Archive for the ‘expats’ tag
The day’s activities are done except for an evening of rest in order to journey to see ruins and then climb Marble Mountain near Da Nang tomorrow. As always on this journey in Vietnam, water draws my attention. I took this photo in the late afternoon just as some light began to show through the clouds on the western horizon. Life on the river is as vibrant here in central Vietnam as it is in the south. Of course, the ocean is only four kilometres away from this bridge at the edges of the ancient city of Hoi An.
In some ways, this journey is different from many other journeys I have taken in other countries. Though I am travelling in new territory where there is a new language, I feel more at ease. It’s as if I have learned to trust this journey into the unknown regions. Like these boats, I move across the surface of the unconscious, cutting a small wake, disturbing for a moment the surface. I know that the depths are dangerous should I fall into the depths; so, I am persuaded to avoid diving too deep. As I displace the dark waters, I open myself to change, gently.
Water – the unconscious – anima – my soul. For me, this journey through Vietnam is a journey that I hadn’t expected. I originally thought that my focus would be the masculine, phallos. But somehow, the feminine has stepped forward to claim my attention. I have taken almost two thousand photos in five days and I would have to say that images of women and water account for most of these images. I do find men in this collection of photos and the temples that men have built, but not all that many. I am often disconcerted as women look into my eyes and smile with invitation while I walk down the streets of the towns and cities while holding my wife’s hand. It is as if they are for sale, and as if they are asking to be taken from this land into my world, away from their lives as they now live them. Age is insignificant and I see that many foreigners search for these women. Many of the foreigners I meet here are found in the company of these ladies of the night, or have married them. Both the men and the women of these stories have fallen into the myth of “Miss Saigon.”
Christmas supper at my home in China was spent with a collection of expats. Gathered at the table were Americans, Australians, Canadians and a Japanese woman – each with a unique story, a unique gift of presence. The gift we give each other is the gathering together, becoming family for a few hours. At the table were three people that I had not met before and likely won’t see again except for chance meetings in the centre of the city. I say this because of the fact that we live quite a ways apart, at least and hour and a half by bus separates us. They needed a place to go to in order to feel a sense of “going home for Christmas,” and our door was open. Four of the guests at the table were colleagues from the university. And, sitting at the head of the table was my wife with her blond hair. The photo is just one of millions of such photos that were taken across the globe as people sat down with guests for a Christmas meal. And, one didn’t have to be a Christian to take part and feel at one with the others gathered at the tables all across this planet.
I often wonder what the reasons are that draw foreigners to China, especially those that come to teach. Very rarely are they teachers. The young ones come for adventure and a job. The older ones, perhaps a job because of the poor economy at home. The oldest, perhaps are looking for a way to make retirement an adventure without draining the retirement fund. One thing all have in common, a willingness to leave their “homes” and their “community,” and to live an individual life. But, is this living of an individual life about the “hero’s task?”
” . . . the personal hero task, the task of becoming whomever the gods intended, not what the ego desires, benefits the culture ultimately through providing it with more differentiated values, more unique contributions to the collective.” (Hollis, Mythologems, p. 68)
Of course, I can’t be the arbiter and judge for each of those who came to my home, nor do I want to be the judge. All I can do is look to my self and ask my self the question of whether or not I am authentically engaged in my “personal hero task.” If I am truly “individuating,” that is, living my hero task as defined by C.G. Jung, Joseph Campbell, and by James Hollis; then, I am giving gifts to those around me through the values that I am growing into and living. These are my unintentional Christmas gifts to others.
Merry Christmas, Joyeux Noël, Féliz Navidad, Frohe Weihnachten, Shèngdàn Jié Kuàilè to all who read here and who find some value in the archetypes of Father, Mother and Child.
I went walking through a park and came across this scene – a fly and butterfly resting on the new flowering pods of a different looking plant. The walk was pleasant as I enjoyed the sun’s warmth on an autumn day only hours from Shanghai, China. China is teaching many things, not only about China, but about myself. I’ve been reading a novel by David Rotenberg called Shanghai, a book I borrowed from my home library in Canada as an e-book. It was interesting to me how just a short while after taking this photo I came across these words in the book:
“. . . their beliefs were their beliefs. They brooked no questioning. Neither their failures nor their successes with the people of the Middle Kingdom had altered an article of their faith – or enticed them into any form of rational thought.” (David Rotenberg, Shanghai, page 907)
These words “fit” right into what I have been talking about in terms of religion and the damage that externalizing “God” has on the psyche. I see the same damage being done by expats who deny the evidence in front of them in order to hold to preconceived ideas of what China is and what the people of this country are. Ethnocentrism is gripped firmly as though to let go of these beliefs would cause them to lose heaven. These people become blind to the land and its people.
As one would expect, it’s a two-way street with both sides holding fast to their beliefs about self, the chosen people, and others, the heathens, gentiles, laowai, étranger, ragheads, chinks, nips, kikes, spicks, niggers . . . the list is too long, too painful to even write.
But what happens when one tosses out these derogatory and distancing terms? What happens when one tosses out the beliefs that keep a fine-line separation between “I” and “other,” between “self” and the spiritual aspect of self that is cast out and exalted as “God?”
I don’t know the answer, but I am living it.