Two friends--Jennifer Inslee and Yoshiko Suzuki--kept in touch for decades after meeting for a 4-H program in 1983 and now, the legacy continues with Suzuki's daughter, Maya, coming from Japan to stay with Inslee in Pratt for a month.
In the summer of 1983, Jennifer Inslee, a first-grade teacher at Southwest Elementary, hosted an international student from Japan with her family as part of a summer 4- H program.
The international student, Yoshiko Suzuki, stayed with Inslee for a couple weeks before returning to Japan, but the two had become good friends throughout their time together. They kept in contact for many years— sending small gifts of candy, photo albums, and small trinkets for Christmas every year.
After many years of keeping in touch, the two friends eventually lost contact until they recently reconnected on Facebook.
Now, Suzuki’s daughter, Maya, is following in her mother’s footsteps and will be staying with Inslee in Pratt for a month to become immersed in American culture and to improve her English-speaking skills.
“Maya’s mother and I were both 13 years old and my mom and dad had a 4-H program called the LABO program,” Inslee said. “A group of about seven or eight kids came over in the summer for about two weeks.”
Some of the American students who grew close to the Japanese international students back in 1983 have tried over the years to find their friends on Facebook with little success, so Inslee said she is lucky to have been able to reconnect with Yoshiko and is excited to be able to host her daughter.
At the age of 20, Suzuki is attending college in Tokyo to major in theater and dance but enjoys playing the drums in her free time.
Suzuki said she was most surprised by how young Americans are when they first start driving as well as how large portion sizes are in American restaurants for both food and drinks.
“When we went to get ice cream, Maya got one scoop and she told me, ‘in Japan, that’s two [scoops]’,” Inslee said. “So, we [Americans] oversize everything.”
Shortly after arriving in Pratt by herself on August 3, Suzuki made sushi for her host family to showcase a popular type of food in Japan, but she said some of her favorite American foods so far include biscuits and gravy, hamburgers and cheese.
“We’ve been trying to do a lot of things you wouldn’t really think about like fried chicken and barbecue,” Inslee said.
Things within American culture are often taken for granted by Americans since people are just used to having those things, Inslee said, but to someone who is not from America, it is a whole new experience.
“Pizza Hut in Japan is delivery-only, so we went in and had pizza inside and salad bar which was kind of neat for her,” Inslee said.
Inslee said she wants to help Suzuki experience as much as she possibly can while she is here. She plans to take Suzuki shopping, to a Royals game and to many different restaurants.
In the future, Inslee hopes to be able to travel to Japan to meet Yoshiko again since they have not seen each other in over 30 years, but until then she is enjoying introducing Maya to some of the same things that her mother experienced 35 years ago.