Saturday, December 16, 2006
It has now been a few months since I have returned from Japan. When I arrived back in America, everything felt so surreal, I told myself to let it all soak in for a while. The funny thing is, not much has changed. It still is surreal. There aren’t many other words to describe what this past summer meant to me. I have documented pictures, tangible gifts... and even a translated health insurance report about my hand, - yet the trip seems too big and too good to be true. To put it in a different perspective, I haven't been too successful at efficiently explaining my trip to friends and family. When people ask me " How was your trip? Tell me ALL about it" it is almost overwhelming. I tell them to ask me questions, smiling, because otherwise it just seems impossible to even start talking about Japan. Even my blog doesn’t cover minute by minute what happened (and I did learn things minute by minute!), it just retrospects the highlights of the day. One of the YFU requirements is to make speeches of your exchange experience when you return to America. I was offered to make a few presentations in my school to groups of faculty, foreign language classes, and social studies classes. When I was preparing a picture slide show, I was worried how I would present it to the audience, and if I had enough content. This worry is now a laughing matter. To put it in perspective, I barely got through my first week of my trip in my hour-long presentations, each time I did them. There is just TOO much to say. In my reflection about Japan, to truly serve it somewhat justice, is to write a book about it (... maybe this is a head start!). Japan has so much to offer. The country is a land of contrasts, and although that is almost cliché now, it is so true. As in old and new, I drove through Fukuoka seeing state of the art buildings right next to ancient shrines. Industrious and natural: Japan may be a technological leader, but it still puts so much emphasis on the natural aesthetic world. Maybe a plate of food delicately placed, a structured tea ceremony, ikebana flower arrangement, or simply a car dealership in an urban landscape backed up to a small family rice paddy can show this. The list of these is endless, that is why it is so hard. The country has a uniqueness of having native traits as well as adapted, borrowed ones. Never in my life thus far have I learned so much, so fast. The great thing is, only parts of these things were Japan specific. They are skills important everywhere. From this experience, I learned that it is just as important to give as to receive. What I mean is that you must teach while you learn. I didn't go to Japan just to learn about the country. I also went there for them to learn, or possibly change their perception of, America. This is what I discovered there. As I learned and fixed my misconceptions about Japan, I also was able to see what the world thinks of America. This alone is an amazing reason to travel abroad. The new perception of the world. I feel myself not making any conclusions in my writings here. This is possibly because this trip was not a timed learning experience. My learning has really only just begun, and new interests have been discovered because of this trip. Of course, I still cannot not express how thankful I am to Organizations like YFU and the JBSD for giving me this opportunity of a lifetime. I also am so thankful for my host family. I feel so lucky; since I truly believe that I received the best host family anyone could ask for. I still keep in contact with them by phone every weekend. This brings up another fact that amazes me still. When we talk on the phone, time flies by. Hour and a half conversations aren't rare. Before this summer I never would have imagined having the ability to talk, fundamentally in Japanese, on the phone for that period of time. I am still very close with my host parents and sisters, as well as ALL the friends I met along the trip, Japanese and American. The bottom line about this trip is that everyone should do something like this. If you have the opportunity to go somewhere, do it. If you have the opportunity to bring someone in to America, do it. I have met some amazing foreign exchange students over the past few years that have come to America, and their excitement and enthusiasm is one reason that influenced me to travel. The world has so much to offer, and I don't think that many people realize that. The connections and lessons that I have learned from this trip have only inspired me further. The experience was a once in a life-time one. There are memories from this that will last forever, and so many different opportunities that will come out of this. My journey has only just begun!