Thursday, August 18, 2005


After a too-short week, I dropped off Arisa at a local hotel this morning, where she joined her fellow exchange students for a full day of shopping. They'll stay at the hotel tonight and fly back to Japan tomorrow (a 20-hour trip, I learned). Last evening, though, she joined her 85 classmates to celebrate the end of the program--with caps and gowns.

Now, I'm not sure if caps and gowns are really the best way to celebrate a one-week course. Not that they shouldn't have celebrated their trip, but is regalia the best way to do that?

The "graduation" evening began with dinner--Cajun on the left side of the room, Italian on the right. Next, all the students were gathered to sing at the front before two groups did a surprisingly good percussion performance, playing white plastic tubs. Then the students were awarded a certificate of achievement and a gift from the community college: a pen. Finally, program luminaries gave short graduation speeches. Now, in the midst of their speeches, friendly chaos reigned.

Most of the students jabbered happily with friends; some of the hosts jabbered with their exchange student; some parents fed their little kids; other people snapped photo after photo. I wondered what those speakers were thinking as they bravely soldiered on with the attention of about 10 percent of those present.

This morning, though, things were quiet. The week had ended and her bags were packed. When I dropped her off at the hotel, she bravely endured an un-Japanese hug and dragged her pink suitcase into the building.