Before moving to India, I studied like a grad student. From the time we decided on the job change, I read everything about India, or anything written by Indians. Literature, political commentary, movies, you name it, if I could get my hands on it, I would read it or watch it. I had another technique that amused E. quite a bit: when I would see people who looked Indian, at airports, in stores, at Barnes and Noble, I would approach them, apologize, and tell them we were about to move to Bangalore and was looking for any insight. It may be a bit unorthodox but I gathered some very valuable information along the way, and made people laugh and reminisce about their home country. Our Punjabi-Canadian ophthalmologist was a great source of information, but our ENT, although ethnically Indian, said he had never been there.
I should be doing the same about China. E. is already in Beijing, started his job which he likes a lot, found us an apartment and already bought an electric scooter! But I am not doing any research yet. My heart is still in Bangalore. I feel like I still have so much to learn about India, and have this unreasonable feeling that I would be “cheating” on my heart country if I were to do some studying about China. I have a few travel books on my nightstand, and did manage to finish Amy Tan’s last novel. Last night I checked if there were any fees to visit The Forbidden City since I will be there in a few days. Nothing more. Tonight, I will start “Family Matters” by Rohinton Mistry. Back to Indian lit.
This isn’t entirely true. E. and I have a history with China. First, my good ol’ American boy from the Midwest is fluent in Chinese. Yep! He took four years of Mandarin in the early 90’s while in college, and I can attest to the fact that he can hold a conversation with taxi drivers, and shame people who, at a wedding, were talking about us behind our back. That’s our first link to the country. More recently, starting in 2005, we had tried to adopt a little girl from China. The irony is that we didn’t qualify because of E.’s weight, a problem that is no longer one. However, I am now too old! Back then, I had read a lot about China. I realize now that it was 10 years ago, and the books I read were often published 10 years prior to that. I even dug out a very old French classic political reference “Quand la Chine s’éveillera, le monde tremblera” from Alain Peyrefitte (When China will awake, the world will shake). Therefore, what I learned is no longer up-to-date, or/and, was a bit biased due to the desire to get these children adopted into good (international) homes. I had spent many hours watching Chinese movies, and discovered the actress Gong Li. A lot of the books described the consequences of Mao’s policies. Today, from what I saw in Shanghai and what E. talks about, China seems to be on the cutting edge of capitalism. Go figure!
Just like I had preconceptions about India described in my very first blog post, I have some about China. I am pretty much stuck on “The Joy Luck Club” as a model of what the country is like. I like Lisa See’s writing less. Most novels I read are about prostitution, the condition of women, poverty, abandoned women and infants, and the rise of communism. At the Fort Worth library, I had come across “The Last Days of Old Beijing”, a very interesting book written by Michael Meyer, an American living in Beijing, lamenting the destruction of the old fashioned dwelling to make room for skyscrapers. I read the Art of War. And I am fascinated with opium dens!
I have my tourist visa in hand, a suitcase almost ready, with respirators to survive the pollution and brand new sneakers, since mine are somewhere in a box in a warehouse between India and China. I will be a tourist in my new country, waiting eagerly for the day I will have a permanent visa.
No date yet, we are working on that.