It’s a love story that’s made for the big screens, where two people from different backgrounds fall head over heels for each other despite all odds.
Ben and Yuki Palmer first met in 2005 while Ben was on the Minokamo Dubbo Sister City Student exchange program in Japan and although Ben doesn’t recall meeting Yuki, she remembered him quite well. So much so, that when she came to Dubbo on exchange the year later, she was ecstatic to find out her host sister was friends with Ben.
“I remember when I saw him at the school I thought, ‘Oh Ben, it’s him!’” she exclaimed.
In 2007, Ben went on exchange again and remembers sharing his first date with Yuki at a local shopping centre. The couple said while there were obvious language barriers in the beginning, they still managed to communicate effectively.
“If you had seen us having a conversation you would have laughed. We were just gesturing, pointing and writing notes down,” said Ben.
As the years went on the pair remained in contact, writing letters, Skyping and Facebooking each other and made sure to send Christmas and birthday gifts every year.
“I have a box of letters from Yuki and I would send her mix tapes. They’re a bit ‘cringey’ but that’s the sort of stuff we’d do,” said Ben.
Fast forward to 2013, Ben had finished university and moved to Japan to teach English through the JET Program.
Yuki eagerly anticipated Ben’s arrival, spending all of her weekly wage to travel to Tokyo to meet him. They shared their first real date at the Keiyo Plaza Hotel, the same place where Ben would propose to her three years later.
Their relationship escalated quickly with Yuki moving in with Ben four months later. They spent three years living in Japan and in that time got married, surrounded by their friends and family. A month after their big day, the newlyweds moved to Australia only to find out they were expecting a baby, the first Sister City baby ever!
The couple are now proud parents to three month old Leon, a very calm and handsome baby boy. Yuki says she’s grateful for the exchange programs and appreciates the way in which it brings people from different communities together.
“I hope the communication between the Sister Cities stays forever, it can change their life,” she said.