Sanibonani (sah-nee-boh-NAH-nee)!

18 12 2009

Hi everyone!  This is Sunny writing solo!

* * *

For the first ten years of my life, we had a maroon 1975 Buick Century station wagon.  I loved that car.  My mom and I cried on the day we sold it.  I used to sit in the “way back,” which was the best place to be.  I could face forward and perch over the back seat, risking crushing my sister below if my dad stopped quickly and the seat folded forward.   I could lie back and relax, leaving my bare footprints on the side windows while trying to determine our location just by my view of the treetops.  But usually, I would face backwards.  I would wave at the people in the cars behind us, trying to get them to wave back.  Usually they would.  Sometimes, though, they refused.  That was frustrating.  My arm would ache as I waved faster and faster for miles on the highway.  Sometimes they would speed up and pass us rather than wave back.  I could excuse drivers sometimes, for safety, but never navigators.  I asked my mom why they didn’t wave back, and she told me they were “stingy.”  For a long time, I thought “stingy” meant “didn’t like to wave.”

Lao people must be the least stingy ones we have met on this trip.  They always waved  back.  Whether we were cruising past in a slow boat, perched precariously in the back of a tuk-tuk, hiking along the road, or pedaling along on a bike, I had many smiles and waves and calls of “sa bai dee!”

taking this from the back of a moving truck was not easy

I waved at a family rumbling behind us on a motorcycle – father on the bike, mother crammed into a sidecar with a son under each arm – and the mother excitedly tried to keep her balance and wave both her sons arms at the same time.  A group of boys playing in the street were so excited when I came by on my bike that they lined up so I could slap all their hands.  They got a little too excited though, and crowded closer and closer to the bike until I almost ran them over.  On the same trip, while riding up a tough hill, a passenger leaned out of a big truck and encouraged me to keep pedaling.  I had a good 90% return rate on my waves and smiles, and the locals initiated the greetings as often as I did.  Even in the “land of smiles” (Thailand), I did not get such good results.

Being in Asia in general has reminded me of my home, family, and childhood.  I think it comes from always being surrounded by Asian people.  I didn’t worry when we went to a barber, because I knew they knew how to cut Asian hair.  I like that we can eat rice at every meal, even breakfast.  I like that even though the flavors are sometimes similar, they are familiar.  I like that almost every elderly woman we see reminds me of one of my grandmothers.  I like that when I enter and exit a restaurant, my instinct to bow (in-sah) is not out of place.

Curiously enough, I do find myself craving Western food too – a juicy hamburger that isn’t seasoned with soy or fish sauce, pizza with real sausage (sausage in Asia is more from the hot dog family), a Caesar salad where you don’t have to wonder if the lettuce was washed well.  I miss my car (made in Japan), my comfy Bob-o-pedic mattress (made in Taiwan), and my mom’s pork chops (made with black bean sauce from China).  Hmm.  Maybe what I’m most grateful for is that I am a mixture of different cultures.  As a teenager, I felt like I stuck out at home with my bowl cut and small eyes.  I visited Korea and found that I didn’t fit in there either, with my Western clothes and American accent.  But now, I feel happy that I can find an element of comfort almost anywhere.  We’ll have to see how things are in Africa.  I’ll start by learning to say “hello” in Zulu.  As long as they wave back, I think I’ll be just fine.

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One response

27 02 2010
tati

Wow is all I can say! What a montage of visuals and provoking thoughts. This trip surely is an eduction that will last a lifetime. You’ve made me think a lot.
I’m also craving all the foods you’ve described and want to walk for hours in Istanbul! Enjoy….and now that I’ve found your blog…will be a follower. You write so well!
Tati

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