Douglas County youth take flight to JapanStocked with post cards, children’s books, maple syrup and a few key phrases, local students Wednesday jetted to Japan. The Superior Sister City Student Delegation consists of 13 youth ages 14-18. They and will spend more than a week in Superior’s sister city, Ami-machi, living with host families and experiencing daily life in Japan.
By: Maria Lockwood, Superior Telegram
Stocked with post cards, children’s books, maple syrup and a few key phrases, local students Wednesday jetted to Japan. The Superior Sister City Student Delegation consists of 13 youth ages 14-18. They and will spend more than a week in Superior’s sister city, Ami-machi, living with host families and experiencing daily life in Japan.
“It doesn’t even feel like I’m going yet,” said Brittany MacDonnell, 17, Tuesday as the youth gathered to practice musical numbers and skits they will perform at the Ami Festival on Saturday. The Superior High School student said she’s never been on a plane before. Packed in her luggage were local gifts for her host family — beef jerky, agates, honey and syrup – and the book “Rainbow Fish” to donate to the city’s library.
Darion Doane, 18, decided to give her host family caps from her workplace, Culver’s Restaurant, and donate Dr. Suess’ “The Lorax” to the Ami library.
Also packed in their luggage were plenty of warm weather clothes. Temperatures in Ami-machi have been hovering at 95 degrees Fahrenheit with high humidity over the past few days.
Tuesday’s practice at Concordia Lutheran Church included a number of songs played by student musicians — Brittany on trombone, Ben Norbie on trumpet, Alex Kasparek and Hannah Nelson on alto saxophone, Emily Kasparek on tenor saxophone and Brittany’s younger sister, Brianne, on clarinet — as well as a skit about Paul Bunyan, played by Andrew Anklam. This is the first year the delegation has had enough musicians to perform as a band, according to chaperone Julie Norbie. Instead of paying to ship their instruments over, musicians will bring their mouthpieces with them and borrow instruments from fellow students in Japan.
SHS band director Joe Kasparek, father of Emily and Alex, said he had nothing to do with the group’s instrumental selections.
“Emily dug out the music at the high school,” he said. “I stayed out of the way.”
Another first for this year’s student delegation is the inclusion of youth from the Maple School District — sisters Hannah and Cassandra Fuller. Having Northwestern High School students involved has been a positive for the group, Norbie said.
“I hope Cassandra and Hannah will tell everyone, spread the word,” she said.
Added to the list of firsts were the Olympics. This is the first time a sister city delegation has visited Ami during the Olympics, Norbie said.
“If we’re playing a Japanese team, be respectful,” she said, and if their team is playing cheer them on.
The students will travel with a six-member adult delegation. The trip was originally slated for last year, but it was postponed to give communities time to recover from the earthquake and tsunami that struck northeast Japan. They hoped to “avoid creating any additional burdens on our Japanese friends at such an uncertain time,” said Kim Habig, Superior Sister City Commission secretary.
The Sister City Exchange began in 1997. Every other year, a delegation travels from Superior to Ami-Machi. On the off years, a Japanese delegation visits Superior. This is the second time the exchange was postponed. The Japanese delegation decided not to visit during the swine flu outbreak in 2009.
The delay gave students more time to raise money. Over the past year and a half they held dinners, sold Kringles, pizza, candles and bread, and bagged groceries numerous times at local Super One Foods stores.
Andrew and the MacDonnell sisters even took an introduction to Japanese language course at the University of Wisconsin-Superior in preparation for the trip.
“I can at least introduce myself, say who my sister is,” Brittany said. And she can say “delicious” in Japanese — “Oishi des ne.”
Dealing with group dynamics for so long has been a bit of a challenge, Norbie said, but the young people showed their strong connection Tuesday as they prepared for their trip.
“We’ve got a good group of kids,” said fellow chaperone Chris Soland.
Visiting with host families is the core of the trip for students. They will also visit the Ami elementary and high schools, read to children at the Ami library before donating their books, take part in the city’s festival and visit a kamikaze memorial.
After bidding their host families “Sayonara,” the group plans to spend an extra two days at a youth hostel in Osaksa to see Tokyo and visit Disney Tokyo.
Their Japanese connection doesn’t have to end with the flight home. As part of their presentation at the festival, students will each hand out 10 postcards with their return address on them, hoping somebody will send one back. And students from Ami will be coming to Superior next July to stay with local host families. For more information on the Sister City program or to sign up as a host family, visit the website at https://sites.google.