AGU in America 2006

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Stay connected with Google Groups and an online reunion!

While it isn't always convenient to check 22 blogs for new posts, you can stay connected with your AGU in America classmates, mentors, and teachers through our Google Group. Sign up for the group at

Also, mark your calendars for our first AGU in America Online Text Chat Reunion, which will be held at Tapped In ( on Thursday, September 14, at 1 pm GMT (I think that's 10:00 pm Tokyo time). See you there!

Do you remember when I posted a picture of Black-eyed Susans, the Maryland state flower? Here's a picture I took of the Black-eyed Susans in my own front yard:

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Sweet Sorrow

Shakespeare wrote in Romeo and Juliet: "Parting is such sweet sorrow." Indeed, it was a sweet sorrow to see the group off at the airport on Wednesday, exactly two weeks (or a lifetime?) after they arrived. On August 2, we went there knowing only their names. Now, we knew their faces, their thoughts, their love of fun (and shopping), and much more. How sad we were to see them go!

Laura and Tim met the group at the Quality Inn and rode in the vans with them to the airport, where Ji Won, Kevin, and I went separately. We stood on a long, slow line to check the luggage in, and then Ji Won generously treated everyone in the group to coffee. We drank our coffee, talked, sang, took pictures, cried, and hugged until it was time for them to go through security. We five stood and waved as each AGUer, with Tatsuya Uchida bringing up the rear, passed through the security checkpoint and into the restricted area. We continued waving until we had lost sight of the very last person. Even then, we stood around and talked about what an amazing experience these two weeks had been for all of us. "It was the best part of my summer," Tim said, and I do not think anyone disagreed.

After we went with Kevin to the United Airlines counter, we went to the parking lot. Ji Won had his car, and I took Tim and Laura back to the Quality Inn. Then I went to MEI to finish some paperwork. It felt strange to walk on campus, knowing that "my kids" were gone. I kept imagining I was seeing them!

When I awoke this morning, I checked the ANA website and found that the plane had landed safely at Narita Airport. As I write this, it's about 1 p.m. on Thursday, so that means it is 2 a.m. on Friday in Japan. I imagine they are all sound asleep in their own beds.

Now that "AGU in America" is no longer in America, it seems appropriate to end the blog and to recommence with a new way of keeping the group united and in touch. I am going to investigate GoogleGroups and YahooGroups and will let everyone know how to register for an "AGU in America 2006" group. I hope that the students will continue to post to their blogs as a way to practice writing in English (including pictures and slideshows!). I still plan to add a few pictures or slideshows and perhaps a few links to the sights we saw, so I hope people will not stop checking the blog just yet! However, I think this particular blog should come to an end with this post. I have really enjoyed doing it!

PS I will set a date for our first intercontinental chat around the middle of September. Watch your email for details!

Farewell Ceremony

On Tuesday, the last day of the program, many of the students wrote very touching posts, saying how much they had learned and enjoyed themselves during the past two weeks. It made me very happy to read them, and sad too, of course, to think that the program was coming to an end.

In Kevin's class, they learned a song which he had written and set to the music of a popular Japanese song (What is the name of the song?). The song goes,

We came from Tokyo;
Our flight was long and slow,
But finally we arrived here in Maryland.
The weather was hot;
Go swimming we did not.
We didn't have enough time for that!

We had a lot of fun on trips to Washington.
We went to the top of the Washington Monument.
We saw memorials, but no Baltimore Orioles;
Then we went back to the Quality Inn.

We went to Mt. Vernon,
George Washington's home;
On the way back, we fell asleep on the boat.

We wrote a lot in our blogs
And talked about Sponge Bob.
We ate pasta in a Georgetown restaurant.
We went to the Fair;
We saw pig races there.
Some of us sang karaoke, too.

We ate lunch in the Student Union
And missed our Japanese food.
We saw the Prange Collection of publications.
We touched the turtle and saw free concerts.
All this we did in two weeks!

We took a tour of the Washington Post.
We used a coin laundry to wash all our clothes.

We came from Aoyama to U of Maryland.
We hope that we will come again.
It's never "goodbye";
It's always "see you soon."
So see you soon, see you soon.

The Farewell Ceremony took place in the afternoon in the Prince George's Room, in Stamp Union. We were late getting started because we couldn't get Kevin's and Ji Won's slideshows set up quickly enough. Of course, all the Japanese were on time and had to wait outside! I felt bad about that. But finally, at 2:30, we opened the doors and everyone came in. Marsha, Linda, Tatsuya, and I all said "a few words". Then we enjoyed the wonderful slideshows. As I watched, I remembered all the fun things we had done: the Mall, the memorials, the Washington Monument, the Old Post Office, the museums, the Washington Post, the family panel, the photo scavenger hunt on Diversity Day, the student panel, the Prange Collection, Annapolis, Mount Vernon, and the Fair. All passed before our eyes so quickly. In almost every picture, the students' smiling faces expressed their pleasure. It was a joy for me to watch. (Then there were the funny faces they made when they were fooling around, and the peaceful expressions they wore when they went to sleep on the metro or boat!) Kevin made a copy of his slideshows for everyone, and Ji Won is putting his on his website for us all to enjoy again and again. I enjoyed them so much that I completely forgot to award the certificates. Fortunately, Uchida-san reminded me!

After the slideshows, we had refreshments: a cake which no one saw because of the late start and the necessity of cutting it during the slideshows (but I took a picture of it!), cookies, fruit, coffee, and tea. Amy Wasserstrom and Eiko Sakaguchi from the Prange Collection were there, as well as Yukari, and Michael, Aleshia and Forrest from the student panel. The room was buzzing with English and Japanese conversation. And then the picture-taking started! We overstayed our time and no one wanted to leave until Ji Won finally took the microphone and enjoined the students to return to the Quality Inn "to have fun." And they did: they played basketball, and they went out for a final dinner at AppleBee's. And from the look of them the following morning at the airport, they must have stayed up very late packing their suitcases for the journey home.

Here are my pictures from the Farewell Ceremony:

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Kevin's class

Monday, August 14, 2006

County Fair

It was another beautiful day, although a little warmer, but with a beautiful fresh breeze.

This afternoon we took the group to the Montgomery County Agricultural Fair in Gaithersburg, Maryland (where I live). Unfortunately, it took us a really long time to get to the fair on the metro and bus. When we arrived at 5:00, most of the students were already pretty tired. Half of them needed to go back to the hotel at 7:30, but the other half ("the intrepids") went out for karaoke with the mentors!

We split into groups at the fair. Some of us watched the pig races (and some ducks, too). We saw the baby animals at "Old MacDonald's Farm", rabbits, cows, and horses.... We walked through the carnival, but nobody went on a ride; but Yuiko told me she took a pony ride!! Some people ate "fair food".

The Fair was swarming with people of all ages, shapes, sizes and ages. I hope the students used the opportunity to observe Americans!

Afterwards, Kevin escorted the tired ones back to the Green Line; Ji Won, Laura, and Tim took the intrepids for karaoke; and I walked down Chestnut Street to West Diamond, where my husband picked me up. The first thing I did when I got home was take a shower to wash off all the dust and dirt from the Fair!

Still, I enjoyed the Fair, as I always do.

AGU in America had more than just field trips...

We also had classes!

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Mount Vernon

Today, Sunday, was our field trip to Mount Vernon. It was another spectacular day, weather-wise: sunny and in the mid 80s with low humidity. :-) The day almost got off to a bad start because we nearly missed the boat (my fault! I misread the Dash About shuttle bus schedule), but to make a long story short, we didn't. The boat ride down the Potomac to Mount Vernon was very pretty, although the boat wasn't as nice as the one we took yesterday in Annapolis.

When we got to Mount Vernon everyone was hungry (it was after noon), so we first went to the new food court and had lunch. I had a black bean burger and a berry cup. Two of the girls split a gigantic hot dog. Someone else had pizza, and several had wraps. Then we got stuck in the gift shop, which was very big and had lots of interesting items. When we finally extricated ourselves from there, we went through George Washington's mansion. I don't think many of the students could understand the interpreters' explanations, but I think everyone enjoyed sitting out back looking at that spectacular river view afterwards! Laura, Kevin, Ji Won and several of the students amused themselves with Mad Libs.

On the boat trip back to Alexandria, almost everyone fell asleep.

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I felt sure they would want to return to College Park, but the entire group decided to stay on and explore Alexandria instead! I guess they had gotten their second wind. I left them to their explorations and went home to celebrate Vicki's 14th birthday.

Suddenly the end seems very near. Although it has been hectic, I am going to miss them when they leave! :-(

Saturday, August 12, 2006


On Saturday, we had our field trip to Annapolis, the capital of Maryland (and former capital of the U.S., for nine months!). We had chartered a bus, which picked everyone up at the Quality Inn in the morning. The driver was very nice and dropped us off right in front of the State House, where I discovered another turtle (Maryland Mosaic--see slide show above). We had a short guided tour of the State House. The guide spoke slowly and clearly, and I think the students understood her pretty well. I learned some things I didn't know, such as that the swirly round markings on the floor are actual fossils!

Afterwards, we walked down Cornhill Street to the dock, where we all bought tickets for the Severn River cruise at 12:30. After buying the tickets, we had time to grab something to eat. I got a very nice crabcake sandwich at a deli on Main Street. Not cheap, but tasty!

The cruise up the Severn was delightful. The weather was spectacular. Many of the students congregated outside in the front of the boat where we could enjoy the fresh breeze as we passed some pretty impressive mansions on the shoreline. Nobu and Eriko both got a chance to pilot the boat!!!

After the cruise, which lasted an hour and a half, we had another hour and a half to explore Annapolis or eat more. I got a delicious mango smoothie (Yum) and drank it while I visited the new Kunta Kinte-Alex Haley memorial.

Most of the students slept most of the way home, but when they arrived back at the QI, they headed right back out to Georgetown with Ji Won and Laura to shop some more. When it comes to shopping, they are indefatigable! I went home and cooked for two straight hours. It had been a long time since I had prepared any food!

A Visit to the Prange Collection

On Friday, we divided the students into two groups after lunch for a visit to the Gordon W. Prange Collection, "the most comprehensive collection in the world of print publications issued in Japan during the immediate post-World War II years, 1945-1949." Professor Prange, a UM professor who served as General MacArthur's chief of historical staff, arranged for copies of newspapers, books, magazines, photographs, posters, and maps published in Japan during the occupation to be archived at UM. The collection is unique in the world, and Japanese scholars often come to College Park to conduct research there.

Eiko Sakaguchi, the curator of the collection, and Amy Wasserstrom, the manager of the collection, were kind enough to give us two hours of their time. The students saw a video and were conducted through the stacks, where they marveled over 50-year-old manga, children's books, movie magazines and other items. Dr. Sakaguchi also spoke to the students in small groups. Laura worked for the Collection up to the day before AGU in America began, so she met us there, and Ji Won and Tim also joined us later. Professor Uchida and Yukari F. rounded out our group. It was a very special experience!

After a walk over to the Robert H. Smith School of Business (the B-School) looking for some more of the Fifty Nifty Turtles, I left the group with the mentors to take a short rest before they set out to take Georgetown by storm. They are great shoppers!

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Education Day

Last night, seven of the students went to Wheaton for karaoke with Laura, Ji Won, and a couple of Ji Won's friends, after dinner at Ben's Chili Bowl. They must have gotten home quite late, but they were all in their seats at 9:00 sharp this morning. What a super group! :-)

This afternoon's special activity was a panel discussion on student life in the U.S. and at Maryland in particular. I had a really difficult time finding panelists for this because so few students are around now, but in the end the six panelists who volunteered to come were terrific. They spoke about choosing and applying to schools, choosing a major, living on campus, campus clubs and other opportunities, working on campus, sports on campus, campus social life, academic requirements, and international student perspectives (Yukari F. talked about her experience as a Japanese graduate student here.). Some of the group did not understand very much, but that was to be expected as their listening comprehension is quite low, and one week is certainly not enough to change that very significantly!

After the panelists had all had their say, we served juice and cookies and it turned into a party! Besides the 5 native English speaking panelists, Kevin and the three mentors all came, so the ratio of Japanese speakers to English speakers was almost 2:1, and I was thrilled to see most of the students smiling and talking with the Americans. They seemed to be having a wonderful time, and instead of going until 3 as expected, the fun went on until almost 3:30!

Good news: after weeks of uncertainty, the State Department has confirmed a speaker for us! Veteran Foreign Service officer Peter Kovach will speak to the group about U.S. diplomacy by way of a videoconference on Monday morning. :-)

And...I ordered our tickets for the Montgomery County Agricultural Fair today! I made two posters from newspaper clippings about the Fair, but I couldn't really describe it well. It's something you just have to see!

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Diversity Day

This morning I showed you how to create a photo album using Bubbleshare and to add it to your blogs. I hope that when you return to Japan, you will make some albums from all the photos you are taking and post them so that I can see them! If you do that, please send me an email (or post a comment on the main blog, which amounts to the same thing) to alert me so that I will check your blog.

Kevin and I took most of the group to lunch at the Dairy today. I had a veggie wrap, which was good. Everyone had UM ice cream (yum!). I had Final Exam Cram (cappucino ice cream), but I wish I had had coffee chip instead. I like the Dairy!

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In the afternoon, we had our field trip to Chinatown, Adams-Morgan, and Shaw/U Street, three multi-cultural DC neighborhoods. We got a late start, but we finally got on the metro at about 2:30. At the Gallery Place-Chinatown metro station, we split into three groups for the Photo Scavenger Hunt. We had 40 minutes in Chinatown, and my group found everything except a Chinese street sign and a liquor store.

Then we got back on the metro and went to Columbia Heights. From there, we had a fairly long walk down Columbia Road to Adams-Morgan. When we arrived at 18th Street and Columbia Road, everyone was tired and hot, so we went to Tryst, an unusual coffee house, to have coffee or tea and rest a bit before continuing. I was very thirsty, so I really enjoyed my ice-cold blended capuccino! Afterwards I went out with Eriko and Rikko and we managed to collect a lot of the photos for Adams-Morgan, but I am not sure the other 2 groups took any pictures there (they were enjoying the rest too much!).

After that, we walked to U Street, which was another long walk. We didn't arrive at our meeting place, Cafe Nema, until 7 p.m.! At that point, most of the group was too tired to continue, so Tim escorted them back to College Park. Ji Won and Laura stayed to have dinner with about 6 students at Ben's Chili Bowl, and Kevin and I went home. I got home at 8:00! It's now 11:00 and I am going to bed!

Lone picture from the U Street/Shaw Photo Scavenger Hunt: A Civil War Memorial

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

American Family Day

Today, August 8, was American Family Day. We all gathered in the multimedia center and the AGU in America team showed pictures and talked about their families. The group got to hear about families of different backgrounds, religions, and styles. Laura and Ji Won's families immigrated more recently than Nina, Kevin, and Tim's families, retaining more of their original culture. Nina's family is characterized by a lot of "mixed" marriages: interfaith, inter-racial, and intercultural. Nina's and Tim's families are very spread out, with different people living in different states, and half of Ji Won's family still lives in Korea. Kevin's family is really small, without a large extended family like Nina's or Laura's. Ji Won has a lot of close friends that he considers to be like family.

The students wanted to know if our families ate together (some of us), who pays for a wedding (it varies, but traditionally it's the bride's family), and whether our parents both worked outside of the home. We also had many questions for them about Japanese families.

Afterwards, everyone except me went to Pentagon City Mall to "shop till they drop"! What did you think of the mall? Did you buy anything? Where did you eat?

Media Day

On Monday, August 7, AGU in America had a half-day field trip to Washington, D.C. It was another hot day, although not as bad as last week. We met at the College Park Metro Station at 1:15. As usual, everyone in the group was on time (only Tim and Ji Won were late!). Professor Uchida accompanied us.

We changed to the Red Line at Fort Totten. The air-conditioning in the metro car was not working very well, and by the time we arrived at our destination (Farragut North), everyone was very hot. Some of the group went to Caribou Coffee to cool off, and the others went to the National Geographic Museum at 17th and M Streets N.W. It was wonderfully cool inside, and they gave everybody a nice paper fan. We saw the crusader castle exhibit and the soccer photographs. It was so hot that nobody wanted to go outside to look at the pictures by Reza around the exterior of the building, but several people did some shopping in the small store!

At 2:45, we all met and walked to 1150 15th St. N.W., where the headquarters of the Washington Post are located. Our guide, Carrie, showed us a short movie about the Post, its history, and how it is produced. Kevin showed this movie in class this morning, too! After that, we visited the immense News Room and learned about the different sections of the newspaper and what they contain, e.g., the A (front) section, Metro, Style, Sports, Business, etc. It was pretty interesting, and several AGUers asked good questions. I think some of them are gaining confidence in their English. :-)

At 4:00, I went home, but the group stayed in DC to explore the downtown area around Lafayette Square. They got back to College Park at 7 p.m., too exhausted to watch All the President's Men, a movie about the Watergate scandal of the 1970s, in which the Post played an important role.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Memorials and a Monument

Today, Saturday August 5, we had our first major field trip, to the National Mall in Washington, D.C. We met in the hotel lobby, walked to the metro station, and took the metro to Foggy Bottom, where George Washington University is located. It was quite a long walk from the metro station to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, our first destination. After visiting the Wall, the Three Servicemen Statue, and the Vietnam Women's Memorial, we went next to the Lincoln Memorial. There were so many steps up to the top, but everybody made it. The weather was sunny and clear, hot in the sun but not too humid, with a nice breeze, and the views of the Mall were great. Everyone took lots of pictures. Then wewent to the Korean Veterans Memorial, and by the time we had seen that it was noon and everyone was tired and hungry, so I decided to skip the FDR and Jefferson Memorials, and we went directly to the Old Post Office Pavilion for lunch, visiting the World War II Memorial on our way. It was a pretty long walk to Pennsylvania Avenue and 12th Street, but I think it was worth the trek. The OPOP had a great food court, live music (jazz again!) and some stores to browse in. We stayed there about two hours, eating and resting in the air-conditioning. The only unfortunate thing was that we couldn't visit the tower because the elevator power was out. :-( Ji Won entertained everyone with card tricks.

At 2:45, we walked back to the Mall to await our turn at the Washington Monument. We had tickets for 3:30. When I decided to go there, back in May, I assumed that it would be hazy, hot, and humid, and that the visibility would be poor, but the weather was perfect: it was so clear that we could see 35 miles from the top of the Monument!

After we came down again, the majority of the students opted to go back to College Park and relax, but three intrepid young women (Miki, Mimaki, and Eriko) chose to visit the National Museum of American History instead! I sent the mentors home with the rest of the group, and together we four saw several very interesting exhibits. After that, we took the metro back to College Park. We were really tired!

Here is a sampling of pictures from our trip, courtesy of Ji Won Moon:

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Jazz in the Garden

On Friday, August 4, our first optional activity was a trip to Washington, DC to the National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden, where there was a free jazz concert. The students had their first ride on the metro and got their first view of Washington, DC. They saw the Navy Memorial, the National Archives, the NGA and Hirshhorn Museum Sculpture Gardens, and the National Mall.

AGUers Join the Blogosphere

On Friday, August 4, all twenty AGUers created their first English language blogs! (For most of them, it was their first blog in any language.) After creating their blogs, they began to work on their first post, describing their trip here (the salient details for many were the 14-hour duration of the flight from Japan and the pleasure of watching lots of movies). Most of the students succeeded in publishing at least a short post on their first day as bloggers. :-) Links to their blogs are in the sidebar; as of this writing, 14 of the links are functioning properly.

Later, almost everybody went to the National Gallery Sculpture Garden for live jazz and art. It was a beautiful evening, a little cooler than the past few days (when the temperatures reached 100 degrees). They also visited the Hirshhorn Museum Sculpture Garden and got their first look at the National Mall.

First day in class

Everyone was on time for class on Thursday, August 3. AGU Dean Tsuchiyama joined Marsha Sprague (Director of MEI), Linda Sahin (Assistant Director of MEI and AGU in America Program Director) and the AGU in America team to welcome the group to MEI and the University of Maryland.

First Dinner in America

Some of the group went to Noodles and Co. for penne on Wednesday evening.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006


When I woke up this morning, I immediately turned on my computer and checked ANA's website, only to find that Flight 2 would be four hours late! I called Kevin and the mentors and set a new meeting time, but I couldn't go back to sleep.

Ji Won, Laura, and Tim met me at MEI at 1:15 and I drove them to the airport, where Kevin met us. The plane came in at 2:44 p.m. and about an hour later, a group of very tired-looking students and one professor emerged from the International Arrivals room. Everyone looked pretty happy to be off that airplane and at their destination at last! But we still had to get people into the Blue Vans for the long drive to College Park. We all got to the Quality Inn at about 5:30. We got the group checked in, handed out keys, folders, and hospitality bags, and helped them find their rooms. I hope they will get a good night's rest, but it can be hard to sleep when your body thinks it's daytime.

After four months of planning, I can't believe the group is finally here and the program is starting tomorrow! :-)

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