EL DORADO — Emily Gudeman, 14, has a pretty good excuse for missing the first day of school at Union Mine High School on Thursday, Aug. 9. She is returning from Nagoya, Japan, that day.
The incoming freshman left for Japan earlier this month for four weeks as part of the 4-H International Exchange Program. Emily is a member of the Latrobe Outlanders.
While in Nagoya, Emily is staying with the Tatematsuin family. The Tatematsuin’s daughter, 14 year-old Wakako, stayed with the Gudeman family in the summer of 2010.
Emily and her parents, Paul and Mary, have hosted two Japanese exchange students — Wakako and Natisuki Ogane for four weeks last summer.
Emily’s schedule in Nagoya includes attending school with Wakako and taking part in the family’s activities.
Emily was one of three-dozen 4-H members from around the United States who met in Los Angeles for orientation before their 18-hour flight. When the group arrived in Tokyo, they spent the night at the Olympic Youth Center for more orientation activities. The following day all of the delegates were taken to their families, Mary said.
In order to pay for the trip, Emily received many grants and scholarships through 4-H.
Emily said many local businesses, plus family and friends also contributed toward her trip. Because the Gudemans hosted two Japanese guests they received additional monies from 4-H.
“There has been a lot of people who have been helping and supporting her trip,” Mary said.
As part of a gift exchange, Emily planned to give the Japanese students stickers, temporary tattoos and pencils from Disneyland, Sea World and the Academy of Sciences.
For the last two years, Emily has studied the Japanese language, culture and customs.
During her visit to El Dorado County two years ago, Wakako brought her traditions to the Gudeman household. Emily said Wakako always removed her shoes before entering the family’s house.
Emily said Wakako was more than appreciative when she arrived to the United States.
“She brought me many gifts,” Emily said. “She brought me little toys and trinkets. That’s part of the Japanese culture.”
Wakako also impressed the Gudemans with her piano playing, Emily said.
During her stay with the Gudemans, Wakako also taught the family about the history of Japanese painting. One of the gifts Emily displays is a yukata, which is a traditional Japanese summer robe.
“Wakako is very smart, very nice, sweet and polite,” Emily said.
Emily said Lorraine Larson-Hallock, one of the adult leaders for the Outlanders, was a big part of making the trip happen.
“She was part of the exchange program trying to recruit members in the Japanese program,” Emily said. “She mentioned it to me and my parents.”
Emily feels she will return to El Dorado with a better understanding of the Japanese culture and what she describes as “self-improvement” on her life.
“I hope I will be more independent than I already am,” Emily said. “I will have more knowledge of society out of America.”
She’s keeping a daily journal on her activities, and will assemble a power-point presentation that she plans to present to the Outlanders after she returns.
According to Mary, Emily has been officially excused from the first day school but is expected to attend her classes on Friday, Aug. 10.
Contact Mike Bush at 530-344-5079 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @MBushMtDemo on Twitter.