The words of truth are always paradoxical.
~ Lao Tzu
Chinese New Year came and went like a quiet tiptoe for me this year; no ceremony, no celebrations. No extended family with me, I suppose, and I was caught up with the elements of change as well. My parents seemed to forgo all traditions entirely too, which was a little strange, but I did not protest. I feel like with each passing year, tradition slips away from me anyway and I learn to really celebrate life often for its simple things – good food, spectacular sunsets, lessons learned, bad things overcome and all; and less in calendar occasions or obligatory events.
It was quite nice to go to the Lantern Festival stalls at Albert Park tonight though with Mandy, Paul, Ben, Sam, and immerse myself in things I haven’t seen/heard for a while – dragon dances, crazy Chinese opera and all of that. Wow, is all I can say! It was strange, and fun, and lovely, and funny. An odd description, I know, but this is really how it was.
I guess I am what you could call a third culture kid… and each time I go to something like this, I feel at once a warm sense of affirmation and a huge sense of displacement.
I feel like I’m at a place I once knew a long time ago, a place I was familiar with and still dearly love – but a place I can no longer occupy/own and never will again. It’s like each time I come to this place now, it has changed and I have changed, and we remain on cordial but distant terms.
I’m a visitor at most places really, seldom fully at home. I don’t know what it’s like to want to hang my pictures up on the walls, leave my dirty socks on the floor and grow my own vegetables – what I do know is how to travel light, learn fast, speak with gestures if I need to and have fun on my own. Paradoxically, because I have no ‘main’ home – I have the capacity to make a place my ‘home’ for however long I am there. I learn the unspoken rules of the place, the language of its skies and people; I come to walk at the pace of everyone else, know the streets, recognise its landmarks, and add it to my internal map of my ‘homes’…
Each time I am at something like the Lantern Festival stalls, it’s like a part of me is awakened and attaches itself seamlessly to everyone and everything around me, while another part of me feels like running away to a distant island, because I feel different, or like an impostor.
Yes, it’s a little crazy.
Anyway! We navigated through mad crowds tonight, wandered beneath the faint beams of Chinese lanterns and ate Taiwanese sausages, satay, buns and other things like that. It was festive and relaxed, a great way to conclude the weekend!
And – oh yes, before I forget – tea eggs! Tea eggs, or cha ye dan as I call them [pictured above] – are eggs cooked in tea leaves, herbs and spices. Heady, spiced and flavourful – one of my favourite flavours in the world. Tea eggs always remind me of one of the most influential teachers in my life, a sweet lady named Mrs Lee from Taiwan. She had long curly hair, bright eyes and skirts which billowed around her ankles as she strode along the corridors… if anything, she was one of the first humans to inspire a love for language in me, to trust me with responsibility, to encourage me in all the things I enjoyed, amongst many other things… and, each year she made tea eggs for my class.
Tea eggs are a rare treat for me now; I cannot remember the last time I ate one. Each time I eat a tea egg now though, I think of Mrs Lee and I think about my childhood and primary school friends, and it’s funny (and totally cheesy), but I feel inspired and happy and a shadow of sunlight seems to dart quickly beneath my feet.
I had one tonight. All these good memories spun merrily between my toes as I bit into it…