Three months in Rap­pa­han­nock

Rappahannock News - - COUNTRYSIDE - BY WEN-YA CHANG

This year I was lucky enough to travel to the United States from Tai­wan for three months as part of the In­ter­na­tional 4-H Youth Ex­change (IFYE) pro­gram. This time with my host fam­ily in Rap­pa­han­nock has been amaz­ing. They have treated me as if I were their own daugh­ter and I have seen so many new and dif­fer­ent things.

They took me on a trip to Illi­nois, where I at­tended my first Amer­i­can wed­ding. On the way, I had many other firsts: my first time ice-skat­ing, at an amuse­ment park, div­ing off a div­ing board, play­ing Fris­bee golf and spend­ing 15 hours in a car! Tai­wan is a trop­i­cal is­land that you can cross in six hours, and there is no ice-skat­ing and no Fris­bee golf cour­ses.

Some­times, when I am home­sick, I miss cer­tain foods. I have had to ad­just. A veg­e­tar­ian, I do not eat onions or gar­lic be­cause my re­li­gion, I-Kuan Tao, does not want us to eat any­thing that flies, walks or swims, or to con­sume five odor­ous vegeta­bles, in­clud­ing gar­lic and onions be­cause they af­fect one’s be­hav­ior and can harm cer­tain or­gans.

Gar­lic and onions are in ev­ery­thing here! My fam­ily has ac­com­mo­dated my diet, cook­ing many things from scratch. From scratch is an ex­pres­sion I learned while my host dad taught me to make a home­made cake for my host mom’s birth­day. She was sur­prised and so happy! I can­not wait to share the recipe with my fam­ily and friends. Be­cause Chi­nese cul­ture fo­cuses on cook­ing over flames, we seldom use the oven and we usu­ally buy cakes.

I have learned to care for 26 chick­ens, one dog, three cats, two horses and 11 sheep. Coun­try life is new to me, as I grew up in the city. When I was young, I was bit­ten by a dog and I’ve al­ways been a bit afraid of cats be­cause of their dev­il­ishlook­ing eyes, so I was ner­vous at first. But now I love an­i­mals. My friends at home say I live in a zoo.

Chi­nese cul­ture is shy about ex­press­ing love and I like the way my host fam­ily hugs each other good­night. I’ve liked learn­ing that God loves every­one, and tells peo­ple be kind and for­giv­ing.

In Tai­wan, I am the youngest child. In my Amer­i­can fam­ily, I am the old­est and also big sis­ter to two for­eign ex­change stu­dents: Dave Sungchan Wang from South Korea, and Gayla Halina Zolo­tukhina from Ukraine. They are high school se­niors and will stay a year. We share our cul­tures through sto­ries and food.

To­gether, our fam­ily shops, cooks, does chores, plays games, and most of all laughs. We are for­tu­nate to have each other. This ex­pe­ri­ence has given me the courage to try new things like div­ing, jump­ing into a river, play­ing with an­i­mals and to open my heart and mind to learn and re­ceive more. I will al­ways remember 4-H and my host fam­ily.

COUR­TESY PHOTO

Lau­ren (birth­day girl), Robert and Made­lyn McPeak at their Castle­ton home with ex­change stu­dent Wen-Ya Chang.

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