Friday, September 16, 2005

Japanese Exchange Scrapbooks

It is no secret that scrapbooks of photos and paper clippings can make a wonderful book of memories for a vacation, a school year, or even just a "year in the life." But how would it feel to have a scrapbook of a special person in your life that you may or may not ever see again. In the past five years, we have been honored and privileged to host two wonderful, 12-year-old Japanese exchange students. The exchange program of which we were part, requires that the visiting student bring a scrapbook to give to their host family. The scrapbook contains photos of the student, his or her family, extended family, and friends. But also, the scrapbook takes us back in time to the student's younger days; there may be a baby pictures, and photos that take us through his or her life from the toddler stages to the present. We were (and are) thrilled to still have these scrapbooks. It would have been wonderful to simply see them, but it is more of a treasure to still be able to look at them from time to time.

The Japanese are very big on tradition and they have many festivals and special events each year in which the children participate from very small ages. The scrapbooks our students brought include photos of them in traditional Japanese clothing with many other children the same age. There are photos of them at the toddler stage with beautiful short silk pants on the boys and colorful kimonos on the girls. At age five or six they have a festival where they all wear beautiful head pieces. By looking at this little history of one person, we were able to learn much about the Japanese culture.

The Japanese are also very big on family. In nearly every photo of the scrapbook, mom and dad were somewhere nearby. Many of the photos were of special camps or family vacations. The parents are smiling and hugging their children and just as often, there are grandparents and aunts and uncles in the photos as well. One of the students we hosted lived with her parents, her brother, and her grandfather. Her grandfather obviously had a huge influence on her life and a special place in her heart.

The Japanese are also very big on cameras and photography! While here, our students carried a camera with them everywhere, though I must confess, the girl student was much more diligent about this than her male counterpart. She went through more than a dozen disposable cameras while she was here, and we took just as many photos on our digital camera. As a gift, we made our students a scrapbook to take back to Japan with them, so they can remember us, as well as various pictures from our past. And I'm sure our students will make their own scrapbooks as well.

We will always treasure the Japanese scrapbooks, as there is that chance we will never see those students again; but if we do, and that is our hope, perhaps together we will enjoy memories of our own visits together by looking through our common scrapbooks.

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