Guest Blogger: Lindsay Anderson, Senior Program Assistant at the Study Abroad Office, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (Original Post Date: 6/14/13)
At the start of the semester, as with any new school year, school clubs and circles began accepting new members. One of those was Hoa Aloha – a self-proclaimed hula circle. I wasn’t sure of the validity of their skill, not that I have any of my own to speak of nor expert knowledge of this cultural activity that they take part in, but I thought it’d be fun to do in my free time. The day they were holding a meeting for newcomers I stopped by and while I was there Tina (Christina), one of the other study abroad students who actually is from Hawaii, was on her way to practice with the school’s volleyball team. I stopped, hoping to get her honest opinion, and asked if she could tell me just by looking at them practice if they were legit. I have no foundation or standard by which to compare these girls except from what I know out of movies (which are not the most reliable source to learn about a group of people). She stood in the doorway a moment then turned to me to say, “Yes, I think they are pretty good.” They proved to be capable of many hula styles so I was hooked . . . and the rest is history.
For the past few weeks I’ve been learning the dance that us beginners will be performing sometime in my last week in Japan. This’ll be the opportunity of a lifetime to fulfill one of the goals on my LIFE bucket list. I’d hoped to do this on a potential trip to Hawaii but maybe if I go I can impress them with this little number. It’s still in progress but when I hear the song we’re going to use – He Mele No Lilo (the opening song from Lilo & Stitch) – I just get so happy because I feel like I’m participating in such an amazingly awesome group.
These girls really work very hard at what they do. They practice several times a week doing dances they learned on their own (no instructors here!) and have fun doing something beautiful with good friends. To me, they are the true definition of family with the way they treat each other. Our senpai are some of the most caring and fun people I’ve ever had the pleasure to look up to. I respect them so much because they don’t look down on us beginners. They pay close attention to detail when it comes to their craft and do their best to make sure that everyone in the group is on the same page. What’s more, they are so kind and accepting of me in all my foreignness. I’ve not felt such warmth and happiness while being involved in a group since high school (sports, etc.). I cannot wait to don my tube top and official skirt and wow the crowd with this crazy cool bunch of girls!