Student hosts learn from ‘whirlwind’ Tsuruta visit

Slapjack, the international language.

Communication happened in part through the common rules of card games for students from Tsuruta, Japan, and their hosts at Hood River Valley High School this week. Hood River families hosted 20 high school and middle school students from Aomori Province, home to Hood River’s Sister City of Tsuruta, in a three-day stay that took in museums, waterfalls, Bonneville Dam, and a day at Hood River Valley High School, wedged between visits to Seattle and Portland.

Though the stay was short, it was worth it to Taunesha Shelton, an HRVHS sophomore and host student.

“I like to learn about other countries, and how we’re different,” said Shelton, whose family has over the years hosted nine foreign students, including Tsuruta visitors.

“It’s been good to learn about them on a personal level.”

In one of the visitors’ quieter moments, they paid the traditional visit to the grave of Ray Yasui, patriarch of the Hood River Valley Japanese-American community.

Tuesday was spent at the high school. Ten HRVHS students escorted one or more students to their classes.

“A lot of kids wanted to get involved,” said student Nell Smith, a previous host to Tsurutans who helped organize last week’s visit as part of her Leadership class. “I had a lot of volunteers, which I guess surprised me a little,” Smith said. “Some of them were kind of bummed out when I told them there were no other kids (to accompany).”

“I think they want to have contact with kids who don’t speak English. It’s really interesting, because you can’t really understand how someone can’t understand English. We’re born with it so it’s interesting to be around someone who doesn’t speak English and to have to communicate.” Smith said it has been a learning experience for the Hood River kids.

“They’re learning there’s a lot to the experience, in some cases more than they thought, I think. They learned there was more to it than just hanging out at lunch hour, and that they needed to try to work with the Japanese students because they’re here to improve their English. It was more than some of the kids expected, but I think it has been a good experience for them.”

Shelton said that in her experience, the Tsurutans are typically shy but that several of the visitors have been more outgoing. The American and Japanese youth know many of the same card games, so communication happened via mutual knowledge of rules.

“You can communicate on easy terms,” Shelton said. “We’ve really enjoyed slapjack.” In general the language barrier has been a factor.

“You use a lot of hand gestures, and showing them what it is you are talking about,” Shelton said.

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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge

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