Wednesday, February 15, 2012


One of the things that I wasn't expecting but have greatly enjoyed since arriving in China almost 2 years ago is the incredible mix of cultures that are part of our lives here.  Yes, of course, there are lots and lots of Chinese people but we also interact with Koreans, Japanese, Germans, British, Africans, South Africans, Spanish, French, Aussies, New Zealanders, Slovakians, Dutch, Canadians, Finish, and the list goes on.  I just listed those that came to mind right away that we play with, go to school or church with or have just grown friendships from chance encounters.  I'm often struck by how small my view of the world was before we came to live here and I continue to be very grateful for the opportunity for not only myself to be exposed to these other incredible cultures and languages but also that my girls, and particularly Xan.  She is old enough right now to  interact and build her own friendships with these "different" people and yet doesn't see them as different at all. 

Sure, they may talk differently or eat different foods than we do but those differences aren't things that keep us from having friendships with them and honestly in the US I'm not sure that we would be that way.  Now before you go judging…..hear me out on this........I don't think we would have as many multicultural friends for a couple of reasons.  
1- We just aren't exposed to them.  We never lived in a large city or near a large population of people that were really much different than us....our biggest "difference" was often the University you attended or the denomination of your church ;-). 
2- We gravitate to what is easiest.  I have many, many wonderful American friends here and to be honest they are probably the ones that I'm most "comfortable" with but it's because it's easy for me.  I don't have to work or try very hard to find common ground, they get my jokes, like the same foods, etc.  My non-American friends often don't laugh when I say something I think is quiet funny, they think we eat way too much sugar and they find my southern accent a little hard to understand.  However, that being said, I have learned a ton about other cultures by nurturing those friendships and trying to find that common ground that is really pretty easy since we're all living an expat life and most of us are moms and wives.  I have come to love hearing the different ways to prepare foods, raise our children, interact with families, and holiday traditions as well as what their day to day life looks like. 

Xan attended a party this past Saturday for Valentine's Day and when I went to pick her up I just smiled at the faces sitting around the room.  I made the comment to my friend's husband that we were incredibly blessed to have the opportunity to have such a diverse group of friends from literally all over the world.  Xan and the hosts' daughter were the only American kids there.  There were children from Mexico, England, Korea, Hong Kong, and one I'm not certain of.  Food is often the center of conversation for we moms since we are all trying to "recreate" familiar dishes from our home countries in a foreign land and I just had to chuckle as those sweet moms sat around my friends table happily munching on cheetos and rice krispy treats.......I was in heaven but I'm pretty sure they were enjoying it too.  

Well it has taken me a while to get where I'm going but my inspiration for this post was an experience I had this past Sunday at church related to this whole idea.  We attend what is called an International Fellowship church that is open to foreign passport holders only and I don't think I'm exaggerating when I say that we literally have 30+ nationalities represented most Sundays.  It is a very diverse group and we often say that it has to be similar to what heaven will be like one day.  Anyway, I was in the nursery with Maggie and due to a helper shortage (seriously.....every church nursery, even in China, has helper shortages haha) I needed to stay in the room with her.  There is another little girl in the room that was playing away with the toy dishes and food.  I know her mom and see her often around so I wasn't a complete stranger for her.  She is 3 and has lived in China her entire life and I knew that she was fluent in Chinese.  Now I must tell you that Sarah's parents are from the Congo and have the most beautiful dark skin you've ever seen and it is AMAZING to watch them in worship.  They make you want to know whoever it is they know cause it is just beautiful.....but I digress.    So here is sweet little Sarah speaking 90 miles an hour in Chinese to me and I'm trying to answer back and ask her questions with my very limited vocabulary.  It was obvious that she wasn't understanding my Chinese a couple of times and I'd revert to my  English and sure enough she'd understand me. (Her mother and father are both fluent in English.)  One particular time, though, she was trying to tell me something and I didn't understand and she busted out with some French (with a perfect dialect I might add). is this 3 year old who in the course of a 30 minute interaction used 3 languages on me.  WOW!  Talk about humbling....I only know one little language and struggle mightily to try and grasp a tiny bit of another.  We Americans are certainly behind on the language, so many of the people I meet know at least 2 and many know 3 or 4 different languages.  Again I say WOW!  We are doing our part to help Xan with a second language and she is actually doing very well with her Chinese.  Stan attends classes too so needless to say my Chinese is by far the back of the pack at our house and I'm not ashamed to admit that I've used Xan on more than one occasion to translate for me.  I've had a tutor in the past but haven't had one for quite some time now and maybe, just maybe it's time to get back into the learning mode.  I'll keep you posted.  

So.....a bit of rambling but I think you get my drift.  We live in the midst of some very different but great people from all over the world and I just think that is pretty cool.   Our lives will be better because of them.  

Chat with ya later-

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