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  • Wednesday, March 29, 2006

    Way to go, li'l sis!

    My baby sister (she's 16 years younger than I am) is graduating from college in June, and she just learned she has been awarded a Fulbright Teaching Assistantship Grant to go to Germany for a year...

    WAY TO GO SIS! Congratulations!

    When she called -- and after I congratulated her -- I, of course, teased her by telling her that she was well on her way to becoming me. (What's a big sis for, after all?)

    I said this because I did essentially the same thing after college. I taught English in Japan on the Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) Programme right after I graduated. It was a life-changing experience. The Fulbright program is a bit different, but she'll also be an assistant English teacher. Difference is, li'l sis is natively fluent in German whereas I learned Japanese while living there.

    Ya' see, when li'l sis was born, her mother was working full-time, so daycare had to be found. Her mother (my stepmother) found a local woman who had a son the same age as li'l sis to take care of her as a pre-schooler. So the two of them kinda grew up together, at least for a little while. (Coincidentally, the boy's dad is Chinese -- so the two little kiddies were/are both half-Asian.)

    Well, the woman who took care of them was (is) German. Native German. So she spoke to her son and my little sister ("C") in German. So, by three or four, C was completely fluent (for a four year old) in German. When it came time to send the kids to school, the decision was made to send the boy to the German School of Washington. Well, C was originally going to go to our very fine public school system (I say that because I'm a product of it), but our parents (my father and stepmother) decided to keep the kids, who were best friends, together -- and also to take advantage of the advantage of learning German. So they decided to send C to the German School as well. She stayed in the program and graduated from the school and is natively fluent in German (can you imagine learning math in a foreign language? ugh). The boy, her friend, ironically enough, ended up transferring to the local public high school.

    I like to tease C that women's greater participation in the workforce gave her the great gift of German. My mother quit her job when she had my older brother and stayed home to take care of us until my younger brother was in fifth or sixth grade. Now, don't get me wrong -- I am not complaining, nor suggesting that her choice was anything other than a wonderful gift to me and my brothers (because it absolutely was) -- but it's interesting how one small decision (who to get for daycare) has so profoundly impacted C's life.

    Now C got a grant and is off to Germany in August. I'm a proud big sis!

    Next thing you know, she'll be applying to law school...!

    UPDATE (3/31/06): Too bad that C didn't also hang out with the dad of that family and learn Chinese. What a huge, huge advantage that some families pay huge bucks for.

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