Rancho coed headed to Hashimoto
RPís Sister Cities Commission selects Emily Wood as 2013 student ambassador
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By Jud Snyder  July 18, 2013 10:39 am

The longest trip Emily Wood ever had was to Washington DC when she was in an Exploratory Learning program at Mountain Shadows Middle School. She went back there to attend an environmental seminar sponsored by George Mason University. 

Now, as an ambassador with the Rohnert Park Sister Cities program, she’ll be flying trans-Pacific to Hashimoto City, Japan, the end of July. It’s a longer trip.

Emily, 18 and a 2013 graduate of Rancho Cotate High School, will be going to UC Davis in September to major in environmental science with an emphasis on wildlife protection. At RCHS she garnered more than a few honors, including one of the four valedictorians of the senior class and a listing in the Top 20 students.

The Sister Cities Commission has had more than 30 years working with Hashimoto. The foreign exchange of student ambassadors began in 2003. For this year’s choice of a single student,  they had a dozen applications for the post, evenly divided between male and female RCHS candidates. 

When Emily arrives, she’ll be a guest in the home of Kouyuu Shizuka, 46, and his wife Kiyo. He is a Buddhist priest and part of their house is a Buddhist temple. They have hosted several student ambassadors from Rohnert Park in the past.

They have two sons, Masakusa, 16, and Naoki, 11. Masakusa, is a student at Wakayama Chiben High School and a member of the school’s varsity basketball team. Naoki is an elementary school student.

The connection here is Masakusa Shizuka is shimoto’s student ambassador with the Sister Cities program on the other side of the Pacific. 

Both teens will have a busy schedule in the 10 or so days they’ll be spending in the Shizuka household.

Emily’s been in touch with her soon-to-be host family via e-mail. 

“I’m taking an on-line course in conversational Japanese language and I hope my e-mails are at least understandable,” she smiled. “I know when I get to Hashimoto it will be total immersion in Japanese and, truthfully, I’m looking forward to this next step.” 

While Masakusa and Emily are over there, they’ll be visiting city dignitaries as well as visitors to the Buddhist temple in their host family’s home. She’s also an earnest camper and has made many backpacking trips to Yosemite and other California camping trails and sites. 

“I don’t know if we will have time for outdoor trips,” she said. “Judging from trips other student ambassadors have made, the Japanese host families like to present a genuine California teen to as many dignitaries and groups as they possibly can do in the short time we’ll be available. We, Masakusa and I, will do our best.”

Both student ambassadors will return in early August for more receptions and visits with dignitaries in Rohnert Park. Plans are already being made for them to attend the Aug. 13 RP City Council meeting and be introduced. 

There’ll be tours around town showing some of the city’s highlights to Masakusa for him to bring home later in August.

Emily’s parents are divorced, an amiable parting of the ways, for Emily spends time with both her parents and they have room for Masakusa as well in their households. 

With a busy schedule in RP, they’ll need time to catch up on their sleep.

“I’ve got to find time for my other pursuits,” she added. “I try to get at least 90 minutes of practicing the piano every day, and now I’m also involved in a kick-boxing program at Sonoma Mountain Village. Oh, there’s a horse I have available in a stable out near Petaluma Hill Road that’s a favorite of mine.”

Not much sense to ask Emily what she does in her spare time. She doesn’t seem to have any. “Oh, but I do have one advantage already – I love Japanese food.”

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