It certainly feels like 2008 will be remembered as the year of the Chinese, given all the media attention to the Superpower, culminating with the Beijing Olympics.
So when RIT sent an e-mail asking for families to take in international students for Thanksgiving Dinner, I had a hunch that if my family signed up we’d be assigned Chinese students. Indeed, we were assigned three RIT graduate students, who all hail from different regions in China.
As Thanksgiving grew closer, I was starting to get nervous that our Chinese students would change the dynamic of our family tradition. This year, my family was hosting for my mom and dad, and two of three sisters and their families. Needless to say, we had a packed house. So what are three more guests? Yet I worried that the cultural differences would bring about some awkward silence (even among my loud and boisterous brothers-in-law).
Awkward silence? Forget it. These students were chatty all the way. Let me introduce them: Xiaojie Liu (who uses Carrie as an English name), Can Wang (Margaret), Yang Zhao (Victoria). All three graduate students are studying electrical engineering and math at RIT. “RIT is a very hard school. We are glad finals are over!” said Margaret.
We certainly take things for granted in America, but this Thanksgiving my family was reminded of how good we have it in this country. For example, this was the first time the women had ever tasted a real turkey (they had only had turkey meat from a deli), cranberries or pumpkin pie. And it was pure joy to watch Victoria’s face when I finally convinced her to sample some red wine!
We engaged our Chinese friends in just about every topic: Politics, religion (“What is grace?” Who is the Pope?), shopping at the mall, driving in the snow, growing up as only children (China’s policy), dating, finances, entertainment (they compared my witty brother-in-law to Chandler from Friends!) and the list goes on…
By the end of the night, my parents wanted to adopt Xiaojie, Can and Yang. Our bond was amazing and our relationship will continue: My sister invited the trio over for Christmas dinner and they accepted on the spot!
And here is looking forward to a Chinese New Year.