CAMP FOSTER, OKINAWA, Japan --
Members of the local and U.S. community gathered to practice English, play board games and build friendships during English Fun and Games at the AEON Mall March 23 in Okinawa, Japan.
The students of the University of the Ryukyus, employees of the AEON Mall, Marines with the Single Marine Program and families were able to exchange cultures, languages and become friends through the American board games.
“We thought it would be great to just get people together for some friendly games,” said Richard Roberts, a public affairs officer with the U.S. Consulate General in Naha, Okinawa. “There was once someone who said, ‘we are more alike, my friends, than we are unalike!’ I think events like this highlight that quote. Even though we are not speaking the same language, or at least not speaking the same language well, I think that just getting together and playing the game, and having fun shows how we are more alike.”
The participants played games like Jenga, UNO and Go Fish. The games acted as a common ground, directing the conversation and creating a positive atmosphere. Although many members of the local community switched games or tables, some preferred to stay alongside their newfound friends.
“I mainly stayed on the UNO table,” said Pfc. Thomas Nutter, a personnel clerk with Headquarters and Support Battalion, Marine Corps Installations Pacific-Marine Corps Base Camp Butler, Japan. “My friend Kenzu, he and I met through UNO, he stayed with me at that table the whole time. I would definitely say this built friendships.”
Marines would nonverbally and verbally communicate, using hand gestures paired with words to teach their new friends about the rules of the game and converse.
“For me, I am learning English, so it was nice to speak casually,” said Taito Higa, a student at the University of the Ryukyus. “The guy I was playing with, he made plans to get together with me. This helped us make a good relationship.”
After the event ended, many participants exchanged contact information excited to make plans to hang out in the future.