Beans & Rice for the Soul

teaching, learning and living around the world

Snow, tofu & emigration curve balls

One of my neighbors popped by when Boston’s Snowmageddon began. She brought us an assortment of foods. Tofu, soy milk, and tangerines to be exact. Her parents were Chinese, she grew up in Vietnam, and has lived in Boston for the past 28 years.

She and Anga share similar family narratives of sending children off to grow up somewhere else to get away from war and have a better life.  It’s so absolutely different from my upbringing, and yet so common for a lot of humanity.

Just today I observed a lesson on emigration.  The teacher asked pupils, what are some reasons people might leave Kenya? To find employment. To get a better education.

I’m not sure I’ve ever heard anyone say,
“I’m leaving America to find employment.” or
“I’m leaving America to get a better education elsewhere.”

I don’t know what that feels like.
Which makes me feel like the odd man out. The privileged lady out.
Not in a way that I wish I’d experienced those things. Not at all!
But in a way that continues to push me to see life and the world through that lens too.
Not only through that lens.  Also through that lens.
(Which perhaps explains why I like living in American AND like living abroad.)

I think part of why I left America after college was to try to understand a much more complicated life narrative.
To understand a context that doesn’t just automatically give you the support to work toward your dreams.
Roads, schools, jobs, mentors, stability, predictability.

After my neighbor told us a few stories about her family, she sighed and said, “It’s just impossible to control your life. You just never know what will happen.”

I disagree. I feel like I’m more in control than not.
But I also grew up without any major curve balls.
Like say… war.


4 comments on “Snow, tofu & emigration curve balls

  1. Lonnie Rich (Dad)
    February 13, 2015

    Good stuff, Sara. Note: It is true that we have not had to worry about war on our soil, but our country has had many wars. I did have to worry about war. I worried about being drafted and going to Vietnam. I barely avoided it by joining the Marine Reserves in the nick of time. My generation knows so many kids who died in war or were injured badly in war — a war that was opposed by many people, not at first, but by the mid to late 60’s. Having said that, even our bad experience is not the same as war on your own soil, which can totally disrupt civilian life and have civilian deaths..

  2. Sally
    February 13, 2015

    One of those rarely recognized advantages/blessings of living in the U.S. Just like the piece you wrote about street kids – in the U.S. we don’t see any street kids; despite the ‘attacks’ on public school system, people seem to forget our kids are all in school, and those kids who need it receive breakfast and lunch.

  3. bevwalls
    February 13, 2015

    It would be a life-changing event if every young American could spend time in another country. I don’t mean a resort on a Mexican beach, an eco tour to Costa Rica complete with ziplines, or a tour of all the museums in Paris. I mean time shared in a “regular” household in a third world country. Sara, I’m enjoying your blog.

  4. Sara Rich
    February 13, 2015

    Thanks for these comments!

    Bev, I totally know what you mean. Time doing regular stuff with regular people. That’s one way I’ve grown to believe we all have more in common than not. I’d love to know more about how you came to value that!

    Dad, I hear you on the important distinction between war at home vs. away. When I taught in NYC I tried to teach my kids that they’d find their violent-war-video games way less cool if they had experienced war on their home turf.

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This entry was posted on February 13, 2015 by in Uncategorized.
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