Dec. 14, 2012 was the date assigned for our homestay program with a Japanese family.
We received the profile of our families on our way to Mobara City Hall in Chiba, Japan. My foster parents were Mr. Kazumi Watanabe, 64 a construction businessman, and Mrs. Mie Watanabe, 51, a part-timer. They had four dogs. Mrs. Watanabe was fluent in English and fond of reading English books, while Mr. Watanabe loved watching movies. They had fostered people for homestay programs about 50 times already.
When my co-ambassador met Rosemarie Rivera and I were to meet our foster parents, we were both nervous yet excited. Since our foster mom was the only one who fetched us, she was the one who answered all our questions. We asked for the do’s and don’ts during our stay in their home and told her that we knew only basic Japanese. She told us that foster dad knew basic English, too; they had two daughters and three grandchildren.
After the short orientation, we went to their house to fetch our foster dad and went to a Japanese restaurant for dinner. The restaurant was loud and cool. It was a coincidence that the waitress in that place was a Filipina. She was the one who explained to them the kind of food we eat, since it was their first time to host Filipino students. They ordered different flavors of barbecue, steamed veggies and rice.
While enjoying the food, our foster mom noticed that we were having difficulty in sitting. She permitted us to sit in a normal way because even she didn’t like sitting in a Japanese way. We felt relaxed and continued eating. We observed that both Filipino and Japanese people love to chat while eating.
After dinner, we went home. We finally saw our room, and jackets that we could use because of the cold weather. Our room was big and cute. They allowed us to take a bath anytime we wanted, regardless of their culture. She also allowed us to use their family bathtub, where they put warm water for the whole family, because Japanese people practice conserving water all the time. We considered it a sign of acceptance, because it was strictly for the family.
The second day was smooth and interesting because they prepared a delicious breakfast, and we made sure to help wash the dishes. When we went out to shop, and it was one of the best experiences because gadgets were so cheap.
In the afternoon, their daughters, together with their children, came to see us. We met Emma-chan, a 3-year-old girl, and her 5-month-old baby brother Takun. We played with them, then went out again to buy food for dinner.
During dinner, their youngest daughter came with her 2-year-old son. He regularly played with us, from that night up to our last day with the Watanabe family. He ate a lot whenever he was with me, and really liked us. He didn’t want us to go. I could not forget his sweet voice when I bumped my head on the wall; he touched my head and asked me, “Neechan, daijobu?” He smiled and hugged us all the time. Our foster mom translated everything they said; they were very talkative, and even when we explained to them that we couldn’t understand Japanese, they would still talk with us.
Our foster mom washed our clothes before we went to Nihon Aerobics Center, where the farewell party was to take place. Rose and I wrote a thank you letter for them with our pictures and planned to surprise them with our little present, dried mangoes and pili tarts. We felt very sad during the last few hours with them. They were very kind to us. They bought us bread to eat before the party.
We thanked the whole Watanabe family for taking care of us. They told us to come back soon and stay with them longer. We exchanged contact numbers. They promised us that they would visit the Philippines soon to see us, which made us cry. Our foster mom cried, too, while hugging us tightly and saying she loved us, and that the family will definitely miss us. She said they would never forget us because we were very helpful and obedient daughters.
Even though we are far from each other now, I will do my best to see them again. I will offer our house when they come here to return the love and kindness they showed us. I will show them the beauty of our country, and continue to strengthen the relationship between Japan and the Philippines.