The following article is part of a series dedicated towards celebrating National Hispanic Heritage Month.
Bianca Henao, 131 TESS
“Where are you from?”
“Really? Where are your parents from?”
“My dad is from Colombia, but I am from America.”
This conversation happened so many times during my first few months at site when meeting new members of the community; it felt as if I were running for office.
It’s surprising how many cultural similarities I have discovered halfway across the globe.
My host family highly encourages eating as much sticky rice and Thai sweets as possible even after I’ve already had four meals by 5 p.m., the same way I better clean my plate when visiting my tia’s house.
Thai homes have photos of monks and religious offerings in almost every room just as a crucifix was in every room of my house growing up.
Talking about weight in Thailand is an extremely common topic of discussion; growing up, my sisters and I would get called gordita by my tias or my dad all the time.
I was barred from having sleepovers until I was probably in high school, and I could only go to sleepovers if my dad knew the family’s address and if they had no brothers; from what I’ve seen in Thailand, sleepovers aren’t even a thing.
Whenever arriving or leaving an event at my site, you absolutely have to make an entrance and exit by acknowledging everyone in the room; at home, if I didn’t say, “Hi,” to everyone at the birthday party for mi prima, there was going to be a real problem.
Growing up, Saturday was considered chore day, and if we didn’t finish what we were supposed to, we couldn’t go see friends or leave the house; here, I find myself cleaning and doing laundry alongside my host family on Saturdays except without Julio Iglesias or Maná blasting from the speakers.
Hospitality is very important in Thailand; you can never leave another person’s home hungry or unhappy.
This value makes me think of the popular Spanish phrase, “Mi casa, es tu casa,” which translates to my home is your home; basically, make yourself comfortable.
It is in these instances where I notice the beautiful simplicity of the human race.
Collectively, we all yearn for the same things: happiness, love and a sense of belonging.
A whole world, language and culture far away, I still manage to find moments when I feel like I’m right at home.