Exchange Program: A Diverse Country, A Welcoming Community

Exchange Program: A Diverse Country, A Welcoming Community

Exchange Program: A Diverse Country, A Welcoming Community

Stories from High School

In April 2023, the Westmont High School students ventured to the Northwest Territories (you can read about their visit here), and Westmont had the privelage of having the NWT students explore the captivating landscapes and vibrant culture of Vancouver Island.

In 2024, Westmont once again has been fortunate to be a part of an Experiences Canada exchange, this time with Biggar, Saskatchewan where students have come to appreciate the diversity of this country.



A New Perspective

When I learned about where we were going for our exchange, part of me was disappointed that it wasn’t Toronto or the Maritimes, it was Saskatchewan. I was quickly proven wrong by the incredibly strong community that welcomed us so warmly despite the storm and freezing cold. The community spirit of Biggar was a standout experience for the whole trip, which turned out to be an incredible and memorable experience.

When we landed in Saskatoon, we immediately felt the -38 as we stepped outside. We didn’t get to Biggar the first night, but we were lucky just to get to Saskatoon due to an ongoing blizzard. When we got there, Sean the principal chauffeured us from the airport to our hotel. It took three trips to get everyone there, but we eventually made it. In the morning, we met our wonderful bus driver – Ray – who drove us for an hour into Biggar. This was our first real look at Saskatchewan. We immediately took in the flatness of the landscape, and the mountains of blowing snow.

When we arrived, we got a warm welcome from the school and got to meet the students in person. We went into the gym and played icebreaker games so we could learn the names of the other students there and get to know them better. We made pizzas with our buddies for lunch and after that we split into groups to visit the Credit Union, which plays a huge role in the community there providing funding and helping out for over 75 years. We also got to meet the Mayor of Biggar and he told us about how the town was built and about the infrastructure behind the town’s development.

After that, we got to meet the mayor, our groups joined up and we went to the Biggar Museum & Gallery. We learned about the history of the town and how it came to be. There we learned about the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway, and who Biggar was named after. We also learned about the town’s famous slogan: “New York is Big, but this is Biggar.” We had a dinner of spaghetti in the school and played basketball in the gym until our homestay families picked us up.

The next day we got to go to Saskatoon. There we went to the Western Development Museum. Some of my favourite exhibits were the historical cars, the train you could go in, and the mock 1900s town including the jail cell. There were also very detailed exhibits on farming equipment from the Industrial Revolution to now. There were many fun interactive displays too. This museum taught us a lot about the story of Saskatchewan, and how vital farming is to both the province and the country. After the museum we went to a skating rink right in the center of the city surrounded by some very cool old architecture, it was kind of a park but covered in ice. We skated for about forty minutes then we drove to the University of Saskatchewan, which is Saskatchewan’s biggest university. We got a tour of a lot of the buildings and after the tour we got some more background information about the history of some of the rooms. After that we went home to our homestays.

On Thursday we started the day by going bowling at Biggar’s local five pin bowling lanes. We also got to learn about some of the fun things that Biggar locals do to wind down like playing sports and horse riding in the summer. In the afternoon we went on a Goosechase, which is an online application where you run around the town and taking photos with various Biggar landmarks such as a statue of the Hanson buck (the highest scoring buck in history), the water tower, and the credit union, or completing wacky tasks in certain locations. This was a really special way of experiencing the town and the weather, as well as connecting more with our Biggar buddies.

On Friday we got invited to participate in the school’s annual Metis winter festival. We learned some traditional Metis practices such as beading and dot art. Both of which were fascinating to learn about. We got to try dot art for ourselves, and it was very satisfying. We also got to spend a lot of time outside snowshoeing and hearing Metis stories by a roaring fire. At the end of the night, we had tacos in a bag with all of the homestay families together and got to watch all of the other team’s videos from the Goosechase and play basketball in the gym. The next morning, we had to say goodbye to our homestay families and the community as we travelled back to Victoria.

Even if a destination is not on your bucket list, it can always be an incredible experience. It doesn’t matter where you end up, it is who you are with and who you meet along the way that makes an experience what it is. We met some amazing people and shared some incredible stories and experiences with them. This was a wonderful journey, and we want to thank Experiences Canada, Biggar Central School 2000, and the community of Biggar, for allowing for this exchange to happen and welcoming us into their beautiful community.


Written by: Merric Hanton
Edited by: Eagle Class
Photos Selected by: Ares Van Koeveringe and Morgan Friest

Westmont Montessori High School students

Want to learn more about our High School program?

An Exchange Program: New Perspectives

An Exchange Program: New Perspectives

An Exchange Program: New Perspectives

Stories from High School

Join us as we delve into the remarkable journey of students from Westmont High School and Chief Paul Niditchie School (CPNS). In April 2023, the Westmont High School students ventured to the Northwest Territories (you can read about their visit here), and now it is CPNS students’ turn to explore the captivating landscapes and vibrant culture of Vancouver Island. Discover their immersive experiences, profound insights, and the meaningful connections they forge, as they navigate the complexities of colonization and embrace cultural inclusivity.

Picture this:

You are next to a 130 foot tall totem pole in the capital of British Columbia, and then, you walk over to the sign and it says “Memento of the nation’s infancy, symbol of a proud race, monument to a rare native art, proof of united community interest and the purest form of Canadiana.” What do you think of this quote? Is it true? Were residential schools proof of a united community interest? When we first read this sign, our hearts sank. It was quite clear that this sign was not written by an Indigenous person, but rather, a British settler talking about a Indigenous form of art. This represents the lack of perspectives on Vancouver Island and across Canada as a whole. This trip was a form of truth and reconciliation, and honouring First Nations culture in Canada, admiring and thinking about what is there, and questioning what isn’t.

The class of Chief Paul Niditchie School (CPNS) toured around Vancouver Island for the first time. For them, it was an eye-opening experience. On the first day of their visit they hiked through Metchosin and visited the mayor, where they learned about the skills required to be a successful political figure and how an area, like Metchosin is lead. We picked up some valuable information on how communication and dealing with people is the single most valuable skill in politics.

High School

Both classes learned about the memorialisation of colonisation and its effects on Indigenous perspectives, discrimination, and lack of representation in the Legislature and around downtown Victoria by viewing murals and signs that discussed Indigenous topics.

The CPNS and Westmont classes participated in local activities in Victoria as well, such as eating local seafood, boating on the Salish Straight and seeing local wildlife including a pod of orca whales.

On Thursday CPNS and the Westmont High School drove down to Royal road university and walked out to Hatley Castle. There we relaxed in the sun and  had a conversation about the memorialization of colonisation and Indigenous culture. Then, we walked to Juan de Fuca and went to the Wild Play high ropes course. It is stunning to be up in the treetops of BC’s magnificent forests and to fully experience and be immersed in the island’s natural beauty. Then, the Westmont High School and Middle School and CPNS sat around the campfire and told stories.

During Friday, we toured around UVIC to experience what secondary schooling could look like for children in their future. We learned about what daily life was like for a student and what benefits UVIC would provide. We were also introduced to The First Peoples House, ‘A home away from home’ for Indigenous students to study, work, and hold traditional events. Later, we bussed to the Pedersen’s house where they graciously hosted a barbeque where we ate tacos in a bag and had a wonderful time playing games and socialising.

On Saturday we started off the day by going to the Malahat Skywalk. The Skywalk was made as a way to see the beauty of Vancouver Island from above the treetops. We took a bus from the school up there, got our tickets and then walked on a boardwalk through the trees until we reached the base of the Skywalk. We walked up 20 metres to get to the top and the views were breathtaking. You could see so far and they had a net that you could stand on to see straight to the ground. There was also a slide as an option to get back down to the ground which was very amusing. After that we came back to school to let the CPNS students bond with their host families and pack for the next day. Then for dinner we went to the Lang’s house. We had a wonderful dinner of Salmon burgers and vegan burgers. After dinner we all played games together such as Avalon and Battleship. Finally we all went home to our families. The week was slowly coming to a close and this was our last full day together and many of us were wishing that there were a lot more full days ahead.

On the very last day of our tremendous experience with the Northwest Territories students, we started our day off with kayaking in the Victoria Gorge having a phenomenal time gliding through the Pacific Ocean. We saw various types of wildlife including seals, and various birds such as blue herons, seagulls and crows, even though the weather made us feel cold and unpleasant we still had a wonderful time. Later we bussed back to our school and had a barbeque lunch with the students, families, and individuals who helped us make this encounter a remarkable experience. 

Throughout our week with the CPNS students we continuously learned about different perspectives and formed new bonds. Some key takeaways include learning about the Indigenous cultures on Vancouver Island and seeing how much of their culture is excluded in historical Canadian literature. This brought home the point that you have to read between the lines and look for what isn’t there, rather than what is there.


Thank you for reading!


By Agneya Pradhan, Alwynn Waddington,
Merric Hanton,
Ani VanKoeveringe

Westmont Montessori High School students

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Celebrating Westmont’s Long-standing Legacy: Insights from Two Dedicated Graduates.

Celebrating Westmont’s Long-standing Legacy: Insights from Two Dedicated Graduates.

Celebrating Westmont’s Long-standing Legacy: Insights from Two Dedicated Graduates.

Stories from High School

Step into the world of Westmont School, where tradition meets excellence, and remarkable journeys unfold. Within the heart of our esteemed institution, two graduates have collectively dedicated an impressive 28 years to our beloved school.

In an engaging conversation, we had the privilege of asking these remarkable individuals a series of questions about their experiences at Westmont. Their insightful and heartfelt responses shed light on the profound impact our school has had on their lives. Join us as we delve into their stories, uncovering the threads of their shared journey and the invaluable wisdom they have gained along the way.

Tell us about your Montessori journey.

Ailsa (A): My Montessori journey started in 2008 in the Dogwood EP/K class. Throughout the years, as I grew up, Westmont started new programs so students would be able to stay until high school graduation, which was appreciated as I greatly enjoy the Montessori style of learning. Through Montessori, I was able to receive the support I needed as I developed at my own pace.

Cameron (C)I started in kindergarten and had the ability to grow up and experience each program the school had and am now happy to be graduating.  

What is your biggest interest? How did it develop?

A: One of my biggest interests is writing, something that developed when I was in lower elementary. I loved writing in my journal and illustrating my entries and having the freedom to write stories about my interests, which at the time, was mainly slugs.

C: I really enjoy games, both tabletop games and video games. I was able to connect my interests through my experience in the high school as I had an assignment allowing me to critique a video game’s writing as well as being able to create my own ttrpg system and one-shot campaign as my capstone project.

What are some other unique things about your school?

A: Some unique things about Westmont are the Montessori style of teaching, and the closeness to nature. A key part of the program is spending time outside in the nearby forest and at the beach, which you won’t get somewhere else. Immersion weeks are also special to our school and make the middle and high school years more exciting.

C: The community connection!

What is your favourite part about Westmont High School?

A: My favourite part of the Westmont High School is the experiences it has given me. This spring, I got to go on a trip to Japan, which was incredible, and a few weeks later I was in the Northwest Territories. This is something I’ll never get to experience again, and I am grateful that I got the opportunity.

C: I feel like Westmont has really prepared me for life after secondary school, and has equipped me with a skillset that I will be able to use for the rest of my life.  

What do you do on the weekend?

A: On the weekend, I spend my time playing video games, working on jigsaw puzzles, creating spreadsheets, and talking to my friends. Sometimes, I’ll go downtown with my family, something I enjoy quite a lot.

C: I enjoy writing and running a Dungeons and Dragons campaign with a few of my friends, as well as playing video games.

What is your favourite part about being a Westmont Graduate? 

A: My favourite thing about being a Westmont graduate is knowing I have everything I need to move onto the next stage of my life, which is very exciting. I am looking forward to finding out where life is going to take me.

What is next for you? 

A: Next year, I will be taking a year off to focus on getting work experience. I am heavily considering following an accounting career, as it has been my favourite course this past school year and has quickly become something I have a passion for.

C: After the summer where I work at Camp Thunderbird, I’m heading to Peterborough, Ontario to study forensic biology at Trent University.


Thank you for reading!

Cameron and Ailsa,
Westmont Montessori High School Graduates 2023.

Want to learn more about our High School program?

Westmont High School Cultural Immersion in the Northwest Territories

Westmont High School Cultural Immersion in the Northwest Territories

Westmont High School Cultural Immersion in the Northwest Territories

Stories from High School

Westmont Montessori High School Students Perspective of Trip to Tsiighetchic, April 2023.

Picture this:

It is minus 30 outside. You are surrounded by a thick, dense, boreal forest with black spruce trees around you and there’s ice and snow below. You are on the back of a tiny sled being pulled by four white, Siberian huskies dragging you through the woods at 20 kph, and you have to navigate through.

This was what dogsledding up in the Arctic was like. A completely surreal and utterly beautiful experience. It does not stop there though. Between the day we left Victoria and departed from Whitehorse to head back, we learned so much about nature, including the animals, plants, medicine, and the land. We learned about the ways people lived up in the North, traditional practices, and how the community in Tsiigehtchic is so different to those that most people are familiar with.

We were immersed in the land and the culture, continuously learning about the traditional practices and how the people lived.

High School

We were truly fortunate to be able to watch a lynx skinning step by step, and one of the residents of the town (which only has a population of around 150 people) named Luis, showed us exactly where to make the incisions and what the different parts of the body could be used for. Our team learned that the bladder of the lynx can be used to treat arthritis and achy joints, and something that really stuck with everyone from that lynx skinning was that Luis taught us that if you don’t respect the animal during the skinning process, the animal’s spirit would give you bad luck, and if you don’t respect humans, nothing will happen for you. We had an opportunity to bead seal skin, and we brought some back as well. All the students did snowmobiling and saw snowmobile races. We also took part in some traditional games, which consisted of leg wrestling, a guessing game, and arm wrestling too!

Our team had a blast at the Inuvik Jamboree where we got to see and learn about traditional dances and eat traditional donuts. Some students from our school participated in a game of Limbo.

Unfortunately, we could not go to Tuktoyaktuk, which is on the coast of the Arctic Ocean, but we had the amazing opportunity to drive on one of the ice roads in Inuvik; the ice was up to 6 feet thick

The food there was also a very prominent highlight of our trip up to Tsiigehtchic. We tried caribou stew, homemade bannock bread, and traditional donuts, all of which were very tasty. One of us was shown and learned that many of the families in Tsiigehtchic store their raw caribou meat in their freezer. We also learned that some of the local vegetables there are grown using vegetable plant towers, which are used for indoor farming.

Our team learned a lot of things throughout the week, and some key takeaways include learning to respect the land, learning to respect the animals and the resources. We also noticed that they have a very tightly knit community. They are all close to each other, which is something you do not find in many places. The Westmont students made strong connections with the students from Tsiigehtchic, and some students were invited to their houses to see what their lifestyles look like.

All Westmont High School students are currently working on fundraising for when the Tsiigehtchic students visit our community. Thank you all for your support.


Thank you for reading!


By Agneya Pradhan and Sierra Holt.
Edited by Cameron Lang

 Westmont Montessori High School students

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Rising Sun and Pouring Rain.

Rising Sun and Pouring Rain.

Rising Sun and Pouring Rain.

A Travelogue of a Westmont Middle and High School journey to Japan

We interviewed Alana Scott, one of our middle school students, about her experience during the recent trip to Japan organized by Westmont Montessori School.


That’s what I thought when I was told about the possibility of going to Japan with my school.


That’s what I said every day in Japan when I woke up to something amazing.


That’s what I felt when I was honored with the chance to write about it for my school and the Metchosin Muse.

So here I am, writing to you reader and beyond, about all those wows.

Let’s start with the beginning. Our vice principal, Jason Bowers got an email around this time last year from a parent at Westmont, oddly enough named Jason as well. Jason Holt. Believe me, there were countless cracks about it later.

What was one small email asking if the Middle and High schoolers would like to go on a trip to Japan for spring break took root and blossomed into an entire vacation and educational school journey, like how the cherry blossoms flowered while we were there. It took months of planning, but in September of 2022 both Jasons presented the idea to the parents of Westmont.

From there, 15 families between the Highschool and Middle School signed up their children to participate in Westmont’s first international trip.


The time before the trip quickly shrunk even with the many meetings and preparations. Going with us would be Jason Holt, Jason Bowers, and another Westmont teacher, Lauryn Lewis. And then it was the day; tears, luggage, and sun were all there the morning we departed from our families into the unknown.

As someone who’s used to international travel- family in the USA doesn’t wait for anybody – it wasn’t anything unfamiliar. However, it was a new experience for many of my classmates, but we all battled through the 40-hour day and made it out on the other side, jet lagged, but relieved.

This other side was Tokyo, the big mikan, the capital, the city of 808 villagers. We got our first taste of Japanese food, culture, and washlets. We started off our first day with a walking tour, the walk to kick off miles of hiking. We strolled and shopped around Asakusa after a very authentic Japanese breakfast at a Denny’s. We visited a Buddhist Shrine, Sensō-ji, built in 1649 during Japan’s Edo period. Made to honour the bodhisattva of compassion, Kannon, and is one of the most famous shrines in the city. There, we absorbed wisps of blessed smoke and saw the worshipers donating their yen.

Throughout the four days that we spent in Tokyo we saw many sights, heard thousands of sounds, and enjoyed new tastes. We wandered the imperial palace with its quiet plants and gentle weather. Compared to the storm and bustle of the fish market, with huge crabs, shouting vendors, and steam spreading scents. We would’ve gotten lost on our first day out without Jason Holt. He led us around and toured us through but still gave us free roam to explore and learn ourselves. Throughout the trip we often split into smaller groups and discovered on our own. And there was always something to discover.

Every time, everywhere.

In the early bright morning at a Zenkoji Monastery or in the depths of dark night at 643 meters high. Eating vegetarian or trying Takoyaki for the first time. Stepping through the back streets of Osaka or swimming and skiing in Nozawa Onsen.

We entered a place that everyone agreed was the most beautiful thing they’d ever seen. The TeamLabs Planets exhibition in Tokyo. It’s impossible to describe seeing it for the first time, which is spectacular for a school trip, but inconvenient for writing. A place not from this world in seven rooms. The most I can say about it is to go and see it for yourself, then come back and try to describe it.

Educating ourselves on creators not from the same backgrounds as us is important to grow as people and expand our ideas. We got the chance to do just that when we visited the online video creators exhibit at the Mirakian Museum of emerging science and innovation. We enjoyed learning about the Japanese creators and their lives as video makers. Something that we didn’t have to know any Japanese for was the lively beanbag toss game they set up. As much as I would like to say I won the entire time, I’ve got to hand it to my classmate Alex who had a much better aim than me. He also was the one navigating us most of the time, as we were left to our own devices (literally; google maps is a savior) to get ourselves from point A to point B. Or in some cases from Shibuya station to Yasukuni-jinja Shrine. From a place where an average of over 2.4 million people cross Shibuya daily to the same peaceful place where the emperor visits. Meiji Shrine, our first Shinto shrine. It was a calming and lovely experience, maybe not so much for the other prayers who had to listen to our banter.

Is it a good habit to get lost in science? Because we certainly got turned around once or twice (okay maybe three times) in the National Nature Museum. With showcases on unique Japanese sea life, lustrous rocks and gems, and the evolution of mankind. One of our favourite parts of the human exhibition was specifically the models showing what human life looked like at certain stages. In this last model you yourself got to go inside the glass case and be the example of modern human life.

We ended our city stay with a night trip to the Tokyo sky tree, 643 meters above the darkened streets we trekked along to reach it. At a dizzying height we could see miles away on the dim but illuminated horizon. It was enchanting to see so much of the city, quiet, but alive. With the golden lights spilling like tangled necklaces as far out as we could see.

Listening to the elderly

The next day we traveled to a cold, cozy, quiet town called Nozawa Onsen. Where Jason Holt and his family live. The place to offer us our first soba.

Up the hill that the town is settled on was the Base Camp; our lodgings. If you had the right room, then you could see the far mountains and stacked houses trailing all the way down to the bottom.

We spent our first morning in Nozawa Onsen 101. Listening to the elders and leaders of the community speak with pride about their town and the inner workings and traditions of it. One special tradition of theirs is the fire festival which takes place every winter on January 15. Where the villagers, especially the men aged 42 and 25, participate in bringing together everyone to burn a temporary shrine for good luck. They dry out the wooden shrine all year round, and you can eat next to it at a little restaurant down the hill where we had our first dinner.



One way to have an internal GPS of the town is to play the stamp scavenger hunt game. Without knowing that this is what we were doing, the teachers led us to the tourist information center and bought paper booklets for all of us. Each of these booklets had a blank sheet of paper with a number and a green page next to it. They then told us the purpose of this. We had to find the wooden posts with metal stamps on top, use the wood pestle to rub in the design (the green paper left the mark on the white page), and return with at least ten of these out of the 20 in the entire town within an hour to get a prize. While we were running around like chickens without their heads, we got to see the town in its full golden afternoon glory. Even if it was rushed and during a competition. With nature and steep roads, daily life and small businesses, we got to witness the differences in life between two places. Whereas in Tokyo you could find a vending machine every five steps, here there were only a few. Most of the shops didn’t belong to chains, and there weren’t any big billboards or flashing lights. This was because the town is trying to preserve its history and has laws about keeping things a certain way. Which I appreciate, since we got to witness the unique architecture in the buildings which had been updated in other cities.

Over the next four days we were allowed to roam the shops and restaurants, almost always having some sort of noodles for meals.  On the second day, half of us rode up to the mountain in a gondola lift. The other half spent a slow-paced day out in town at the bottom. While up at the top of the mountain we saw all below. Skiing and snowboarding up high. The snow seemed like thousands of small diamonds somebody smuggled up and scattered. It was chilled enough to keep the snow but warm enough to not have to wear gloves. It was quiet except for the scraping sound of skis on the cold hard hills. Sliding and turning like a water skier on a pond surface. Sleek and cool landscapes. Silky and playful breezes.

On our way out of the town to Zenkoji temple we visited one of the cutest animals to grace the earth.

The snow monkeys.

Adorable little creatures in the Jigokudani Monkey Park in Nagano. A morning and a lot of photo storage was spent adoring the monkeys as they bathed in the hot springs and picked bugs from their babies and partners. We were even privy to a mother carrying her baby on her hips while walking by us.

Snow monkeys

From there we took the train and hurried to our one-night accommodation at the Zenkoji temple with a kind monk who welcomed us in the dampening rain. We had a vegetarian dinner, which was a blessing for the vegan traveler among us, but also a bit of a curse since nobody –except Jason Holt, of course –knew what anything on the plate was. Beforehand we participated in a Zen meditation. Where we aligned our bodies, breath, and heart. It was a new practice for all of us, and unsurprisingly there were grumblings and complaints about numb limbs and foot pain. As to whether the monk heard this or not, we still do not know.

The sliding of the wooden door. The teachers soft voices. “good morning”. Lights flickering on. The sun wasn’t even up yet. But we were. At 5:00 am to partake in the morning service at the temple. Before the service we stomped through the wet cobblestone streets on a tour of the temple in the light rain. In a huddled group of umbrellas, we clustered around the grounds while the monk pointed out the statues and their history. There were four tall statues at the front. The two outwards facing ones were for protection and to scare off anyone with bad intent. We also were introduced to the Rokujizō, the statues of the six Bodhisattvas
 from the six different worlds in Buddhist beliefs.

Although we were yawning and rubbing our eyes we still kneeled and took the blessing as the morning ceremony conductor came by the tap our heads. Then we were ushered into the temple and waited until we could go down the steep steps into a long dark tunnel made of polished wood. There, is where the monk told us we would find a metal key that would bring us enlightenment. While we nearly lost Jason Holt, we all made it out “reincarnated” as the monk said. Then it was onto the next place in another city for one night.

I won’t bore you with a place we spent less than a day in, but Mikawa had a wonderful beach and fishing area. Only me and my classmate Merric went though. Everyone else missed out. It was a beautiful day with the sun and a spring breeze tugging us forwards. The sea air whipped the scent of dead fish and sand into our faces. But when we came back it was to the chaos of a moving day. We spent the day travelling by train and bus to get to our place for the next three nights in Kyoto.

We were back in a large city again and it felt great. Which shocked me since I’m not an urban person by any measure. But the metropolis felt like home in a foreign place.

We set off the next day, fueled by a breakfast of grocery goods to catch a wooden boat taking us down the Hozugawa river. Led by a crew of four captains with three in the front, and one steering in the back. We had a calm and lovely boat trip bobbing down the waters, unless we were in a rapid it was mostly a peaceful ride. When in a rapid, the waters churned a little more and the waves rolled into each other and our boat would rock and arms of water would splash us. Both the Jasons got hit by a particularly large wave.

Afterwards we shopped in the market area near the Arashiyama Bamboo Forest. Which we then wandered through and enjoyed. It wasn’t too hot outside, but the shade was a relief. The calming nature of the forest was refreshing from all the walking, moving, and experiencing from the past 12 days. It didn’t last long, but I think it really helped all of us.

We then went on to the Ryoan-ji temple with its well cultivated gardens and large statue of the Buddha behind a long pool of water. Jason Holt informed us that it originally belonged to an aristocrat couple who were both very smart. But when the husband died his wife dedicated the plot of land to him and designed the entire garden and tomb, which was nothing to sneeze at, despite the pollen. It turns out the gardens are famous for their rock placement. Even though it was designed as a tomb, it still gave off a happy and peaceful atmosphere with the tidiness of the rocks and plants. Even the birds weren’t in a hurry.


I woke up the next day with a sore throat and was instantly eaten alive by terror. Had I gotten sick?


Last night smacked into me.

We had all crowded into a soundproof room with seats and a table. Two screens were situated on opposite walls. Everyone cheering and shouting along to the lyrics. Microphones and merriment. We sang our voices dry karaoking

Snow monkeys
Listening to the elderly
Listening to the elderly

But alas it was another travel day, so we were on the move to Himeji. But first a trip to the Hiroshima Peace Park. The park was beautiful and bright, very happy for a place with such a sad history. It weighed on all of us, the deaths. I won’t go into detail about what we saw, as that may be disturbing for some. Going through the museum with the photos and the art we saw war, evil, and suffering. With effects that lasted long after the bombing. We learned about the hurt and torture the citizens of Hiroshima were burdened with.

On a lighter note, we spent the afternoon exploring Himeji castle. With its old wooden walls and steep staircases. There was plenty of room, but there were also plenty of people, so things became a bit squished on the high stairs. Built in the 14th century with 83 rooms and reconstructed in 1577 and 1964, also known as “White Heron Castle” Himeji castle is Japan’s oldest castle.

Once again it was a travel day and we awoke to chaos, but more controlled this time since we had gotten used to the road life. We hopped on a train to Osaka and unpacked at the Dotonbori hotel with its four funny statues guarding the entrance. We toured the shopping area with its colourful hippy side, and the more sophisticated expensive side.

Before we caught the train that would carry us to Nagoya, we speed shopped along Shinsaibashi-Suji Shopping Street under the ticking hand of the 20-minute timer. There, we saw street performers, large animatronic crabs, and stickers plastered on every streetlamp. It was a burst of life and movement with smaller streets branching off and the back shops like smaller flowers on this tree of expression. Unfortunately, our time there wasn’t very long, and we were at it again, bags packed, prepared to catch the train to Nagoya.

Once there, we took our time and gave ourselves room to breathe. In a nearby shopping center, we roamed for three hours in our groups. Cleaning up on shopping and experiencing. Our final dinner was at a nearby Italian Pizza restaurant where I lead a toast for Jason Holt. There were many thanks and acknowledgments for Jason Holt, the person who started it all.

We said our final goodbyes to the amazing country we had just spent two weeks in and departed the next morning. We were happy and fulfilled but ready to go home.

And now, exactly one week later I’m recapping all those crazy wows to you. I hope you enjoyed reading about our travel as much as we enjoyed going.



Alana Scott,
Westmont Montessori Middle School Student



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