"We shall have World Government whether or not we like it. The only question is whether World Government will be achieved by conquest or consent."
– Paul Warburg, author of the Federal Reserve Act, speaking before the US Senate
Why does having an international perspective even matter, and why should parents help their kids to have one? I think it's important to have have flexible identities, more of, "we are citizens of the world" kind of thing and less, " Us vs. Them". A global frame of reference, may not make anyone a kinder person, but I still think having one is more conducive to world peace. The opposite being ethnocentrism and narcissism which doesn't seem like groundwork for any meaningful conversation. An example of a flexible identity is my daughter identifying herself as an American whenever people ask, while many times she says, just between me and her, "I'm also a Taiwanese kid"- the irony being she would never be accepted as "one of them" by her peers. She also sees the world in a markedly wider lens from her years living in Taiwan and from her international travels. She knows what its like being the Other. It will be interesting to see what happens when we return home for good, how her identity will change and form.
Not to toot my own horn; I didn't get pregnant and decide I want my kid to grow up in Taiwan, nor do I think my choice is superior to others. It just happened to be the one gift I unwittingly gave her.
Of course this comes with a price, no extended family nearby, just weekly Skype and Facebook to stay connected to family. Sometimes that separation hurts, but it makes Family even more precious in her eyes.
Obviously its easier to promote a global worldview when you live in a foreign country as we do, or even a big city. This a list of reasons I know without a doubt that my daughter is an Earthling first.
1. A Budding Gastronomist. She isn't afraid to try new foods, she has eaten insects. As her mom I do think she could do better in this department, especially when we travel, but I understand spicy food doesn't agree with her constitution. Still, she was pretty gutsy to eat things like larvae, grasshopper, fish eyeballs and ostrich. She likes watching cooking shows, as well as working in neighbor's gardens learning how people cook what they grow. A few days ago we were in the park picking a rare herb with ladies who taught us all about foraging and medicinal greens and how to cook them. She went back yesterday to forage some more.
|Helping make my birthday lunch, Myanmar 2014|
2. Fluent in Mandarin and English- These are the most important languages in business right now (not that our interest is in commerce). Even better, she enjoys learning languages, and has ambitions to learn more, because she knows it expands her understanding of the world. (Read, "If You Speak Mandarin Your Brain is Different"). I am beginning to the think that now she is realizing the many doors of opportunities she has because of her Mandarin fluency. I hope when we return back to the States, she can become fluent in Spanish too.
3. Amateur Anthropologist- This past year she has become addicted to a Korean kid's comic series (in Mandarin) 尋寶記 about traveling archaeologists and their many adventures. Each book is one country and through their adventures, the child reader learns more about that country's culture and history. She has spent her allowance money collecting these as well as borrowed them from the library.
4. The Big Picture- She is interested in world history, religion and how this plays into current events. She is able to form her own opinion on Northern and Southern Buddhism from visiting temples around Asia and observing how people there worship. She has questions about how Catholicism differs from Protestantism and why different Islam factions are fighting each other in Iraq. I am often very aware that I am unable to answer her questions to both of our satisfaction. She believes in the supreme deity of Christ from her own personal journey and not from me shoving religion down her throat. She recently told me she wants to get baptized and this was a year after routinely claiming, "All those Bible stories are just fairy tales."
As for American history, she has no rose colored glasses, she knows America is full of ironic contradictions- at least she knows some of them; how the US calls itself a Christian nation ("In God We Trust") while also having colonialism, slavery and sexism. For example, she understands Thanksgiving is both a myth and a tradition. We can eat pumpkin pie, miss our family and still know that Native Americans suffer today from colonialism. She is still dumbfounded there hasn't been a female president elected yet (me too). Knowing the truth doesn't belittle America in her eyes, she believes in the Great Melting Pot, even tho she doesn't really believe in the American Dream. She is proud of her great grandfathers fighting the Nazis and Japanese in WW2, while realizing that American leadership is temporary the way the British Empire, the Romans and Greek empires all came to an end.
|The making of a Thai Wat on Malay/Thai border|
|Burmese trains are not easy traveling|
Now to fund our around the world trip...this is where I fail her.
6. Gone Green- She cares about the environment and endangered animals.We recycle, everyone in Taiwan does. When we see trash at the park or beach we take it with us, we try to use reusable bags. We try to be ethical travelers and not have our pictures taken with Tigers or see painting elephants, but use our tourist $ to support legitimate sanctuaries.
I am currently trying to help her cut down on her meat consumption by appealing to her sense of responsibility to the environment. One way I've seen her consciousness grow about being responsible for the environment is participating in outdoor sports like cycling, kayaking, hiking and seeing all the amazing wildlife in the process.
7. Its better to give than to receive- She cares about inequality and doesn't judge people when they are down and out. If there is a street person, or begger she doesn't condemn them or turn away, she gives them her money. Its the heart of a child, devoid of political party affiliation. Many times the person is a total Untouchable, no one would want to touch them, people walk over their diseased and dirty bodies, they are invisible. When she stops and looks them in the eyes and shakes their hands I witness both of them being touched, which is maybe more important than the small amount of money she gives. I hope she can grow up with this compassionate, non-judgmental heart to give and help those in need.
And at the other spectrum, many times, countless, that people with very little, had shared what they had with us. Bless them. Likewise, we have been on the receiving end of those who are well off, dining us, staying at their mansions, their always open invitation. We bask in the goodness of many and all kinds of people. It's the way Divine Being loves us through others.
8. The World is Dangerous- She has had scary experiences, like when the drugged group of thugs surrounded us in Kota Kinabalu and attacked the foot massage lady whose shop we took refuge in. She has to learn to listen to her own internal Flight or Fight response, to honor her intuition and judgment and know when people in situations are safe or not. For her because she is I think borderline OCD, she has to learn to calm herself down when there is no real danger or threat and its a matter of her perceptions being too heightened. There are bad people everywhere, but I believe there are many more good.
This is not to say my work here as a parent is done in this one area. Now that she is older, I would like to carve more time into volunteering in the community. My friends in Dongshan go into small aboriginal towns and teach. There are 2 orphanages in Yilan County I'd like to visit and see what they need. On our dream around the world trip, there are places I would like to stay for a month or two and volunteer full time.
The seed of her global identity is planted, its been flourishing. What fruit it may bear in the years to come, Jah only knows. I just pray she is in a position of influence to make the world a peaceful, just place.