DMPS, Japanese Students Learn of Des Moines’ Immigration, Diversity
Around the world in eighty minutes. Okay, maybe not quite that far or that fast, but there was a whirlwind tour on a fairly global scale on Tuesday guided by DMPS students for the benefit of guests all the way from Yamanashi, Japan. Without even leaving the metro area they took a magnifying glass to the topic of immigration by visiting a wide range of sites that together comprised a cross-section of world cultures.
After meeting first thing in the morning at Central Campus and touring the facilities there, 15 students from Yamanashi, Japan boarded a school bus with DMPS students who are studying Japanese and headed for a Sikh temple in Johnston. From there it was off to Merle Hay Mall to shop. Next stop[s]: the 100-acre Tai Dam village fashioned out of what used to be a junkyard on the Northside by refugees from Southeast Asia who first began resettling here in the mid-1970s and the Italian Culture Center on the Southside.
Dr. Sachiko Murphy teaches Japanese at Central Academy. She arrived in Des Moines in 1985 as an exchange teacher and was to be here for one year. But she never left and in 1999 established an exchange program of her own that has shuttled students back and forth between her homeland and her adopted country ever since. She is an educational and cultural force to be reckoned with.
This year’s delegation from Yamanashi is here for five days and a focus of their trip is immigration. Their home culture is not nearly as diverse as the one here. Imagine traveling all the way from Japan to Des Moines, Iowa, USA to visit a Sikh temple in an American suburb.
“While they are here we want to show them some examples of old immigration (the Italian-American community) and new immigration (the Sikh temple was built just three years ago),” Murphy said.
The Japanese students are staying in homes of their American counterparts so they will get some side excursions off the beaten path of their official itinerary. For instance, DMPS junior Stephen Toothman is hosting Fumiya Ishikawa. Wednesday is Fumiya’s 16th birthday and while he’s here Stephen plans to take him to Jordan Creek for some cross-cultural browsing and to Goodson’s in Beaverdale for pizza.
Where food’s concerned, the visitors can count on plenty to eat while they’re here. Their invitation to the Sikh temple Tuesday morning included lunch after a primer presentation on the history and tenets of the Sikh religion which is really, according to host and presenter Ratwinder Gill, nothing more than a simple way of life. Downstairs in the temple’s community kitchen the international entourage of teens was served in a style that resembled an American school cafeteria except the food came to the lines instead of the other way around. The students formed two long lines facing each other seated on the floor in stocking feet with heads covered in keeping with Sikh custom. Everyone held an empty, institutional tray. Members of the temple, which serves between 40-50 families according to Gill, passed between them filling the trays with chickpeas, rice, salad and a kind of tortilla.
After lunch it was back on the bus for the improbably short ride from India to first Viet Nam and later Italy, all of it right on schedule right here in the cultural and educational crossroads of Greater Des Moines.