Acquiescence or Liminality

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.

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1 Response to Acquiescence or Liminality

  1. Leila says:

    I’ll be one of your friends to say, Don’t give up! Never give up. If this is some post-retreat or something else, there is change that is happening in your family, with you at the helm, perhaps. This change shouldn’t be ignored. Maybe the change will develop into something you couldn’t have imagined.

    My eldest, when she was learning to speak, had a couple of words that were in Spanish but never spoke to me in full sentences. Always in English. In her second year of life, she had periods when she didn’t want me to read to her in Spanish. I let it go. Now, for some reason, she’s attracted to the language and is starting to speak to me in more full Spanish sentences. Even though I sorta let it go, I never gave up. I still spoke to her in Spanish.

    Basically, this experience has changed you. You went out of your comfort zone and emerged a different person on the inside. None of us can really tell how you’ve changed, which makes it easier to tell you to throw in the towel. It may be hard, but I say keep up as much as you can/have energy for. You just never know where this will lead.

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