The friendship of Charlene Yang and Rebecca Hartman-Baker spans continents. The two met a decade ago in Perth, Australia, when they both worked at the Pawsey Supercomputing Centre. In 2015 Rebecca returned to the United States to work at the Lab at NERSC, and Charlene followed in 2017, coincidentally, to work at NERSC as well.
Australia was an adjustment for both. Charlene, from Beijing, China, had to adjust to language and cultural issues, and surprisingly, so did Rebecca, even though Australia’s primary language is English.
For the second year, the Employee Resource Group gLoBaL, which is focused on welcoming international colleagues, is matching up guests and hosts for Thanksgiving. Charlene and Rebecca are co-leaders of gLoBaL.
Elements: Rebecca why did you and Charlene start the Thanksgiving program at the Lab?
Rebecca Hartman-Baker: I was away from familiar surroundings and customs in Australia. Even though I spoke the language, even shopping became a cultural adventure. I went to the grocery store to get applesauce for my sick child. After perusing every aisle I finally asked and was pointed to the shelf where they had sauces, like ketchup and steak sauce. I thought of it as APPLE-sauce, and they thought of it as apple-SAUCE! Even with a shared language, there are cultural challenges.
Elements: Charlene, were you curious about Thanksgiving when you first came to the United States?
Charlene Yang: I had only heard about it but never celebrated it in China or Australia. For my first Thanksgiving in the United States, Rebecca and her family invited me to their place for a celebration. It was a very warm experience, what with roast turkey, pumpkin pie and pecan cake 🙂 and the whipped cream was DELISH! Being surrounded by some familiar faces and tasty food made me less homesick, and I believe other international employees at the Lab would enjoy a family Thanksgiving.
Elements: What are those adorable stuffies you both have in the picture?
Rebecca: They are souvenirs from our time in Australia. I brought back a stuffed quokka named Happy Cheeks. Look them up. They are the happiest animals.
Charlene: And I have the more traditional kangaroos which I named Skippy and Joey. Even though we have these stuffed reminders of our time in Australia, the best souvenir is becoming friends with Rebecca.
Rebecca: I totally agree with Charlene. Our friendship is what made Australia special.