Silly Grins

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Deep in the Heart

After class last night, one of the older women in the group, a sixty-something who looked like she was going on early fifty-something, stayed late.

She had some questions. Some questions because her daughter, a medical researcher in the US had just gotten married. Apparently, surgeon-daughter is going to a third country to do more research and wants to take her newly minted husband with her. 

“Yes, there will be a lot of forms. And you’ll probably be told not to do something by one department just after someone in the same office just told you to do it. The bureaucratic way. That's their nature. Just be sure to take down the name of everyone you speak with. Keep notes. The ride might get a bit bumpy and you’ll be duplicating the spousal-visa research on this that your daughter has probably already done. Too much preparation won't be enough. Either way, you’ve both got homework. Congratulations. And good luck.”

But this isn’t about visas, marriage certificates, or immigration.

This is about motivation. 
This is about a question and a surprising answer. 
This is about the proof.

How did the tiny lady with five children raise such successful, open-minded, and intelligent children in this environment? Yeah, her husband is in the medical field, but you’d never know it. Most people in her position would opt for the only-child approach in maintaining their bling, a sure way of assuring that everything looks bright and shiny.

When I was an exchange student here, the whole family, another exchange student and I loaded up into their well-worn van and went on a hike. Joking, laughing, a bit chaotic… bound to happen with so many kids and two university students more or less crammed into the vehicle.  

When we were driving through an area where there were obviously a lot of cows around, one of the kids asked, “Hey, who farted?!” And a laughter-filled blame game ensued where no one was spared. Yeah, a normal family. 

 Once upon a time, she'd been an exchange student in...
 You guessed it! Deep in the heart of where those stars at night shine so bright.

So, how did the eldest end up with a license to practice medicine  in the US (and soon to go elsewhere on a research grant), another kid about to graduate from a Korean university to work in translation, another kid working as a physician, and…

“Ma’am. Can I ask you a question? How did you do it? You’ve raised five amazing children. What’s your secret?”

Her answer did two things.

First, it inspired me. Then, I got angry, but not at her.


Me: Ma’am…What’s your secret?

Her: You.

Me: (Severely perplexed by the light of her smile and that twinkle in her eyes... not quite understanding)

She explained that she doesn’t believe in sending kids to cram school - doesn't believe in them. Even on her husband’s salary, that scam is too expensive anyway. She explained how her kids had private tutors. And how quite a few of the private tutors were foreign students. Like I sort of had been once upon a way-back-when.

“Naturally,” she explained, “they were motivated by you – you exchange students. You foreigners. You opened their minds to the world.”  

She was beaming, “Thank you.”

“You are welcome,” followed by a polite dismissal in the form of a “Good luck with your homework,” was all I could manage.

Then she left. She left over a foot taller than I remember her being when she'd come in that evening. Thinkin' like a Texan.


And then I felt an undercurrent of anger. For all the people who express their equine nature, doubting that what I have led them to is water. Apparently offended by my sincerity. For all the times I am doubted, sneered at. For all those unordered servings of Doubl-Macro-Smacks (with cheese even)… for all that I’m supposed to thankfully swallow, like it, and beg for more of where that came from, uh-huh. For all the times...

Then, the anger faded. Burned out, spent… gone as fast as it had come.

If going with the flow means playing the part of toastmaster at a bigotry filled banquet of condescension… they can help themselves.


The freedom to care about those who are trying.
The freedom to choose how to spend my time.
The freedom to let go.

(Fast, furious, unedited, rant-like, pseudo-tirade...)



  1. Man, the exchange programs at my school suck. They only seem to go to Italy or Spain. I wonder what motivates people these days. It seems like acting independently and winning aren't encouraged anymore.

    Do the best you can!! You didn't win, but would you like a trophy anyways?

    1. At the high school level, most of the 'competitive' exchanges seemed like they were rigged... flying in the face of The Four-Way Test. Gee, is anybody really surprised about who 'won'?

      Still plan on commenting on a few of the photos I looked at the other day... going through a bit of a melt-down at the moment. 'Busy as hell' as they say.