The people I’ve known the longest still surprise me. I learned this when my family visited me in Thailand. Take everyone out of their context and comfort zones and new elements of their personalities unfold. Sure some things always remains the same. My sister still wants the royal treatment, my dad wants to make sure everyone has the royal treatment and my mom just wants everyone to get along.
I wandered off to far flung places before I’d graduated university. I completed my last semester abroad and stayed overseas for the next two and a half years. There’s a transition into an adult relationship with family members that happens during those years. While my sister figured all of that out, I was biking in a rice field in Thailand.
The chance for my family to visit me overseas stirred a bubbly mixture of reactions. Mostly, I was excited to enjoy their company and show them my life in Thailand. Part of me however, was anxious. The years overseas had changed me and I wasn’t sure how much they’d changed in those years either.
The first few days were mixed. I loved showing them around, exploring new places and basking in luxuries like air conditioning and beaches. I was also incredibly impatient. I’d been in Thailand for over a year and took for granted the daily routines I’d become accustomed to. I guess the money does look different, and talking to cab drivers is awkward at first, and squat toilets can be mildly traumatizing the first go around.
What I did come to appreciate are the new things I learned about the people I’d known my whole life. My dad, with his boundless curiosity thrives abroad. He was the most alert, inquisitive and giddy I’d ever seen. My mom, the rock in our family, knows how to cut loose more than she lets on. My sister with her perfect hair, will be the first to run through the mud if it means a good time.
Most of all, I loved the reassurance of the things I already knew. This I realized when we made our way over to Cambodia. As we teased each other over afternoon hor d’oeuvres of champagne and cheese, I remembered this is the family I’ve always known. This is the family with a tendency to turn the most average moment into a celebration to remember.