CORRECTION: The names of several people in an Etcetera item Wednesday were misspelled because of incorrect information submitted to the U-B. Host families for the upcoming Walla Walla-Sasayama Sister City Affiliation Committee visit here include Barry Blackman, Cynthia Reese and Rebecca Musick. We regret the errors.
Despite the devastating 9.0 earthquake and resulting tsunami that swept inland in northern Japan on March 11, a group of undeterred guests from Japan will visit here as scheduled, said Robert Keatts, chairman of the Walla Walla-Sasayama Sister City Affiliation Committee.
Members of the committees in both cities devote countless hours to planning for these visits.
Local folks will be at the Walla Walla Regional Airport when the Japanese students are slated to arrive at 2:05 p.m. Thursday via Horizon Air.
Members of Sasayama Rotary had planned to come, Robert said, but canceled because of issues in Japan. "A lot is going on, to say the least," Robert said.
A welcome ceremony will be at the airport, followed at 3:30 by a tree planting ceremony at Pioneer Park. The planting is a Walla Walla Rotary function and this group is encouraging the students and host families to attend.
The proclamation for Walla Walla-Sasayama Sister City Week will be read today at the Walla Walla City Council meeting, then read and presented to the Sasayama group at City Hall on Friday, Robert said.
Robert added that the city of Sasayama sent personnel, supplies such as water, blankets, body bags and equipment to Sendai as part of the relief/recovery effort. They have also made monetary donations to various charitable causes to help fellow countrymen.
"I have received messages almost daily -- 'Everything is fine' -- reassuring us that they are all safe in Sasayama and have no damage."
Sasayama is 650 miles south west of the epicenter, a two-hour bullet train ride from Osaka to Tokyo and it takes about 45 minutes by train from Sasayama to Osaka. It would be like traveling from Walla Walla to Salt Lake City, Robert said.
Walla Walla and Sasayama have been sister cities for 39 years. Since the sister city formation in 1972, numerous student and cultural exchanges have taken place. The most successful exchanges have been with high school students between the two cities, he said.
Since 1994, 150-plus high school students from Sasayama's high schools have visited Walla Walla for a cultural and home stay experience.
Many have maintained contact and friendships with their host families. During student visits to Walla Walla, they attend local schools, go to museums and cultural centers, learn about the history, social and economic makeup of the community, sightsee and explore the region as a group and individually with their host family.
Host families for the students and adults are Robert and Rachelle Tiberino, Laura Reiter, Todd and Tammy Smith, Jack Lenihan and Darcy Dauble, Byron and Maria Melling, JoAnn Cooke, Chris and Berry Blackman, Scott and Ann Jordan, Pat and Linda Lippincott, Dan and Cythia Reese, Kimberly Miner, Debbie Oswald, Bill and Becki Musick, Ron and Kyoko Plucker, Keith and Barbara Noel and Robert and Linnea Keatts. The Walla Walla-Sasayama Sister City Affiliation Committee is a non-profit organization that promotes betterment of social welfare for the community through friendship, cultural understanding and peace. For more details, contact Robert at 525-0049 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org. See Thursday's column for details about relief in Japan.
Contact Annie Charnley Eveland at 526-8313.