Saturday, June 17, 2006

Meet the Kai family!

The most exciting part of pre-departure was the long awaited "family plans". The profile match up between student and host family takes a long time, and I just received mine the Tuesday before my trip. Talk about anxiety... not knowing where in Japan you're living, and who you're living with until 5 days before departure! Anyways, I recieved my information and it was extremely limited. YFU only supplies students with the very basic info... that means no pictures. The letter pretty much said that I am living in the city of Saga, which is on the island of Kyushu, in the Saga Prefecture (like a county or state) of Japan (hence the "creative" title to my blog, My-Summer-SAGA). **See map with red dot... that is SAGA.**

I learned that I have a host mother and father (Chizu and Keisuke Kai), two sisters, and a grandfather living in the house (names not attached!). The rest had the phone number and school I will attend. It wasn't too much! So I contacted my Japanese II teacher, Lowry Sensei, and we created a "script" for me to call their house. I was very nervous because I didn't know if they spoke English. I made the call at about 7pm, which is about 8am the next day in Japan. The following is the 45 second conversation we had. Mind you it was ALL in Japanese!

Chris : Hello
Chizu (host mom) : Hello
Chris : Nice to speak with you. I am your foreign exchange student from America.
Chizu: Ooooohhh, Hello.
Chris: Do you speak any English?
Chizu (speaking in english now): Oh no, I'm sorry, I don't speak English.
Chris (still in Japanese): I'm sorry, my Japanese is limited and not that good. I am looking forward to meeting you Monday. It will be nice to meet you.
Chizu ( In english): Oh, yes, yes.
Chris: Well, sayonara!
Chizu: Sayonara.

It turned out to be one of the most awkward, but amazing things I did in my whole life. My family was sitting around the table staring at me because I just pulled off a "conversation" in Japanese. The context may seem weird for a phone call, and it was, but it was well worth it. Even though my host mom said she didn't speak English, I think she can for two reasons. First, she broke off into English during our phone conversation, and second, it is the mentality of Japanese people to always be extremely modest, even if it means to put yourself down. Later that night I recieved an email from her. This is where I begin to really understand and meet my host family. I have my host parents, two sisters Erika (my age), Yurina(12), and Grandpa Yoshio. These emails are from either Chizu (host mom), or Erika ( my host sister, who is my age). I'll let you read them for yourself. I have a strong feeling my host mom used a bad online translater, and Erika used her own basic English. There are still a lot of mysteries about the family due to bad translation, but they seem very nice. Have fun reading their emails from the past 3 days. I also attached the only pictures I have of them which they sent me online.

From: kai
Sent: Tue, 13 Jun 2006 23:13:29 +0900
Subject: Hello from Japan

Dear Christopher

Thank you for telephoning today.

I was very much surprised. But it was very glad. How do you do.

I am your host family's CHIZU KAI.

All my families expect that you will come.

My families are the father YOSHIO of a husband's KEISUKE and KEISUKE,
a daughter's ERIKA, and YURINA.

ERIKA goes to a RYUUKOKU high school together with you. To the school
distant from the house for 40 minutes, you attend school by the bicycle
with her. Is your bicycle OK? It talked with the high school teacher
today. Please carry out Japanese study etc., when you are the lesson
which you cannot understand. please bring, if there are some textbooks
-- writing materials, and a note and a gym suit are also required. And
probably, it will be good to also bring a swimming suit, since it is
very hot.

Others are reliable at all. I am doing work which teaches people of an
area cooking. A house is a small convenience store. Then, let's meet
you on the 20th!


Dear Chris

I'm Erika kai. I am born on July 4, 1990. I'm fifteen. It is the same age as you.I am interested in Western music.I often watching MTV!At an artist, I likes Green Day and Britney.

I am very looking forward to meeting you.If you come to Japan, let's play together with us!

I can't speak English well.However, I think that I want to study English hard.And please teach me English.I also teach you a thing of Japan.

The bicycle for attending school is in my house.
Since the uniform of it and a high school is prepared, please let me know the girth of the chest and the waist.(cm)

I am looking forward to the reply.

P.S.-Photographs are me, a younger sister, and a grandfather.

From Erika Kai

*Erika on the left, Grandpa middle, Yurina right

Thank you for a reply.
Thank you also for a photograph. Your parents seem to be very kind!
Your uniform can be prepared.

My hobby is talking with my friends. I also like Hip Hop dance!

I was a basket ball club at the time of a junior high school.However, I am
not a member of the club now.

In the case of a girl, a Japanese high school student goes to a
photo-sticker machine, or goes to karaoke.In the case of a boy, he plays
video game at friend's house.

The hobby of YURINA is cooking. She has won many prizes in a child's cooking
contest. Moreover, part activity of a brass band is carried out in school.
There is a contest on July 30. She performs a tuba. Let's go to see.
She likes a sponge bob at a U.S. thing. I also like it.

My father is working for the company of insurance. Mother is acting as the
volunteer of cooking or international exchange. A grandpa is 86 years old
this year. But he always work hard.
The dog is kept in my house. It's name is Jhon.It is a very big black dog.

You can buy the school shoes at the school store. I will go to school store
with you.

I'm looking forward to your reply!

p.s.The pictures are of me and my friends and Jhon!

* Erika is on the right of both pictures, * Jhon their dog.
Dear Chris

It advises on the load which you bring.

It is very hot in Saga all day long.
Much rain will fall June.
A rainy day is spent by car to a school.

Probably, your everyday wear will be good by the T-shirt and short
trousers. Probably, it will be good to bring 3 or 4 or more sheets. It is
enough also as pajamas. The right dress is not so required. The white
T-shirt and white jersey as a gym suit are also required. (As for it,
Keisuke's is good)
Please also bring a long-sleeved shirt and long trousers (jeans, cotton
trousers, etc.) once.

There are most U.S. things in Japan.
The grandfather was a sweets craftsman a long time ago. Children will also
be glad if there is a new thing with American sweets.

The uniforms of a school are a gray open-necked shirt and gray trousers.
This is different for every school.
Since the uniform has already ordered, please it be not worried.

The house in Japan is very narrow. And it is old. There are also many
mosquitoes and they can be stuck well. Many insects and reptiles are also
around a house!

Please be not surprised.

Chizu Kai

... So that wraps up the emails. Now you know just as much as I know about my host family for the summer! Haha. Im sure the translation of the online translater made you smile a few times, too. I am very excited to meet them. They seem very nice and excited too.
If you want to see the high school I am attending, Ryuukoku High School, copy this link ( I translated the site through Google web translater, I hope it worked.)

the link to the school is the 3rd from the bottom.

Click some of the links and see the pictures. It seems like a very nice school, almost an academy. I'm excited for the long bike rides to and from the school. From Google searches, Saga looks beautiful with lots of nature, shrines and waterfalls!
Im sorry this post was long, but it really sums up everything I know about my trip so far. I have to go continue packing, and I'll try to update as much as possible! I depart in less than 36 hours!

Summing it all up...

Since I have just made this blog a few days before my departure, there is a lot of stuff that has happened in the past few weeks that I want to sum up in this post. I have been studying a lot of extra Japanese lately to be able to be somewhat sociable when I am there. I have also been packing a lot and getting gifts to take over to my host family.

On June 9th, the Japan Business Society of Detroit hosted a very fancy luncheon at the Skyline Club in Southfield to award the scholarships to Michigan travelers. There were two other YFU students, and also some college students that are all recieving financial scholarships from the JBSD. My family came along, and we had a really nice time. Each student was able to make a short speech to the chairmen of the JBSD on their gratitude and plans for their educational trip to Japan. I was very excited to be there, and met some really great people. The pictures I am attaching are of me and some of the JBSD chairmen.

** Me with the JBSD president, Mr. Nishimura
( left)

** Me with a JBSD Chairman, Mr. Nakahma (right)

** The JBSD chairmen.
(Everyone is so business-like, but so nice.)

The Skyline club was VERY nice. It was located on the 21st floor of the Southfield Town Center building and we had filet mignon... WOW!

Friday, June 16, 2006


Before I start anything, let me introduce myself. I'm Chris Crachiola, am 16 years old, and live in Troy, Michigan. This past year, my sophomore year at Athens High School, was one of many surprises for me. In the very beginning of the school year, my new Japanese II teacher, Mrs. Chieko Lowry, provided our class with information of foreign exchange programs and scholarships. She was so supportive and encouraged me to apply for a scholarship. It has been one of my life dreams to visit Japan and I thought the experience would be great, but due to very high tuitions, a scholarship would be my only way to participate. I decided to try my luck, and researched YFU, Youth for Understanding. YFU is one of the largest foreign exchange progams in the country and have many sponsors who offer full ride scholarships. I put my whole heart and effort into the scholarship application, filling out all the paperwork, 6 essays, and a one-on-one interview without ever thinking there was a real chance of winning. The scholarships I submitted for were very competitive national and statewide competitions. The surprise to me was that all the hard work paid off when many months later, right after spring break, I received a large package with congratulatory letters and travelers handbooks. The scholarship I received was one from the Japan Business Society of Detroit, JBSD, which provides a full ride scholarship to a Japanese language student of Michigan schools. The fun and excitement had only just begun. I am hoping to use this blog journal during my stay in Japan this summer to share with you all of my experiences. As I have mentioned, visiting Japan has been a big dream of mine, but I've always viewed it as one I would have to accomplish after college. I am so grateful and honored to be able to do it in the middle of my high school career, and have the opportunity to live with a host family the whole time, and participate as a student in a Japanese high school. I couldn't ask for a better immersion into Japanese language and culture. Many people have asked me "why Japan" and "why travel so young". Japan is a country that has always fascinated me. Ever since I became so close to the Matsumoto family (neighbors who used to live down the street), I learned that the country has many things that are worth discovering. They are the main reason I took up Japanese language study in high school. The Matsumotos moved back to Japan in 2003, and I still keep in touch with Ayane, Kentaro, Yuka and Mr. & Mrs. Matsumoto through email. As for the reason why I am taking this oportunity at this stage in my life is due to the simple fact that it is a chance of a life time. There is probably no other time I will ever get to live for an entire summer with a Japanese family and absorbing culture in everyday life like a Japanese citizen. This trip is so much more than anything I could ever do as a tourist. I'm hoping to gain better knowledge of the Japanese language while I'm there, as well as learning about family life and student life in Japan. I would greatly appreciate comments here, because I dont think I'll have contact any other way. Please check often, because I'll try to update as much as possible.