Monday, October 12, 2009

There and Back Again: An LS2’s Tale...

...Okay not really.

It’s been a couple years and a couple car repair bills since my car has made a long distance trek. Yesterday, we managed to drive all the way to Wisconsin and back without it breaking down. I probably won’t be doing that again anytime soon, though.

I’ve always wanted to go to Six Flags Great America while they held Fright Fest. I never really made the effort to go but I thought that this year might be good time to do it. So the plan was to invite our cousins, Jessica and Eric, to Six Flags and hang out with them. They are related to us as their mother and our mother were sisters. They live in Illinois and we see them every now and then and I consider them one of the few remaining family members from my mother’s side of the family.

Six Flags has changed quite a bit since the last time I was there in 2000 during my high school senior trip. They’ve taken out and replaced a number of rides. One glaring difference was the addition of a water park—it’s closed right now, of course. There was a change of plans and Jessica and Eric were going to arrive late so it was just me and my sister for a couple hours to enjoy the rollercoasters.
Before deciding to stop for lunch, the two of us decided to watch show on hypnosis. It was extremely fascinating and hilarious. This lady took a large group of teens and young adults and got most of them under her influence. In one portion of her show, she placed the suggestion that every time she tapped her microphone, they would feel an uncomfortable wedgie and watching them all trying to deal with them as she tapped away brought tears to my eyes. There as a girl who counted herself as having eleven fingers because she kept missing the number four. Another girl that was called in to help the eleven-fingered girl couldn’t do it because every finger she counted was “two.” In the end she released them all from their hypnotics suggestions except in a couple instances. Two guys, who are friends and had make-up applied, left not being able to tell the other one about their predicament. And a few guys that had band-aids on left claiming that they had them on because they cut themselves shaving.

We hooked up with the cousins who said that we were going to leave because their parents had a special surprise for us and they were feeding us dinner. I was thinking we were going to spend the entire day at the park but I didn’t mind. It actually was a fortunate turn of events because after lunch and after a ride on the new Superman rollercoaster, I was feeling a little ill. We ended up going from the park to a shopping area that was populated with high-end merchandise like Ralph Lauren, Clarks, GAP, Timberland, and so on. My aunt and uncle met us there and together we went shopping.

I don’t consider myself a poor person but I do not shop at these kinds of stores and rarely buy these types of brands. I just don’t have the money to buy $60 sweaters or $400 jackets. And here we are told to pick things out and they were going to buy it for us. Awkward. I do understand it because this side of the family does this a lot. It’s hard to explain it because the actions and intentions aren’t quite translatable. It’s a blend of being a good host and strengthening of familial bonds. It sounds odd, but there’s a notion of indebtedness. Just writing that word makes me cringe because it is that word but it isn’t. In this case, acts of giving, self-sacrifice, and hospitality creates upon me and my sister an obligation to reciprocate. Unlike the western idea of debt and reciprocation, there isn’t a concrete expectation of repayment. We are not obligated to repay them by buying clothes or feeding them. They know that this would be difficult for us. Even if we could, it wouldn’t be “repaid.” Instead there is an inherit expectation that we will do what we can to help them out—that we are there for them. This give and take of services and resources are not quantified. What is built is a sort of social safety net. As you give or take from others, this net grows and eventually you have extended families and communities that are all indebted to one another and this is why people there are more apt to act in a way that benefits the group than the individual and to be more cooperative rather than confrontational.

Oh so anyways, let’s just say that we left Chicago with a bit more than what we arrived with. It was a good time and I’d like to do it again next summer. Kris and I are considering dragging Mom to the city for some Christmas shopping but we probably should check in with the others. They seem to know where the good places to shop are.

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