It was August, 2008. I remember coming down the escalator at the Salt Lake City airport, scanning the sea of people in the arrival area. I found my name written on white poster board, decorated with glitter and stickers. A girl with brown hair and green eyes held a poster that said, “Welcome home, Widya!” By her side, I saw her sister and mother standing with smiles decorating their radiant faces. I had seen these faces in a photo inside a host family document I had received just two weeks prior in Jakarta, Indonesia.
They were my host family, the Kergayes. They had opened their house and their hearts to welcome me, a 16-year-old exchange student from Palembang, Indonesia, to spend a whole year living in the United States. From that day on, I would share numerous moments of discovery as I immersed myself into an American household, studied in an American school, and learned about American culture in my everyday life.
Fourteen years later, one of my most vivid memories was the family meal I shared with my host family. We would sit together every evening and enjoy the meal my host mom had prepared. Dinnertime was the most special time of day, when everyone was asked to share about their day. Sharing and listening to every family member’s story was their way of showing love to each other.
This routine was new to me. Back home in Indonesia, my family eat dinner at our own convenient time. When my family ate together, it was most likely for breakfast, as everyone was starting their day in the morning. Our family conversation mainly consisted of commands: Eat your breakfast. Finish your milk. Don’t forget your books for school. Love, instead, comes in the form of gesture, like when my mother cooks my favorite food or my father takes me to my favorite restaurant. “How was your day?” was a question I didn’t know how to answer. No one had ever asked me about my day before I came to the United States.