[Family Matters] Seeing Our City Through a Visitor’s Eyes

By Anita Saunders, Mid-City Press Columnist

As the daughter of immigrants to this country, I grew up in a home that was frequented by my parent’s relatives from the old country. To my delight, their visits meant multiple trips to places like Disneyland, the nearby mountains and the myriad of attractions that are spread out across Southern California.

As I matured and had logged some travel miles myself, I began to view our guests’ journeys through their eyes. Today, in my own home, my family has had the pleasure of hosting students from Asia whose main purpose is to study English. By day, they attend a local language school on the bustling corner of Wilshire and Western. In the evenings and on weekends, they retreat to the homes of their host families to immerse themselves in the experience of living an American lifestyle (as much as one can while living in the heart of this huge multicultural metropolis).

Having lived in Los Angeles for most of my life, I sometimes fail to see past the negatives and therefore lose sight of all the amenities that surround us. To put things into perspective, I make a point of asking our guests what they think of our city. For many, it’s their first time in the United States so I watch and listen carefully as their fresh eyes and ears marvel over seemingly unimpressive things like freeways as wide as parking lots and free refills at soda fountains. I laugh when they ask me why shop clerks care about how they are doing or why strangers beseech them to “have a nice day.”

While I picture their hometowns as tidy idyllic communities with streamlined infrastructures, it’s often a surprise to me when our guests effuse such enthusiasm about our community here as well a desire to stay here permanently if they could. When I’m in my cup-half-empty mindset and see only traffic, graffiti and discarded couches on sidewalks, they see friendly people coupled with a wealth of educational and entertainment opportunities. Plus it’s kind of nice to know that there are places where traffic is actually worse.

To merge two old sayings as one, the grass may seem greener elsewhere but there is no place like home.

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