Thursday, March 18, 2010

We Are

This is my view. Everyday I walk through the campus and see these young lives teaming around me, like salmon swimming upstream. I may not walk as fast, but I feel the smile dance on my face. I have already mentally rehearsed my classes and I prepare to see the faces in my classroom and think already what an amazing journey it has been. I found a way to reach them and to reach you here.

While I have been here, I have had the obsessive thought about what the concept of freedom means. It is a drumbeat in my head. Summer is quickly approaching and I am just venturing away and getting out there. My hesitation falls away like an old style I used to wear, but no longer suits me and I have found a warmth as the neighborhood seems to have opened their doors to me.

The students begin to approach this odd woman from the west. I smile a lot because I had sifted through the dust of this place to see their lives and struggles that are just like ours. I tried to quantify things on a scale that was like our own, only to realize that approach is like wearing Gucci while digging in your garden. It doesn't work.

We are the same and different at the same time. I have been amazed with the people that walk up to me just to say 'hello'. The uneasy feelings of a stranger's approach isn't felt here. I kind of marvel at that. Usually, we are uneasy with our neighbors, thinking about reasons for approaching someone. It struck me, that our warning to watch out for strangers in our home countries has to vanish when we are abroad. We trust them more than we trust our own countrymen. Or maybe, it is my own change.

So in the midst of a sea of people I stand out. I cannot hide who I am. I walk around like a neon light with my pale skin and blue eyes. I cannot be who they are. So on my journey I go to a market and see coops with live chickens and the vendors selling their meats and produce and just feel for who I want to do business with. For a moment, I want to buy all of the chickens and free them, only to realize they wouldn't go anywhere.

I watch the smiles of children as they walk with their parents and I realize they have a concept of family we are so far removed from in the States. Grandparents are often the rearers of children as the parents earn for the families. When a person marries they truly marry a family and not just a spouse. The communal life of grandparents, parents and children is something we went away from in our quest for the individuated life. Here, it is their foundation for society. They are all in it together. Their social security system is the family to care for its own throughout their life spans.

It made me realize why so many marriages are not entered into if the family does not approve. It isn't even a thought. Even if they love each other tremendously, if the family doesn't like the selection, an engagement is broken off because they all have to live together. It isn't our way. It is their way.

That is how it is with life, because the more I see of others, I begin to realize how many ways we try to have others be as we are, instead of simply looking and appreciating the difference. With each discovery a person grows and learns this world is not one size fits all.


Beth Chapman said...

Marilyn, having studied for a masters in anthropology, may I say this should be at the beginning of each text. They spend pages and pages trying to explain what you have so poetically expressed. Beautifully written, thank you.

Marilyn said...

Beth, good luck on your masters and thank you for your kind words. I try to get out here on the pages. At times it is very difficult to post due to the restrictions I operate on that I tried to articulate in an earlier message I sent to Kathy. It wasn't necessarily posted the way I would have posted it, but I wanted to let everyone know what my initial impressions were on my arrival.

I can see that you feel the importance of understanding societies, how they operate and why we vary in history and in geography. The differences are there for reasons that always immediately known to the outsiders looking in. We often question them and ask 'why aren't they like us'? When the reality is they are more like us than we know.

I think, what people need to realize is that a country like China is our living link to ancient society. They exist still and have endured. Our ancestors have been wiped away, blended through migrations, and in Asia we see the remains of very ancient ways.

I wish you an incredible journey of learning and discovery Beth.

Kind regards,