Monday, February 7, 2011

Being cared for by strangers

In the past few weeks I have been more amazed than usual at the incredible generosity and hospitality of strangers around me. Others, including Simon and Becky, have talked about the hospitality that we received in Japan, so I won't dwell on that here. But, yes, in Japan we were remarkably well cared for by strangers who welcomed us with open arms.

Instead, two recent incidents stand out to me.

This past week was Lunar New Year, the most important holiday in Korea, so I did not have work for the week. Instead, I did some exploring around my city of Daejeon. One day I was up hiking at Bomunsan Mountain, where I was repeatedly stopped by people asking if I needed directions or just looking for a chat--a chance to practice their English and to greet an American. On my way to the trail head, when I wasn't quite sure where I was going, a man led me until he got to his turnoff point, then passed me off to two older women who walked with me until they got tired and passed me off to a man who was heading my way. Even though I could have eventually found my way on my own, these wonderful people instead walked with me and guided me. Strangers took my picture when I asked them to; one man even gave me a lift back to the train station after my hike.

Each week I visit foreign migrant men at their places of residence. Their accommodations are usually much more humble than mine, and these men are, undoubtedly hard workers. Instead of resenting me my privileged, undeserved, position, these men (and sometimes women) are glad to see me and so welcoming. I am always given drinks or snacks. Last week I sat down to a very full meal of grilled seafood lettuce wraps with a big group of men from Vietnam. This Sunday I shared delicious food with four men from Indonesia. I shouldn't be eating their food, but they seem genuinely happy to share and eat together.

I am continually humbled by the friendliness, graciousness, and generosity of strangers around me. These people teach me much. I hope that someday I can be as welcoming and open hearted.


  1. This makes me wonder how foreigners to the United States are treated. We are such an egocentric people; I wonder if when greeted with the opportunity, we are as hospitable as the people you have mentioned. On a smaller scale it makes me think about how I can help my students see the value in helping others or just talking to and greeting people they don't know very well. It is an invaluable trait to acquire. I have really enjoyed reading your blog Jenny; It has inspired awe, thought, and many smiles! Thanks for sharing. Tracy VanderWilt

  2. Very nice post Jenny. Wish I could have been there with you on that Mountain!

  3. When you asked me last night why I liked it here so much....this is why. The beauty of the people astounds me.