April 27, 2012

Letters from a Xenophile

Xenophile: a person who is attracted to foreign peoples, cultures, or customs. (That's me).
If you didn't already know what a xenophile is, the title of this post probably freaked you out.

When I was at UVU six years ago, I decided to join the English Conversation Club because I'm drawn to foreigners like a magnet. Later, at BYU, I did a tutoring internship for my TESOL minor. Thanks to those decisions, I met some of the kindest, loving, most accepting, and humble people I've ever known. It breaks my heart, but I've lost contact with most of them now. They're spread out around the world, back in their home countries of Japan, Korea, Chad, Mongolia, Taiwan, Romania, Mexico, and more. If I could find them, this is what I'd want to say.

Me and Shuhei
Yes, it was nerdy to dress up like a geisha while hanging out with all my Asian friends.
At least the kimono was authentic.

We noticed each other around campus for a while before we actually met. You had that effortless style that only Japanese guys can pull off, and I wanted to be your friend. I'll never forget when you came up and said your name was Shuhei. You pointed down--"Shoe"--then gave a little wave--"Hey." I loved you for it already.
We started eating lunch together several times a week. You told me that if I had a Japanese name, it should be Sachiko, because you saw me as a "happy child." I invited you to church with me and you gladly came, even though you didn't know enough English to understand it at all. Then one day, you took me out onto the roof of the school and told me you were in love with me, and that you had been for six months. You spilled your heart and your feelings, and I disappointed you. I'm so sorry I couldn't say it back. It was bad timing. I know that I may be an unpleasant memory to you now, but I remember you in the best kind of way.

You were a Mongolian beauty. I first met you in the math lab and was more than willing to help you with your homework because you couldn't have been sweeter. You were always so warm and full of energy. I remember the time you invited me to a party and I came to your apartment wearing a boring outfit. You immediately pulled me into your room and dressed me like a supermodel in a little black dress and pointy-toed heels, telling me that I had to wear it to show of my "so nice legs." I was willing to do just about anything you asked because you were just so nice, even though I felt a little scandalous in that dress. Later, I cried when we said goodbye because you were moving to Chicago. I still think of you whenever I see the exotic high cheekbones of a Mongolian woman, and I hope you still have the zest for life that you did when I knew you.

Shuhei, Isabel, Me, Po-Han

I never knew that someone could be so clever and witty in a language they've only just learned. Every time you spoke, everyone listened because we knew it would be hilarious. You made the best Taiwanese Jack Sparrow I've ever seen. You stole the show you when you swaggered into the room on Halloween. I still remember the girls screaming and swarming you for pictures. You probably had an admirer from every country.
After I was married, I saw you at a sushi restaurant where you were working. You chewed me out a little because I didn't invite you to my wedding. I'm sorry. I didn't know how to contact you, but you were right when you said, "It's not okay."

Isabel and me

You came from Africa to create a better life for yourself. You were so graceful and elegant. Your gap-toothed smile was the best I've ever seen. You offered it to everybody without judgment. You laughed easily and were unfailingly optimistic. As soon as I saw you, I knew we would be friends. I know your life wasn't easy; you came from an incredibly difficult world, but I hope you've been able to use your goodness and strength to make it better.

Seok Hee,
I remember your contagious laugh most of all. Every time I tutored you in English, we'd laugh so much that I was worried I wouldn't teach you anything at all. The truth is, I probably didn't teach you much, but I hope you remember the fun we had. You had to make the difficult decision of leaving your wife in Korea so she could work and support you while you went to school to learn English. When Jared and I went to dinner with you and your two boys, we saw what a devoted father you were. You were thoughtful and ridiculously kind. I had warm fuzzies from head to toe when you gave me the Winnie the Pooh pencil kit that your wife had sent from Korea for me. You took me in like I was family, and I appreciated it more than you know.

I forgot this guy's name, but he had a great Bin Laden costume.
He was also very light.

To them all,
I love you. You taught me what it means to love without boundaries. Although we didn't often share a common language, background, religion, interests, or life experiences, we loved each other wholeheartedly. Never has anyone accepted me so readily as you all did. Your smiles still light up my heart when I think of you. You are strong, smart, innovative individuals who are bound to change the world. Though I'm sure you don't often think of me, I will never, ever, forget you. I pray that you are happy and living life to the fullest like you are meant to do. And if we ever meet again, I will still feel all the fondness for you that I did when we saw each other daily. Thank you for your wonderful contribution to my life.

Your loving friend,

Shuhei and me with Bin Laden's sign.
Gotta love English language learners.


  1. Hi Lisa,

    I just enjoyed reading your post and love your blog, your personality, everything! I just had to add your blog and post to my A.D.'s Fav 5 of the A to Z Challenge today! Yeppie!
    Your are #3!

    If you visit right away and do not see the post, I am working my way through bonus #6, so do please check back! It's a pleasure to meet you and have a wonderful weekend!

    1. Thanks A.D. That makes me happy to hear! I appreciate it.

  2. I feel the same way Lisa, my closest friends are all from different countries and cultures. We don't even live in the same country for most of the time, but when we're together we just pick up where we left off :) And what a gorgeous geisha you make!


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