Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Being Chinese, but not....

I'm trying something new at Chinese school on Sundays. Tai Chi. It is by and part to get me up and off the "white table". What is the "white table"? At school most of the white adoptive parents drop off their kids and then head on down to the cafeteria and congregate around one or two tables and chat. Some tell orphanage or travel stories, some talk about schools, some knit, some read. The Chinese parents do pretty much the same but at other tables by themselves. I'm not sure what they talk about. Probably the same things minus the orphanage visit stories. This is not a racial comment or anything on my part...just an observation. I suspect it is a human nature thing...if you are a bear you hang with the bears and don't really make too many owl friends. If you are a bear...bear stuff is comforting and familiar and easy. Owl stuff is weird, and they eat strange stuff, and they have wings. Bears know nothing of wings.

One of the things I want most out of Chinese school is to experience Chinese American culture. This is the selfish part...I find other cultures and other people fascinating. For my kids, I simply don't want them feeling like they have never met an owl when they leave my den. How awful to look like an owl in the big wide open forest but only know bear stuff. It's weird. And I fear someone will have to call the therapist to the animal kingdom if we ignore our obvious differences. But then I am one to be known who worries about being the root of my children's future therapy.

The tai chi practice is an attempt to step away from the bear den and climb a tree to learn how to sit like and owl. I know this analogy sounds rather contrite and simplistic. But the concept of stepping away from the "white bear" table is not. It is not simple and it is not easy. As a side note I am getting a little bit of a physical workout while practicing tai chi each week. More than my usual weekly round of blog reading and sewing can offer a growing girl's butt. The bad news is that I am clearly the big white girl with no obvious rhythm or sense of stage presence in the back row. Thank God for small favors when I tell you that there are no mirrors since the practice takes place in a high school cafeteria. I might have to quit if there were mirrors.

And yet even though I cannot move gracefully and I cannot seem to remember even 4 of the 24 basic movements I love Tai Chi. I love watching my neighbor smoothly swoop down while his hand holds an imaginary ball. I am mesmerized by the old lady in the front row who wears hard soled street shoes and never topples over while raising her left foot high into the air.
When I am doing it...or lacklusterly thumping along...I feel like I am one of them. The music is starting to feel familiar in the same way Dave Brubek's jazz feels familiar to me. Take Five was played in my house as a little girl. I know I am not one of them but for that short period of time the whole bit about Chinese school doesn't feel so "owlish" to me.

Last week us serene folks on the Tai Chi side of the cafeteria were drowned out by the loud rukus of the beating drums and wild dancing dragon and 3 lions. They were practicing for the up coming Chinese New Year show. I couldn't concentrate at all with all the noise and energy. This made me especially daft with my Tai Chi. But just as I was about to be annoyed at the interruption of the loud music...I looked over at the huge dragon shaking his head and that felt familiar too. It's CNY time of course the dragon would be practicing. Of course the tiny beautiful ladies performing ballet would be tip toeing around each other enpointe. And I relaxed.

I have no idea how long I will keep at the Tai Chi practice. I have no idea whether it is giving me or Ava anything remotely like window access to her home culture. But at least I can say we tried a few steps out of the comfy den.

1 comment:

Traci said...

I'm surprised there are no comments. I read this the day you posted and I came back to see what others had to say. I can't seem to formulate words to descibe the feeling that I had after reading this. Same is true now. The best I seem to be able to come up with is this....

You make me think, you make me look at myself a little closer, you make me examine my thoughts, feelings and desires for my own kiddos.

Thanks, Perrin.