by Bill Gordon

Friendship Visits
Ohdono Elementary School
June 6, 2003

Showing Photo of Japanese
Friendship Doll

Rosemary and Tina, Ohdono Elementary School's two Blue-eyed Dolls from America, greeted my wife Noriko and me at the front entrance of the school. During my visit to Ohdono in October 2002, I had presented Tina to the students as a gift from Mr. Sidney Gulick, 3d, and his wife Frances. Tina's original passport had been damaged last year when the school's print shop tried to laminate it, so I was happy to see the reissued passport from Mr. Gulick.

Mr. Furuya, the sixth-grade teacher responsible for Ohdono's international exchange activities, had prepared the schedule for the day's many activities. After briefly meeting the school's new principal, we talked to several TV and newspaper reporters. In the morning my wife Noriko spoke to each of the three second-grade classes about differences between schools in Japan and the U.S. She also read and discussed the book Don't Laugh at Me. I talked to the three third-grade classes about the history of the American and Japanese Friendship Dolls. Ohdono's two dolls, Rosemary and Tina, visited each of the classes with me. A student in one class asked what was inside Tina's sports bag, and the children were surprised to see a one-piece dress, pants, and a blouse that had been made by Mrs. Gulick.

One of 3rd-grade Classes
I also spoke to students on American holidays popular with children. When I asked the 3rd-grade students what was the most popular holiday in Japan, I expected them to say New Year's Day. Instead, several students mentioned local festivals, including the Firefly Festival held in late May in Yamaguchi City. During this time the fireflies (or lighting bugs) come out along the Ichinosaka River, near Ohdono Elementary School. During my visit last October, I went with the third- and fourth-grade students to put firefly larvae into the river. On Friday evening we went to dinner at a restaurant next to the river, and I was surprised at the hundreds of people who came to the river to view the fireflies lighting up after dark. After dinner I enjoyed walking along the river to see the results of pouring firefly larvae into the river the previous October. Ohdono has several pages on its web site about the fireflies and student activities to conserve these insects.
(back row from left) Mrs. Ishima, Mr. Furuya,
Miki Fujiyama, Bill Gordon, Saki Higashi
(front row from right) Mrs. Higashi, Noriko Gordon, Mrs. Fujiyama
Since my first visit to Ohdono Elementary in October 2001, I have exchanged many letters, e-mails, and cards with children at the school. I enjoyed meeting again many friends at Ohdono. I ate lunch with the third-grade class of Mrs. Ishima, who has let me talk with her students on each of my visits and has encouraged them to communicate with me by letter or e-mail. After lunch I went to thank a couple of fourth-grade students who in April had sent me letters, along with one-page questionnaires of biographical information they collect from their friends. At the end of the day I ran into a small group of sixth-grade students, one who had sent me a couple of e-mail notes as a fourth grader and one who had escorted me during my first visit. In the evening we ate at a restaurant with Mr. Furuya, Mrs. Ishima, two sixth-grade students, and their mothers. One of the students, Miki Fujiyama, has corresponded with me by e-mail for over a year. She was in the fourth-grade class of Mrs. Ishima when she urged her students to write to me.
Noriko Talking With Second Graders
The school presented my wife and me with two pairs of chopsticks and five small forks for eating fruit. These elegant eating utensils are covered with black and dark red Ouchi lacquer, one of the famous products of Yamaguchi Prefecture. Noriko received several thank-you letters from the second graders, and I received a thank-you letter from each third-grade student (see page with translation of several letters). Each third-grade class also created a poster for me with a class photo in the middle and small thank-you cards posted around the photo. Each student in Mrs. Ishima's class proudly presented me with one of their origami creations. One girl gave me a beautiful round box made out of many pieces of origami paper with different designs. This origami box must have taken her many hours to make, and it now sits on my desk at work as a reminder of my fun visit to Ohdono Elementary School.


Beautiful Origami Box
from 3rd-grade Girl

Friendship Visits - May and June 2003

Page on Ohdono Elementary School's Blue-eyed Doll Rosemary
Page on Ohdono Elementary School's New Blue-eyed Doll Tina

November 2001 Friendship Visit to Ohdono Elementary School
October 2002 Friendship Visit to Ohdono Elementary School

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