Thursday, January 04, 2007

A New Year is born...

Happy New Year, all.

It seems so insignificant, somehow. As telfair has said, it really is a second tier holiday, for me at least. I think it's important to have an occasion for reflection on the old year and the new, etc, but I guess i do that at christmas. Particularly this year. Last year's christmas will be stuck in my mind forever as being shit. I was in China, I had to work, it was cold. It was shit. And the perky TA's kept asking me 'are you happy?' It was all I could do not to swear at them. They were just being nice, how were they supposed to know I was anything but.

Then I got my calls from home, most meorably from the family gathering at my grandma's, where I had to have the same conversation with everyone I spoke to. You know how it is. Anyway, this christmas I was there in person. It wasn't a bad christmas, but it didn't seem very meaningful, somehow. I don't know. Maybe I'm still recovering from the China experience. In a lot of ways it taught me to distance my emotions, bury them a little. If you're being yelled at in the street becuase you're a round-eye, or you just got ripped off big time by someone you thought was being nice to you, or your bosses are screwing you around because they can and you're helpless to do anything about it, you learn to just push whatever to the side at least a bit, so that even if you're angry, you don't have to be as angry. Which can be a good thing, I think the Western world could use some of that, I know I could. But certainly not in large doses, or if you don't know you're doing it. My dad's side of the family tends to be a bit like that anyway.

A family of Asians recently moved into the town I'm living in, that I grew up in. I won't say what town it is, but it's an old (for Australia), German settled town in the Adeliade Hills. Most of the people who live here were born here, some of them have hardly ever been into the city, which is just incomprehensible to me. Anyway, these Asian men moved in, they were working at the abbatoir. Their families have just joined them. They don't have much English, but they're very nice. The kids have hung around the school I clean after hours, just sitting around in a group. I said to someone recently that they are in all probability acutely aware of everyone's attention every time they go out in public. Even if no one's looking, everyone is, if you know what I mean. That kind of thing can be wearying. That kind of thing is why the grwoing population of African's in Adelaide won't meet your eye casually in the street. If you think you won't like what you'll see there, you learn to go around in a bubble. Several times when I was in China I almost missed a friend in the street because I was inside my protective box.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not whingeing about my treatment in China. It was emotionally quite hard to live there, although it would probably be easier in a less backwards province (when I went on holiday to a bigger city the relief was indescripable) But there were many many privelages that I got for putting up with it. It was just part of the package, and most of the time people weren't looking at you because they hated you, just because you were different and interesting, and maybe they'd never seen a Westerner before. It was still hard if you were having a bad day. I can't imaginge what it must be like to have that kind of attention with added fear and hate, and quite frankly I don't want to. I don't want to put myself in the shoes of the group of African men that moved here at about the same time as the Asian men. One of the deli's here refused to loan them videos. I don't know, I guess they think that they'll never see them again, or something retarded like that (apologies to retarded people. This PC thing is hard) I don't want to think about how that would feel because it wouldn't feel good. Because I'd like to think that the people I grew up beside in this tiny town are friendly and nice and welcoming, and I just can't believe that in this century, in this country, that something like that is socially acceptable. The bastards.

I didn't mean for this to be about rascism, xenophobia, fear, hatred, difference. I was going to talk about body image and fatness and that (also something which I don't think has recovered from the China experience) but I guess I've been thinking about this even though I didn't realise. I just wish people would put a little thought in. I myself make and effort, after China, to have a smile for everyone, especially our new neighbours. I don't know if it makes a difference for them, but it makes a difference for me, knowing that I've been accepting and welcoming in even a tiny way. I hope they know that I sympathise. But you know, while I wish mightily that it wasn't so hard for them, I'm glad they're here. It does people good to have some change every decade or so, don't you think?

1 comment:

Vanessa said...

A tender smile can make a huge difference in a persons day. Maybe even impact their life. I am so glad to have found you this evening...