Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Three little boys, one vast desert

Picture taken from site

I have a theory. The best way to get to know a culture that is not your own is to date it. And if you are really curious, then as logic speaks, you must marry it. So, with a robust sense of adventure, I knew quite early on that I would marry out of my race. NO, not just out of my race, I wanted a complete foreigner, someone who believes in uprooting his entire life at least once. I have no distinct reason for wanting this, except I can't help being bored by my Chinese immigrant surroundings during my formative years, as much as dim sum eating and bubble tea sipping enhanced the cultural landscape of Toronto Canada where I partly grew up, I wanted to do everything humanly possible to avoid making a life out of it.

So I guess I got what I wanted, I married a Jewish guy. Israeli to be exact, he corrects me every time when I refer to him as a Jew. And it is fun to compare notes on our childhood experiences. We are each appalled by the other. He gaped when I told him how my mother brought me along to purchase a cane to beat me with (not asking for sympathy here, it is a common practice in Hong Kong, we get to pick the color), and I am shocked at the complete freedom he had as a child.

My husband (My Harry) cannot sustain a continuous conversation about his past, I am not sure why, probably because he is a guy. I practically had to heimlich bits and pieces out of him, but it is worth the trouble because his claims are nothing short of fairy tales to me. I cannot imagine growing up like that. As a little boy of six, he took the bus to go to the library by himself. (What?) His entire school body staged a strike when the teachers implemented uniforms requirement: a school logo on any t-shirt the student wishes to wear. (What the?) His mother bought him as many eggs and flour as needed to egg and flour the principal at the end of the school year. (What the...you get the picture)

So while I was marching to and fro between classrooms and deathtrap playgrounds in Hong Kong (Read my Kindergarten in Hong Kong post), My Harry was spending his time very differently. He lived in a suburban neighborhood in Israel, where he and his little buddies had access to the beach to the west, sandy streets with open spaces all around, and whatever beyond in the east. This was a time of innocence I guess, when parents did not feel compel to escort their children to their daily routines.

One day long ago, My Harry decided it was high time he and his friends Shai and Tzhi explored the east, which was a whole lot of nothing, a typical desert in the Middle East. They planned to map it.

"I orchestrated the whole thing" My Harry said, smiling at the memory.

"Shai drew well, he was in charge of drawing the map."

"Tzhi's mother made good sandwiches."

So the three boys carried little backpacks with water bottles, sandwiches, and coloring pencils and headed out for the expedition. They circled around their kindergarten, passed one apartment building, and it was time to eat. The sandwiches are good.

Then taking off again, passed another apartment building, crossed one big avenue, and approaching a very small hill. Getting tired and hot already.

Then they climbed the little hill, saw a whole lotta nothing in front of them, a span of desert, and decided they had enough. They turned to go home and play.

In the meantime in another part of the world, I was probably threatening my mom yet again that I would jump out of my window off the seventh floor if I had to endure another hour of piano practice. (This is a common threat from Hong Kong kids, we all lived in tall buildings) I carried out my threat to the extent of lining my favorite dolls next to the window, gave them a funeral, and then ceremoniously threw them out one by one.

But in the end, for all the differences in our beginnings, My Harry and I wound up doing the same job in the US. I suppose our marriage is a true product of globalization. Would I have it any other way? Probably not.


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