By Asbjørn Kallestad, participant of Session 1&2, from Norway
Today we visited Okuchi Meiko Gakuen School a middle and high school. We first gathered in the school gymnasium with all the students and teachers, and we had a presentation about our home countries. Following this gathering, we were divided into smaller groups to have lunch, and do a variety of activities together. I was in a group led by a student aspiring to become an English teacher. We connected well and had conversations about ourselves and our goals as we moved between gathering rooms during this day.
In the first classroom, we were split into different tables with students. The students at my table were initially a bit shy; However, they gradually opened up, and we connected and enjoyed lunch together. The wonderful grandmother of my host family had prepared a delicious traditional Japanese meal for me, which I appreciated highly. Next, we had the chance to experience the art of Japanese Origami. I was taught the art by a skilled an enthusiastic high school student who aspired to teach abroad and to improve her English. She patiently demonstrated how to fold various types of origami, and I successfully made a swan, a jumping frog, and a balloon. As a memento, we exchanged signed swans at the end.
The following tea ceremony was for me an unforgettable experience. We entered a traditional Japanese room where beautiful music was played on the Koto, a Japanese instrument. Behind the student musicians was a lovely garden that could be seen through the window of the room. The atmosphere I experienced here was unparalleled. We sat down and observed the tea ceremony while the students in detail explained the entire tea-making process. Afterward, we had the opportunity to taste the matcha tea the students had prepared. From my experience the matcha tea had a unique flavour and I thought it tasted so good, leaving me with a wish to experience a tea ceremony again.
The entire event felt like a once-in-a-lifetime experience. The whole school participated, and they genuinely showed interest in sharing their crafts with us. Engaging in various activities was incredibly exciting, and I learned a lot throughout the day. When we left the school, all the students gathered and waved goodbye to us; it almost felt like being a celebrity ^^ They took excellent care of us, and I thoroughly enjoyed the experience.
Later that day, we got to learn more origami, fill a Tanabata tree with wishes, and fold hats. The teacher who guided us was incredibly kind and patient when showing us the different steps of the craft. On our way out, a lady partaking in the event approached me and gave me a hat she had made, which was incredibly kind of her.
This day left me with unforgettable memories and experiences. I am very grateful that I was allowed to be part of this cultural exchange experience.