ALT 1990-91, Saitama-ken
My name is Ronn Patton, and I was selected to participate on the 1990-91 JET Program. After the program, I stayed in my Japanese city of Kumagaya-shi, Saitama-ken and continued to teach at a private language school, until my return to the Bay Area in the summer of 1993.
The JET Program has influenced my life in so many ways. It helped me to choose education as my career. It led me to stay involved in the Program through JETAA and become co-president. It helped me to better understand the Japan that I had only visited before, by letting me live and work with the Japanese people and experience the ups and downs of daily life. It gave me lifelong friends both on and off the program, in Japan and around the world. And most importantly, it allowed me to meet my wife Reiko, and to establish a second life and family in Japan. I am very fortunate to be able to continue this connection to the Japan that I grew to love as a JET.
To try and cite one particularly memorable episode is quite difficult to do. Making friends with a local restaurant owner and becoming the godparent to his two daughters, Kaori and Ayaka, comes to mind.
I remember my first week in Kumagaya consisted of meeting everyone at City Hall, the Board of Education, my schools and so on. But in the evening, I was free to explore my new home by bicycle. As I set out to find something to eat, I noticed a small ramen shop with the traditional orange lantern hanging in the doorway. I stopped and entered, and was greeted by a young Japanese man who introduced himself, in somewhat broken English, as Ken Sekine. I introduced myself as well, and explained my purpose for being in Kumagaya. After eating the best gyoza in Saitama, we exchanged phone numbers, with his earnest promise to call on his day off. And he did! Since that day, Ken and his family have treated me as a part of their family, and I always visit them each year when I go home. My eldest goddaughter Kaori is now studying English in high school, and loves to practice everytime she sees me or talks to me on the phone. Meeting and learning to accept each other as friends and family, and knowing that it will never change, no matter how much time passes or how far apart we are, is truly one of my most memorable, most "human" episodes.