenging than I had though it would be but I am enjoying it none the less. I am currently living with my first host family – I have my two parents, a younger sister and two younger brothers. They have been so welcoming and understanding – I really do feel at home! My younger brothers are both training to compete in the next Olympics ( one in Swimming and one in Gymnastics). I have done a lot in the last 9-ish weeks so I will give you a quick summary of my time in Japan so far!

On arrival I was greeted by my host family and members of the Osakasayama Rotary club. It was a nice welcome after 12+ hours of travelling! I was taken home and welcomed into the family – they were all as excited to meet me as I was to meet them, which was nice for me to experience. I have come to learn in my time here that the kindness of strangers is infinite. With in 3 days of arriving I was attending school and beginning my language study, I was doing my best to make friends however I spoke literally two words of japanese! Being at school gave me an even larger incentive to study the language because I wanted to talk to everyone! Australia day came and my host sister (Mami – who is the 2013 inbound for the rotary club of South Bunbury) and I made Lamingtons for the family – which they loved, especially my brothers! The first few days I was filled with so many emotions – crying became a daily event, but with that said pushing through those first few days made me realise that anything can be achieved if you, In the words of Dori from Finding Nemo “Just keep Swiming!’ I also saw snow for the first time which was magical, and my families reaction to Vegemite is something I wont be forgetting any time soon!

 jp5 (Mobile)jp4 (Mobile)jp3 (Mobile)jp8 (Mobile)jp7 (Mobile)jp6 (Mobile)jp2 (Mobile)jp9 (Mobile)jp1 (Mobile) FEBRUARY
February came with the opportunity to visit Ise Shrine, the shrine of the sun goddess, along with the home of many other japanese historical myths. The experience was amazing, not only did I get to meet other inbound students from America, Canada and England I got to learn more about the history of the country that I would be living in for the next 10-11 months. I made a video of the experience, which can be seen by clicking the following link school I have been given free periods to study japanese independently – with two formal Japanese lessons a week. I am aware that fluency will not be achieved in the months of my stay, however I would like to get as close as I can possibly get! Valentines Day is celebrated differently in Japan than it is in Australia, In japan girls make sweets to give to the boys on valentines day. This is because a month later Japan also celebrates something called ‘white day’ which is the boys returning the gifts given to them by girls on valentines day. And here is the best part, the gifts have to be 3 times the value of what the girls gave them! By the end of february I had become settled in my home life and school life (although I came as the school year was ending – I am currently on school holidays and start back at school with a new class). There are many cultural differences in Japan that left me confused, such as the separation of girls and boys in friend groups – I found this very difficult to comprehend at first because in Australia majority of my friends are boys. I now accept this along with many other slight differences from home – although I am not scolded for going against the norm as everyone understands how different my culture is at home. Appart from Ise Shrine I also went to my first Japanese Barbecue with my family, which was very different from home! I celebrated Hanamatsuri (girls day) and Sestubun (the anual cleansing of the house of evil spirits be throwing soy beans around the house!) and said goodbye to my first class who I was with for two months, which although I am two years older than them and a scary tall westerner, accepted my like their own.MARCH
March for me was all school holidays! I have done some amazing things this month – I have missed home a lot, however, the longer I stay here the more I make plans with people and create commitments that make going home a mere thought rather than a want. This month I went to a sumo practice training morning which was amazing to watch. I got to see how Sumo’s train and how they work on building their strength, I was also lucky that the number 1 Sumo wrestler in Japan currently (Haku Ho) decided to do his training in the same room I was watching in! It was amazing to watch the amount of respect given to him and also see his amazing skills up close! I definitely developed a new love and respect for Sumo that I never had before! The other exchange student at my school (Kiana – American) and I were asked to make a speech at school talking about our home lives and make food from our countries to give the people who were interested a change to learn more about where we come from. I, being a terrible cook, opted to make vegemite sandwiches and Tim Tams for everyone to eat – one the loved and one they hated, Im sure you can assume which they despised! The speech was a fun day and it was nice of people in my class to turn up to watch me make my speech in pitiful japanese! I also went fishing which was a completely different experience to at home! In japan a plot of ocean is hired out, the fish are bought and placed in the plot of ocean and from there you go fishing! Coming from a fishing harbour and going fishing in Australia I was dumbfounded that we didn’t just cast off anywhere like we do at home, but that is another thing about Japan that I have grown to expect and accept in my time being here – Japan Logic, It doesn’t exist!! I went to a sushi train with my family and Korean town with my host sister and my friend Mai (from England) because they both love Korean Pop music. I hate Korean Pop Music but in japan it is everywhere, so I though why not embrace it for a day – it was painful to say the least! I went clothes shopping (which I loved!), to Universal Studios Japan, Kyoto with my host- grandparents and a expensive Japanese restaurant where I got to eat a Lobster from the rivers of Ise Shrine!

You are right, Spring in Japan is absolutely stunning – very pink from all the sakura trees! I have just returned home from a RYLA weekend (Rotary Youth Leadership Awards) which was so much fun! I climbed a mountain and went rowing in the ocean, not to mention watching traditional japanese dancing and harp playing – RYLA was probably my favourite experience so far, I got to interact with like minded people who had either been on exchange or were heading out into the world soon! On my return to Australia I would love to get involved with Perth’s RYLA seminars – they are just so fun!

I have attached photos, hopefully you cant match them up to what I have said in this email. I like to thank Fremantle rotary again for providing me with this amazing experience, although my exchange has been far from easy (with Japans strict culture and odd socialising habits!) I have been given numerous amazing experiences that I am so thankful for – and it has only been 2 months! Congratulations on raising $36,000 for medical research – that is amazing!

I will also post this on the Fremantle Rotarys Facebook page for anyone else who is interested to read about my time in Japan. I also have a photo blog if you are interested in seeing more photos than what I have included in this email, it is:

Thank you for your time, If you need anything else from me please dont hesitate to ask!

Missing Perth – Best wishes from Osaka!
Kind Regards,

Jaimee Martin 🙂 !!