ArrivalPosted: May 26, 2011
Baby sister is in town!
OK, so she’s not so much a baby anymore (although Michael claims that when I call her on the phone I still talk to her like a small child), but Helen arrived laaaatttteee Tuesday night with a group of students from the State. They’ll spend six weeks at our university, studying the language and learning the culture.
Thus far Helen’s made it through one lost (now found) suitcase, several Asian meals, and day one of language class. Last night she came over for chicken salad, Skype (hey mom!), and debriefing me on her impressions of Asia after one-and-a-half days.
Helen is doing a great job adjusting. It is always so funny for me to take a step back and see life here through the eyes of someone who is fresh off the plane. There are so many everyday eccentricities that are now commonplace for me but which stand out to newbs. This was so clear yesterday as Helen told me about her day. She met a new friend. This girl’s name was Green. To me that’s no biggie–English names here are always eccentric. (Favorite ever self-given English name? Gas Ball. The kid was going for Balloon, but just translated the word directly into English, which, as we can all see, didn’t turn out so well.) Anyway. This new friend, Green, spent about three hours showing Helen and another American friend around the university campus: the tracks, the classrooms, grocery stores, little boutiques. Hospitality here is a take-no-prisoners sport. When you meet a new friend, they are not only willing, but eager, to sacrifice their whole day to help you out. When I was in college, I hardly noticed the foreign exchange students, and certainly never thought of throwing my plans to the side in order to show someone around. Helen’s also been amused by the almost British accents which many fluent English speakers have, freaked out by a few bugs, and shocked by what a rock star Americans are here.
I’m so thankful that Helen is here, and so grateful that she’s taking Asia in stride. Life here is odd, and sometimes the reaction of new people to this place makes me defensive about this culture I love and where Michael and I have chosen to make our home. Yeah, it’s weird. Yeah, there are some (lots?) of cultural things that are not only annoying and bothersome, but downright wrong. True, sometimes we’re forced to take part in the charade of saving face and back-rubbing and we’re often granted a front-row seat to corruption and favoritism. But–but–I am continually humbled by the love and hospitality which my Asian friends show me. And while it’s difficult to understand the importance of relationship here (loosely translated, this means “I do something nice for you, then it’s your turn to do something nice for me), in the States I have rarely, if ever, given or experienced the care and concern which Asians regularly shower on near-strangers.