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Aleisha Emanuel – Blenheim Girls High School
Attended 2008 Program

Dear Labo,

Thank you so much for giving me the most amazing time of my life.
I attended the Labo exchange programme to Japan that I had been looking
forward to for years!

The first time I met my host family, they welcomed me straight away and
made me feel like part of their family, like the older sister. I was
nervous at first but as I got to know my host sisters, I realised that
we had so much in common!
My two host sisters, Yuka and Chise, took on the task of introducing me
to all their high school friends. Whenever I greeted them in Japanese
they would always get so excited and say "Kawaii!". I never understood
why it was so cute, I'm sure my Japanese was horrible!

As me and my sisters were exploring the streets of Yokohama I noticed
so many differences between New Zealand and Japan. For example, I kept
seeing cyclists go by, without wearing helmets! Not to mention every
200 metres there were vending machines with an assortment of hot
drinks, cold drinks, umbrellas, flowers and everything imaginable.
Whenever I went on an escalator, you always had to stand to the left,
in case someone wanted to climb up. Every store I went to had little
money trays that you put your money into when you purchased something
too!

After a couple of days in Japan I already felt at home! I was invited
to go to Yuka's school, which I got to do maths and science, which were
hard enough in English let alone Japanese!

Then there was the Labo winter camp I had been waiting for ages! A 5-6
hour bus trip to Nagano was full of stories from the Japanese and New
Zealand students alike. The winter camp was so much fun! I made so many
friends who I still E-mail and I learnt heaps of Japanese at the camp.
During the camp I participated in many activities like singing and
dancing, doing chores and learning about the Japanese way of life. It
really was an amazing experience, there's no other way to put it.

It seemed like time was flying way too fast, as it was New Years Eve
already! My host family took me out shopping on the 1st day of
December, and my host father helped me buy a Kimono! I was shocked when
he offered to pay for it all; it was such a kind gesture!
On New Year’s Day we visited each of my host's mum and dad's parents. I
learnt that it was a tradition to give the children of the family
little envelopes with some money in it, on New Year’s. So after
visiting all these families, I had accumulated a little stack of
brightly coloured envelopes!

During New Year’s my host family took me to a shrine, where there were
literally thousands of people queuing up to pray at the shrine. When it
was my turn I had to clap twice and throw a coin in, then make a wish.
Decked out in my Kimono I really felt – and looked – the part! It was
so cool!

Time was going way too fast and before I knew it I was packing up ready
to go back to New Zealand. I really didn't want to leave! Labo had
given me the greatest time of my life! I loved their winter camp and
the whole Japan experience. I had made so many new friends and learnt
more Japanese in 3 weeks than I had learnt in 7 years in a classroom.

It was truly the best experience of my life, thank you so much Labo!

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