Our Japanese student, was only here for a week, so she only had a few days to learn about the US. We decided that one way to show her what life was like for a teens here was to introduce her to the two party system.
The Birthday Party
Tuesday was my daughter's 13th birthday. One of her friends (who is also a boy, but not to be confused with a boyfriend, no hand-holding in the halls or anything), was concerned that what I was doing with the exchange students would overshadow the celebration. After all, you only officially become a teenager once. (Although in my daughter's case you can act like a teenager for years beforehand, but that's another post.) This friend decided to organize a surprise party. Our Japanese student, her sister, and four other Japanese students who were staying with my daughter's friends came to the party.
I'm sure there were some moments where the Japanese students thought the American kids were crazy. For example, to make sure my daughter was surprised, twenty of her closest friends, including the exchange students, crammed themselves into a corner behind our bar. And waited. They were there for a good twenty minutes before my daughter came home. The surprise was worth it. My daughter had no idea so she screamed and laughed and made a good scene.
During the birthday party, we introduced the exchange students to some classic American party traditions, (or maybe they're just traditions that my daughter's friends came up with). The first was sucking the helium out of the party balloons and talking like Mickey Mouse. The second was, after the traditional "Happy Birthday," blow out the candles thing, you shove the birthday girl's face into the cake. (Aren't best friends great?)
After all the party guests (and the walls and chairs and floors), were cleaned up we moved onto party games. It took a little bi-lingual explaining, but everyone got into the games. We played the ever popular middle school game where one person is blindfolded and they have to guess whose lap they're sitting on by asking the person to oink like a pig. Based on the laughter and red faces this game was embarrassing and entertaining for guests from both countries. Eventually the Japanese students taught us one of their own games. They all sat in a circle on the floor and played a game with flat marbles. It was kind of a mix between marbles and finger pool.
The Pajama Party
The second traditional American party that our exchange student got to experience was a pajama party, or sleep over. The seven girls, including three Japanese students, watched movies, had a pillow fight, and stayed up late talking and laughing. (At 2:00 am, I was wishing the language issue was a little more of a barrier.)
The next morning, we had sausage, pancakes and Japanese egg cakes, (Tamagoyaki). The recipe, written and illustrated by my exchange student, Haru, is below.
Experiencing the two parties with my kids and with my adopted-from-Japan-for-the-week-kids made me even more aware of how much the same teens are, and how easily cultural differences are forgotten in the midst of just having fun.