Riches of the Far East

  • Published
  • By 2nd Lt. Meghan L. Garcia-Lansford
  • 642nd Electronic Systems Squadron
When I think about China, mostly I see a blur of images. I see a light shower of black ash falling from enormous fireworks shot from apartment windows and the middle of busy streets for Chinese New Year. I see smiling flushed babies buried in parkas as thick as pillows, fashionable young women wearing high heels and ankle-length hose to protect their feet from the muddy streets and older men smiling gap-toothed grins selling meizi fruit from two pans linked by a yoke across their shoulders. I see an older woman in a rocking chair outside her son's street stall with her cat on a leash and her grandson sitting at her feet.

I remember the unfamiliar cadence of an unfamiliar language surrounding me: a half understood phrase spoken by two students just around the corner and the quiet, harsh sound of the vendor negotiating the price of sow's ears strung up on a line with a bargaining mother. He doesn't want others to hear the special price he was offering just to her, just today. I remember how it felt as I began to understand the meanings and as my mouth learned to shape the alien tones until they felt as natural as childhood.

I mostly think of my friends. I remember QiuYun, a mathematics grad student who spoke perfect English without ever having met a foreigner before me. Her entire rural village in Hunan Province compiled their money to send her to university. I think of Cherry, who joked that I looked like a fisherman's daughter when I ate with my hands too near the bottom of my chopsticks. I remember that the thresholds of doors are raised to keep out bad spirits.

With Asian Pacific American Heritage Month in full swing, the thing I most remember is the adventure of feeling the richness of Chinese culture, while recognizing our shared heritage as human beings. In many ways for mainland China, America might as well not exist. Everything I knew - the music, the cartoons I grew up with, the jokes, the political and celebrity scandals, the sports - none of it mattered or meant anything to anyone. And yet, I connected in a very real way with my friends, with my roommate who has never spoken a word of English, with QiuYun and with Cherry.

This month, I encourage you to explore and celebrate different cultures and enrich yourself. There are a few events featuring different aspects of Asian culture set up to help you do so. On May 22 at 10 a.m. at the Base Library a free origami class with an introduction to Mandarin Chinese and Japanese language is being offered. On May 28 at the Minuteman Club from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., a banquet featuring traditional dancers, a musical performance of the Guzheng instrument, a calligraphy artist and guest speaker, Mr. Roger Fuji, will take place. Tickets are $11 for members and $13 for non-members. Anyone with access to the base can attend. Contact 2nd Lt. Rheesa Antonio for tickets at (781) 377-0148. For information regarding events this month, contact 2nd Lt. Meghan Lansford at (781) 377-9009.