Adapting doesn’t mean you get to erase history. It means you get an opportunity to see things from another side. Whether White people choose to get mad or be humbled by the experience of being racially marked, it’s hard to relinquish the invisible kind of invisibility until we realize it blinds us to both our own and other people’s realities.
Ching Ming (also spelled Qing Ming), one of two annual “grave-sweeping” observances in the Chinese calendar, coincides with Easter this year, which seems vaguely appropriate to me. They are both commemorations of death, transition, and afterlife. Of course, Easter focuses on a single individual while Ching Ming is when Chinese families honor their ancestors. I might be stretching things, but the emphasis in both cases seems to be on continuity after death.
Being in a Chinese family periodically throws me up against my cultural edges and forces me to question behaviors or beliefs I take for granted. For me, the concept of reciprocity is like an electric fence between my American training and Chinese customs. It zaps me with words like favor, debt, and obligation—all of which make me squirm.
I stepped out of my comfort zone twenty years ago when I first came to Hong Kong, but I didn’t realize then that beyond every doorway we step through, there is another threshold we must dare ourselves to pass.
My intercultural marriage is never dull, but parts of it are mired in translation.