Sumter County-- An annual tradition of friendship continued this week in Sumter County. A cultural exchange began more than 20-years ago when former President Jimmy Carter was given a temple bell from Japan.
Ever since, people in the area open their homes and schools to people from Japan and in turn get some lessons themselves.
In a huge welcome ceremony, there was colorful movement and traditional music from miles away. Eager anticipation led up to the sights and sounds.
"It's a lot of fun," said David Buice.
35 teachers and students traveled halfway around the world from Japan to the United States. They're part of the Japanese Friendship Delegation.
"It's a wonderful opportunity for us to learn about each other's country," said Annette Wise with the Jimmy Carter National Historic Site.
Through the program, Sumter County families open their homes to Japanese students. For the Albritton family, it's the first time. "Hoping to show them a good time," said Scooter Albritton.
And in exchange for a good time, they hope to learn a few things. "Just learning different cultures. Sharing with them and them sharing with us," said Scooter.
"I just think it's a great experience to learn how they live over there," said Sumter County student Tiffany Albritton.
The exchange of cultures could be slightly difficult because of language differences. "Although language is a barrier sometimes, its not a bad barrier," said Wise.
That barrier is broken down with handshakes and smiles, along with open homes and hearts. It's a language that leads to the most important part of the program, friendship.
"True friendships are established through that and we have students who continue to stay in contact through the years," said Wise. From day one, it already seems to be working.
"I'm really excited," said Tiffany.
"I'm very excited," said Japanese student Ai Katayama.
The feeling and language already seem to be universal as the United States meets Japan in Sumter County.
The delegation will be in town until Saturday. They'll tour Americus and surrounding areas. Students from Sumter County will also visit Japan in the near future.