Thursday, January 08, 2015

First trip abroad

We're headed to (the United States of) America! And much sooner than initially planned. Ping's core exams (Chinese, Math, and English) are on Monday. After that she is free on winter break until the beginning of March. Next Friday, with bags packed, we will be on a direct flight to Chicago. I've wanted this for such a long time I almost can't believe it will happen.

As excited as I am, I think Ping is more so. It's interesting to view this trip through a 10-year-old Chinese child's eyes. She has already come up with some great questions, such as “Where does the stuff go when you flush a toilet on an airplane?” (answer: I don't exactly know and prefer not to think about it.) and “Can we go swimming in the lake?” (answer: Only if you are a polar bear, dear.). 

My first trip overseas, 2004

Ping is a lucky girl. I didn't get to travel internationally until I was in college. My first trip was to Ireland to visit one of my close friends who was studying abroad in Galway. I was incredibly nervous before I left. I couldn't imagine what life would be like in another country. Looking back, it's funny that I was worried at all. Ireland was the perfect country to get a taste of foreign travel. While it's certainly different from the US, the differences aren't dearly as stark as, say, China. The food is familiar, the language is (more or less) the same, and the people are friendly. It's also stunningly beautiful and not at all overwhelming.

I can tell Ping is a little apprehensive about some aspects of going to another country. I told her that many of my friends have children she can play with and she also has cousins. Among the kids she is oldest and as such is lǎodà (老大, the boss). Still she asked how well the other children speak English.

"Very well, of course; they are American," I explained to her.

"How about the two-year-old?" she inquired about her youngest cousin.

"Yeah, she can speak okay," I replied.

"I think I'll just hang out with her," Ping decided, assuming that would be easiest.

I think the language might be the biggest shock and I'm glad she's already giving some thought to it. I was naively optimistic about languages differences on my first trip to a non-English speaking country. During that same trip to Ireland, my friend surprised me with a round-trip ticket to Paris. My dream come true! And I was even studying French at university! I could use my newly acquired skills to flag down taxis, book hotel rooms, and order baguettes! Yeah, right. . . it didn't go down quite like that. Instead, I ended up sobbing in the Louvre when I got yelled at by a worker in a strange language that I thought I understood but clearly did not.

My first trip abroad was a mixed bag of emotions, but certainly one of the best experiences of my life. Obviously it left a lasting impression on me as I haven't stopped traveling since. I hope that Ping will enjoy herself despite the difficulties she encounters.

Have you ever been overseas? What was your first trip abroad like? Did you have to deal with language differences? How did you cope?


Anonymous said...

Oh wow, you made me realize I don't remember the first time I travelled abroad!! It must have been to Portugal, which is 100 km away from my hometown so I don't know if that counts, haha. But it is a different country with a different language!!

I'm sure you will have a wonderful time and Ping will love it!

rosieinbj said...

@Marta, I suppose it's different for Europeans. Many of you get to go overseas when you are little. That's not so common in the US, though we do travel to different states which can sometimes feel like a different country with another language!

I hope to write several posts about our trip. Thanks for your well wishes!

Sarah - Diariesofayangxifu said...

That's wonderful, I'm excited for you!

I hope everything goes smoothly and I'm sure you'll have a fantastic time catching up with all your family and friends. Being away for so long makes home all the more special.

Constance - Foreign Sanctuary said...

I am sure Ping will love it and will have an amazing time. Plus, she has you which will help make the 'introductions' all the more easier.

My first trip abroad was to the States but I don't really count that as Canada and the U.S. are so similar. However, writing my book has made me realized all the sights and sounds that were new and different to me when I first arrived in Taiwan. It is crazy how some things just become 'normal' over the years!!

Have a great time visiting family and friends and I look forward to hearing (well, reading) all about it!

rosieinbj said...

@Sarah, thanks for your comment. Things are going pretty well so far! Wish you a safe trip back to the UK!
@Constance, I think going to the States still counts! I haven't been to Canada yet but hopefully once we move back to the US we'll do a trip or two.

Mary O'Halloran said...

Wow that's super exciting!! If I were Ping I would be both nervous and brimming with excitement to go and see a new country. It must be fascinating.

Have you not been home in a long time? It's always a major shocker going home after a 1+ year hiatus!

Have fun in the states!