Beginnings

Welcome International Students to our Homes

I first met Sanae Kanda when she was the substitute piano player at our church.  I asked if she would teach Japanese, and she said yes.  We worked together for about a year.  She teaches piano at Salem State, and when the next school year began, her schedule was too busy.  But she told me of a student (Nodoka Sato) who might work with me.

I met Nodoka, and while it didn’t work out, she told me of three students (Megumi Kobayashi, Aya Hiyoshi , Yuka Shimajiri) who were looking for a place to stay during the winter break.  We were going to Colorado for Christmas, so we could not help them directly, but we found homes for them with the Weltners and with Corinne Abercrombie.  That, we thought, was that.

Side story – I told Zen Yamada, our friend in Tokyo, that we had helped three Japanese students find homestays.  Zen wrote back that a fellow docent at the science museum is the mother of a student at the University of Colorado in Boulder, and that he was coming to Salem to visit with two of his friends –  Aya Hiyashi and Yuka Shimajiri.  Small world.

In the spring of 2010, we attended a performance of the HMS Pinafore at Salem State College.  Sitting next to us were two Asian women.  We introduced ourselves and learned that one (Chunyan Zhu) was from Shanghai and the other (Chang Cao) from Inner Mongolia.  We wound up inviting them to visit the Peabody Essex Museum with us the following weekend, and then to come to dinner.  They asked if they could bring a “visiting scholar” – who turned out to be Professor Jie Meng.

Over dinner, Jie saiid she had been in America for 9 months but this was the first time she had been in an American home.  Sharon and I thought that was terrible, and spent the next three months showing her as much as we could – whale watch, neighborhood party, lobster dinner (she LOVES lobster!), Museum of Fine Arts, etc.  It turns out her son was also at Salem State, and we included him in many of our adventures

I then decided to help students with American homestays – or at least to meet and visit with American families.  We attended the annual international student barbecue and met several students.  I invited about a dozen to come to the church one evening to a simple dinner and to meet church members.  In the long run, that resulted in six of the students – Kiho Ogawa, Miyuki Nagai, Kyohei Nakauchi, Guang Yang, Yukari Oda, and Chiaki Nii – spending the winter break with various friends and us – and becoming lifelong friends.

That’s how it all started!