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When Family Meets Family

Noah S. is currently a senior at SYA China and a blogger for the Campus Reporter program. He comes to SYA from Robert Louis Stevenson School in California.

“Mom meet my, mom” “这是我的妈妈。” 

A complicated exchange occurred the moment I had stepped back into my home in Beijing. This time coming home, my mom was here to see my Chinese mom. 

A few hours earlier, I trekked to the Beijing Capital Airport from Xizhimen. I had to bike to the station, take the 2 to Dongzhimen, and take the Airport Express all the way to Terminal 2. Along the way, I noticed myself anxious but also at ease. A strange concoction of emotions brewed in my body as I stood behind the yellow line waiting behind a businessman getting home after a hard day at work. I was anxious to see my family for the first time in four months. Had they changed, what had happened that I missed out, how would they see my life here, and so many questions I couldn’t answer. At the same time I felt at ease using the train system I knew so well and feeling the movements of Beijing as the norm I have adapted to in these short four months. 

I arrived at the terminal observing International students being greeted by their parents upon their arrival back home in China. Strangely enough, I saw myself in the mirror opposite situation yet I felt the same emotions. While the Chinese students came home from America, my family had come abroad to see their international student in China. I noticed these families rekindling the familial fire reinitiating small talk and on occasion sharing hugs. 

As my family arrived, a moment of relief took me. The moment I saw them I remembered that a family can’t just change in four months. I knew that the people I had spent the first period of my life with wouldn’t change. They are always there for me, and for that I will always be thankful. 

I stood in the taxi line while conversing with my mother. 

“Why isn’t it colder?” she asked in a sarcastic but genuine way making it hard to understand what she was truly asking for. She would always say things like that because of her lack of understanding in the realm of sarcasm. I could never forget that about my mom. It felt so good hearing it again. 

We took a taxi back to my host family’s home to allow for increased comfort. After all, a flight from San Jose to Beijing isn’t a simple skip over the Pacific pond. Exiting the taxi outside the apartment complex (小区), my family looked around curious as to my activities in the area. 

As we enter the house, I enter a parry of languages fighting each other for my attention. My brothers speak English to me asking about my house, while my mother asks in Japanese about the presents she had gotten for my host family, and my host family tells me in Chinese to give my family slippers. 

My families settled for a moment after exchanging gifts from America and China; both families sat in exhaustion of each other’s enthusiasm. My host brother studies a cereal box my mother had brought from America. Over the last few weeks, I had introduced my host brother to cereal, now it was time for him tor try the real American stuff. He looked with excitement to try some of the stuff I had been eating since childhood. 

While my host-mom and mom struggled to communicate, I felt something new. Before coming to China, I never thought I would miss my mom so much. Sitting in my room doing homework, I would hear a young girl practice piano in the apartment close to my own. She always practices a song my mom plays back home. Hearing it, I couldn’t avoid remembering my mom back home. Later in the night, I often hear my host-mom coming home closing the door and yelling “回来啦 (I’m home)” As she says this both my host brother and I come to the door, stopping our homework and greeting her after her work day. In these moments, I realize how far I have come as a valued family member in my host family. Although I experience homesickness for my family, my host-mom still creates an environment where someone close to me always cares for me. 

As my moms spoke to each other, I saw two people who have changed me using their care. I am extremely grateful for their kindness. Without SYA’s host-family system, the experience would not be the same. Thank you to SYA, my host-family, and my own parents for the relationship I have gained with my host-family. 

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