Family Stories 

We Have a New Family Member!

Ha, this isn’t an expecting baby post. I’ll be moving to Sanya for real if that happens. No way am I going to raise a baby in the cold ever again.

No, no, instead of pregnancy, we’ve added a new family member to our big family by way of one of our roommates. Over the winter break, he went home to finish up some family affairs, and came back with his mother!

I am absolutely thrilled to have her in our home. She is so sweet and cute. When she laughs her face wrinkles like leather, and she covers her mouth to laugh.

She’s had a rough life. Her husband was a sweet potato farmer and owned a lot of sheep. She’s given birth to four children, including our roommate, of course. One day she lost her younger son when he became an adult, and they couldn’t find him for years.

When they did, he had passed away.

Before that, our roommate had kidney failure, and she gave up one of her kidneys to him so that he could live. She worries constantly about him and his future. She’s concerned that he won’t have anyone to take care of him when he’s old as he’s not confident to get married in this culture without a steady job. (He’s had problems working and the toll it takes on his body.)

Then just recently, her husband passed away from lung cancer.

Our roommate has told us about life growing up. He was seriously a shepherd boy, and it’s cool to hear stories about watching the sheep and life at such a slower pace.

Sometimes it’s hard to understand her, but for the most part we’re able to communicate the joys and sorrows of our every day life. It feels like our children have a Chinese grandmother with her living there. And they have no problem understanding her. What’s awesome is she never tells us how to raise our children. Man that would be hard, but she just encourages us.

As we sit around our big table at dinner, she laughs with us, about silly stories from our day and one of our roommate’s awesome/hilarious impressions of Chinese hua from other provinces. I giggle when I see that her feet don’t even meet the ground under her chair; she’s just that small.

It’s also sweet because she used to be our cleaning lady and house help, and now it’s our joy just to simply have her live in our home as our friend and family. She has told us several times she’s so thankful living with us, but honestly I feel so blessed that she’s here.

She has added a new dimension to our home, and we know that our roommate is less lonely as a single man with her here.

After we laugh and eat, all of the adults fight over who is going to wash the dishes. We have this method of how we’ll get to the sink. I use my backside like in basketball… there’s no getting around that.

Ayi (as we call her in the most respectful way we can), typically finishes first, quickly goes to the sink with as many dishes as she can grab. When we come to wash our own dish, she then says, “Don’t be so polite! My hands are already wet!” Or “You work all day, you’re tired.” It doesn’t even matter if we say, “So have you!”

We try to guard our bowls and prevent her from taking them in for us and then take our time to eat so she’s finished washing her own dish before being able to try to fight us over ours. She’s super persistent and to date only myself and her son have one in this “battle.”

It’s cute, and it’s a wonderful example to set for our children and one another, out doing one another in love.

My heart could burst!

Do you have a favorite friend from another culture in China?

Click the link for the group of other China-focused parents on Facebook  or on WeChat by scanning my QR code and asking to join the WeChat group.


Vanessa Jencks founded China Family Blog to connect internationally-minded parents through semi-humorous stories and China-life-and-parenting fails. She is the former managing editor of beijingkids magazine; see her previous work here. She is also the founder of the 600+ member organization, Innovative Educators

WeChat: vanessajencks
Email: chinamomsblog@gmail.com

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