03 February 2009

The Year of the Ox

A caveat: I apologise for not posting for so long; Dad reminded me today that certain members of my audience are avid readers who need fresh content on a regular basis. I will try to do better. I have been thinking a lot, and that is part of the problem; I have also been feeling a lot, which is the larger part of the problem.

As I watched the inauguration, I felt that I was absolutely in the wrong place. I should have been with you, and I was not. 8 years ago, I stood in the cold and the rain and protested as one of the country's most damaging stewards was sworn in; last week, I should have been in the same place, celebrating a small, flickering hope. Instead, I was here, with the poor substitute of television, watching Obama repeat the Bush terror rhetoric, feeling hopeless once again as he defended the excessive, selfish American way of life. I should have been there, I wanted to call you, and share my concern that he would do nothing but disappoint us, that our hopes were too high. Obama will have to work with the mishapen lumps of dry, crumbling nation Bush has left him, and I doubt anyone could sculpt a shining hope from this, a city on a hill for the world to see. I should have been there to jeer and sneer at Bush's back, to celebrate that he finally left us to rebuild the sandcastle he kicked over, like all bratty rich kids do. I should have been there, and I was not. Nothing felt right about Inauguration Day.

January 26th was our first Australia Day, a public holiday celebrating the day that Phillip and the First Fleet came ashore in 1788, the day the British empire stamped Australia and changed it forever.

January 26th is also the day India declared its independence in 1930 from that same oppressive empire, the day a struggle for justice began, a struggle that everyday affects my life.

It's called Invasion Day by Aboriginals, and for them it marks the day their troubles began.

I was at a loss– I didn't want to treat it like July 4th, like the Aussies do (barbecue, drinks, fireworks). It seems inappropriate to celebrate the anniversary of an invasion that devastated the world's oldest continuous culture and led directly to the extinction and endangering of countless unique species. I didn't want to treat it like any other day– it's a day that shaped my family story, that still shapes my views and actions.

In the end, we got together with two other ex-pats, talked about how strange it is, drank, and ate out, and got stuck in the rain. Still, this was not where I should be. Nothing felt right about Australia day; nothing could make me feel like I am in the right place.

Sydney has a huge Chinese population, and this month, it seems the entire city is celebrating Chinese New Year, there are tons of events. Sydney calls itself the City of Villages; it's more like the City of Festivals.

And this past weekend, as I walked through Chinatown, I realized how happy I was to be living in a city with a Chinatown. A Chinatown where restaurant signs and menus are in Chinese, with no concessions to my finicky vegetarianism. Where lion dances are performed on the street.

A Chinatown where young white Australians can go to practice the Chinese they learned in high school. A city where Chinese is taught in high school! It's very exciting, and I'm sure it's because nothing feels right. I don't know if I should be here or somewhere else, if anywhere else would feel like the right place, but right now--I know that I'm fascinated.

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