Wednesday, March 03, 2010


I am not the patriotic type, just not my thing to go around waving flags with my hand over my chest. My children did not (JJ) and will not (SS) place their hands over their hearts during the Pledge of Allegiance. When I watch the Olympics, it is about the athletes, not their respective countries, and I do tend to root for the underdog. Like the swimmer who practiced in a hotel pool, but made it to the Olympics and finished his darn heat. Even though every other swimmer had long left the water. Or the Canadian figure skater who gave the performance of her life to win a bronze medal, only days after her mother passed away. Only to have the jerk commentator say that she only won bronze. Only? Third best in the world is just fine, especially after such a traumatizing experience. Those are the moments that make the Olympics for me.

We were home barely a month when the Beijing Olympics began. SS happened to have a Chinese and an Olympic flag, because a shop keeper gave them to her in Guangzhou. They hold special meaning for us because of that. It was to become a reoccurring theme. SS has a Puerto Rican flag that her Abus gave her. I do not recall them doing the same for JJ, correct me if I'm wrong Abu. SS was also given her first US flag during a parade. But back to the Beijing games. I think I missed the Puerto Rican delegation altogether. What I do recall is the immense sense of pride I felt, knowing that we had just left China with the gift of life. I also recall feeling sorry for the next host country because their opening ceremonies would certainly be impossible to top. I watched in awe, taking it all in, and feeling so proud of my daughter's birth country. I think P and I made Grandpa uncomfortable, because every so often he would point out negative aspects of China. The guy is a retired Coastie, so he probably felt the need to stick up for his country. :) As far as I am concerned, it is not like the US is a paragon of virtue when it comes to human rights. My kids and I have and will be discriminated against based on our ethnicity. Since I live in this huge glass house, I am not casting stones.

At times I wondered if our enthusiasm during the Beijing games was a result of our recent life changing experience. When we watched the Vancouver opening ceremonies (what was with the Superman icicle theme?) we could hardly wait for the Chinese delegation. OK, so that pride does not fade. This time SS was able to scream her little heart out, "GO CHINA!" It was also so neat to watch her be so proud of the faces that looked like hers. At some point during the games P pointed out that in our nuclear family, he is the minority. Weird huh, but the man is right. Even though he is comfortably surrounded by people who like like him everywhere, he is mindful that the same does not apply to his wife and children. That is why he pushed me until I relented and traveled to Puerto Rico. It is why although I had no plans on leaving my home overnight until after the reversal, P pushed for us to attend the CNY parade. It was very important to him, and while I was uncomfortable as hell that night, I sucked it up for SS.

At a point I really tried to talk him out of it, the expense, the drive, etc. But I am glad he is also as stubborn as the grime on our shower (I believe that is how he described me) wall. Watching the parade was a truly amazing experience, as it was walking around Chinatown. When we are out and about, I am extremely self conscious about our conspicuous status. It bothers me to feel different or to be made feel different. That did not happen this past weekend. I felt as much as peace as I did in China. And that is quite a task, because the Chinese have different standards in terms of social interactions. It is not considered impolite to point, stare, even laugh at someone who is different. It did not bother me there and it did not bother me this weekend. Had anyone spent as much time as the people behind us interacting and ogling SS, I would have removed her from the situation. Yet somehow, I did not feel that discomfort, that need to just vamoose. And unlike the CNY lunch, SS did not seem to feel threatened by the thousands of similar faces around her. We were mindful to hold her and have her close at all times, but that primal fear did not resurface.

As much as the parade was quite a visual feast, it was watching P and SS that made it special to me. I was overwhelmed by the sense of pride I felt being there. Since I am not the go my country chest thumping type, I was weirded out by my feelings. But all I had to do was look at P, beaming proudly, and realized that it is just normal. Half way through the parade P noted that there were so many Chinese Americans around us that had never set foot in China. He then said that it made him proud to not only having visited, but that our daughter was born on Chinese soil. To once again hear SS's now well honed "GO CHINA!" was equally spectacular.

San Francisco is a beautiful city and it intimidates me. I spent a summer when I was 16 at the Alameda Naval Base with my brother and his wife. My sister in law worked for Ma Bell in downtown SF, and I was there 4-5 per week. Unknown to my mother (who thought it OK to trust her socially sheltered daughter to a 19 and a 21 year old), I was driving into SF, unlicensed, and never knowing what it was like to drive on a freeway. My brother fractured his arm, could not drive, and did not want to be without a car. My sister in law would go to work by bus, I would drive my brother to the base, pick him up in the afternoon, then drive to pick up my sister in law (sometimes without my brother). Even with that experience, I still feel intimidated driving through the city. I better get over it because I see many more mini trips there in our future. After all, it is SS's U.S. birth city, her port of entry. That was not by coincidence, it was P's request that SS enter the U.S. like him, in SF.

P, thanks for taking the initiative and the time to make this work. When SS is old enough to read my ramblings, I hope she is proud of your efforts to keep her in touch with her birth culture.

SS is reaching critical mass about missing JJ. She channeled her inner Puerto Rican for him in the video below.

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