Thursday, July 27, 2006

Culture: Standing on two distant shores

Dear Kari:

Thanks for sharing the story of the international adoptions process.

Congratulations on taking this big and exciting step!

To the degree you find it helpful to share about the experience, please do as I and our dear readers would like to know how it turns out and we are rooting for you both.

It would not surprise you to know that this blog has gotten a few hits recently with adoption in the search field. Thus, there are people out there who want to know more and your story will add to the mix of personal experiences for people to draw encouragement and information from.

To the extent you would like to discuss, I'd be curious to know what kind of advice the agency is giving you regarding the cultural aspect to the adoption. As you well know, I'm born in the USA and of Chinese ancestry. In a bit of rentless self-promotion, I hope readers will click over to my China travelogue where I share about my visit to the ancestral homeland and village back in 2001.

The American experience has always involved the blending of cultures.

When I was growing up the term was "melting pot." That term fell out of favor because it implied a homogenization of cultures. The new terms are "tapestry" and "mosaic."

From my perspective, the new terms are more accurate.

As a person with a foot in two cultures, I am forever reminded by those of generations before me that I'm not sufficiently Chinese or too American. To those who are from the majority culture, some still see Chinese and Asians as slightly alien or somewhat exotic and approach with a mix of weariness and curiosity.

On top of the baseline culture factors, toss in gender issues to the mix of our media conscious age and you get Asian women prized as news reporters and Asian males as falling into one of two stereotypes: the kindly wise grandfather figure or the martial arts warrior.

In good days, I feel I have gotten the best of both worlds and on bad days I feel I have inherited the worst of both worlds. On the whole, one of the gracious compensations of age and a Christian worldview is that one grows to recognize our common humanity rather than dwell on differences.

It is also good that in the era I grew up, outright institutional racism was fast becoming a thing of the past. Documentary films highlight past injustices and seeing them invokes a mixture of feelings.

Sadness in that America, the land of the free and the belief where all men are created equal, didn't always live up to those ideals. With that sadness comes the realization that human sinfulness knows no cultural boundaries and in that regard we are all the same.

However, there is also pride in America in that we have come so far so quickly. In other parts of the world, different cultures clash with force of arms and blood flows in the streets and the fields. Here, now, by in large, the different cultures of the American milieu are celebrated.

The other night with the power outage, the dwellers of my apartment had a spontaneous block party of sorts in front of our building. There on the sidewalk and on the grassy lawn, Americans of all sorts of ancestry mingled. During the time I was there, we shared lots of small talk of what we do and various incidental details of our lives. I heard someone say he was Greek, a few were Armenian, another Russian and those cultural identities were just a part of the interesting conversation.

Keep us all posted on how it goes on this cyberspace version of the front porch.

Take care and be well,


Blogger Kari said...

Thanks for the reminder of your excellent travel blog from the 2001 trip. Brent has never read it, so I forwarded it to him.

1:58 PM  
Blogger Kari said...

By the way, if everything works out and we are matched for adoption, we will definitely be in Guangdong Province, because all families go to Guangzhou for the final steps in the process. What is the name of your father's hometown in Zhongshan?

2:08 PM  
Blogger Kari said...

Our adoption agency provides and points us in the direction of some great resources for preparing to raise an internationally adopted child. Holt also has offerings like cultural camps, play groups, and the like. We’re still hungry, though, partly because we want to be prepared, but even more so out of renewed intellectual curiosity. In addition to what we may already have encountered in our lives regarding Chinese culture and history, some of the resources we’ve been viewing/reading include:

China: A Century of Revolution (six one-hour documentaries)

CCTV-9 Around China, daily episodes

CCTV-9 Learning Chinese, daily episodes

CCTV-9 Recording China, occasional episodes

National Geographic: China’s Lost Girls

PBS: Riding Rails in China

And of course, Rene’s Excellent Travel Blog :-)

3:07 PM  

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