Heidi Zemach for SCN –
Four high school exchange students visiting from Seward’s Sister City: Obihiro, Japan, are exploring American culture and hospitality this week-Seward style. When the exchange students make their annual visit, as has been occurring for the past 40 years, they are treated to life with a host family, often with adults or teens who have visited Obihiro themselves on similar exchanges, or who are planning to go soon. They’re introduced to the City Council, and given gifts from the city. Seward International Friendship Association organizes the exchanges, with assistance from the city. They’re always welcomed at a big community pot luck—such as the one that took place Tuesday evening at the Seward Community Library Museum. This year they’re going to the Alaska SeaLife Center, Shellfish Hatchery, river rafting, hiking to Exit Glacier, to Seavey’s Ididaride, to Icicle Seafoods, and on the First Friday Art Walk. Usually they’re surprised by how different this small remote Alaska town is from their own much larger city, or from the movie images of America they might have seen.
This year’s students were Satoe Miura, Yukako Kanda, Saki Takazawa and Sachiko Takebe, all 16. They listed their hobbies as music, comics, gardening and cooking. They’re being hosted by Daniel and Emmy Johnson, Von and Christy Terry, Jim and Jill Herbert and Terry McKnight. Interpreter Josh Neta is staying at the Ballaine House.
At Tuesday’s feast they were treated to black bear meatballs by city exchange organizer Brenda Ballou—who recently received the bear meat from the Alaska State Troopers under the road-kill list that residents can sign up for. They also got a taste of tender mutton ( sheep) that came from Fred Moore and Phyllis Shoemaker, and other Alaska specialties including smoked salmon and moose jerky. Strangest of all perhaps, was a large welcome cake embedded with photographs of their own smiling faces and names, and the Japanese and American flags.
Seward exchange student Ryan Johnson will be the only local student travelling to Obihiro this year. He can be expected to be treated like royalty as well, and to participate in that Japanese city’s annual parade.
The teens arrived Sunday, July 27th, and depart early on August 6th.
Grants from Holland America and Seward Community Foundation helped provide funding for this year’s student exchange.