Abigail Clark (July 2016 trip): There were many memorable parts, but participating in Ota’s annual Peace Fireworks Festival stood out to me as a highlight of our trip to Ota, Japan. We sang the city song “Heiwa tte Nani” or “What is Peace” alongside Japanese elementary school students. Some of us dressed up in yukata (a traditional form of Japanese clothing), like many other people who were at the event. When we weren’t singing on stage, or revealing the name of the new Ota city mascot, we all stood by talking to the elementary school students or the group of host families and their friends. The young kids were patient with my Japanese and I fit right in with the family atmosphere while watching the fireworks. I even talked with my host family’s neighbors about fun light-hearted topics. We took pictures and laughed. Besides watching some of the most beautiful fireworks I have seen, I felt valued and a part of the family while experiencing a bit of Japanese culture. I felt honored to be a part of such a positive event. Even today, I stay in contact with my friends in Japan. We email and send letters and gifts on holidays. This is a relationship that I highly treasure and believe will last a very long time. It inspired me to keep studying Japanese and the Japanese culture.