This semester I have been spending most all of my time with older ladies on campus. This is a big change from college students all the time, but wonderful in so many ways. These ladies have time all day to sit and talk; we are not constrained by their class schedule, or needing to finish homework, or meeting their boyfriends. The only block is my language skills (since none of them have ever even thought of studying English).
But even though they have all day, I never know how long they really want me to stay, or what is the normal length to visit. Should I leave after an hour, 2 hours… 4 hours? And the Uyhgur culture doesn’t help me out at all. After I have sat visiting for a long time I notice that they are starting to look tired, or I start feeling bad because they have gone to so much trouble to prepare food for me. I then start to suggest that I should take off, or move to leave, the lady pats my arm and gently pushes me to sit back down all the while saying “sit down longer, stay, stay”.
In Uyghur culture you can never even hint that a guest should get going. You will always be told to sit longer. The other day when I was told to stay, I sat back down and kept visiting. After about half an hour she got a phone call, and I could tell from listening to her end of the conversation that someone was waiting for her. When I asked her about the call she admitted that her nephew was getting married today and that the family was at the restaurant. I quickly gathered my stuff and started heading to the door. All the while apologising for troubling her (this is also a very cultural thing to do). She also started getting her coat, but even while we were at the door she said again “oh please sit down stay a little longer, stay, stay”. I never know if I should stay or go, when do they mean it and when are they only saying it because the culture demands hospitality?