Friday, January 2, 2009

Friday, January 02, 2009 - No comments

A Sip of Home

The more you work at becoming an “insider” in another culture, the more you tend to feel like a foreigner when returning to your own.  I’ve felt it this time around in the little things – not knowing which setting to use on the dryer or getting confused by the buttons on the microwave.  A few days after coming home, I was in Starbucks and way overpaid the barista when I gave her three Toonies ($2 coins) for a three-dollar drink.  A Toonie looks just like the Turkish one Lira coin, and in my head it made sense!  I had to apologize for being Canadian but not being used to my own money.  :)  It is so incredibly wonderful to be back, and yet sometimes I am very aware that the ways of the world I grew up in and will always come back to are no longer my first instinct.

It was healing to my soul to run into a Turkish family in Sears a few weeks ago.  I spied their headscarves and decided to stalk them for a few aisles, just to see what language they were speaking.  And just as I’d hoped, it was Turkish!  I was so excited to talk to them, I nearly cried.  They were so surprised and honoured that this Canadian girl could speak their language – I think it made both them and me feel just a little more at home in what is, to varying degrees, a foreign country to all of us.

On New Year’s Eve, I stopped in at the Chinese take-out place by our house to grab our last dinner of 2008.  They were really busy, so I sat down to wait for my order to come up.  The owner asked if I’d like a cup of tea while I waited, and I gladly accepted.  This little gesture brought a rush of unexpected warmth to my heart.  Without even knowing it, she had made everything right in my world.  When she brought the steaming cup, I told her how in Turkey, all business and waiting and living is done over a cup of tea, and that one of the things I miss when I am away is being offered it by shopkeepers.  She sat down and started to ask me all about life “over there” and to tell me about growing up as a third generation Chinese Canadian who always felt a little out of place with other Asians because she never learned Mandarin.  She, too, knows what it’s like to feel confused about who you are and where you’re supposed to be from.  When my food was ready, I thanked for the tea and went on my way.  And as I walked out the door, I couldn’t help but smile.  Maybe home really isn’t that far away after all.