One of the things I have been wondering of late is why I feel so strongly about helping the kids maintain their language ability and, in general, staying connected to Guangzhou.
Some folks have suggested to me that I might as well throw in the towel. There is no way the kids are going to keep their language ability as long as we are living here. Am I going to move to NYC so that I can have them in Chinese immersion school and take them to the playground in Chinatown? It is unrealistic to believe I can travel back with the frequency necessary to maintain relations. We are beginning to doubt that we can afford plane tickets for December. It would be better, some suggest, to recognize the past year for what it is, a discrete cross-cultural adventure that is over. There may be other adventures, to be sure, but they will be somewhere else. In other words, for us, China is finished.
Really, until someone suggested this to me directly, it never really occurred to me that we might just work up some photobooks with some of the 2000 pictures we took, add a few Chinese dishes to our dinner repetoire, and figure out how to say “forgot it all” to add to our stock Mandarin phrases for- we lived in Guangzhou, they went to Sun Yat-Sen kindergarten, they spoke Chinese, I studied Chinese.
As much as this would be the most practical approach, it does not feel right to me. But maybe my feelings are kind of like the post-retreat and training seminar belief that the event has been a life-changing one and the other participants, as far-flung as they may be, will be friends for life as a result of sharing the experience of the seminar or retreat. In the very beginning you have some resolve and make a few attempts at keeping in touch. But the fact of the matter is, the experience didn’t change the place you are returning to. It only changed you and, once returned to the old milieu, many of those changes stop making sense and/or fade away. And the people… well, even though you intend to keep them, when you were swearing allegiance, you forgot you were returning to a life that was already populated with friends, neighbors and family. Suddenly the new connections that seemed so true pale compared to immediacy of propinquity.
Maybe my continued desire to hold on is the result of the fact that we were in China for 10 months, not a 5-day retreat. Maybe the forgetfulness and indifference are coming.