Teens see both foreign and familiar in Japan

NEIGHBORS

July 17, 2002|By Heather Tepe | Heather Tepe,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

TWO MEMBERS of Atholton High School's Japan Club have returned from a trip to Japan, where they learned about that country's culture and its citizens' fascination with all things American.

Theodore Meyer, 19, and Brendan Mortimer, 18, graduated from Atholton this year. Although the school does not offer a course in the Japanese language, it participates in a sister-school program with Kamakura High School and sponsors the Japan Club to expose students to Japanese culture.

But not being able to communicate in Japanese didn't spoil their trip because "the Japanese were eager to try their English on us," Meyer said.

On June 15, Meyer and Mortimer joined a group from Walkersville High School, near Frederick, to explore some of Japan's tourist attractions and enjoy the hospitality of their host families for two weeks.

"Since there were so few students from Atholton, we had two host families each," Meyer said.

During their stay, the young men toured Kamakura, Tokyo, Kyoto, Hiroshima and Yokohama. Both said they were impressed with the Japanese emphasis on technology.

"They were technologically more advanced than us," Mortimer said. "They had a lot of gadgets. Everything was digital -- from the dishwashers to the phones to the toilets."

Mortimer said that his host family's bathroom contained a toilet with multiple buttons, controlling functions such as a seat warmer and a bidet.

"I avoided touching the buttons for fear of injuring myself," Mortimer said.

Meyer said, "The highlight of the trip for me was getting to see all the electronics and games that won't be available in America for some time."

On a more sobering leg of their trip, Meyer and Mortimer visited Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park.

"They have a sculpture standing at about where ground zero was when we dropped the bomb," Meyer said. "The lasting impression I got from visiting the memorial was that that sort of thing should never happen again -- using nuclear weapons for mass destruction."

"It was very striking and sad," added Mortimer.

Their tour included trips to Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines. "At one of the Shinto shrines, there was a place you could drive your car in and get it blessed to protect you from accidents," Meyer said.

Mortimer said that he was surprised to find domesticated deer wandering around some of the temples he visited. "They were like pigeons, walking around begging for food," he said.

Despite the cultural differences, the Atholton graduates were surprised by the similarities they found during their trip.

"They really like American stuff," Meyer said. "They have their own Disney World and they have a store that only sells stuff from the Peanuts comic strip. I even heard Eminem's new CD while I was walking through one of their malls."

While both hope to return to Japan, their immediate plans involve college. Mortimer will attend Bowdoin College in Maine this fall to study political science. Meyer will attend the University of Maryland, Baltimore County to study computer engineering.

`The Pajama Game'

Slayton House Conservatory Camp will present two performances of The Pajama Game tomorrow and Friday in Slayton House Theatre in Wilde Lake Village Center. Performances are to begin at 7 p.m.

Since June 24, thespians ages 11 to 15 have been rehearsing the musical under the direction of Debbie Buonaccorsi and AK Brink. Aaron Broderick is musical director for the production.

"It's more intense than a typical camp experience," Buonaccorsi said. "They have to be pretty serious about theater to want to do this."

The cast has 30 members. The lead roles are played by Larry Konrower, Catherine Stevens, Dustin Merrell, Rachel Frederick, Chris Adams and Ilana Burger.

Tickets cost $5 and are available at Slayton House.

Information: 410-730-3987

Picnic at Grassroots

Last week, Amerix Corp. employees sponsored a family picnic -- including a barbecue, face-painting, games and a Moon Bounce -- for residents of Grassroots Crisis Intervention Center's homeless shelter.

Grassroots provides crisis counseling and emergency shelter for homeless individuals and families, and the center operates a suicide-prevention hot line 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Amerix Corp. provides processing and technology support to nonprofit consumer credit-counseling agencies. This year, the company launched a Summer of Service program for its employees.

"We give people paid time off to participate in community service," said Mike Croxson, president of Amerix Corp. "We feel we have a responsibility to reach out and participate in the community. While we hope individuals will do that on their own, we want to demonstrate for other corporations that we have to reach out and share the blessings that we have."

Amerix employees who helped with the picnic at Grassroots include Lorraine McGainey, Lourdes Tirado, Annie Briscoe, Philip Faux, Desiree Cook, Danielle Unglesbee, Darnay Simms and Hyun Soo Park.

"The staff and the residents said it was the best event we've ever had," said Andrea Ingram, director of Grassroots. "I'm hoping that they might make this an annual event. They did a spectacular job."

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