An old Chinese idiom goes, “within the four seas all men are brothers”. This worldview on friendship would seem to be a pure ideal to typical Hongkongers who are raised in a money-ruled utilitarian environment. Yet, naivety makes me refuse to accept such a brutal reality. Declaring myself as a global citizen. I look forward to every opportunity to engage myself in an untouched culture and treasure every bit of interactions with friendly people worldwide. I’m holding a constructivist’s belief that cultural understanding would be vital to enhance the peace and well being of an increasingly globalising world.
Homestay is a very funny and warm contact to build up a deep relationship with the family and understanding of the corresponding culture. Earlier this year, I went to the Southern tip of India – Kochi, to visit my Christian friend there. She welcomed me with a large guest room decorated with flowers. Within my two limited days of stay there, she took me to adventure through the elephant training ground, the rainforest and the rivers nearby. In the next Monday morning, she left to school before sunrise. While I was waving my goodbye hands, I just could not resist my tears from running. I cried not simply because of the bitterness to leave a friend of mine, but because of the utmost humility she and her family have shown to me during the short period of stay.
I never expected I would receive an equally heartfelt humility on a tropical island I never knew. Thanks to Lala and Mama Esing – our host family, whose generosity is even more commendable as we were nothing but strangers to her just a few days ago!
Perhaps it is the Catholic teaching, perhaps it is her intrinsic kindness, Lala has been treating us as her brothers and sisters since the very first encounter when she picked us up from the pier. In the first afternoon, she took us for a hike to the church. The second day she brought us to the Alobijod Cove with shimmering water and fine white sands. Apart from all these joyful activities, the most unforgettable one was our dining table, on which we share our stories, our cultural practices, and of course, laughter.
We also got to know her family – her six adorable and helpful daughters, and the diehard music fan, Uncle Anthony. We played with the cats, we had parties, we shared music, we sang karaoke together, and we taught each other on our own languages. The five different languages flowing in a living room of no more than 200 sq. ft. reminds me “it’s a small world after all”. “Small” here does not describe the geographical size. It actually means the differences between races, religions, languages, colours and beliefs do not matter, what matters is whether we devote our hearts to feel the personal warmth of each other. It is love, which makes the world a wonderful place to live in.
The song: Imagine, by John Lennon, may best sum my reflection up – “imagine all the people, sharing the world…”
It is only the fifth day I have been in Lala’s house. Yet, I feel so familiar with the settings and the people here. During one dinner, we talked about how it would feel like when it comes to the day we leave this loving and caring home. It is hard to picture. Some friends you may not know when you would see them again, or even whether you can see them once in the future. Even if the advancement of social media in the digital age may make our connection easier, I believe what most precious is the emotional connection built inside our innermost centre. As a quote of Le Petit Prince says, “the most beautiful things in the world are to be felt with the heart”.
We may never have the chance to compensate the generosity they have offered us in the future. Thus the only thing we can do is to treasure every second here, remember their kind little gestures, and remember the lovely smiles and the great humility behind.
Lastly, I want to express my gratitude to the unprecedented care Lala’s family has given to us. Lala once said, “people tend to forget who you are even when you have helped them a lot”. I may not be able to offer any returns to the host, and I know they are not doing all these for us looking for compensation. Yet, I am not taking everything for granted…