Today I met my OU Cousin. Her name is Hawi, and she is AWESOME.
I was really nervous about meeting my cousin, because even though I’m someone who is genuinely interested in other cultures, I am often worried about making whoever I’m talking to feel super different, or since I don’t know what that particular person may be sensitive about, I don’t want to ask questions in a way that could be inadvertently offensive.
But Hawi was very nice. She is a sophomore living in Traditions, and she is originally from Ethiopia. We bonded over a mutual love of Ethiopian food, and a mutual grudge over the fact that neither of us can find an Ethiopian food place near campus, let a lone a decent one. We talked about television, and about all the different places you can go in America and how they’re all so different, and about how she has way more siblings than I do. We both love Washington D.C.
My favorite thing about my cousin so far is how relaxed she is. My fears about seeming too interested in what makes us different when I’m really just curious about different cultures were immediately put to rest. She asked me the same questions I wanted to ask her, and I didn’t feel weird about it. When she asked where I was from and I said Dallas she acted exactly like I did when she told me she was from Ethiopia: she immediately wanted to know more about it. My fears were put to rest for a little while after that.
But later when we were talking about food and she mentioned she doesn’t eat pork, I felt awkward again. Because Hawi is Muslim, and even though I don’t have a fear or prejudice toward Muslims at all, I didn’t know if she had experienced that since she’s been America. Especially post-9/11 America, where the wrong people blame an entire culture for what took place in New York. I wanted to talk about it because Islamic culture is interesting to me, but I didn’t want her to think I was prying in a way that was “judgmental,” especially is she had experienced that sort of prejudice.
After floundering on my question, and doing a fair amount of embarrassing stuttering, she just stopped me and kindly asked (even though I think she might have been slightly exasperated) “What do you want to know?” I told her I didn’t know how to ask in a way that seemed correct, and she told me to just ask, because she knew by now that I was doing my absolute best not to come off wrong.
My cousin really is very nice. I can’t wait to hang out with her again.