Monday, July 8th, I stand in the backyard with uncooked rice in my hand. The morning fog still hangs heavy over the valley, concealing the steep drop down to the fields behind the house. The baby of the family, Tsou-Tsou, stands next to me, shaking a small can of rice. Chickens and their chicks fearlessly flock toward us, aggressively shoving for food. Tsou-Tsou eagerly throws rice at her feet and the birds bow their heads to peck at the grains. She is, at this moment, the queen of the flightless birds. She glows with curiosity; I, in turn, glow with happiness at her pure joy. Quickly, I seize the chance to capture this moment with my camera.
Tsou-Tsou grew to enjoy my company slowly and then—after I bribed her with chocolate—all at once. I found it difficult in the last few days of my homestay to enter without being showered with her enthusiasm. Despite the language barrier, I found the connection to my homestay family that I sought. It came in the form of a child.
Children give limitless love and ask for the same in return. As a kid myself, I can attest to this demand; there is no worse feeling than seeking attention and then being denied it. What I knew but didn’t truly understand before this homestay was how universal this interaction is. Tsou-Tsou provided a language that my homestay family and I could communicate in. It was comprised of laughter, tickles, and various baby noises. I had been so worried about the language barrier that I hadn’t realized that emotional connection could be based on just that – emotions.
On Thursday, gathering with the Dragon’s group, we discussed the sacrifices that our families make for us to be here. I couldn’t help but feel a pang of guilt as I thought about how much I constantly ask from my parents as a student on the other side of the globe from home. The thousands of miles between us dampen the common language of love and care. And I had the audacity to neglect calling my parents or to be curt when I did? I had my excuses: I’m too busy to call, I don’t want to worry them with problems, etc. But it’s impossible to make up for that lost communication. So, I’m sorry for being blind to all of the sacrifices you make for me and my future and for disregarding so much of the love and care that you show me.
At school we are taught to say four things with goodbyes: forgive me, I forgive you, thank you, and I love you. Although it’s already three weeks into the program, here is a goodbye for every time you’ve sent me off and every time you will send me off. Firstly, forgive me, I’m sorry. I’m sorry for hurting you with my selfishness and stubbornness and for taking and never giving back. Sorry for ever letting you down. Secondly, I forgive you. I forgive you for every time you’ve expected too much of me and every time you denied me of my happiness. Thank you. Thank you for trusting me and for providing me with everything you can to support me. Thank you for giving me more love than I will ever be able to give back. Lastly, I love you. No matter where I am, who I become, or how lost I may be, I will always love you.