Here I am, back in America, the land of the free. Specifically, in Rancho Cordova, a Starbucks near my clinic where I was diagnosed with traveller’s diarrhea. I had to get out from my stewing thoughts that fester and multiply in my room, yet still here I am, with my laptop, journal, and book, dragging me back into reflections. I can’t resist the writing, the endless, endless reflection. I am confined to a very monotonous diet of bananas, rice, apples, and toast. And no caffeine so I don’t mess with my circadian rhythm since I still wake up at odd hours of the night, blanket twisted and tying down my body, still disoriented as to where I am. So I drink this caffeine-less, tea that tastes like the scent of flowers, starving for some food. Tea shouldn’t taste like scents, it should taste like tea.
I am wearing the flipflops that walked on cobblestones and shingles in Dali, an abysmal ‘bathroom’ in Mei Le, many hotels in China, and now this spick and span, indie-playing music atmospheric Starbucks, blasting air conditioning, the cause of these perpetual goosebumps all over my body. Americans and their air conditioning; I’m always so damn cold in this country. Before, I was surrounded with black heads and Chinese dialects, Mandarin and other dialects mixing in seamlessly. Now I am surrounded by white faces, little blonde and brunette heads, perky ponytails, professional click clacks of high heels all congregated for their daily jolt of caffeine. I am served by a soft spoken, pleasant 20 year old something man-boy with a gentleness that is rare in the rough and tumble life of Kunming. Diversity is visible in the peripherals of my vision, an Asian girl sitting tensely to the side, highlighter in her hand ready to attack her text, an interracial couple comforting their baby, an Indian or Middle Eastern man standing in line.
The most interesting thing is by far the new generation of young professionals I have had the amazing fortune to meet, deeply aware of China’s past and yet cautious of their country’s future. Caught in the whirlwind of a rapidly transformative China, this has got to have a strange effect on them. The older ones are puffy-chest proud of their country, the younger ones are skeptical and struggling to keep up. So enmeshed they are in their country, so curious they are of the outside. And so cohesive. They can say what China is in so many lines - I still can’t define America. I still don’t know America, a roughly sewn together patchwork barely held together by strands. Though I was told the people I have met are very rare indeed and among the “best” of Chinese (I still don’t know what to make of this), I’m still enamored by this confused generation. And it’s inexcusable of those on the outside with so many stereotypes on hand to slap on a massive country that houses 56 minorities and hundreds of dialects.
Coming back I am reminded of the ills and the contradictions that make America seem more and more desperate and fragmented. Our debt, the gas prices… our pride in the “melting pot” which in reality is the root of so many our problems. So many problems, so many issues vying for my attention through emails - Suitcase, Altbreaks (in which there are 10 different topics), Change.org… all asking me, help this cause, help that cause, there is so much injustice in America. How many masks can I wear?
I am still a child, clinging onto anything that brings me back to China. It’s silly, I know, I can’t find my way back through books and yet here I am, tired of the political righteousness of so many politically charged books I bought before my trip to China, picking out books like Lost in Translation and Brothers instead. I am creating my own illusion and reality of the next generation of Chinese- what do I really know of China? Of 2000 years of history, all memorized in the minds of studious Chinese youth, I have only been there a month. A month of tripping over simple words, saying and refining the phrase of blood pressure, blood sugar level, weight, height, see the doctor and still doing it rather shittily. A month of reading my own English books, still speaking in English to my peers, a stone crushing my Chinese tongue that has been rotting for years. In spurts of bravery I speak to my parents, stumbling along, sounding like a complete idiot. I understand it’s a necessary obstacle to any language but it’s still frustrating as hell.
I was only there a month, I keep telling myself. It’s a mere blip in my whole life. Like she said, nobody knows of my life in America, nobody knows my reality. It’s easy to shed your problems in a foreign country, it’s easy to relax. But you always have to come back, don’t you? Still, the circularity doesn’t escape me. My grandparents escaped China during the war to reside in Taiwan. My parents came from Taiwan to America for opportunities. And their daughter subsequently returns to the land of my grandparents and ancestors. There’s that saying, those who are born into fortune do not know it (身在祝福中不知福). I had opportunities beyond the reach of so many people I saw in China, yet it was I who wanted to fit in with them. Maybe I am fortunate beyond the wildest dreams of so many, yet I am somehow still at a loss for my identity. So far, it’s still a mash of Chinese and American, and yet either of these labels are often used as an insult (You’re so Chinese, You’re so American). Well, which is it?
Don’t know where I was going with this, I just had to pull it out of my brain before it got too cramped in there.
- emae reblogged this from lungpeiling
- emae said: I always think about the shoes I wore to the Philippines and Korea.. they’ve walked through crocodile piss haha. It’s weird to consciously wear them in america or at school or smtg.. as if I’m sadly spreading out what little I’ve kept from there here
- lungpeiling posted this