Maggie Makes Four!

This journal started off documenting the adoption of our youngest daughter. It now follows the twist and turns of our lives as we raise these two amazing little creatures into the best women they can become.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Cultural Confusion

I've met a woman, who happens to be Taiwanese.  Her girls are exactly the same age as mine and used to be in the same preschool classes.  Now, the Magster and her youngest take dance together so once a week we visit.   From time to time, I ask this woman cultural questions, which she patiently answers.  And she knows I understand the basics: like why her Mom visits in February, the meaning of red envelops, why she eats moon cakes in September.   And seems to appreciate the fact, I'm trying on the cultural front.

She's also asks me lots of questions too, mostly about the kids, sometimes about schools and other kid activities.  I can tell she's trying to figure out the ways of the culture here.   Sometimes the other Moms in the dance class chime into our conversations, Asian and American alike, and it makes for good conversation on the bench in the dance hallway.   (Believe me, more than one conversation has been very educational.) 

Last week, La Nina and her oldest daughter were both out of school and the two had a chance to play during their sister's class.  As soon as she settled her youngest in dance, she asked: 

"Do you let your girls watch High School Musical?"  

The expectant look on her daughter's face told the story.  Obviously, this was a much discussed topic in their house and there had been a culture class between the American-born daughter and her traditional Chinese mother.  

"I do," I answered, "it's very tame."

A couple of other moms chimed into agree it was a tame movie, even a twelve year old big sister mentioned it was safe (though I think her credibility was suspect.)

Satisfied I wasn't going to sink her ship, her daughter ran off to find La Nina and the mother sat down next to me and heaved a heavy sigh.  

"The girls in that movie," she said, "how do they dress?"  

"Well, flashy, but there's no skin that I can think of in the first movie.  The second one has a swimming pool scene, so they wear bathing suits," I answered, wracking my brain for anything objectionable.  

"That 'girl'," she said, gesturing toward her daughter who was happily playing with La Nina on the floor.  "All she wants is sparkly clothes and fancy shoes.  She's too young, I tell her."  

I let out a giggle.  "Mine too," I said.  "I think it's pretty normal at their age."  

Her eyes flew open and her voice sounded a bit brighter, "Really?"  

"Well, I think so.  La Nina likes flashy clothes and fancy shoes too."  

"Okay," she said, "I'll get her the movie."     

About then, the big girls came back and my friend told her daughter she could watch HSM 1 only.  Her daughter let out a whoop like any American six-year-old and hugged her Mom.  And her Mom shook her head in dismay.  

There's no doubt, the American culture is just as confusing to this poor mom as her culture is to me.  The difference is she's riding the cultural roller coaster in the front seat, raising two girls immersed in a world she struggles to understand.  Me, I may operate in a bi-racial family, but I'm trying to understand her culture from the safety of ten thousand miles away.  I often wonder who has it easier.   


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