Cultural informant. Korean friends at the Amish store.

It’s been an interesting day. We took our friends Tehan and Junha to the Amish store today. They are Korean, and Kim has been meeting with Junha for a little over a month now for language practice. She is new to Madison and wants to learn English. And Kim (and I) want to learn as much about Korea as we can before our adoption. So it’s a fun and beneficial relationship.

Tehan and Junha are both new to American culture. They’ve only been married a couple years and don’t have any children yet. Tehan has been in the States for a while but his English is still just so-so. And Junha recently moved here and is wanting to learn more. They have Korean friends and go to Korean church, but haven’t had an opportunity yet to be around and practice with native speakers.

We really empathize with their struggles. I remember all too well that feeling- being in a new culture, not knowing the language, immersed in the culture but still too distant from it. We felt that in Indonesia. We struggled with the language. It was exhausting to talk to people. Exhausting to be social. But we also knew that was the ONLY way to overcome it. Dive in, head first.

And so when Junha reached out via Craig’s list wanting a friend, someone who could help her navigate American culture and language, Kim responded. Kim has met with her a few times, and like I said so far it’s been very helpful. We have lots of questions about Korea and could use a translator, and Junha is super-motivated to practice her English and learn American culture.

Today’s excursion was, of all places, the Amish community north of where we live. Junha had heard of the Amish and was curious. So we met at our house, had some breakfast, and drove to the Amish grocery store, furniture shop, and bakery.

Her fascination and excitement for such simple things was really cute and refreshing. She got excited about corn fields and cows. We pointed out the small towns we passed through like Wyocena and Pardeeville. And she nearly flipped out when we passed by a couple of Amish buggies. She had a lot of questions. It felt good to be around someone who didn’t take these things for granted but found them genuinely unique and interesting.

I could tell the grocery store was a little overwhelming for them- so many aisles and items, all in English…. And on a Saturday it was quite busy. All the conversation can be overwhelming. Again, I can sympathize. The furniture store was less busy, and we introduced them to angel food cake at the bakery.

It was a really fun day. I like being on this side of the culture. All too often I find myself at odds with American culture- like I don’t fit in or belong here. But days like today remind me that yes, this is where I’m from, and no, it’s not a struggle for me to be here. Not how a foreigner feels. Not how we felt as foreigners in Indonesia. For once I could be the cultural informant. For once I could help out a visitor who needed a little help. I’m really quite happy to do it. Like I said, I remember the feeling, and I remember the people who helped us when we needed it. It’s a debt of gratitude that I am happy to pay to others who need it.