Normal life of teenagers

I spent my free day with Rey, Hide, Skyy, and Raven. My free day was one of the best days in my life. You know how in those teenager movies the teens are just being teens – that is exactly how we were. I have never felt so free. We were joking around, doing dumb stuff teenagers do. Even though I was with Japanese teens they were just like me. I get when everybody says there is no diversity in Japan but each person is different. Rey is like an American. I can say Rey acts more American than me. Hide is just a funny guy. Hide is honestly one of the funniest people I have met in my life.

We spent the day in Korean town. Skyy and Raven have this obsession with K-pop. They bought everything in Korean town that had a K-pop idol face on it. You know how people have one of those crazy obsessions that’s kind of scary? Well, when it comes to K-pop, Raven and Skyy can be a little scary. After Korean town we went to karaoke. Everybody was singing whatever song that came on. When Hide starting singing a Japanese song, I was astonished. He sang so well. I didn’t expect him to be that good at singing. In that moment when he was singing I had a crazy girl crush on him. Skyy and Raven were singing k-pop songs while me and Rey sang the most American songs you could think of. I felt really free that day because of the bonds I had formed with such amazing people. I felt like I could just be myself.

Shawma Brown
Ballou SHS

Living with another culture

One thing that I regret while being on this trip is not being able to be fluent in Japanese. My home stay with the fisherman’s family was so fun. I wish I was fluent in Japanese because I could have had more conversations with my home stay parents. It was nice to get to know people who don’t even know English.

My host mother was very American to me because she wasn’t the type to hold back her opinion. I really liked that about her because it was like having a piece of home with me. My host mother’s cooking was out of this world. My mother will probably be mad at me for saying this, but my host mother’s cooking was the best thing I ever tasted. My host father was very different from my host mother. My host father was more of a storyteller. The job he worked required him to do a lot of traveling. He would tell us stories of the places he traveled to. I enjoyed his stories very much.

One day when I go back to Japan I will visit my host mother and father and tell them stories of my own.

Shawma Brown
Ballou SHS

Nature’s Faults

Friday morning we left the Ninja House and headed for Kesennuma. I felt sad leaving Tokyo, I was not too happy about going to a disaster affected area because I heard bad rumors. Going to Kesennuma changed my perspective a whole lot. When we drove through Kesennuma I was heavily shocked. I was shocked because of the fact that Kesennuma was a disaster affected area and it had a lot of natural beauty. It had beauty to the earth that I have never seen before.

During our first day in Kesennuma we were given a tour by Mr. Miura. He was a survivor of the Great East Japan Earthquake. Mr. Miura explained to us how high the tsunami was, which was 21 meters, or roughly around 75 feet. I can only swim in 6 ft. Trying to imagine swimming in 75 feet is scary. The thought of people trying to escape a height of 75 feet of water is scary. The thing that stuck with me that still lingers in my mind and heart is when Mr. Miura said his “heart has been victimized.” That statement right there left a great pain in my chest because I cannot compare. I feel powerless, but when Mr. Miura did the tour he was not sad. He was not sad to talk about a great devastation. He was not sad about talking about how he had been victimized.

Later on in the day we went to the Kakekashi House to hear young people around our age talk about their business and business ideas. The one business idea which was thought-provoking to me is Elly’s business idea. She talked about how she wanted to start a business from making bread that is grown natural to the earth. I think that is a very good idea because even when the tsunami was nature’s fault, people still want to contribute to society by using nature.

This taught me that even after a great devastation, people still smile and have joy in their hearts. The people of Kesennuma love nature and value it, even if it comes with faults.

Shawma Brown
Ballou SHS

MLK Reflections


We went to the Martin Luther King Jr Memorial. There are a lot of quotations which Martin Luther King Jr said. We have a lot of choice but I chose this one.

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.”

I like this sentence. It is because this is totally truth and makes me feel stay in positive. And this is most simple to understand. I think simple to understand is important and simple sentence has strong power. It is because we can understand it directly.


I found this quote really inspiring because it first started off with an obvious metaphor, that darkness with darkness is still in darkness and light is needed, so the same logic can be easily applied to a simple yet difficult answer. If one retaliates and fights back with hate, we would never be able to break the endless cycle of hatred. Only love can pull us all out of it. LOVE trumps hate.


“I oppose the war in Vietnam because I love America. I speak out against it not in anger but with anxiety and sorrow in my heart, and above all with a passionate desire to see our beloved country stand as a moral example of the world.”

This is my favourite quote because this quote tells us not only the importance of peace but the historical background on it. MLK joined the anti-Vietnam War movement, although his action was not accepted for other African Americans. I am proud of his bravery which gave us peace for today and tomorrow.

Bryson – Speech for Ordinary Freedom:

“We must concentrate not merely on the negative expulsion of war, but on the positive affirmation of peace.”

As a person who is fascinated (and horrified) by the circumstances of both World Wars, Martin Luther King Jr.’s quote from a speech in California in 1967 instantly caught my attention. There have been protestors during various wartimes who advocate against war, but I have felt as though something was always missing from their movements. Dr. King identified that for me in the second sentence of this quote; “We must concentrate not merely on the negative expulsion of war, but on the positive affirmation of peace.” Movements against violence and tyranny are inherently positive in my opinion, but I agree with Dr. King that those movements must also consist of an effort to improve human conditions as they protest the powers that worsen them.

When Shizumi Manale visited our class last Thursday, I was moved by her film about the Hiroshima Children’s Art Project. Her inclusion of the reaction that a reverend of All Souls Church had to an A-Bomb cake which was served at an American military dinner, after the Japanese surrendered in 1945, provoked sadness, anger, and disgust in my mind simultaneously. The movement by that same reverend, and the people of All Souls Church, to help the children impacted by the United States atomic bombing of Hiroshima was inspiring to me. Not only did the community at All Souls speak against the shameful practices of the United States armed forces, they took action to help the people who were the targets of those practices. In my opinion, that response to injustice is a successful application of Martin Luther King Jr’s quote on the successful stoppage of war.


“I have the audacity to believe that peoples everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies, education and culture for their minds, and dignity, equality, and freedom for their spirits.” Norway, 1964

I like this quote because we can see the background of American history. From the word “audacity,” we could see that they needed to be brave to express themselves in 1964, and what they expressed were ordinary things currently. I felt sad that they didn’t have their freedom; however, I’m also relieved that they expressed themselves.

Shawma – Question what is not Questioned

What makes a MAN? Who makes a MAN? Some people are born into this world living their lives without ever questioning anything. Then you have others who question everything that crosses their path. Martin Luther King was one of those people. He was born into a world where it is normal for a person to be judged by the color of their skin and not the content of their character. Martin Luther King was a MAN because it was not in the moments of comfort and convenience where he stood, it was at times of challenge and controversy where he questioned what was normal.

I question what is normal. Identified by the color of my skin. Why do people care what I am? They should care who I am.The term African American is used as a normal term to identify me, but I am not African. I am not African American. My father nor mother are African. My father is a Jamaica immigrant, my mother is half white and half black. I don’t and never will I understand why I am called African American. I have African ancestry in my blood but I also have European ancestry in my blood. Why do people pick the ancestry that defines me?

If an African immigrant immigrated to the US and becomes a US citizen does it make them African American? Africans who become US citizens are the true African Americans. When I speak out about this, people think I hate my skin color. This is not true. I love my skin but I will not be called something I am not. Why do we live in a society where it is ok for a job application to ask for my nationality? Why do you care about the color of my skin? Does the color of my skin determine whether I get the job or not? For me I like to be called black. Black is a term used for all people who have brown or dark skin. Black is not defined by where you come from; it’s defined by all people who have darker skin. Black is unity, but African American is division. I speak out and question the world because comfort and convenience do not lead me a step forward in the right direction. In times of challenge and controversy lead me in the right direction.


This quote stands out to me because it reminds me of the time in 6th grade, when I was struggling to make reliable friends. My family would tell me to find friends who would stick with me through thick and thin, not the ones that I can just have a stable conversation with. Now I compare the friends I have now to the “friends” I had then, and I think of a time I was sad at the lunch table, over a completely stupid reason, and everyone was worried about me, but the “friends” I had in the 6th grade would just brush off my depression. Advice like the ones in this MLK quote taught me the types of people I should surround myself with and the types of people I can trust.

News and business

We visited the Washington Post office headquarters and it was beyond fantastic. There at the Washington Post we met David Nakamura. Mr. Nakamura is a reporter who covers the President of the United States of America. I can’t believe I met someone who used to work under the previous President Obama. I always wanted to meet Obama so meeting someone who knows him was pretty awesome. I got to learn what Obama is like up close through another person.

I always thought of the news as a life source for mankind. We watch the news everyday regularly to see what’s going on in the world. I haven’t actually taken into account what the news prevents or stops. The news exposes the darkness going on that people don’t know about. It’s a way to inform people of what’s going on so they can be the light to do something about the darkness going on. The Washington Post is the newspaper responsible for exposing President Nixon. President Nixon was a part of the Watergate Scandal, which made him resign his presidency before his impeachment. In a way, the Washington Post is our super hero.

After visiting the Washington Post our next destination was the Toyota headquarters in Washington D.C. There at the Toyota office we met Robert Chiappetta. He talked to us about his life journey and how he ended up working for a Japanese company. I thought his introduction was pretty interesting because he couldn’t even point out where Japan was on the map, but after one exchange to Japan he knew he wanted to pursue a career dealing with Japan. After his introduction we had a job panel. The panelists were either Americans who had pursued jobs with Japan relations or Japanese who have pursued jobs with United States relations.

The most exciting part of the day for me was Free Minds Book Club and Writing Workshop represented by Mbachur Mbanga and Terrell Branham. Free Minds Book Club and Writing Workshop is a nonprofit organization that teaches poetry to juveniles. Terrell told us his story of how he was incarcerated and couldn’t go beyond the prison cell. He said he was so focused on going home that he didn’t pay attention to reality. I think that’s what happens when people go to jail. This workshop was so interesting to me because the juveniles cannot come to grips that they’re not outside anymore, their freedom has been taken away. To me a poem is like freedom but in words. I believe in some way they felt freedom through poetry, freedom of expressing the soul.

Shawma Brown
Ballou SHS

The excursion through life in a day

My simple everyday Washingtonian life had changed in one day just by seeing DC as an outsider. In the crack of dawn we got to meet at American Councils, which was represented by Benjamin Gaylord, and Mya Fisher of the US-Japan Council. Mya Fisher talked to us about what the TOMODACHI program is and how it was founded. I think it is very unique that the TOMODACHI program was founded after the 3/11 earthquake in Japan. It just makes me think about how dear Japan must be to the US. A devastation took place in Japan and the United States helped out even though they’re worlds apart.

It just makes you think about what is culture? For me I think culture shouldn’t be given a definition because to me culture is defined by what people or a group of people define it as. Mr. Gaylord made me realize that sometimes people only look at the top of the iceberg but not actually at what’s at the bottom. The bottom of the iceberg is the “why.” Why does this culture do this and that? I never really thought about the why. I only think about the who, what, when, and how. I guess this stood out to me because it was so profound. The why, I mean as an everyday Washingtonian, I never asked myself why does this culture do things differently from me.

The most interesting part of the excursion for me was the workshop we had with the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, represented by Fareed Mostoufi. He talked about how newspapers are not so common anymore and how people get most of their news from online. Allison Shelley, a freelance journalist, showed us how to tell a story through a picture. It’s so funny to me because every time I take pictures and not once did it cross my mind that a picture could tell a story.

The tour bus was the most unique part of the day. I guess I liked the looks on the Japanese students faces because you come to a place only expecting the top of the iceberg but today they got the bottom. The conversation we had was why did an American citizen make a rude gesture at one of the Japanese students while we were on the bus. The Japanese student had no idea that this action was offensive until we told him. The Japanese student asked why. This why question led to a much deeper conversation of understanding the bottom of the iceberg of American culture. This is the “why” Mr. Gaylord was talking about and the “why” we need to ask ourselves every day.

Shawma Brown
Ballou SHS

Shawma’s First Day

Ever since I found out about getting picked for the TOMODACHI program I have been in shock. I often think to myself, me, Shawma Brown is going to meet Japanese high school students and actually breathe the Japan air. At this exact moment I feel blessed. I get to meet people in the Tohoku region who lived through devastation. I get to meet people who represent the word strong. I think this experience is going to change me so much because I’m going to be able to learn how to give back and also see the world through another culture’s perspective. Seeing how they see things is like the biggest reason why I chose to apply for this experience. For me it’s like living a different life and becoming someone else.

Shawma Brown
Ballou SHS