A sight to see | Living with Gleigh

We have had a Japanese exchange student staying with us for the past week. She’ll be here another four days. She attends high school with my oldest daughter during the week; so much of her time is taken up with school activities. In addition to her time being taken up with school, the high school’s Japanese Club also has events planned for the whole group. Although this particular exchange program is designed to show the students the culture of United States students, I still want to show her as much as possible outside of school.

I have not taken a foreigner on tour since I was in my early 20’s. And even then it was my Danish brother (I was on an exchange program to Denmark the summer of my junior year of high school) and his friend. They were travelling the US and so I just drove them around, like only 20 somethings can do, trying to cover ground, not looking at anything in particular; even going to Canada (remember the days when we didn’t need passports?).

It’s been an experience being 40 something and taking a teenager on tour. Knowing the Japanese Club had a planned excursion to Seattle, I tried to find things she would not see otherwise. We spent a day in Tacoma seeing the Washington State History Museum and the Glass Museum.

I had never been to the Glass Museum and learned that although it is David Chiluly’s museum, he didn’t have any of his works displayed there. However, there is the Bridge of Glass between the Washington History Museum and the Glass Museum filled with his glass work. Both Museums were a hit, although there are awkward parts in the History Museum.

There is a whole area dedicated to WWII. In that area a model of what the nuclear bomb the US dropped on Nagasaki is in there, as well as history of Japanese internment during those times. Then there is a section dedicated to the fishing industry and how a machine was made to replace the Chinese laborers. The museum also does not make a secret of our treatment of Native Americans in those early days of discovery either.

Fortunately, our student is not ignorant of history and was not offended. But as an American, I felt a sense of embarrassment to look through someone else’s eyes at our history.

There is also a lot to be proud of. Washington is rich with industries, many of which are still part of our economy: Logging, coal mining, fishing, Orchard farming. Ship building, airplane building.

Yesterday we headed out to the Museum of Flight. I’m not sure our student was particularly interested; I know my own children were bored. However, we did manage to rescue the excursion by putting the kids into the flight simulators. Our next plan of recovery was shopping; all teen girls like to shop and Bellevue Square was a hit.

At 6 p.m, I decided three hours of shopping was enough for anyone, so we headed home. Shopping is not something I particularly like to do and I was feeling discontented with the time we spent at the mall. Then we went by Lake Washington. Our exchange student got very excited about it, so we dropped down to Coulon Park in Renton and watched the sunset.

When we got home, we built a fire in our backyard firepit and showed her how to toast marshmallows and make s’mores. We marveled at the stars; which was another eye-opener for us. We are used to seeing stars on clear nights, our exchange student lives in the city and can’t see the stars. But she identified Mars, and the Big Dipper last night.

So although her time is limited with us, and she has been busy with school, we’ve tried to show her a good time. But wherever we’ve failed, our beautiful state has taken up the slack. Now if only Mt. Rainier would show itself; it has so far has remained elusive, but it would surely be a sight to see.


Gretchen Leigh is a stay-at-home mom who lives in Covington. She is committed to writing about the humor amidst the chaos of a family. You can read more of her writing and her daily blog on her website

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