Sunday, August 10, 2008

Olympic Spirit

With the opening of the summer Olympic games in Beijing, the talk of China has permeated my life. I love the Olympics! I remember watching the games intently as a young girl in Taiwan and becoming very excited when one of our few athletes does well. Olympic games represent a chance for all countries to shine, even the little island of Taiwan. Not sure when this started, but last night I noticed that Taiwan is now China Taipei and the flag isn’t the Republic of China flag. Intéressant.

Ever since meeting the Chinese merchant a few weeks ago, I’ve felt a strong tie back to my Chinese heritage. When watching the opening ceremony of the Olympics, I was proud of what the Chinese people have done. Political divides aside, I am Chinese - the same as those in the mainland. I think this unity has made more apparent when I am abroad (outside of the US). When people comment on the grandiose of those fireworks, I said, “Well, we DID invent those!” Among Cameroonians, I have sense and been a part of many conversations discussing the affordability of Chinese goods, though of inferior quality. Also, discussions pertaining to China’s presence in the world have taken place. It’s hard to recognize these changes when insulated in the US, but here in Cameroon, I sense focus shifting from US/Europe to China.

I’ve been asked to compare China’s growth to Cameroon, or Africa in general. The comparison is bizarre to me. Africa is a continent, colonized by many countries over the centuries. China is a country and a thriving civilization for the past 5,000 years. It’s comparing apples to oranges! Yes China was poor for the better part of the 20th century, but it was rich for 5,000 years before that. In the grand scheme of things, the 20th century was merely a slight downward trend now making a comeback. Apart from Hong Kong being colonized by the United Kingdom for 100 years, China was never colonized. Yes, power shifted among tribes of people, but all in all, the traditions evolved and contained within the region.

Beijing hosting this year’s Olympic games has caused a great deal of contention, but I see them as healthy and necessary. The Chinese people didn’t invent fireworks, paper, the compass and other important things to modern life for nothing.

I find myself in an interesting place in life juggling many identities. Yesterday, we watched Love Actually and I became extremely “London-sick”. I identify myself very well with London and feel very at home there. But I am also Taiwanese with rich Chinese heritage. It’s been 3 years since I’ve been back to Taiwan. I miss it. And finally, I am American. I did spend the better part of my adult life in the US of A. And now, I am living in Cameroon. Sometimes I wonder if I will ever find someone who will be able to understand all the aspects of my identity. ‘Tis the challenge.

I miss everyone dearly, and I’m so fortunate to have figured out access to the Internet and able to kept in touch with most everyone. Every time I chat with someone online, or receive an email or package, the meaning is indescribable. Each linkage keeps me sane, and for that, I am forever grateful.

4 comments:

Jenna W said...

I am American by birth, but love the country of China, and am very proud of their Olympics, I think its just been amazing and amazing for them! Just like you, I noticed the "Chinese Taipei" thing. I was wondering if they didn't do this as a "one time thing" just bc the Olympics were being held in China, they didn't want to have an potential controversy about the whole China and Taiwan thing??

Jenna W said...

p.s. I'm so glad you are loving cameroon!!!

Steve said...

Jenna is spot on about the Chinese Taipei labeling.. it is the PRC playing political games and Taiwan going along with it to keep the peace (in the recent spirit of harmony with the now occassional almost-direct flights between the island and the mainland, etc)....but just for the Olympics pretty much.

Megan said...

I LOVE YOU!!!!!