Fly me to the moon/let me see beyond the stars…
This week was the Mid autumn festival in Taiwan, which is similar to July 4th. Basically, this festival remembers a woman married to notorious king. To hinder his power, which was in this long life potion, she drank the potion and fled to the moon, where she lives today. Now in this day and age, people litter the sidewalks, with mini bbq grills and add to already massive amount of smog in Taipei. My language exchange partner invited me to his families’ bbq, which I reluctantly took because I figured that it would give me some experience of Taiwanese family, as well as a topic to talk about, besides my ever present depression.
In my experiences of teaching English in Japan and Taiwan, the inevitable conversation about family came up. In Japan, it was a part of the curriculum, so we would discuss family on basic levels. If the class level was higher, my students would share with me their relationships. I had students share with me from the mundane to the surprising that their husbands actually had second families somewhere. Shocking given that I believed in a first rate country like Japan, such practices would be outdated. But tradition is a strong hold their, and tradition rules the family more.
In Taiwan, my students were more forthcoming about their families. One student that still stands out in my thoughts, shared with me how his family was constantly negative toward each other, and finding fault. It baffled him that he could never be at peace with his father, and how all of them argued so much about nothing. I lauded him on his honesty (as well as identified), because it’s not apart of the culture in Asia, to be authentic about one’s family, because family is a priority as well, as the core of who you are. It is says a lot about who you are, your worth, as well as your character. My students were naive and adamant that western families were much different from Asian families. One hand they are right.
In America, I feel that the emphasis on family takes on many different truths because of our dynamic culture. African Americans families are impacted by our history of Slavery. Families were systematicly divided by masters, who viewed these humans as properity. With time, the ties that bound them were never considered because of the emotional toil and when slavery ended it didn’t mean that Chicken George and friends rode off into the sunset. More likely, the patterns of control used by the masters were passed down thru the ages because how effective they were. It evident that why the black family is suffering today, not only because of current situations, but also as result that our inheritance to our children are the subconscious beliefs that remain from times of slavery. Not all African Americans, are passing on that legacy, many have found the path to create love and harmony among each other, i.e. evident in the summer family reunions.
White families are defined by several factors such as, education, history (family and culture) and region. In fact, I can’t even comment on an authentic ‘white’ family because I realize that all my ‘views’ are colored by hours of watching TV families. Illiusions created the belief in me that my family wasn’t authentic enough, or like the catch phase of the 80’s-they were dysfunctional.
Family is dear to me, and I have always longed for a big family, that had summer reunions and bonds that were deeper than blood. Reality is that my family is divided by misconceptions, wounds from past hurts, and being resigned to archic beliefs. We don’t talk, we don’t acknowledge each others gifts, and we don’t find time to say hello, forwarded emails, replace the easies method of saying ‘you’re on my in mind’. Most of my information about my relatives has come thru the grapevine-my aunt, who always laments how divided we are. But as she shakes her head, I wonder that why, she a respected elder, doesn’t reach out and close the rift. I don’t know what it will take to have my family bond, yet maybe the dissolving of it isn’t too bad an idea if we too reluctant or too shortsighted to see ourselves becoming anything else.
My partner’s family is unique in the sense, they all live with a block of each other. The patriarch wanted it that way so that everyone could take care of each other. It seems that at the bbq, they all were catching up with each other’s lives and enjoying each other’s company. And in Asia, this isn’t so uncommon, that the welfare of your family comes before yours. This seems to create an endless circular system of support, because someone is always looking out for you. But that’s also ironic when compared to the high amounts of suicides they have here. Is the influence of western values to blame? Or maybe that family is becoming too stifling as we become an advanced in our abilities to see beyond our boundaries, even familial ones. I’m enchanted by the idea that your family lives close to each other have a close bond. While it may infringe upon personal space, there is that sense of support and belonging that I feel is their that I long for in my life. My partner’s grandfather’s request showed me that it may take two humans to create a family; it only takes one to make it.