Happiness is meeting a chinchilla

GWYNETH HYNDMAN
Last updated 05:00 29/03/2012
Mutsumi Sawamoto
ROBYN EDIE/Fairfax NZ

JOY: Mutsumi Sawamoto, Yuko Arafune and Umi Matsui, of Kumagaya Nishi School, in Japan, are excited about a chinchilla at East Road Pets, in Invercargill, yesterday. They are here on an exchange programme.

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Pupils from Invercargill's sister city in Japan have found joy in the ordinary during their first visit to Southland.

James Hargest College teacher Simon Richardson said the 23 students and two teachers from the Kumagaya Nisha School, in Kumagaya, had been "a delight" to host since their arrival.

Everything was new and exciting for them on their first trip to New Zealand, he said.

"We're really glad they made the trip out here. The homestay families have really enjoyed having them here – they are so polite and courteous with amazing manners."

The group arrived on March 22 and have visited Queenstown, with jet boating and a trip to see kiwis in captivity. They leave the country tomorrow.

The students and teachers met Invercargill mayor Tim Shadbolt in the council chambers yesterday and then had a treat at the Seriously Good Chocolate Company.

An afternoon visit to East Road Pets was especially popular, with the pupils thrilled to pet a chinchilla.

For Mr Richardson – who spent a year teaching English in Japan – seeing the students experience new encounters was part of the fun of teaching.

"They hold nothing back. It has been a lot of screaming and laughing and smiling," he said.

"Almost everything they have been doing has been a new experience."

He said James Hargest College was planning a trip for Southland pupils this year.

Last year's trip was cancelled because of the Japanese tsunami.

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