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Marines share Halloween details with Okinawans

Date Posted: 2004-10-28

CHATAN, OKINAWA, Japan — Twenty-three Marines from 3rd Transportation Support Battalion, 3rd Force Service Support Group, taught Halloween-related English words to Okinawan students from Hamagawa Elementary School, located near Gate 1 of Kadena Air Base, Oct. 15 as part of the battalion’s monthly community volunteer program.

Surprisingly, the grade school students also taught the Marines a little of their culture and language in the spirit of fun.

The Marines began by introducing the students to English Halloween words associated with the upcoming observance in addition to Halloween traditions and safety rules for trick-or-treating.

The Marines taught the students how to trick-or-treat, a foreign concept to many of the students, and later passed out candy to the children who presented a Halloween card and said, “trick or treat!”

The topic of Halloween was chosen because it is the upcoming holiday, according to the school’s English volunteer coordinator, Asako Nagahama.

“Japanese students are so shy, and it is hard to get them to take part in (unfamiliar activities),” Nagahama said. “Bringing this topic to them makes them more comfortable with Americans because they’re having fun and playing games.”

The English teaching program is a great experience for everyone, according to Lance Cpl. Alaina J. Thorton, a motor transportation operator with 3rd TSB.

“It was very exciting teaching the students about Halloween, and they understood it well,” Thorton said. “They were introduced to it before and were very eager to learn more, which made it easier for the volunteers.”

In addition to teaching the students English, the Marine volunteers practiced Japanese calligraphy with the fourth-grade students.

Small groups of students huddled around each of the Marines and watched closely and laughed as the Marines, who were squatting on the floor, practiced writing a Japanese word in calligraphy. Some students offered assistance by showing the Marines how to manipulate the brush correctly.

Private first class Sonnya I. Sorensen, a motor transportation operator with 3rd TSB, enjoyed the experience.

“I thought we would be playing with them,” Sorensen said. “I ended up learning instead. The children were very friendly, and I learned how to write my name in Japanese. I would definitely volunteer again.”

Michael Hertz, the assistant language teacher at Hamagawa Elementary School, aided the volunteers by using his familiar face to put the children at ease with the topics the Marines presented.

Hertz dressed up in a Halloween costume and accompanied the volunteers to the classrooms. He gave a monstrous roar and charged into classrooms and chased students around their desks and out into the hallway. The students cheered with excitement when Hertz finally allowed the students to unmask him.

It was a good way to get the children really excited about Halloween, Hertz added.

Eight-year-old Minami Morita, a second-grade student at Hamagawa Elementary School, said it was fun to have the volunteers come and teach her classmates about Halloween.

“The fun part was the trick or treat game,” Morita said. “I learned that saying, ‘trick or treat!’ gets you candy.”

The volunteer program is more than just an opportunity for Marines to teach, according to Hertz.

“I love the English volunteer program,” Hertz said. “This gives Americans a great opportunity while living on Okinawa, not only to share their knowledge but also to experience and learn about a new culture from the (Okinawans).”

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