This post is a travel blog from our Recruiting and Project Administrator, Amy Murphy from her experience working and traveling throughout Eastern Europe and Asia was originally written in July 2014.
Asia is a fascinating place. The food and cultural experiences are unlike anywhere else I’ve experienced – from petting Tigers in Thailand, or scuba diving in the reefs at Kho Tao, to enchanted jungle-esque islands that seem like fairy-tales. But, despite our cultural differences, I always find people that make me feel at home.
I had the opportunity to live in Taiwan for 6 months. While there, I attended a local religious organization and met some wonderful people. One individual that I certainly will never forget is my Taiwanese grandma.
My very first week at church, this sweet little lady came up to me and gave me a big hug. Even without translators, it was obvious she was smart, kind, full of love, life, and happiness! She joined me on beautiful hikes throughout the country and enjoyed getting the most out of life. She gave love freely and always told me “I love you”, the only English she knew.
A month into my stay in Taiwan I began volunteering as a piano teacher to a group of aspiring musicians. Though they mostly did not speak English, through the help of an occasional translator and very expressive demonstrations, they made great progress learning scales and other simplified Western melodies. My Taiwanese grandma also attended these lessons. She never looked at the music and played instead by ear, and moaned every time I tried to get her to play scales. But, she progressed. Several lessons later, my little grandma, grabbed me and stealthily led me downstairs to present me with a gift – a second-hand black skirt. Although she couldn’t tell me why in English, I could tell she was proud and wanted to show her appreciation. I tried to protest, since I didn’t expect anything. But…she’s a grandma…and grandmas always get their way.
The next Sunday after this awkward gift exchange, she again snuck me down stairs in between classes to where children were having snack time. She walked up to the teachers, smiled, grabbed some guava and a handful of lychee and happily bestowed some to me. It’s not stealing if a grandma gets it for you, right?
The following week, she again sneaks me downstairs in a manner that felt straight out of a Bond movie. She mysteriously put her index finger to her lips, checked the halls to ensure no one was watching, and found an empty room to present me with a bag, then signaled for me to hide it…almost like a drug deal…but we are in church…with a massive bag of 2nd-hand clothes full of eclectic tops that reminded me of my Arkansas grandma and her passion for thrift stores.
A few weeks later, I was preparing for piano lessons when she came up to me again with a sly look on her face and hugged me. She smiled mysteriously and then proceeded to plan my marriage to her son. She scheduled dates and dinners, had volunteers to drive me to her house, and of course persuasively described how strong, attractive, hard-working [insert every other amiable quality to be desired in a man here] her son was.
She mentioned that he would be coming for piano lessons and when he didn’t show, she gave me a banana. But, I couldn’t help wonder if my Taiwanese grandma and my American grandma were conspiring together to get me married. I guess somethings about grandmas are universal! And you should always be wary of their gift-giving intentions.