Part of the Family

by Tatiana Luna

Two days ago, my family was accepted into the family of a couple who own a small and delicious eatery around the corner from our apartment building.  In typical Chinese fashion, the transition was quick and seamless.  The first two times all three of us–Christopher, Isabelle, and I–went to eat there, and the woman (buhaoyisi!  how embarrassing!  I can’t remember her name!), held and played with Isabelle for us while we ate, and I had halted, but very pleasant chit chat with her and her husband, and we paid for our food.  Around 16 kuai–only a little more than US$2.00 for the two of us to eat.  The third time I went there with Isabelle for lunch one day, and again the woman held her, and again we talked, and again I paid.  Two days ago, I went there for lunch, already tired and frustrated by an experience I had at a China Post, and they insisted that I eat lunch with them. The good-natured banter, only about a third of which I understood well,  and the intent and patient attention they gave Isabelle and I, cheered me right up, and I left feeling welcome again in China.  And now I wonder if I will ever have to pay again.

The couple’s faces are so clear and kind and I noticed this time how often and how loud they laugh.  This last time I met their young nephew, who in addition to kindness, had lit up eyes, talking to me about small differences between American and Chinese culture, and throwing out a few English words that he knew.  The whole lunch, Isabelle sat on the woman’s lap, interested and content.  They called the woman Isabelle’s Chinese mama(中国妈妈 zhongguo mama).  I agreed wholeheartedly that this is an appropriate name, and inside I rejoice.  This experience is exactly the kind I want Isabelle to have–the opportunity to form a relationship with a Chinese woman, who will not only be her best resource for learning Chinese, but also who I trust and admire.

What better way for each of us to learn about China and ourselves in China than to be accepted as friends and family?