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Return to where everything begins

Viewed 2533 times 2016-10-18 09:48 |Personal category:reading|System category:Life| everything, where

My father constantly brings up the topic that he would like to renovate the house in the village where we grew up so that he could spend his retirement years there. He wants to return to be a farmer again and live a purely idyllic life.

My grandma from my father's side firmly believed that should she die one day, she should die on her bed in her own home. So every time when she was hospitalized, she was always concerned that she would die in the hospital and bring bad luck to the whole family. (She made sure this happened and died in her own bedroom.)

I couldn't understand why both my father and my grandma would want to go back to their home badly as in my very personal opinion, city life seemed way more abundant as well as entertaining, let alone being much more convenient in many aspects. After reading the book- A Cup of Water under My Bed, I seem to understand it a bit better.

The author-Daisy was born in US with both her parents being immigrants from Latin America. Growing up in a country which her close family members weren't familiar with was a difficult thing. Both her parents and her aunties didn't speak much English while she had to receive education in that language. In order to fit in, she tried hard to learn English. But because of not being able to learn Spanish in a systematic way, her Spanish was quite limited to only daily conversation. She couldn't understand American culture but meanwhile she didn't know much about the culture in the country where her parents are from. As a consequence, she constantly struggled with her cultural identity. What was worse is that she sometimes found it difficult to even communicate with her own family since not everything in English can be translated literally into Spanish and her parents didn't even have a basic level of English. Therefore, she felt rootless; she had nothing to fall back on and to turn to, no history, no culture.

When I was studying for my TESOL Certificate, I learnt that it is very difficult for immigrants to find a sense of belonging in the country they decide to reside in. In actuality, this is even quite difficult for the generation of their children. I once met an acquaintance who immigrated to Australia many years ago and her daughter was born there. She received formal education like many Australian kids and had to spend extra time to work on her Chinese in cram school during holidays. She speaks perfect English like many children of immigrants. But she confessed to me that she was only able to converse with people in Chinese and her Chinese literacy was in fact terrible. I didn't ask all those questions then and there circling in mind " Do you know much about Chinese culture and history? Do you even want to know? Have you even felt this strong sense of loss because of not having a cultural identity? (She might just have one.)"

Another friend I have might be able to answer these questions indirectly. Maya immigrated with her family to Australia as refugees and she was around 10 at that time. So she had stayed in that country for more than 10 years when I first met her in our class for Second Language Learning Theories. You would think that was a period of time long enough to allow her to fit in the local society. But no, she didn't. She didn't have close friends who were indigenous. She mingled with people nearly all the time from her own community where there are only people from her old country. I had no clue why her family didn't encourage her to blend in and they even specifically asked her to marry a guy with the same cultural background.

Of course, many reasons are involved in the process of adapting to a completely new environment. The local culture may prevent us from blending in since our culture may be utterly different from the local culture if not poles apart; however, our own culture in which we are rooted may not allow us to try hard enough to be a part of local society. The more traditional or conventional a culture is, the more difficult it is for its people to fit in a society whose culture is as open and tolerant as the one in Australia.

This reminds of my very first blog on my decision in returning to China after finishing my education in Australia. I mentioned that there were mainly two reasons on which my decision was based. One was that it was extremely difficult to land a job in my area; another was that it would be almost impossible for me to truly fit in. The cultural conflicts between China and Australia seem to be an unbridgeable gap to me. It is impossible for me to bend up rules or even give up some principles which help define me. Because if I did, I would end up being rootless as the young Daisy in the book.

So far, I believe I have made the right decision. Bad things do happen here in China. But by and large, I feel safe here. What's more, I feel I belong. It also feels great to stay close to my family and to witness the development of this country. What is amazing is that the overseas experience has invoked this strong desire in me to understand the history and culture of my motherland even more and to search for my root.

I suppose to some extent I have made the decision of returning to where everything begins just like my father and grandma.



(Opinions of the writer in this blog don't represent those of China Daily.)




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  • The Purpose of Reading 2018-4-12 13:45

    we have the same feeling about. reading,reading. really tells us a lot especially when welearn foreign can help us to understand other. country's culture and customs.therefore,when we talk. in foreign languages.we. needn't worry about. making too. much also can enrich our life.let's enjoy reding

  • Why don't We Stand Out and Fight? 2018-4-4 14:14

    It is actually emotionally and mentally healthy to have nursing homes for old people in residential areas, and makes it easy for families to visit their elderly relations regularly.
    Death happens to everyone and it is stupid to hide it away. Death is not bad luck - it will happen to you and me.
    In some European countries there are homes for the elderly next to kindergartens, and everyone benefits from interacting with each other on a daily basis.
    The elderly benefit from interacting with children and keeps them mentally alert, whereas the young learn about death as a normal part of life.

    For a country that supposedly 'respects' their elders, China has a very superstitious attitude to death and dying.
    where i am from, the elderly are allowed and supported by family and state) to be independent and in their own homes.
    Where medical treatment is needed, residential homes allow the elderly appropriate facilities in towns and cities while their families can visit easily and local residents can interact with them.
    In addition, local communities benefit from being able to interact with these residents and the residents can still be part of a local community, not hidden away as something to be ashamed of or 'taboo'.

    Shame on China for such medieval superstitious attitudes regarding death.
    Does China 'respect' the elderly so much that they should be hidden away from people's lives?

    Do you want to be isolated and hidden away when you are old and your family don't want to or can't visit you?

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