After weeks of anticipation, my partner and I finally set the date to meet our family. Upon doing so my nerves immediately increased. What was it going to be like? Would my family open up right away or would they be shy? What was I going to say? I realized that despite hearing stories of other people’s encounters I still had no idea what to expect nor could I really prepared. When we first arrived I felt as if all of my fears had come true. I had no idea what I was doing. My anxiety subsided a bit as I sat down and saw two boys, around my brother’s age, playing with toy trucks. The mother ended up getting a neighbor to come translate, and after about 10 minutes we were told we should come back the next day when the whole family was there. Despite the fact that they were still very welcoming I felt that my worst fears had come true. I felt helpless and was afraid I would not be able to connect with the family. The next day however, when I met the whole family my fears were wiped away. Despite the language barrier, they made me feel right at home. With the help of the oldest daughter, who knew English, we were all talking within minutes. I ended up helping the 7-year-old boy and his father with their homework and could not believe how much fun I was having. Things went so well that it was hard to leave.
On Sunday, the 20th of September, Cate and I went to visit our family for the first time. When we got there the mother had no acknowledgment that we were coming, which happened to a few others in the class. The mother spoke very little English and when we started to ask her questions, she just left the apartment. This was odd at first, but then she came back with someone who understood and spoke English. After about 15 minutes, we found out that the father was at the hospital and the other two children were out and about. So we were able to communicate that we would come back on Monday after 5 PM.
The second, or rather first time meeting the whole family went a lot better. When we got there the daughter was there and she spoke a good amount of English to hold a conversation. We started by telling the family why we were there and then the father came home. The father seemed excited to see the two of us there and wanted Cate and I to get to know us a little better. Then after bringing out some fruit and drinks, we were to get down to business and help the children out with their homework. It consisted of basic math, geometry, English and reading comprehension. When the children were finished, the father wanted Cate to give him homework. I found this quite amusing, because no one wants homework but he desperately wants to learn the English language as does the entire family. I spent that time talking to the daughter and the older son. Finally, after Cate completed the English work with the father, we just sat there talking about their family and our families. They also invited us to attend a religious festival on Saturday. I feel that this family is excited to have us helping them adjust to this new culture and look forward to helping them out as well.
Paige and I, like many other students, were not sure what to expect when we set out to meet our family for the first time. Would they like us? Would they be able to speak English? Would they offer me meat that I would have to turn down because I’m a vegetarian, and would this offend them? What we did not wonder about, however, was how serious our first encounter might be. I imagined that there would be the usual small-talk and discussion about what the family would like us to try to assist them with. Nothing, and I mean nothing, could have prepared us for the encounter we had with our family. They opened up to us a great deal and shared a lot of very personal information about where they came from and why they are here now. Their story was heartbreaking, and Paige and I felt that the whole experience was surreal. We were hearing about things that I can not even fathom happening to my family and myself. Despite the huge differences in our life experiences, it was amazing to me to note that the act of listening seemed lighten their enormous burden at least a little bit. This shows me that a little bit of human compassion can go a very long way.