Manitowoc sister city relationship changing lives, from education to marriage

































































































































































































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MANITOWOC, Wis. — A cultural connection spanning half way around the globe is changing lives on both sides of Manitowoc’s sister city relationship.

The last two months have been busy with activity as students from the two cities traded places. Four teens from Manitowoc spent 10 days in Kamogawa, Japan, returning Aug. 1 with a delegation of six teen girls from the sister city, HTF Media reported (http://htrne.ws/1u5cdB0 ).

“Where other sister cities exchange Christmas cards, these cities exchange people,” said Molly Dewane, a host and translator for the Japanese students visiting Manitowoc.

The student exchange was the 17th in the 20-year history of the sister city relationship — and following up with students from those initial exchanges reveals the true value of the relationship.

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Daniel Stuntz was 18 when he boarded the plane as a member of the first student delegation from Manitowoc to make the trip to Kamogawa. A recent high school graduate in 1995, Stuntz had taken two years of Japanese and had an interest in the culture and history of the country — but the exchange would excite a passion for teaching the language and steer his life in a new direction.

“It was the inaugural year of the student exchange program. That was 19 years ago,” Stuntz said. “I graduated from Lincoln High School and, a few months later, was going to Kamogawa for the first time.”

His trip coincided with the 50th anniversary of dropping the atomic bomb and, following his initial 10-day exchange and home-stay, the teen toured the country on his own to soak up the culture.

“I remember going out to the beach and getting really sunburned,” he laughed. “That and seeing all the cultural temples and shrines, and the people’s hospitality was amazing.”

A dinner with a Kamogawa family also holds special significance to Stuntz. A middle-aged couple and their young son hosted the Manitowoc delegation for dinner, but the couple’s teenage daughter was absent from the festivities due to school. Several years later while studying in Japan, Stuntz returned to Kamogawa during a visit by the Manitowoc Lakeshore Wind Ensemble in 1998 and was introduced to the daughter, Yukiko Takanashi, who eventually would become his wife.

“She was a senior in college and was the same age as me,” Stuntz said. “I had gone to their house in 1995. She was at school at the time, so I didn’t meet her, but I met her brother, her father and her mother.”

The couple settled down and started a family in Kamogawa in 2006. Stuntz, then with a master’s degree in Japanese pedagogy, taught English at a university in Kamogawa and later opened a private English language school in the city.

“I’ve been living in Kamogawa for seven years and visiting off and on for almost the last 20 years,” he said.

Stuntz is now pursuing his doctorate at the University of Queensland in Australia and continues to teach at the university in Kamogawa via online courses. Had it not been for the sister city relationship, Stuntz said his life would have been very different.

“I always tell people that I might be in Barcelona, Spain, right now doing something related to Spanish,” he laughs. “They probably wouldn’t have had Japanese in high school, so I probably would have taken Spanish. Who knows?”

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Andy Kaesermann was 15 when he first decided to join the student exchange with Kamogawa. He heard about the trip from his uncle and “had no idea what to expect,” he said. “Prior to that, the only experience I had in Japanese culture was the imports we have, such as Pokemon.”

Kaesermann said he was immediately captured by the hospitality of the city and the openness of the culture during his initial visit in 2009.






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    Source Article from http://www.startribune.com/nation/274197131.html
    Manitowoc sister city relationship changing lives, from education to marriage
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