By: Katy Huston, Site Coordinator
It was pretty quiet at SeaTac early Sunday morning, February 26, 2012. I stood chatting with Eileen Beupre of Intercultural Homestay and waited for our 24 Japanese students, with their two faculty members, to arrive from Tokyo Kasei University’s nutrition program.
And then, there they were: coming up the escalator with rolling suitcases, looking tired, a bit anxious, but also excited and ready for their two weeks of immersion in English language and Seattle culture. What felt like only minutes later we were unloading students, Dr. Nakamura, Program Director, and Professor Oka, and all those suitcases at the Bertona classroom building at SPU. Suzanne Tierney, Program Coordinator had food and tea ready. We moved quickly to orientation and the arrival of host families.
By 1:30 PM we stood in an empty classroom. All-in-all, a flawless start to two engaging weeks of learning.
All of our days began with the students gathering at the ACE office at 8:45. Our tutors, Niki Riley, Eve Araque, Min Lee, Barbara Dannenbring, Tamara Goddard, Elisa Ding, and Sarah Dean arrived with the students. All were experienced ESL instructors.
On our first day we covered introductions and basic information about Seattle. Our first excursion, after two hours of small group tutoring, would be a Seattle Tour. We were granted a beautiful cold-but-sunny day—though weather throughout the two weeks would range through sun, rain and a bit of snow! After stops at the Kerry Park Viewpoint and the Space Needle, we arrived at the Pike Place Market. And the hit there? Starbucks, of course!
We had assistance over the two weeks from three interpreters: Nozomi Maekawa, Chieko Granstrom, and Chisato Yamamoto-Phillips. ACE Office Intern Tomoko Okabe assisted with the PCC store tour. While the students were able to understand quite a bit, interpreters helped to fill in gaps where idioms and unfamiliar cultural and technical terms were more challenging.
Lecturers in our first week included Dr. Daniela Gevela, PhD, RD, SPU Associate Professor of Food and Nutrition, who introduced us to the concept of Community Kitchens that began in Peru and has spread to many other locations—including SPU. Students loved this idea of a multigenerational gathering to prepare foods to take home before sharing a communal meal. Several said they would like to bring the concept home to Japan.
At our tutoring session on Tuesday morning, students and tutors created great posters illustrating healthy eating and cancer prevention foods so we were well prepared when
Sarah Zarelli RD, CD, Seattle Children’s Hospital spoke about nutrition trends in the US; and Linda Kasser, RD, CD of Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, discussed nutrition for cancer prevention and treatment. These two lectures were on “Leap Day” and I brought a “cancer prevention” treat: dark chocolate with cranberries and walnuts! Chocolate: The Universal Language!
Suzanne did a great job in planning our lectures and excursions so the interwoven information reinforced the students learning opportunities. In our excursions to the Pike Place Market and our tour of PCC in Fremont with Diana Crane, we saw the fruits and vegetables that lecturers referred to. We practiced communal cooking with Chefs Dawnula, Elizabeth and Tara, with Host Bryce, and shared the lunch we made at the Blue Ribbon Cooking School. And at Forest Ridge School of the Sacred Heart in Bellevue, Chef Ron Askew explained how an outstanding school meals program was developed.
As a surprise addition to our tour of Forest Ridge School of the Sacred Heart, students in Ms. Kari Levin’s Japanese Language class prepared welcome statements and shared them with our students.
Students spent the weekend on their own: riding The Duck, touring Safeco Field (Ah, Ichiro!) taking in the view from the Space Needle, and, of course, shopping!
The Second Week
Monday morning, March 5, everyone arrived back at the ACE office at 8:45, but the feel was a bit different. There was an air of competence and belonging. Students and tutors moved into line automatically when I called “time to go” and we moved across campus to tutoring and lecture locations. Candyce Mason, MS, CN, of Providence Mount St. Vincent, spoke about nutritional needs for an aging population. We had a second lecture, on Monday, by Mami Sorajo, MS, RD from Tahoma Clinic. Ms. Sarajo lectured in her native Japanese and the students had many questions regarding career opportunities in nutrition.
Candyce’s lecture was a great introduction for our week’s excursions which included a visit to Seattle Keiro Assisted Living facility and a tour led by Megumi Sherrill, Volunteer & Special Projects Coordinator. After hearing how Seattle Keiro is adapting to patient focused nutrition, the students visited with residents—the oldest of whom was 109!–and gave them a lovely concert of Japanese folk songs. I sat next to residents who sang along, tapped feet and smiled! It was hard to move our students back to the bus!
Our other excursions for this second week also blended together with a tour and lunch at Bastyr University and a look at natural medicine. Jeanne Galbraith, Wendy Burns and Bonnie Chan accompanied us and we enjoyed making fruit and nut “truffles” with Bonnie in Bastyr’s great teaching kitchen. And, finally, we met with Katie Favre, RD, CD, CNSD, Director of Nutrition Services at UW Medicine/Harborview Medical Center. Students toured the kitchen, then participated in a lively discussion regarding the differences in the philosophy of nutrition education between the US and Japan.
Friday morning, March 9: our final tutoring session included a great surprised organized by Suzanne. Juan Cumbal, an Ecuadorian musician visiting her Spanish class visited us as well.
We were treated to a description and demonstration of native instruments, a sign-along and Juan’s own renditions of folk songs. In turn, our students repeated their concert. It was a great multicultural morning!
Where did the time go? We began the closing ceremony, granting of completion certificates, speeches—including a lovely thank-you from Professor Oka for Seattle’s assistance after last year’s earthquake and tsunami. On to pizza, veggies and cupcakes. What a contrast from that first day! Laughter and chatter in both English and Japanese (much more English than two weeks previous!) and gifts and hugs and promises of return visits.
Saturday morning brought the return to SeaTac: where a fair number of students seemed reluctant to return home! I took it as a sign of a good time. And then that moment–as the last student turned and waved and Eileen and I headed home—I confess to a sigh and a little tear. Funny how quickly we bond to others who move into our lives. Two weeks went very quickly and we kept very busy. And I’d do it all again in a minute!