I have been brainstorming ideas to keep Penny busy while she settles in here and starts to meet people. She is very shy of trying to meet new friends, so we are going slowly in that arena, and I understand her misgivings, I would feel the same! She says Americans talk very fast and she does not understand us half the time. So we are trying to slow down as much as we can and not talk over each other, which I suddenly am aware of us doing.
Today, I decided we would go to the pool. Our neighbor, Lisa, is a member of a local pool and she gets us guest passes to use. So I called her and asked if we could go today and we decided to have a picnic lunch and go use the pool. I got Leah ready and Penny said she was ready too, but that she was not going swimming. I said, “you aren’t!?” kind of surprised and she said, “No, it is too hot.”
This did not make any sense to me. If I were able to get in the pool right now, I would be living in it, but the local pool has no stairs, only ladders, and since I am recovering from a dislocated elbow, I have no way of getting myself out of the pool once I am in it. But I just let it go and she said she would like to come and have lunch anyway, so we decided to go and let Leah swim.
However, I figured there was more to the story and I was right.
While Leah, Lisa, and Daniel were in the pool, I sat with Penny, who told me that in Thailand, no one starts swimming until 3:00 or 4:00 in the afternoon at the earliest, and often not until the evenings. It is considered far too hot to be outside, so they do not swim until later in the day. I explained that here, we consider the water to be the best way to cool off during the hottest part of the day, and so most people start swimming in the morning and spend their evenings inside because it is considered too dark to swim at night.
Penny also mentioned that Thai people like to have very white/pale skin, as pale as can be. When we were watching the DVD of her classmates at home, one of the girls was sitting in the sand where the waves were washing up on shore, rubbing her legs vigorously with sand. Soon, another girl followed. Then Penny came into view and did the same thing. She explained that they all believed it would lighten their skin.
I explained that in America, many people spend an inordinate amount of time attempting to achieve perfect tan status, the darker the better. I told her that this year, with spending more time outside with Leah, I am the tannest I have ever been and am proud of my color. So we decided to compare arms. And guess what? Penny is still darker than I am!!! We were cracking up.
Penny is a great sport. I’m glad we can share our country’s opinions about things like this. I am learning a lot from her and I hope she is learning a lot from us. This is what I pictured our exchange experience to be.