Monday, April 11, 2005

Sudden Realization

I just really realized something that I've heard said many times while writing a paper about deposition of thin ruthenium films using atomic layer deposition: gender relations really are much more relaxed in the Nordic countries than in the United States. Here, people make things so much more difficult in a very subtle way. And that's what you pick up on in the air, elsewhere too - the more tense everyday gender relations are, the more sexist a culture is.

So now I have to ask myself: If I ever have children, would it be immoral of me to raise them completely outside the Nordic countries, knowing that? Or completely outside wherever I think gender relations are the best, if that isn't the Nordic countries at that point?

Sunday, April 10, 2005


I recently set about putting my photos in albums, and as I was sorting through my photos I realized that taking photos is very important when you move.

My pictures of Beijing are of my Beijing. Pictures of my favorite parks, of the walkways I used all the time, of the bike lanes I used to rollerblade on. Pictures of my friends' apartments. Pictures of me and my friends where we used to go hang out, or out on a special occasion. Even things tourists would take pictures of are different - my pictures of Tiananmen are of me and my friends standing together, laughing, in front of the gate lit up at night, a memory of the night we went out together to say goodbye because I was leaving for college. I have a picture of the subway train arriving. I have a picture of my bus, silingsan lu. I have pictures of the little boats on Beihai lake I always loved watching. Other people's pictures will never be the same, and most other people here see Beijing as somthing remote and exotic and not really real in the same way New York is.

I used to feel the same about my parents' pictures of Frostburg when we lived in Sweden. Everyone else's ideas about America came from movies and TV. Their images were of a controversial big country far away. My pictures were of everyday life. My picture of the White House has me riding on dad's shoulders when I was 4. I have pictures of my kindergarten, pictures of our house and of me playing with my friends. No wild car chases and no Beverly Hills 90210, but my America. I still have Christmas tree decorations I made at Beginnings, by Montessori-oriented kindergarten. Now that I'm back, they don't play the same role anymore. Everyone knows what everyday life in America is like, because we're all living it. Now, they're just childhood photos, not exotic childhood photos, but I'm happy I had them when they were something to hang on to almost as proof. Kind of like I hang on to my Beijing photos now.

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Beginners and Taking Advice

It was recently suggested to me that a large part of my annoyance with a recent power struggle stems not only from the situation per se but also from the fact that the other persons involved are at a very beginning level of understanding cross-cultural life, despite extensive experience. I've realized that's absolutely right.

I'm sick of people talking about multiculturalism and multi-kulti and tolerance and all that, when only an extremely small minority actually has really thought about it. It's starting to seem like most immigrants and other migrants lack even the most basic intercultural skills, even after decades away from "home." It never occurs to them that maybe they don't get it, so they never will, because they won't try to learn because they think they've got it. And I'm sick of being understanding because they're so incompetent. Why is it my responsibility to always be the one understanding? Why isn't it in part their responsibility to learn?

In part I'm probably bitter because I became oppressively marginalized and these people just keep doing what they've always been doing like they have blinders on. How the hell is that possible? How the hell do you avoid noticing what's being shoved in your face every day? And how the hell can you be so damn sure that you get it? I worry about that almost every day! How can I know? I can't. And so the observation never ends.

Sometimes I just feel like smacking people when they just refuse to notice that their cultural norms and behaviors from somewhere else really don't work. And there just doesn't seem to be anywhere where people generally get it! Americans may be clueless in many ways but no one else seems any wiser when it comes to negotiating difference in their personal lives. Others may have more perspective on themselves as a country, but as members of a culture, not so much. Everyone thinks they do, but I'm lacking evidence that they do, while I have heaps saying they don't. People can spend the majority of their lives in a host country and never get that they don't get it. Some are always worse than others, though, and it would be interesting to see a study of which cultures have the most trouble learning a new one.

I just wish I could talk to someone who sees this too. The European Far Right has nothing to worry about - people can't change even when they want to. The immigrants can't change Europe asnymore than they can change themselves at a core level. The first step to recovery is admitting there's a problem, and everyone is agreeing that there is none.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

What I want to do with my life

I want to look forward. I don't want to look toward the past nor toward the sides to see what everyone else is doing. I want to make my own circumstances and make my own life. I want to create my own niche in life. And ideally, I'd like company on the way.