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Kunming Days with my Host Brother

A week and change ago we showed up in Kunming. That day, we arrived at the program house at about 11:00. Everyone’s homestay families were scheduled to pick them up at 12:00. By 12:15, everyone was gone but me. At the last minute, my family had had a family emergency, and couldn’t pick me up until later. I spent the afternoon with the instructors, and then, after some last minute miscommunications about the time to pick me up, my host dad showed up at 6:30 at the program house. Despite the total lack of a plan that afternoon and the many stressors he must have faced, somehow he seemed completely destressed. He was able to talk to me in English for a while, and took a very long time to show me the way home complete with landmarks and specific bus stops. This sums up the overall tone of my homestay very well. There always seems to be a frantic breakneck energy, but somehow they always make time for me, and do it with such kindness and generosity.

The frantic feeling of my homestay is almost always due to my two-year-old host brother. My first experience with him was dinner first night. He was intent on using chopsticks himself, and his mother was not as keen. Eventually it got to the point where she picked him up from the table and removed him to a separate room. She sat down back at the table with her back to the door. Almost immediately, he walks out of the room with a full, uncapped tube of toothpaste in his hand. He shoots me a knowing, mischievous look and starts waddling off towards the other side of the apartment. I started frantically gesturing at him for my host mom. She stands up, turns around and so does he. They make direct eye contact, and he places a fat glob of toothpaste directly in his mouth, then, he books it. His mother chased him around for about 30 seconds screaming at him, “Did you really eat it? Really? Yes or no?” in Mandarin, of course. Eventually, she caught up with him and removed the toothpaste from his hand and mouth, but it made for an interesting introduction.

He seems conscious of what his parents do not want him to do, just so he can do exactly that. At restaurants, he seems to always drift towards the door to the outside. Every meal we go out there seems to be a moment where he is standing at the open door glancing between the outside and back at his then yelling mother. It is in this limbo where he seems to be considering his fate. Does he throw himself out into the world where he longs to be, and face the inevitable wrath of his mother, or does he resign himself back to the confining seat of the dinner table? Most of the time, the latter is chosen, but at least once a meal, he will just absolutely book it. When this happens whoever is closest to the door will have to run after him. When I say run, I mean run. This kid can really move. The world outside restaurants seem to give him such euphoria that he gains abilities beyond his years. He runs much faster, and, when his mom inevitably catches up to him, his pain tolerance goes through the roof. He just laughs manically as his mom whoops his bottom. Though, now that I think about it, he just has pretty insane pain tolerance in general. While he is chasing me through his apartment, his head has a tendency to smash into any one of the corners or doorways. Despite this, I have not once seen him cry or even upset in the slightest from physical pain. He is an absolute beast. Though his pain is in check, other bodily functions are not as much so. You can’t expect much from a two-year-old, but this kid really cannot hold his pee. He’ll say something to his mom in Mandarin, she’ll find the nearest bush, and he’ll pee there. This does not work, however, when there is no bush or mother nearby. For instance, when he is hiding in my closet, sitting on top of my pants. I’m just glad I wasn’t wearing them.