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Young boys build memories through 4-H exchange program PDF Print E-mail
Written by Kyle Arnoldy   

Life can be scary in an unfamiliar place, surrounded by unfamiliar people who speak a foreign language, but 13-year-old Nobuteru Aoyama excitedly enters the unknown with a smile during his three-week stay in Holyoke as part of the 4-H International Exchange Program.

Aoyama hails from Nagoya Aichi, Japan, a place much different than Holyoke. With a population that exceeds 2 million, the city is Japan’s fourth most populous urban area.

While in Holyoke, Aoyama will be staying with the Le-Blanc family.

Erin LeBlanc said she decided to take part in the program because she thought it would be something new and exciting for her son Cole.

“I thought Cole would think it would be a fun experience because he is an only child. We like to do a lot of cultural things,” explained Erin. “We have done a lot of traveling and been to Europe a few times. We like to experience new things and I thought it would be fun to have someone come here to us.”

Aoyama is an only child as well and both children said their time together has been a positive experience as they have someone their own age around to talk and spend time with.

While Aoyama’s English is still rough, the language barrier did little to deter Aoyama from forming an immediate bond with 12-year-old Cole. The two have overcome their shyness and found common ground with sports and humor as they make the most of Aoyama’s short stay, filling their days riding bikes, playing tennis and watching other sports on television. Erin said both boys had a good laugh watching reality game shows as well.

Nobuteru Aoyama, pictured at left, and Cole LeBlanc haven’t let the fact that they speak two entirely different languages stop them from laughing and enjoying their time together as Aoyama visits Holyoke as part of the 4-H International Exchange Program.­­  —Enterprise photo

The exchange program acts to promote greater global cooperation and mutual understanding while exposing youth to the daily lives of people from another country.

Since his arrival on July 25, Aoyama has been lucky enough to take in some of the most exciting attractions in the area. While in Holyoke, Aoyama attended the Phillips County Fair, participated in the Family Farm Olympics relays, competed in the pedal pull and watched the races at Phillips County Raceway.

He also made the trip to Denver to go to the Elitch Gardens amusement park, the Downtown Aquarium and to go shopping. Before he leaves he will also attend the Sterling fair to see some rodeo events and to watch the demolition derby.

While the local cuisine hasn’t held up to his favorite dishes from Japan and mac and cheese is no substitute for sushi, Aoyama says he is not homesick and is having a good time.

When Aug. 18 arrives and Aoyama will be on his way back home, Erin hopes the two will be able to stay in touch through the Internet. As a sophomore in high school, Erin began writing to a pen pal in England. To this day, the two are still friends, and Erin is hopeful the two young boys are building a friendship that can survive the test of time and thousands of miles between them.

The two may not always understand each other but have shared many laughs with each other during their first week together.

Holyoke Enterprise August 8, 2013