Sunday, March 30, 2008

Thoughts on Cross Cultural Friendship

When I came to China, I was so naive. You research, talk with the experienced, attend workshops, imagine and try not to have expectations all at the same time. Nothing prepares you for life here.


One of the biggest surprises, I have encountered though, is cross-cultural friendships. Expressing yourself in another language is most difficult. I did not come here expecting to form the closest of friendships like I did in college and whatnot. I knew I would been close to Amy and Brad because we share a life most do not. However, Peach walked into my life. And well, it has not been the same since.

Peach and I met through another American. We spent our first outing together shopping for a cell phone. She was quiet and was nervous to talk with me. I was so thankful to have somebody help me in a time that just seemed so overwhelming. Our relationship went from meeting for lunch to practically roommates. We are both highly emotional and complete klutzes. Expressing our thoughts has rarely been a problem. Peach was right beside me when Emmie died last year. She blow dried my hair as I sat crying in my chair. She buried my crab Wasabi with me. She would get excited when I showed her the last artwork from my sister Rachel. She taught me to cook Chinese food, pulled out my splinters, tried to speak in a Southern dialect, watched Gilmore Girls, would try anything once and well we just did everything together. She even went to the gynecologist with me! (I would not recommend such an outing for any friendship!) She is the kind of friend Jane Austen and the Louisa May Alcott wrote about. I don't normally go around just staring at the faces of my friends or holding hands, but with Peach it just happens. The most endearing and innocent kind of friendship there could be. To think that somebody from another culture could not only do all this with me, but to really understand me and vice versa... well it is rare.

Watching Peach grow over the past two years has been awesome! Not only did she really become a good caretaker and woman, she grew in Love. We got to celebrate some big things with her including her BirthDay. Today, we had to experience another stage of her life... Moving away.

On Friday night, we built a campsite on Brad's porch. We borrowed some tents, made a campfire from candles, pulled out the Christmas tree for nature, ate buffalo wings and bai cai, made smores, sang and played the guitar and told ghost stories. It was the first camping experience for both Peach and Amy and definitely the most fun one for me. The perfect night for the end of such a time. Saturday morning, we had some great Indian tea with Kim and Katie. We were supposed to say goodbye in the afternoon because Amy, Brad and I were going to WuDang Shan. However, after a long goodbye of uncontrollable sobbing (I'm talking snot covered, eyes bloodshot, Brad wearing smeared makeup all over his clothes and face, loud noise crying), we decided to stay in Yichang and see Peach leave on the train on Sunday morning.

We spent the afternoon just being in the same room, had hamburgers for dinner and then I helped Peach pack her dorm room. We all spent the night in the floor of Brad's again, but this time actually slept. At 7am, we all climbed into taxi, drove to the train station and said our goodbyes again. This time much less hysterical, but still emotional. Peach is bound for Wuhan and a new job. A new stage in her life. She is growing up. I couldn't be prouder.

While a lot of people might think that this whole friendship/relationship is unhealthy because we did rely on each other so much, I vote to differ. Peach was a true friend. She was not looking for English lessons. She did become "Westernized" in some ways, but she also taught me a lot about Chinese culture and was never one to sacrifice her true self. She understood me better than most people did. I became a better person by knowing her.

I know we will see each other at least 2 more times this term, but it is hard coming home to an empty apartment. After July, I do not know if I will see Peach again and I just cannot think about that right now. This is so much harder and different than I expected. But I would do it all again to experience the love and life of my Peach.

"The times they are a'changin..." -Bob Dylan

(This post is probably a little personal, but something I feel so important to my time here so I thought I would share. Still not sure it does the friendship justice. Picture taken from the morning after our camp out.)

1 comment:

  1. Beth,
    Thanks for sharing! The relationship you two have is beautiful and sent by our father!

    Love you,