Monday, July 25, 2011

Japan Comes to Brooklyn High School - by Becky Houran

The group of Japanese teens involved with Ashinaga Foundation had one more event in NYC before flying back to Tokyo. I went with Dr Judy and Lebo to Gotham High School in Brooklyn where we met up with Ariana Moir, a member of the education section of the Japan Society— shockingly, it turned out the Ariana, whose name seemed familiar, actually attended Sant Bani School with me, although she was a bit older. It was nice to talk about our history with the school and reflect on how small the world really is; what are the chances of our meeting? Our small group, along with several members of the press, teachers and a large group of students, piled into a small classroom to await a meeting with the Ashinaga kids. 

The Ashinaga students watch 
as the Gotham students  show 
their prowess through Copoeira

The Brazilian art of Copoeira

The presentation began with the Japanese students introducing themselves and telling a brief story about their individual experiences with trauma. Then the American kids took turns asking questions – the language barrier caused some difficulty, but the Ashinaga group was led by a wonderful interpreter. The kids at Gotham were so excited to meet people their own age from Japan, and they loved being able to share their interest in Japanese culture and a little bit of their unique backgrounds. After a display of choral music and a demonstration of the rhythmic Brazilian martial art, Capoeira, the two groups exchanged large fabric banners they’d made for each other. It was a confusing, messy affair, but it allowed the kids to share smiles and laugh at blunders as they passed the banners to one another. 

The kids trade the beautiful banners they made for one another

After the Gotham kids bashfully bestowed a present of custom t-shirts, which were received with blushes and quiet words of thanks, the cultural barrier became less intimidating and the students became just a mix of kids – laughing, rough-housing and exchanging emails. The Gotham kids, themselves from difficult backgrounds – brought smile to their guests faces, and excitement to everyone in the room. Watching new friends form is always a wonderful experience, and in that brief two hours, it was magical to see that, even with fresh memories of disaster, these kids embraced their new friends with smiles on their faces.

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