Sue & Mike
“Take a left at the third light and you will be on 12, honey.”
“Honey, thank you for the drive. It is fabulous! The speed limit is 25.”
“Look, there is a deer! Oh, a group of them, at least 4. Watch the road, dad.”
Sue is always the person who sits in the back but holds the floor. Of course, usually she sits next to Mike when I am not here. She is so good at directions, which makes me questioning if there is a map of the world in her mind.
Sue & Mike are my host family. Before I came here, I filled out a form about myself and agreed to have a host family. But to tell the truth, I didn’t expect a lot, because I was going to live with my residents, and mostly hang out with them. And I was sure I could learn about American culture from them.
“Dingdong, dingdong,” the doorbell rang. “It must be my host family!” I said and rushed to open the door. Outside, two smiling faces were waiting for me, a tall man standing behind a golden haired lady. “Hi, I am Sue. And this is Mike.” Both of them looked like they were in their early 60s.
I gave them big hugs, which surprised them a lot. After hosting so many Chinese scholars and students, they knew that Chinese people didn’t hug, which made me different. In fact, I just learned how to hug from watching American soap operas.
We sat at the table and started talking about ourselves. We also talked about the people they had hosted whom I happened to know. Sue was very active and talkative, while Mike was silent. I really can’t remember whether he said anything or not that day.(I was proved wrong later! Mike is very knowledgeable in history, geology, sociology, etc. And he can keep on talking all our way to Oregon.)
They told me that they would be gone for the next 3 weeks because they were traveling in Turkey. I was surprised that people at their age were still traveling such a long distance. Sue saw my surprise, smiled, and said “I am 72, and Mike is 75.” They looked much younger than their age.( Later, after I learned that Sue runs a Marathon every year and saw Mike bicycling like he was at his 20s, I saw that they also acted much younger than their real ages.)
In China, when you turn 60, people expect you not to do intense sports, because you might break your legs or have a heart attack. So most older people in China look even older than they are.
I also found that Chinese people don’t travel a lot. I can think of three reasons: One, traveling is not easy. In China, the train is the main mode of transportation and it’s not easy to buy a ticket because we have such a big population. Two, traveling is exhausting. You can find Chinese runs most travel agencies in the U.S. It is easy and safe to take a tour, and you can see a lot of places of interest within one day, but the problem is that you will not have enough time to explore every place. They are efficient but exhausting. Three, traveling is dangerous. Like I mentioned above, older people are usually encouraged to do some easy sports, but traveling requires you to be adventurous and strong. Usually, you can’t eat well, or sleep well, and you will have to walk a lot or stay in a car for a long time.
“Are you interested in museums? Maybe we can go to the Walla Walla Museum when we are back.” Asked Sue. She had planned our first trip. It was really a very good trip and on our way, we even went into a casino.
I have learnt about American culture from different perspectives, and Sue & Mike have played an essential role. It’s true I am living with my residents, who are all Americans, but they are always busy with their schoolwork. And in fact, just like in China or in other countries, college is a special time in life, it is different from the real life at home before or after. Sue & Mike offered me a window through which I saw the real American culture.
I celebrated my first Christmas with Sue & Mike and Sue’s family. It was during the winter break and I had traveled back from the East Coast. Exhausted and lonely, I was picked up by Sue and her son Jeff at the airport on Christmas Eve. Usually, American people would stay at home with family, but they came to the airport. The moment I saw them there, I was moved to tears.
The next day, we headed to Sue’s niece Heidi’s home in the Tri-Cities. I was warmly welcomed by all of her relatives and we were offered a feast on this special festival. It was snowing heavily outside and you can see colorful lights in the neighborhood through the window; and inside, it was warm and happy— a traditional Christmas in my mind. (Of course, from the American soap operas.)
I played a card game with her family under the unclear American rule (I figured it out after playing it for about 30 minutes). Although I eventually lost, it was the first time I had played cards with a group of Americans.
I watched a fatabulous basketball game at the stadium with Sue’s family. I was wearing a T-shirt with the team logo and yelled and clapped happily. It was the first time I had watched a basketball game in person. (I had watched a football match in China before, but Chinese football, you know!)
I fell in love with a huge dog for the first time at Sue’s daughter’s home in Portland during this winter break. She was as huge as a black bear, but I saw mildness and tenderness in her eyes the first time we looked at each other. I had never kept a pet at home, because I am usually a little scared of animals. But that time, it proved that the huge dog really loved me, and she even came to my room to sleep next to my bed.
All these “first-time experiences” made my life vibrant and full in this country far away from home. Sue & Mike are like my family in the U.S. now.
This spring break, when I was planning my trip to Canada, Sue & Mike helped me again. Their daughter Jennifer, who lives in Montreal, came to pick me up at the airport and drove me back and forth every day. She was as sweet as her parents!
Just last weekend, Sue & Mike drove 3 hours to take me to see the deepest canyon in America and drove to Idaho on our way back to let me have more things to talk about when back in China (I traveled in 3 states in one day!) They are really so nice to me!
Yesterday, Sue drove almost 3 hours to take me to see her brother Bob’s farm. It was a shock for me to see how good the living conditions are for American farmers and I could not move my eyes from all those advanced machines working on the farm. While in China, no one really wants to be a farmer because farmers live a hard life, they can’t make as much money as most workers do. People living in the farm try to move to cities, and farmers’ children study harder to change their lives—they don’t want to be farmers as like their parents.
And next week, Sue & Mike are planning to take me to a trip to Sue’s sister Trish’s farm, because although Bob and Trish both are farmers, their farms are different and their products are different.
I am really so lucky to have a host family like Sue & Mike! They offered me more opportunities to know this country and their culture. What I learned most are the good qualities they have: good-heart, hospitality, optimist, confidence and the most important is—to love your life!