• Phil

Sister City Exchange 2019


I suppose the last couple of weeks are as busy as it gets for the YIFA office, as we’ve just had a visiting delegation from our sister city of Clinton Township, Michigan. For me the whole experience has been exciting, nerve-wracking and full of new experiences. I’ve always felt a keen sense of responsibility in my previous jobs, but this time there was a huge reliance on me, particularly in terms of acting as interpreter.

Waiting at the airport on July 13th I was, to be honest, feeling a little nervous. Most of my worries centered around as to how demanding the delegates might be. I imagined a worst-case scenario whereby the visitors were not happy with anything and put a lot of pressure on us at YIFA. The reality was literally the polar opposite! All the pressure of the situation, and the hard work that we needed to do was made much, much easier by the kindness, the excitement and the openness of the group. Forgive me this huge generalization, but it occurred to me that the character of American people is more extroverted and open than Japanese or British people. In this case that character helped to ease everybody’s nerves, I think. The delegates’ joy and excitement at being in Japan (“We’re in Japan. Whoooo!”) was contagious!

We had been somewhat worried about jet-lag, and tiredness after the long flight. Though I’m sure the visitors didn’t feel 100% right away, they showed so much energy and joy to us from the first day to the last.

On that first day we took the bus back to the hotel and got everybody checked in. Gave them a pathetically short amount of time to get showered before heading out all together for something to eat. So, our YIFA staff and members (many of whom had waited at the hotel with a big banner to welcome the Americans), were standing around in the foyer at 7 p.m calling around trying to find a restaurant that could seat 15... Not an easy job, but a family restaurant a short drive away was eventually able to accommodate us. The meal was fun and a good chance to get to know each other a little bit over some food and drinks. I felt nice and relaxed on my way home after saying good night back at the hotel; I was still nervous about the hard work to come, but knowing that I was to spend that time with such a nice group of people was a relief.