Thursday, March 19, 2009

Do as the Nomad Does

Most of the time, it's a blessing. But sometimes, it feels like a curse.

A deadly one.

This whole thing about being "cosmopolitan" or a "global villager" or "a transnational nomad."

B/c unless you are meeting another cosmopolitan, another global villager, another transnational nomad, most of the time you find yourself trapped in one of the 2 following situations:

1) You are stepping on other people's toes in a foreign land, because your brain-full and heart-full of wonderful experiences with border-crossing or global roaming start giving you the illusion that you could make alternative suggestions to others b/c you've seen things done in a different way. But after opening up your big mouth trying to make such suggestions with enthusiasm and excitement, you find others tossing you a cold stare, shrugging indifferently, or simply avoiding eye contact with an evident frown on top. "When in Rome, do as the Romans do," others say.

So you shut up.

You have to. 'Cuz you are just a beginner in face of a brand new culture that has been in place for hundreds if not thousands of years.

2) You are stepping on your own toes in your own home country, because, again, your brain-full and heart-full of wonderful experiences with border-crossing or global roaming start giving you the illusion that you could make alternative suggestions to others b/c you've seen things done in a different way. But after opening up your big mouth trying to make such suggestions with enthusiasm and excitement, you too find others giving you a weird look, carrying on their own activities, or simply looking straight into your eyes and say - in a tongue that is familiar to you and considered your mother tongue - "Where are your roots, kid? To whom do you pay your loyalty?" they question.

So again, you shut up.

As if all the years of being away and missing a certain aspects of the common educational or upbringing experience with the rest of your fellow countrymen have rendered you incapable of speaking or judging or uttering a personal opinion.

In either situation, you find yourself always playing the role of a guest, the language student, the quiet listener, the humble learner. You ask too many questions but nobody ever asks you a question. You are always playing catch-up while others sit around comfortably with their circle of friends, families, established communities and well-acquired cultural customs and habits.

But you are more than a language student, a quiet listener, a humble learner. You are who you are and you could be just as vocal and opinionated and well adapted with all sorts of habits/customs like anyone else.

Except that, because there is no physical country or one particular linguistic tradition that defines who you are - people don't need to apply for a passport and get a visa sticker and purchase a long-distance flight ticket to get to WHERE YOU ARE, they forget that, sometimes, the same rule - "When in Rome, do as the Romans do" - applies.

That is - when talking to a transnational nomad, do expect him/her to make alternative suggestions and ask a lot of "why" questions or speak in a mixed accent. Because where the nomad is coming from - though that place isn't called Rome or whatever city/country you name it on this planet - that too is nomad's everyday life, just as valid as the everyday life that you are most familiar with.

The nomad comes to meet others at their country or territory. But since one can't technical go to where the nomad physically belongs - b/c a nomad has no physical home or that physical space can no longer be defined by a particular colored surface area on a map - one could treat such an encounter as traveling to where the nomad is from (wherever that may be).

So that the same rule - "When in Rome, do as the Romans do" - should apply.

"When meeting a nomad, do as the nomad does".

You see now how hard that could be?

梅ちゃん at 12:53:00 AM


Monday, March 09, 2009

Theory of Compromise - What Do You Say?

One of those nights last month when I was home in Taipei, when I was up reading late in the evening, a quote from 龍應台's 「孩子你慢慢來」shook me hard:

「没有经歷過生養過程的女性主義者們 - 請問,關於女性,你們到底能告訴我什麼?」(= "To all you feminist theorists out there- please tell me, without having gone through childbirth and childcare, what can you tell me about being a woman?"; disclaimer: paraphrase from mere memory, subject not to precision examination).

Then there's the picture of Long herself standing in front of a full wall of books on feminism, her back facing the viewer/the photographer. It looks like a picture taken at a bookstore by someone without her consciousness (prob. her husband then).

Tonight, reading another literary critic's comments/analyses/criticisms on someone's poetry, I want to ask a very similar question - "To all you literary critic out there- please tell me, without having engaged any creative writings, what can you tell me about literature, creativity or literary consciousness?"


Regardless of how a feminist may analyze or criticize or go off to embark whatever ground-breaking theory on femininity/feminism out there, at the end of the day, I wonder if she could really shake off the sense of fatigue - both physically and emotionally if not mentally - and weariness if not sheer pain that she feels when the next period visits. Or after coming home after a whole day of whatever dazzling public lectures/conference roundtable discussions, she could literally go back to a dark and human-less (maybe not animal-less 'cuz more likely she'd have a cat/dog/hamster/goldfish as company) home, and be the first one - and the only one - to switch on the light.

Yet how many women would endure a loveless partner or stay in an obligation-bound marriage simply for the sake of not being that first - and last - person to switch on that light when the dusk falls, room grows empty, and yet another lone night awaits ahead?

Many. Many many many, I believe.

Life is never about the ideal but often a compromise among many compromises. The compromises in turn make that one and only ideal, or passion, or dream shine like a bright star in the darkest hours, one that gives one motivation, hope, or another reason to go on.

Yet it's ideal only because too many compromises have been made and need to be made.

Without darkness, the star would never seem to be shining as bright; with everything ideal turning out real, we would not find a reason to continue to strive forward.

Hopefully, most of the times, it's a compromise closer to ideal.

Theorists and critics - what can you tell me about making "compromises"? The fact that I cannot stop my next period from coming and not wanting to go home and be the first one to switch on that light yet do have a brain that has the capacity of reasoning and logic, ambitions to bring out some positive change to the world, pride to succeed, awareness and ability to be independent, but also - yes, BUT ALSO - a heart that melts away when I see a mom and a daughter - literally jumping and skipping and beaming in smiles and excitement - waiting in line at the bakery for a celebration cake for hina-matsuri celebration?

And when my biological clock IS ticking everyday, and the number of healthy and viable eggs for producing a next generation of physically healthy and mentally sounding (and socially constructive from the viewpoint of the country) is literally depleting as we speak?

(yes, adoption is a viable and good option that I am fully aware of, thank you very much. but I also would like to keep my options open.)

What do you say, my theorists and critics?

梅ちゃん at 12:48:00 AM


Thursday, March 05, 2009

Cease, cease all Q's

I suppose one can not - and should not - look back to the past and ask the question, how life could have been different or might have turned out if one had decided to stay or not to leave. Because at the end of the day, the very present place and state of mind where one finds him/herself in is, in every way, shaped and determined by the core of that question - the fact is, one has left and decided not to stay and to move on to something different.

So though nostalgia is inevitable, one can only mentally lives through nostalgia but not physically. 'Cuz physically, it would no longer be nostalgia but reality.

And the reality, again, has forever been changed by that decision to leave, to not stay, and to go on to the next stage or take that next step towards a different state of being life.

For whatever there is to lose, there must be something to gain. I've lost a past but have gained the present - for better or for worse - which then will lead to a future, for better or for worse. A different future, of course, than a future that "could have" been had I chosen otherwise. But then, had I decided not to leave, would life not become forever living in the past as the present would not differ much from the old and the familiar and thus, ultimately, look no more than just a more current version of the past?

"Nomad Philosophizing" - Where is "the next" going to be? And when? she asks.

Or perhaps a true nomad would simply cease all questions and simply be. Because the present is already in constant flux, and such flux has already, in some ways, determined the future.

But she can't stop, cannot cease asking. With an incontrollable urge to keep asking and keep searching, she uncontrollably takes off and leave.

The future is already embedded in the present, she tells herself, so rest in peace, my soul, and cease all questions, at least for awhile.


Trying hard.

Trying really really hard.

At least for awhile.

梅ちゃん at 3:04:00 AM