Archive for the 'Culture' Category
Go read Part I first. Go! Part I can be found here:
So I was talking about things that shocks, intrigues, scares, when one arrives from the other side of the globe into the heartland of good ‘ol USA. Here’s part II for your reading pleasure.
* Flushing toilets, electricity, stoves/ovens, toaster, and any other ‘modern necessities’. If you’ve ever been to a 3rd world country, you’ll know what I mean by the toilet thing. The village I grew up and lived in for 10+ years did not have reliable electricity (meaning, electricity was available for perhaps 4 or 6 hours in a 24-hr day, and that’s usually at night when everyone’s asleep), so even if we could afford it, electronic gadgets or fridges or microwaves would be useless anyway. We had kerosene and oil lamps. We cooked using straws/hay/sticks/wood under a brick&mud-combination cook top. When I was 10.5 or so, I went to the City half an hour away to live with my grandmother. She had some modern conveniences in her condo but still lacking compared to the typical standards here in the US.
* Indoor pets. We could hardly manage to keep ourselves fed, therefore pets, especially indoor pets who share beds and living spaces with their owners were a very foreign concept.
* Lotions. Lotions were meant for rich and privileged people. Or at least average middle income folks.
* Soft mattresses (and a whole slew of other ‘common’ items within the civilized world such as carpet or hardwood floor or lamps or showers/baths). See above explanation. Also, showers/baths were not to be had as there’s no indoor plumbing in our tiny brick house - only sponge baths in the winter and outdoor “rinsing” in the summertime.
* Television. As said above, there were basically no electricity. My parents finally got a hand-me-down black&white TV from some richer family when I was about 10.5 yrs old. So after coming here, I was glued to the TV after school everyday until 4 o’clock, when I would have to go work at my grandparents’ business. I watched lots and lots of cartoons. Hey, at least I learned some English through it!
* Weather. I have never ever experienced anything colder than 4C (that would be 39.2F) in my whole entire first 12.5 years of life. We came to Iowa, in December. There were knee high snowfalls and colder-than-a-freezer type of temperatures, combined with bone-chilling winds… NOT pretty. I did not like it at all. It was so cold, so white and glaring everywhere (the sun reflecting off the snow), I got very dizzy and hurled while standing and waiting for the school bus the first week of school and had to stay home for the day. After nearly 20 years, I’m still not used to the cold weather.
I guess some things never change.
Things that my 12-year-old extremely-hill-billy self found to be intriguing, fascinating, scary, confusing, and or shocking. Sometimes all at once. (A little background: my family and I moved to the US from the other side of the globe when I was 12. None of us spoke English. For this and other details, go read my “about me” page).
These shocking things are in no particular order, but each proved to be comical and foreign to my-then-12yr-old-self (some are still shocking to me).
* People. I lived in a small village and never traveled further than 3 hours away from where I was born. I had only seen non-Chinese people on TV, in black&white television. When we landed in O’Hare airport, various hair colors, eye colors, and people’s sizes really shocked me and continued to for a long while.
* Food - western food. Which to me meant anything that wasn’t Chinese food.
* Language. Did not know a single word of English. No one knew my native language at my school, and not many in the community either. It was an 90degree uphill journey sprinkled with many many thorns, spikes and potholes along the way.
* Smiles / friendliness. When you smile or say Hi to a complete stranger in China, people would think you are slow, stupid, or have an ulterior motive. They just don’t do friendly over there, especially if you’re Asian. Times may have changed some, and westernized a little more since we moved away, but I think these types of views are still very strong.
* Hugs. In the US and many western countries, people hug when greeting a friend or family member. In China, you don’t even see parents hug each other. Nor do you see parents hug their children once the kids are past the Cute Age (meaning, preschoolers at the latest). Feel free to let us know if your Asian family is a huggy-lovey one, coz mine’s definitely not. This is one aspect of the culture I will NOT pass onto our own kids.
* Religion. People around me practiced the inert type of Buddhism - at the most they went to the temple once a year or something. And are/were very superstitious.
* For many months, I didn’t know what a “body shop” was. Every time the school bus drove by some building that said “body shop” I was very confused. As I was starting to learn English from scratch (ABC, colors, numbers etc), body meant, well, body, as in physical body. Your body, my body. At first I thought maybe it was similar to a red district. But then the building looks too crummy to be that. It was after many funny hand gestures and exchanges that my new friends told me what it meant.
* Moving vehicles / boats / airplanes. My parents had two bicycles to transport us around. After arriving in the US, Motion Sickness was my first name for a very long time. To this day, I must be the one driving, otherwise there’s a high chance that I would hurl.
Next I’ll talk about lotions, soft mattresses, flushing toilets, and more. Not necessarily in that order.
As we prepare for our first child’s kindergarten next year, I’ve been doing a little research. And this week is when parents start registering.
Has times changed? Am I out of sync with what’s the norm? I don’t ever remember needing to bring School Supplies to school - I used what was available at school and if it’s something that’s going to be kept with me or at my locker, then I would buy it at my own pace (I bought things on my own as early as 14 years old). There were no Lists that need to be bought at the beginning of each semester.
Here’s the Required List of Supplies parents must bring with their kindergartener on first day of school (this is last year’s list, 2007. I don’t think it would be much different this year).
Not kidding you. Whatever happened to government funded public schools? Doesn’t it exist anymore - it’s partially funded now? Or was I not required to buy any of them during my time because we were poor??
Also? Look 2/3 of the way down, it says 35mm film. Who uses film these days??????
We don’t live in the boonies. We’re in the heartland, and in the state’s capital city. I guess we live in the 90’s.
Many years ago, we made a donation to an organization (not naming it here, but let’s call it H so we can reference it easier). It was a one-time donation and it was a good decision at the time. It’s still a good decision. However things change and although we might still donate to organization H if money was not an object, but that’s not the case. Our priorities changed, things that speak to our hearts have changed. We now focus our attention, time and money elsewhere that’s closer to our hearts.
Without fail, organization H continues to send us letters asking for donation at least twice a year, most of the time doubling the efforts. They even have our new and updated address! I finally called and asked to be taken off the mailing list, which is something I should have done a long while ago.
The person who took the call was polite and said it would be taken care of. I went one step further to make some suggestions (gasp!). I said it would be good if they could implement a system where it checks against donors who’s been dormant/inactive for a certain period of time, and to cut back on mailings/trees/resources by stop mailing to those individuals. She paused. And then said “Oh OK, thanks.” Her reply sounded very distant and nonchalant - after all, it’s not her trees or her resources or her money that’s being sent into space without an echo - no sireee Bob, she’s just there to do her job and no more. I wish she took me seriously and at least give the suggestion to her supervisor.
I need to take a closer look at all the mailings that we get, and stop the ones that doesn’t even get a first glance before hitting the recycling bins. If you have time, please check yours and see if you can minimize some junk mail as well.
Last month there was an article on The Washington Post about overuse of CT scans and its possible affects it would have on patients, especially younger women and children.
In my experience, there is no doubt that CT scans have saved my life 7 yrs ago. From the time I showed symptoms of Hodgkin’s (tiredness, itchy legs, night sweats, chest pains — I know! How can those be considered symptoms of cancer?! But sadly they are truely symptoms of Hodgkin’s) to the time I was diagnosed, was a long 5 month period. Five fat months where the cancer ran rampant and amok within my body, growing from the nodes inside my chest up to the nodes in my neck. And yet, doctor after doctor, copay after copay, test after test, nothing conclusive, but with several misdiagnoses. Isn’t that lovely, not only they don’t know what’s wrong, but they tell you something completely off the wall!
I guess I could say that the x-ray did give the hint (when they finally ordered one!), but really it was the CT scan that really showed it was a mass, a big bad mass. I eventually also got a gallium scan as a diagnostic scan, and a PET scan midway through chemo. I don’t know what doses of radiation these scans gave, but I think it was absolutely worth it for the benefits it provided. After all, the radiation couldn’t have been a small fraction of the two-weeks-long intense
frying radiation therapy I received.
However, there comes a point when the scans aren’t necessary in certain situations or for certain people, as the article pointed out. But who determines that, and how does everyone’s interest plays into the final decision?
Are we, the general population, getting more diseases, or do we just have the technology and knowledge of diagnosis, therefore simply are uncovering what would be there anyway?
Mom says when I was a baby, I was a very good sleeper. She would have to wake me up to feed me (why couldn’t I have gotten one of those babies???). Fortunately I was a chubby one so no one was really worried about me sleeping 90% of the day away. I was a whopping 8.3 lb baby when I was born. I think that’s pretty big for a Chinese.
From junior high and up, I slept in whenever allowed. Especially in college. A few times I’d stay up until the wee hours and wake up only find the dining halls have been closed for lunch. After that, I’d get a sack lunch the night before so I could sleep in and still have food. Clever girl.
We all know what happens to sleep when you have a baby. After the 2nd baby, you can pretty much take sleep out of the dictionary, because it’s not going to happen.
For the last several months, I’ve only managed to go to bed before midnight a handful of times, only to wake up again before the sun rises when the two little ones wake at 5:30~6:00a.m.
In the spirit of Valentine’s Day, I came across this gem.
I can’t help but share it with all of my night owl friends, sleepy-eyed bloggers who stay up so you can read just one more blog, and tired mommies who sit there without nary a thought in mind after putting the kids to bed and thankful for a few quiet hours before tending to the fun, loving but demanding children at the crack of dawn. Hope you have a good night sleep tonight!
After putting the kids to bed, I went to the grocery store. The temperature finally rose into double digits and it actually felt a little warm! (Still below freezing. After a couple of weeks of subzero temps and single digits, it’s amazing how it would feel warm…)
The greeting cards, gift wraps, and floral department is right near the entrance of the 24-hr grocery chain. There were at least 8 men browsing in the vicinity for last-minute Valentine gifts. Ironically, I didn’t see any women there.
Is it because women aren’t celebrating or giving their sweetheart gifts? Or are women inherently better planners and have already finished wrapping the presents days ago? Maybe women don’t shop for Valentine gifts at grocery stores? I mean, let’s face it, what kinda thing would a guy want from a grocery store.
“Here love, this is what I got for ya. I’m so glad you’re mine,” as she hands the bulky package over.
“Ooooh beer, and it’s my favorite kind! You’re the best.” Says he as he whips out a huge bouquet of flowers from behind his back, planting a kiss on her lips.
Happy Valentine’s Day everyone. Chocolates on the house.
Yesterday was the first day of the Chinese New Year. I say first day because it lasts for 15 days, or that’s how my family celebrated it and how I remember it. This year is the year 4706, and is the year of the Rat. However, it was a regular day for us, here in Iowa. There aren’t dragon dances, dimsum restaurants and eatery places to go to, and I didn’t even wear red.
I’m a little sad that our kids wont’ grow up with the same understanding of the Lunar New Year as I did. Chinese New Year just has not been the same for me since we moved here almost 20 years ago.
As a child, every year, I remember being woken up very early on New Year’s Day by the smell of delicious foods my mom and great-grandmother were making. They get up before the crack of dawn and start preparing food. The small brick house has little ventilation and is all steamed up, with smokes hanging around almost in the entire house. My mom would give us sweet dumplings and savory chicken made in a specific way — foods that we only had a few times a year.
Between the 2nd day and the 15th day of Chinese New Year, we would go around visiting all of our relatives. Bringing foods with us as a token of good wishes. We kids would get Red Envelopes with money in them, while our parents would have to pass them to other kids and unmarried adults. It was a great time to be had. Lots of food, gift monies, and school sessions were on holiday. My mom told me much later, that I never wanted to go to my grandmother’s house during Chinese New Year because she only gave one Yuan (that’s equivalent to about 13 US cents) while other relatives would give 5 or even 20 Yuan. Like us, my grandmother was not well to do at all and lived with what little her children provided for her. I had no concept of that and had very little appreciation for all the heartache and hard work she did.
My brother and I really loved playing with firecrackers during Chinese New Year. My brother, being a true brother, taunted me with firecrackers and took most of the good ones from me. But I still enjoyed playing with him and looked up to him. I hear firecrackers are now banned in even the smallest cities.
Mom is somewhat superstitious. She forbid us to wash our hairs on New Year’s Day. The number four is not to be said at all, as it is the same pronunciation as death, and everything said during those first 15 days must be positive, nice things. And say a lot of 8’s, which is said in the same intonation as prosperity or growth or rich. She also made sure the house was all dusted and cleaned from top to bottom on or before New Year’s Eve.
As in western cultures, the Chinese New Year symbolizes new beginnings. With that, I hope this year brings everyone good health, happiness, and prosperity.
Gong Hay Faat Choi!