To the community of Molokai
For the last three years I have been part of a wonderful student exchange program between Molokai High School and Takayama Nishi High School in Japan. I have been teaching in Japan for over seven years now and the highlight of my seven years has been the creation of this program.
Along with the help of Lisa Kim (Japanese instructor at MHS) this program has provided students with valuable exposure to the ever growing international world. Molokai and Takayama have a lot in common, besides both places being an island, be it Takayama’s population is vastly larger than Molokai’s, Takayama is located in the center of Japan at the foot of the Japan Alps. For Japan, it is considered a very traditional and old style city, where families still value the old ways and grandparents are respected and taken care of. Most homes still have three generations living in them.
In the past, heavy snowfall during the winter months and the secluded location of Takayama sheltered our city and the Western explosion that hit Japan in the last century and has been slow to reach us. Takayama is an isolated small city, compared to most cities in Japan and many are trying to keep it that way. But as you all know, it’s hard to stop the world from progressing and changing for the sake of change. So as this small city opens up and changes more and more everyday, I as a teacher must prepare my students in the best way I can.
Being able to bring my students to Molokai to see a new world, in a safe and beautiful setting has helped tremendously in their awakening to the outside world. I can only teach so much “Real English” in the class room. Bringing my students to Molokai gave them a much better “Real English” experience. As I told me students, “Your Molokai host families are real. MTV (Yes we get that in Japan) is not!” Your students were very real and something my students cannot experience in Takayama.
Many of the graduates from this exchange program have gone on to universities and are now studying English because of what this exchange gave them; a drive to better them selves and be able to communicate in an English speaking environment. This exchange has made a difference to so many and all who partook in it will continue to better both of our islands.
Upon our return to Takayama I have an exit interview with the all the students. We talk abut the adventures they had and that they must make sure to write thank you letters, but before I can say anything else I have to address the common theme among all my students, “Yes, I know you want to move to Molokai and go to school, but you mustn’t forget where your from and the need to share your adventure with your family and friends. Continue your studies, fill yourself with information. This will make you a better person and that in turn will make Japan a better place to learn and your friends in Molokai will do the same.”
As a teacher, this exchange program is what one dreams of. Hands on, real life learning with instant results. It doesn’t get much better than that. This makes my leaving this program and my school very difficult. At the end this school year, March 2008 My wife, two girls, and I will move to my wife’s home town and begin our new life. We will miss Takayama very much but at this time in life we need to be closer to our family and now the timing is right.
As for my position at my school I have been transferred out of the international division and much to my dismay, the exchange program has been taken over by a travel agent. I do have concerns about this, if a more commercial type of travel should be in the works that would so defeat the true nature of the Molokai island lifestyle and the foundations of the personal and intimate cultural exchanges that has been set. I have voiced my displeasure and concerns and can only hope they take what I’ve said into consideration.
I do ask you all to support the teachers and students who will be coming to Takayama this October. I will be here to great them one last time and do as much as possible to repay the same kindness that we received for the last three years.
The reason this I have written this letter is because I owe it to all on Molokai who supported the exchange from the beginning and let 45 of my students and countless number of yours build a bond that will make the world a better place. Simple as that, no other alternatives just a pure, personal cultural exchange between our future leaders.
MHS Principal Linda Puleloa, Staff members, Lisa Kim, Lloyd & Linda Yonemura, Karen Harada, and the entire student body and staff at Molokai High School are all wonderful representatives of Molokai Island who I can not thank enough. This letter would quadruple in size if I were to add the names of all the wonderful host families, the students and staff at Molokai Middle School with special thanks to Sensei Matt and his Ukulele Class, all the students and staff at Kualapuu Elementary School who welcomed us into their classrooms and with a special thanks to Sensei Diane whose class has started a pen-pal relationship with one of my classes, and all the businesses that were so warm to my students as they explored your downtown. Please know that I appreciate the entire community for making this a life time memory for all involved.
One special thank you to Jay-R Ka’awa and family, without their friendship and introduction to Molokai none of this would have ever happened. I miss you all and along with my family hope to visit Molokai sometime in the near future.
I am starting a new chapter in my life and have no set plans just that I am leaving my present job in March of 2008. If I can do anything to help anyone interested in visiting Japan or regarding Japan in anyway, please do not think twice about sending me a message, its the least I can do.
Richard A. Bartoldus