I think I may have had a breakthrough in the area of relating to my teenage sister with whom I struggle to feel that I have anything in common with. At. All.
Last week I was still lounging around the house in the wake of dengue fever. I anticipated being bored out of my mind--and often was--but managed a few preventative measures that made the week bearable....
...like baking chocolate chip cookies! I made them to take to Bible Study and, as an afterthought, invited my sister, Quynh to "help" me.
There are a few things that make baking chocolate chip cookies in Viet Nam--baking anything actually--more of an adventure than at home.
1) It is difficult to find even the most basic and essential ingredients. I went to a large supermarket close to my house that, being in a touristy area, I assumed would have at least some of the ingredients I needed. You would think I've been in Viet Nam long enough to not make such silly assumptions. They did have white sugar there (of course!), which my family already has anyways. And butter. However, even after searching aisles full of pre-packaged cookies and cakes--all of which are made of flour!--I failed to find a bag of flour. So, I took a trip to a little "foreigner grocery store" where I tried to read labels in a variety of languages I didn't know (like German) and to discern whether I was buying flour or something very different that closely resembled it. All that being said--I managed to find everything I needed.
2) The ingredients are very expensive, as one might guess considering their rarity. There goes my month's spending money...
3) My family does not have measuring cups...oh well, guesstimation is my favorite method, anyways.
4) Last, but most certainly not least--like most Vietnamese kitchens, ours does not have an oven. This is still very strange to me, although it actually makes a lot of sense considering that Vietnamese really don't bake. Ever. Solution? The toaster oven!
After impatiently waiting for Quynh to finish her "extra" class before we could make cookies--and even regretting that I had invited her to join--I was so glad that I had waited.
She loved it.
Quynh was not a good batter stir-er at all, and I could have made the cookies much more easily without her "help." But it was worth it to hear her squeal. Yes, squeal. She showed far more emotion over those cookies than I have seen her show about anything in the month and a half that I've known her.
The best word I can think of to describe what this experience was for me (and what I hope it was for her) is humanizing. Prior to this, I just could not find anything that I had in common with Quynh; thus, even though I wanted to make an effort to get to know her, I was at a complete loss as to how to do so. Now I know that, if nothing else, we both love chocolate chip cookies. And that this 15-year-old girl has feelings. Moreover, having experienced this connection once makes me want to find other ways to encourage its repetition.
Everyone knows that chocolate chip cookies are delicious and fun to make, but who ever knew their potential?
If Obama really did decide to send more troops to Afghanistan but armed them with chocolate chips instead of guns (or whatever they use to kill people these days) and planned a cookie-making party instead of an ambush, then, if such decisions were mine to make, I would award him the Nobel Peace Prize...
But since even I recognize the idealism of the above scenerio, I'll just keep looking for ways to remind myself that my sisters aren't as different from me as I usually think and--I hope--show them that I'm not as intimidating as I (apparently) look.