Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Hug and Howdy

That's what I like to do: Visit with people and give them hugs. I do a lot of that in my life, and I'm happy to say there was a great deal of that last week.

Just hours after graduation, where I received several great hugs from people I'll miss dearly (I'm writing as a Franklin College alumna -- weird!), my friend Ellie and I left for a week-long Christian camp called Cedar Campus. After 10 hours in the car and a few adventures on the way, we made it safely to Cedarville, Mich., which is just south of the Canadian border.

With the exception of three and a half people, I didn't know anyone there. (I'd met the fourth person before, but didn't really know her, so she counts as half.) So I made new friends, which is one of my favorite things to do.

It becomes evident pretty quickly to people around me that physical touch is one of my main love languages.

I met Lauren from Minnesota on the first night, when we were both outside shivering in the cold, and she gladly accepted my offer to be her cuddle buddy. Later in the week, I got two fantastic back massages from Mike, I was inducted into "the nuzzle club" by Amanda from Depauw and I was "gracefully" (as he says) tackled by Adam. And of course I gave numerous hugs all week long.

I have no problem at all hugging someone I've just met. In fact, I prefer hugs instead of handshakes. I think it's because I'm open with people and like to have fun that someone recently called me a "let looser." It's true that I like to "let loose." But as I say, I may let loose and hang loose, however, I'm not loose!

As much as I like it, I realize that not everyone is big on being touched. So I'm usually careful about bursting personal bubbles and will back off if I can tell it's not welcomed. The sad news (to me it's sad news) is that the Japanese culture, on the whole, does not show affection in public. In other words, they are not "let loosers." In addition to what people have told me, here's what I found by doing a little bit of Web research:

"As opposed to Western culture, there is little physical touch involved between people. Whereas you might hug your family or friends in Western culture, this is not done in Japanese culture. Young Japanese women don’t even greet their friends this way (although they might jump up and down and maybe grab hands). Even married couples do not usually kiss, hug, or even hold hands when outside of the home."

This is definitely going to be hard for me! But I don't want to offend anyone in Japan, so I will try to control my urges to wrap people in big embraces. My guess is that I will have to learn to bow instead. I'm pretty sure I've never bowed to a single person in my life. This is yet another (of many!) adjustments that I will have to make.

Or maybe my new Japanese friends will evntually become huggers around me. I can only hope.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Finally...my Final Finals!

Two finals down. Two to go. I'm ready to be done with them, that's for sure!

Thinking about these being my final finals makes me smile real big. I'm not a big fan of final exams, and I don't know anyone who is. However, I am a fan of learning. In fact, I love to learn. That's one of the things that excites me about going to Japan.

I'm going to be like a sponge when I'm there. And by that, I don't mean that I'm going to be soft and porous, haha. I mean that I'm going to soak up all the information I can about the way Japanese people live. I want to learn the cultural differences between Japan and the U.S., the language and the people I encounter.

I was thinking today about how much I've learned in my art history class. As much work as I've put into it and as much as some classes seemed to drag on, I'm coming out having learned a lot, and I appreciate that. I'm glad it's over though! I've had enough modern art for a while.

Even though I like learning in a classroom (for the most part), my favorite way to learn is by experiencing for myself. Traveling is such an educational thing to do! I could study the Japanese culture all I want (which I admit I haven't been doing), but the best way to learn about Japan is to actually go there.

So I'm excited for this learning opportunity. I'm excited for the great life experience I'm going to get. And I'm excited about the the new people I'll meet and the new things I'll try and see.

But I'm not real excited about leaving my family and friends. That's definitely the hardest part. It seems like it's when I go home for holidays that I'm reminded of this the most. Yesterday was Mother's Day, and I was thinking a lot about my family, especially my mom.

People often ask me what my parents think of me moving to Japan. I'm honest when I say that they are supportive, but I can't say that they're absolutely thrilled. And if they were, I'd probably be concerned that they really wanted me out of the house as soon as possible! So I'm taking it as a compliment that they're not thrilled to pieces and can't wait for me to leave.

Mom and Dad, thank you for always supporting me and for allowing me to take advantage of the opportunity to live and learn in Japan. I guess you could have said, "No way. You're not going." One of my friends told me that there's no way her mom would let her move to the other side of the world. I'm glad that you're understanding.

Thank you for raising me to be independent and confident and for encouraging me to embrace challenges and new things. You are great parents and I mean everything I said at church yesterday about Mom. (and it's also all true for Dad.) You both get really high scores--not only for being godly people--but also for being wonderful parents.

I think that me being in Japan so far away from all that is familiar won't be easy on any of us. But I know that it's also going to be a positive experience. At least, I hope and pray it will be a positive experience! It's going to be a loooong year if it's not!

I'm getting sentimental thinking about the last four years at Franklin. (I'll be a graduate in five days!) And in addition, I've been thinking about living so far away from loved ones since that's the next step for me.

As a side note (Lauren, this is for you more than anyone), I'll be in Michigan next week at Cedar Campus, so my next blog post will be in two weeks from now. I just wanted to warn you, haha. Wow, this is getting to be a long post. I guess I'm making up for missing next week!

God bless you, whoever you are reading this right now, and thanks for reading. And if you're reading, you probably are involved in my life, and I thank you so much for that, too!

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Planning my Summer Plans

It's almost here. The time of year for swimming, working outside and reading for fun. And I'm so ready for it!

I'm finding it hard to work and prepare for finals. First, the weather is getting nice, and why stay inside to type a paper when you could be outside on a blanket taking a nap in the sun!? Besides that, I know that my days of living with my Franklin College friends are extremely limited. That realization makes me want to do nothing more than hang out with them and goof off. It's ironic because this is the time of the semester when I have the most work to do; however, it's also the time when I feel like doing the least amount. Funny how that works.

People start asking me about my summer plans weeks before summer arrives. This only encourages me to think about the summer even more, and not concentrate as much on all the work I have at the moment.

Honestly, I'd rather think about my summer plans because it's a lot of fun. I'm really looking forward to summer vacation because of exactly that -- it's actually going to be a vacation. I'm not planning to get a summer job, which will be the first time in five years that I haven't worked during the summer break.

Well, that's not entirely true. I'll still be working this summer. I plan to help out a lot around the house. There is always a lot of yard work to do! And after the sun sets, I'm going to scrapbook until I can't keep my eyes open anymore. Scrapbooking is a TON of work, and I have a few ambitious projects to work on.

Other summer plans include spending lots of time with my family and friends, swimming and reading. I recently wrote a list of books that I want to read. They include: Blue Like Jazz, Jesus For President (I love the title of it! I also enjoy my "Jesus is my President" pin.) and several books by Karen Kingsbury, one of my favorite authors in the whole wide world.

And of course, I'm also going to be preparing for Japan this summer, which I wrote about last week. In fact, another book I want to read is one that Mrs. Streit, the Japanese teacher at the high school, recommended to me -- Learning to Bow: Inside the Heart of Japan.

I plan to give my room the most thorough cleaning it's had for a long time. I want to go through my stuff and give a lot of it away. After all, I can't take much with me when I move to Japan. So the stuff I don't take with me is just going to sit around the house collecting dust, which won't benefit anyone. Plus, my mom despises clutter, and I don't blame her.

Then there's the packing I need to do this summer. Ugh.Thinking about it kind of stresses me out a little bit. I just need to look at it as an exciting challenge! I still need to come up with a packing strategy. I know that I'm going to pack using the cool plastic bags that suck all the air out. They're guaranteed to save a whole bunch of room in my suitcase.

Well, I need to go. There's still work to be done tonight, and it's going on midnight! As much as I hate to say (err..type) it, I need to stop thinking about the summer for now.