Gresham middle schoolers will head to Ebetsu, Japan for a week-long exchange in February

OUTLOOK PHOTO: TERESA CARSON - The six students from Ebetsu, Japan introduced themselves to the students at Dexter McCarty Middle School at an assembly Mondy, Dec. 3. Six students from Japan attended classes this week at Dexter McCarty Middle School and stayed with the families of Dexter McCarty students, and six McCarty kids will soon head to Ebetsu, Japan for a week-long visit.

An international student swap, the Gresham-Ebetsu Middle School Exchange Program is part of the Gresham-Ebetsu sister city program, which started in 1977. Ebetsu is not so different from Gresham, with a population about 120,000 and located in the northern region of Japan called Hokkaido.

The exchange program is limited to middle schools in the Gresham-Barlow School District, and the district rotates the program among the five middle schools. The Gresham students must raise the money for their trip to Japan.

The experience for students is invaluable, said McCarty Principal John George.

"It exposes the students to a different culture. They don't get that opportunity often," George said.

The student exchange program started in 1995 with Ebetsu students coming to Oregon, and Gresham began sending students to Japan.

OUTLOOK PHOTO: TERESA CARSON - The Japanese students demonstrated a traditional dance performed on the holiday of Obon before asking Dexter McCarty students to join them in the dance. On Monday, Dec. 3, the four Japanese girls and two boys, wearing happi coats stood before the student body at a Dexter McCarty assembly. They introduced themselves and talked a little about Japanese culture. They performed a short dance traditionally done to celebrate the Japanese holiday of Obon and pulled a group of McCarty students up to gamely gave the dance a try.

The Dexter McCarty choir entertained and sang the 1960s Japanese-language chart topper "Ue o Muite Arukou," dubbed "Sukiyaki" for American audiences. The choir sang it in Japanese, English and Spanish.

Itsuko Obara, an Ebetsu English teacher, came along with the six Japanese students and taught classes at McCarty all week. She taught Shogi, or Japanese chess, and Furoshiki, the art of folding a square of fabric into a bag or backpack.

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