Most modern Chinese women only give birth once.
I am now pregnant with my second baby.
Needless to say, the response of the average local person to the news of my second pregnancy has been mostly predictable – a slight look of surprise, a knowing smirk at the recollection that all foreigners have lots of children (right?), and a rhetorical question about whether or not my country restricts the number of babies a woman can birth. These responses are followed by an inquiry into just how many children I plan on having. Of course, there’s the occasional look of scorn – a “you-foreigners-have-too-many-babies” look – never voiced but always communicated subtly by the same repertoire of questions asked with a distinct note of contempt.
The attention eventually shifts from me to my daughter – “You’re going to have a little brother!” they exclaim, completely ignorant of the actual sex of the baby-in-utero. They offer this verdict with great confidence. Read more…
OK, so maybe the suburbs tend to have a reputation for being more homogenous than diverse. But don’t let that stop you! Perhaps you will have to go looking for learning opportunities, but I guarantee they are there.
Here are a few suggestions of where to find the world at your doorstep: Read more…
Extreme stress and incredible wonder – that defines my life abroad.
Here I am, a foreigner, living in a world that differs so deeply from my own. I have before me an entire story of a people, narrating through time, simultaneous to my own – and yet so different. I find myself moved by the faces, the flavors, the sounds, the geographical features – the wonder and color and beauty of it all. And I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I’ll speak of it for a lifetime, recounting my adventures and re-living the moments I have spent abroad. I’ll long for it when I return to my own “vanilla” culture.
And so, I keep coming back, drawn to these foreign places like a child to a lollipop. I can’t get enough of them. Travel is my addiction, my muse. The rush I get from tasting another culture, from taking a step out of my own familiar experience into that which is foreign, is too intoxicating to put aside.
And yet – I hate it. I can’t stand the crazy drivers; the way people give “well-intentioned” but completely uninvited advice; the polluted air; the too-spicy food; the annoyance of not being able to communicate; the way I miss what is familiar; the way I long for comfort and convenience; people’s incessant stares and questions – I hate all of it. Read more…
In China, values like community, harmony, tradition, and pragmatism often trump personal convenience. That means that multiple generations of relatives often live together. That means that grandparents live with their children and serve as the primary caregivers of their grandchildren. And in China, advice is fair game. Offering unsolicited advice can even be an expression of care. Undoubtedly, it can also be a game of control; but in many cases, it is welcomed as genuine concern.
Of course, these cultural norms deeply disturb my American sensibilities. That’s MY child, I can feel myself thinking. I don’t want some grandparent taking my place – step off, grandma! Like pins and needles under my skin, I am agitated to the core when I think about some other lady moving in on my space, on my role. I don’t welcome people telling me what to do or giving me unsolicited advice. I think I’m entitled to my own opinions and have a right to do things my own way. Clearly, this is the best way of living, the best way to relate to other people…right?
The city where I live is polluted. And when I say polluted, I mean that sometimes you can barely see the buildings a few blocks away. The skies are often grey, and sometimes the air smells like burnt plastic. Gross, right?
Well, this is where I live. And this is where my husband and I have chosen to raise our daughter. Are they stupid? you might be wondering. Or perhaps you are thinking, I could never take those risks with my child.
And to be honest, sometimes I think the same things. I should just go back to America, where it’s nice and safe and people use car seats and I can see the sky. But here’s the thing: Last I checked, the death rate in America is still 100%. Sure, there are some conveniences and comforts in America. Yes, I greatly respect and value my home country and appreciate many things about it. But it is not perfect. People in America still get cancer, get in car accidents, and – well….suffer.
The illusion that living in America will make my or my family’s life devoid of suffering is false. Suffering, unfortunately, is a reality that we all face. We will encounter hardship while we live on this earth. It is inevitable, whether we live in America, China, or Timbuktu. We can’t escape it.
And yet, so often, our fears get the better of us. We make choices to live our lives in a certain way, but then we fear the outcome. For example, I value many things about our cross-cultural life. I value the opportunity to raise my daughter in a second culture. I value our family’s vision and our reasons for living overseas. But living overseas means facing risks (whether real or imagined) that I would not face in my home culture. How should I deal with this very real conflict?
Here are a few suggestions of how to deal with fear as you take children overseas (or pursue your life’s vision, in general): Read more…