This morning, I discovered three paper cranes and beautiful letters to our family in our guest room, left by Saya, a 16-year old Japanese student. She joined us Tuesday evening to stay for several days as a part of the Iowa Sister States exchange, and left this morning to travel home with her group.
It’s incredible what an impact such a short visit can have on host families and visitors alike, and the bond that can form in less than a week, especially considering that during the work day, Saya and her group were involved in their own activities.
I wasn’t entirely sure if we were ready to host another visitor (I was pregnant with Emmett the last time we volunteered with this program). But when I saw the SOS that they still needed a few hosts, I figured it would be the prompt we needed to clean our house (ha!) and that the kids were probably ready, now that they’re reliably sleeping through the night. All you need to host is a spare room, the ability to do drop-offs and pickups at around 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. and an openness to building a relationship with someone who might not speak English completely fluently. The experience also encourages you to play tourist in your own city, which you know I love.
We took Saya bowling at Bass Pro after a dinner of Casey’s pizza (natch), to the Valley Junction Farmer’s Market and Art Center, to the high school state baseball tournament (she’s a big baseball fan, and I thought the I-Cubs were playing!) and to the Blank Park Zoo, Smitty’s Tenderloin Shop and the Indianola Balloon Festival, after a steak and sweet corn dinner at home.
Emmett loved explaining how to play games to her, and telling her everything he’d learned about animals at Zoo Camp. And Eileen loved having another girl in the house who was eager to take selfies with cute cartoon filters on them.
Last night, after the hot air balloon-filled sunset and before the fireworks, we danced in the field by our car to a cover of Springsteen’s Small Town. And after reading the letters she left for us, I felt so happy to know we’d not just shown her the sights, but included her into our simple little American family in a way that she will treasure, too.
Who knows, maybe in 10 years or so, Emmett will be inspired to participate in the Kofu School Exchange as a high school student!