On one level I’ve been miserable lately due to federal politics but, thankfully, I’ve had distractions because James and then Dana helped us welcome in 2017.
James stayed with us first. He’s a dual citizen – Australian and U.S. A new uni grad, in his vernacular, with degrees in environmental science and geography. James lived across the street from us with his family as a baby and since then with his folks in Perth. While he traveled internationally with others, this trip is his first major one on his own. He wants to live and work in the U.S. for awhile and I hope that works out for him.
Technically Dana is my first-cousin-in-law-once-removed. Wow, six words to describe one relationship. That reminds me of a characteristic I like about Spanish where one simple word describes each family relationship. No “in-law” tacked on for instance. Instead suegra means mother-in-law and cuñado means brother-in-law, etc. All this to say, I’m going with “my niece” from now on when I speak of Dana Fong. After all, she calls me Aunty Penny.
Dana is staying with us this week because she lives and works in Beijing but her company is based in Seattle. Occasionally they fly her in and this time, lucky me, she asked to stay at our house. Dana’s an easy guest because she has work plans during the day and social plans in the evening, including the one great night she saved for family dinner around our table. While Dana is in her twenties too, unlike James, she knows how to get around town and came here with U.S. dollars in hand.
Thank God for these two. Yes, James’s visit required more direct time and energy from us but we were fascinated and really enjoyed having him. Between the two, he looks more like he could be our kid than Dana does, as she is Asian-American. But the minute he speaks he’s foreign, English-speaking so we can generally understand him but his strong accent, to our ears at least, led to some fun conversations. We loved hearing his stories and his insights as he tackled Seattle and compared America to Australia, a continent we want to visit now more than ever.
Hosting Dana, on the other hand, was like having one of our own at home for a flash. She came and went on her own schedule, touching base every now and then. The stories she shared were usually in response to our questions and more often about China, her home base for now and another place we want to visit. Again our world expanded even though we stayed right here, cozy at home.
I am immensely grateful we started 2017 with international visitors. Definitely a privilege. I’ve needed distraction from the political hoorah unfolding all around me as the presidential reigns change. Yes, I cried with the rest of you listening to Obama’s farewell speech. I will be volunteering on Friday and marching on Saturday to mark Inauguration Day. I find though that my best antidote to anger, fear and sadness in the face of impending sea change is curiosity and engagement with whoever is right here, right now. Bridging across ages and continents via our twenty-something guests was good medicine for the fortitude needed in this time of change and uncertainty.