A Transition A Confusion
I recall I had written some short essays about my growing up, and my ID as a Chinese in Hong Kong. And I had tweeted some time that no people from any nationality would ever understand my feeling not affiliated to any f*&king at all. I am going to elaborate why I have had such feeling, or curse in my life.
I feel it this way because I have been told to feel this way in the thirty years of my growing up. I was born in Hong Kong in 1980, the sunset of the colonial era. 3-year-old is about the time a child starts to learn that shehe has a self, to which the environment and neighbourhood and kaiphong relates. It was the time of mine when China and Britain had an agreement, declaration, acquiesce, etc. that Hong Kong and people residing in kickstarted a transition or transformation from Britain back to China. It was the time of mine, as was other children about my age, that I started to learn that I have part of myself being British; and part of it being Chinese. A Sagaritus. A mermaid. A unicorn. I started to learn that I am part of China, and I have it in blood; while for some historical reasons I later learned but still can’t understand I became part of British territory overseas about 150 years ago. And from the time China and Britain signed an agreement I started my transition to British no more.
A transition. Only the cohort of mine, or 5 years plus and minus, can truly “feel” this word. It’s a word in my bone, under my skin. Because I was born with it like birthmark, and have since then grown up with it and learned to live with it, like when you knew you were born with an abnormally short pinky, or double pinkies. Not a big deal that would paralyse your life right on. But it surely gives you a bit of inconvenience in your daily life. A bit of embarrassment. A bit of irksomeness. A bit of confusion. It makes me recall an embarrassment when I was a 12-year-old. I was having a dinner with my family and my parents’ friends. A restaurant. A big round table with green table cover. A big mirror wall in my back and my family’s friends at the opposite. 12-year-old. It was the time a child learns to do some grown-up things, like talking in your brother’s ear, with your hand covering your whispering. That was what I do to my brother at the time.
“Hang (my name). It’s not polite to talking ear when we are having dinner. It’s gossiping. Chinese we don’t gossip during dinner”
So it might explain why Chinese restaurant is always so loud.
I replied, “But I am not Chinese (during the time we had just had our passport from UK)”
My parents, siting opposite, in the middle flanked by their friends, like interviewing panel, with their backs mirrored on the opposite wall, said with smiling,
“If you are not Chinese, what are you?”
Tongue in cheek, cheek in tongue, I retorted smugly, “I am British”
The environment suddenly changed to embarrassment. My parents laughed so loud that I felt strongly they felt awkward. Their friends followed with laughing, more a sign of awkwardness than support to my parents. And I found myself hot and red in all my body. This was the most embarrassing moment ever in my life. It has been stuck in my memory palace since then.
I would rather they scolded me right on. “衰仔。認賊作父。你是中國人。” than such an awkward moment. And in hindsight, I know why they didn’t scold me. Because technically I was not wrong to say that I am British, though I was not right at the same time. In my growth, and I definitely think in the growth of people around my age too, I was always told what I am not, rather than what I am. And what I was told was always a transition. A confusion. A technically not wrong, not right though. An equivocal answer. In Multiple choice questions, an equivocal answer is definitely a wrong answer. In Essay questions though, an equivocal answer potentially can get you high marks. In this sense, my ID is always an essay question, rather than an MC one. So, every time I need to fill in my nationality, job application, test, travel, it kind of makes my recall my irksomeness again and again. The answer box is too small for an essay like this. And there is not a choice named “technically X, not wrong but not right”.
Sometimes a part of Chinese. Sometimes a part of British. But always in the middle. The in between. The 3-7, 4-6, 5-5, 6-4, 7-3. A transition. A confusion. And always the following answer if I am cornered to answer it.
“I can only give you a technical answer”
So, when people critique madly about the new stage design for Taiwanese president inauguration, I am in fact so envious of Taiwanese. They are folky. Yes. But they are proud of being folky. They are proud of their ID. They are 100% sure what they are, and who they are. So, blessing to Taiwan to Taiwanese. Do what you like to do. Be what you like to be. It shouldn’t be a technical question. It shouldn’t have been a technical answer.
From a person whose ID being quite technical