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Seattle native fills post at Okinawa City Gov’t Office

By: Kenny Ehman

Date Posted: 1999-09-18

Ezra Haggerty arrived in Okinawa in July, assuming the post of Okinawa City's new Coordinator for International Relations. A graduate of Indiana University, Haggerty majored in Japanese history before accepting the position at the Okinawa City Government Office. The bilingual 21 year old has also participated in a home-stay program in Kyoto and has attended Konan University as an exchange student in the past.

Haggerty is hoping to utilize both his knowledge and experiences in Japan to effectively continue to promote Okinawa City's international programs and events for its residents, while helping foreign residents with any concerns they may have while living here.

One project Haggerty is particularly looking forward to is the sister-city relationship between Okinawa City and Lakewood City in Washington. The program, initiated a few years ago, saw the first student exchange take place last year, when several students from Okinawa City went to Lakewood under the direction of Lisa Lawn, Haggerty's predecessor.

Haggerty, born and raised in Seattle, Washington, said that he would like to expand on the fine job Lawn did coordinating the study tour. "I definitely would like to help with the student exchanges," said Haggerty. "We hope to get some exchange students from Lakewood to come to Okinawa City."

Another event that will keep Haggerty busy over the next few months is Okinawa City's upcoming "International Carnival," scheduled to take place on October 30 and 31. The event involves many members of the foreign community living in Okinawa City, and Haggerty's office is currently looking for people interested in participating as performers, vendors, and musicians.

Looking ahead to next year's Group of Eight Summit, Haggerty already has a few plans to involve both foreign residents and local nationals together on specific volunteer activities. "One idea I have is to gather people from the Okinawan and international communities to beautify the streets," said Haggerty. "This could be one way to help get ready for the summit, while also promoting international friendships.”

Haggerty’s enthusiasm for his new posting effervescent, and his commitment to community work evident. "After the International Festival is finished,“ added Haggerty, “I also plan on starting a volunteer program to help with "Kodomo no Kuni" (Children's Land). I would like to help out by going down there and maybe mowing the lawn or cutting the shrubs. Through these cleanups I would like to unite the foreign community here on Okinawa."

Besides working on events and volunteer work, Haggerty's job keeps him busy with translations, preparing a monthly newsletter, and also helping out with anything related to international relations for Okinawa City. "The working conditions here are very good," said Haggerty. "Everyone is laid back and enjoys themselves as they work."

During his free time, Haggerty likes to hike and get involved in outdoor activities. “I used to spend a lot of time when I was in Kyoto and Kobe in the mountains," he said. "I am planning on getting out and exploring the island once I get settled in."

Although Haggerty majored in Japanese history, it was actually through Japanese comic books that he received his interest in the culture and language. "When I was in the eighth grade I was taking karate, but I didn't know anything about Japan. A friend of mine then got me into reading comic books from Japan, and I really liked them."

That initial introduction into the world of Japanese manga was also how Haggerty learned to read and write the language fluently. "I think it's the best way to learn Japanese. I believe that when you learn a foreign language, you should start with the basics."

From manga to government documents, Haggerty is bringing to his work the same positive and fun attitude he had when he first started reading comic books.

"I am really looking forward to my stay here. I also want everyone to know that I am here to help with any kind of advice or with any matters foreign residents may have here at the city office," he stated.

For more information about the International Carnival or volunteer cleanups, please call Ezra at 939-1212 ext. 2421.

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