Japanese exchange students arrive in Edmonds

Mayor Dave Earling and the Edmonds Sister City Commission show off their "norens."
Mayor Dave Earling, executive assistant Carolyn LaFave and members of the Edmonds Sister City Commission show off the norens received from Japanese exchange students.

Exchange students from Hekinan, Japan were welcomed to Edmonds Friday night with a dinner and greeting from Mayor Dave Earling.

The 13 students arrived Wednesday from Hekinan, Edmonds’ sister city. They will leave on Aug.18. Hekinan is Edmonds’ only sister city.

“It’s wonderful to see all of the family hosts here tonight,” Earling said.” That’s such an important part of this whole experience.”

Earling expressed his appreciation for what the host families are doing. It’s an important job, Earling added.

The Edmonds Sister City Commission has been around for 26 years. Every year, students between the ages of 14-18 travel from Edmonds to Hekinan and stay with families there, and in return, Japanese students travel to Edmonds, said Carolyn LaFave, Earling’s executive assistant.

“Normally it’s reciprocal,” LaFave said. “So whoever [a student] stayed with, that student comes here and stays with them.”

Friday before the dinner, the students attended A Taste of Edmonds and visited Edmonds-Woodway High School, LaFave said.

Students who had traveled from Edmonds to Hekinan helped set up the welcome dinner for the Hekinan exchange students.

Ten students from Edmonds were in Hekinan from July 21 to August 4, said exchange student Emily Prall. The 17-year-old Prall said that she thinks the program makes it easier on the exchange students from Hekinan because they already know the students they’re staying with in Edmonds.

The Japanese students will spend weekdays doing activities such as visiting downtown Seattle, attending a Mariners game and going to the Edmonds sand sculpting contest, LaFave said.

Weekends are spent with their families, host Pam Gaspers said.

“It’s kind of a neat exchange,” Gaspers said. “It’s nice because… our exchange student already feels comfortable.”

At the welcome dinner, students from Hekinan presented the commission with a Japanese curtain called a noren. Earling had received one earlier that day. The exchange students also received gift bags from Earling.

On Friday, August 15, the Hekinan students will put on a farewell dinner. The students will cook and provide entertainment for their host families and the commission. The Edmonds students did the same when they were in Hekinan.

— Story and photo by Lily Jaquith

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