Archive | March, 2011
Dutch national flag of the Netherlands, Holland,

Teasing on a Dutch farm


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I moved [to a new family] after like six weeks.  The first family that I was with was very different than I had grown up — very strict, black and white is a good way to put it.  Upper middle class.  And they would go here and they would go there.  I didn’t have enough money to do all of it.  Part of it was I wasn’t fitting in with their lifestyle.  Looking back I think maybe I was harder on myself, but it ended up well.  I still keep in contact with them as well.  A very nice family but very different than what I was used to.  I maybe didn’t give it enough time, but I think it worked out best that I left.  It was my choice and not theirs.

That was absolutely different [meeting second family].  They lived on a rebuilt farm that was in kind of a small village off of a village.  It was 12.5 miles from my school, which was in the next decent-sized town and I biked that to school every day.  They had sheep, lots of sheep, and they had pine trees which were their hobbies, and a compost pile in the backyard.  They had an old car that was older than I was and three older siblings, although one was in America for the year, one was home only on the weekends, and I had a brother that was there all the time with me.

The first day with my new family, the people I call Mom and Pop, was so different.  I was in Holland for six weeks.  When I got there we had dinner and I went to go sit in the living room with the family and my Pop said to me, “plogen”,  so I had to go get my dictionary.  I came back out with my dictionary and I looked up “plogen, plogen”, what does that mean.  I remember he said you’re not allowed to do something, and I looked up plogen and it’s ‘tease.’  They were teasing, and I said, oh, this is going to work!  And that worked much better.  Mom and I sat and looked at picture books and art books that night.  I was accepted right away.

Dutch flag Netherlands Holland

Dutch bathrooms


I flooded the bathroom trying to figure out how the shower worked. 

I didn’t want to ask!  But the Dutch have the toilet room and a bathroom.  It was a rebuilt farmhouse.  There was something wrong with the drain, and you had to pick up the drain and I didn’t know that.

I was trying to get the water to come out of the shower, so I couldn’t figure that out either.  By the time I got out of the shower I realized there was no edge – little lip of the floor – it was a straight floor all the way across, and I got out and the rest of the bathroom was flooded.   I was so embarrassed!  I was mortified for a few minutes.

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Mmm, that’s good oyster sauce!


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It’s not really very Thai to call people out on things that are embarrassing.

I’m sure that it must have happened like once or twice I said something kind of funny and my friends were like, “ha-ha,” they would laugh explicitly at me.

But my parents and people like teachers wouldn’t say anything generally.  They might correct me but they would never say anything or give me the actual definition of what I said.

There was one thing though that actually happened after I got back from Thailand and we were hanging out making some Thai food. And in the Thai language, any kind of liquid like soy sauce and fish sauce and things like that, they preface it with nam which is the word for water and liquid.  So fish sauce would be, like, nam pla and nam siew was soy sauce.

And so they have oyster sauce. And the word for oyster is hoi.  It’s the word for like any generic type of shellfish.  It also happens to be a very vulgar way to refer to female genitalia.  I see the analogy there, you know, but it’s a common word.  People use it and say it all the time.

But when they say oyster sauce they don’t say nam hoi, they say sauce hoi, and it’s because nam hoi is, well, the glib female genitalia.  Apparently by the time that I had made it bake to the United States I still had been calling it nam hoi.

So I can only imagine how many times I’d said that cooking in the kitchen with my host mother and she had just, you know, bit her tongue and didn’t say anything.  So, I say, “Oh my God!”

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Afrikaans and English in South Africa


When they took me home, the entire family was there – aunts, uncles, and cousins- and they were having a big barbecue.   It was just really overwhelming.

And although they did speak Afrikaans, they were totally bilingual, so they could speak English.  But generally what would happen is they would start out speaking English for me, and then about halfway through everybody would start speaking Afrikaans — not really realizing what they did.

So, I would find myself falling asleep and people were talking and I just didn’t understand what was going on.  And then everyone said, oh, Kathy, oh, and then they’d start speaking in English again.



On my host dad’s side, he had a brother that lived nearby and his wife was an English speaker.  The way it worked was whatever language the mother had was the language the kids would speak.  So because she was English, all those cousins spoke English.  So most of the time they spoke English, although they were bilingual as well.

Then my mom’s brother also  lived close by, and they were both Afrikaans, so those kids only spoke Afrikaans.  So communicating with the different kids was kind of interesting, getting to know, you know, who could speak what.

But getting used to their slang — they say, “just now” for, like, “in a while” or “later on”.   They knew I played the piano, and they said “we’re going to have you play just now”, and I thought that meant like, this minute.   It would just make me nervous and I would keep forgetting that “just now” actually meant “well, maybe someday”.   So I was all panicked.  But it was like, no, it didn’t mean right then.  It was later.  And by the time I got back to the states I was saying “just now” all the time and people didn’t understand what I was saying.

I was really worried that I was going to do something wrong. 

I was really trying to pay a lot of attention to what I was doing, and catching on to the accent and figuring out what it was they were talking about.  And the kids had a lot of questions for me.  Like, do you really eat peanut butter and jelly?  And I said, yeah.  Because jelly there is Jell-O, and so they were imagining people eating peanut butter with Jell-O.  And I said, well, it’s peanut butter and jam, really.  So, “Oh, okay.  We get it now.”

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Those bath houses really got to me!

Ukimi Temple, Lake Biwa, Shiga prefecture, central Honshu, Japan.

Ukimi Temple, Lake Biwa, Shiga prefecture, central Honshu, Japan. © Digital Vision/Getty Images


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We went to this placed called Lake Biwaka — it’s on the main island of Honshu.


It’s one of largest lakes there, and they have casinos, Lake Tahoe-Las Vegas kind of area there.  They have shows and it’s a  big deal to go as a family.


They also have communal baths and communal showers and things of that nature.


We went there to go to one of those — my host mother and I — and I didn’t understand what she was trying to tell me to do.  You had to wash a certain way in a certain space and then rinse off in another space to get in.  I didn’t realize there was a major partition that separated the men from the women, and oh my gosh, I went in the wrong section and I was bowing, and of course when you’re bowing you get closer to looking at stuff.


I was so embarrassed!  


I had my hands in my eyes, and I was backing up and bumping into people.  I just got so flustered.  I yelled Kacha! Come and get me!  All the people were looking at me like who is this crazy Americanyoung girl, what is she doing.  Some were laughing and snickering and she got me over it.


She was like, Kim, you do as me.  I stayed very close to her from then on!  I didn’t let her out of my sight.  I did everything she did.  I was so embarrassed. I was 15 and getting naked in front of all these people, it was like oh my gosh.   Those bath houses really got me!  I never got used to them, either.




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flag of Sweden

a taste of Swedish food


Lots of fish — and I’m not a fish person but I ate fish. 

That’s where I learned to love yogurt.  And Swedish yogurt is much better than anything here in America.  Lingonberry sauce was really good.

They made some kind of sturgeon, and then my Swedish mother put mashed potatoes in the sturgeon and out the front and it browned on the top of it, and that was excellent.  I loved it.  Over there the ice cream is better, I believe.

French fries were a treat but I got them and I’d buy myself a big bottle of Coca-Cola once a week, and they didn’t like Coca-Cola.  That’s nasty stuff.  That was nasty stuff, but I could have it!

I learned to love Swedish apple pop — Pommac,  P-o-m-m-a-c.  And I sure wish I could find some ’cause that was good.  That was excellent.  I have had it once since I came home about ten years ago, and I haven’t been able to find it since.

They had another dish that was really good.  It was like hash called Pyttipanna diced roast beef and diced potatoes and I believe there was egg put into it.  And that was real good.  I liked that.  I wanted to have that quite often.

And there was a very fragrant sausage that was excellent too, and I don’t remember what kind.  But it was good with peanut butter and flat bread.  And they thought I was nuts ’cause I put peanut butter and sausage together but it was excellent.  It was good stuff.  Nice soft flat bread and smooth peanut butter on it and put this great sausage on the top of it.

Dang, that was like heaven!  It was wonderful!

I made a macaroni salad once.  And everybody liked it but my father.  He is not a fan of macaronis.  “I do not like macaronis but I will eat this because you made it.”

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