Today I’d like to share a story to help illustrate a point. I’ll get to what the point is later, but first the story…
When I was 26 or so, I had the amazing opportunity to travel to China and Hong Kong with my uncle, who is Chinese, born in China, raised in Hong Kong, educated in the US, and married to my mom’s sister.
He is my favorite uncle, and I am so blessed to have him in my life and world. Thanks to him I have been exposed to a wonderful and beautiful culture I never would have seen otherwise. The Chinese culture is the oldest continuous surviving culture on earth, and radically different from our own. Thanks to him, I have had a “translator” to help me understand the origins of these differences, which I am sure otherwise would seem quite baffling. (The culture is group based, conformity based, community based, and many other things rarely if ever found in American culture which prizes the individual over the group.)
The Chinese are also, thank Goodness, infinitely polite and ever patient. My uncle must sometimes just cringe in amazement at his American niece (very much a proud and loud independent feminist minded female at the time).
But back to the story. So I got to go on this trip. My Uncle’s oldest brother was also there, he met us there (he’s a longtime resident of New Zealand where he settled after college.) We also saw and met many other family members along the way, including a sister in Beijing, a sister in Hong Kong, a sister visiting Hong Kong from Maryland, their mother, uncle, and aunt all in Hong Kong, and various other cousins and distant clan.
There were banquets and feasts and touring and a trip on a boat down the Yangtze (pre-dam) and all sorts of amazing, amazing things. A trip of a lifetime.
While in Bejing we toured the Imperial Palace, home to the former Emperors of China, and a just amazing, must-see place. It is HUGE, and goes from large public spaces, to mid sized official spaces, to private residence spaces, to the most intimate spaces only the Emperor, his servants, and his wives saw.
Anyway most of the trip my uncle and his brother did all the talking, planning, and navigation. My uncle was so young when his family fled the communist takeover of China that he only speaks Cantonese, the language of Hong Kong. His older brother, eight at the time they fled, speaks both Cantonese and Mandarin, the language of mainland China. Hong Kong and China are vastly different places, cultures, and such — truly fascinating. Especially then, when China was just opening to the West and Hong Kong had just reverted to Chinese rule from Birttish.
But again, back to the story. After spending an entire day touring and walking from the front gates of the palace to the exit at the rear, we were all anxious to get something to eat and get back to our hotel. Cab drivers were waiting right outside the gate, very boldly approaching groups and seeking riders. I for some reason decided to take charge. I choose the cab driver, my uncle and his brother (my uncles really) looked at each other with a knowing look, agreed, and we got in. I felt so proud of my independence and my ability to make my way in the world as a fierce and fearless female!
When we got to our destination, the driver informed my uncles the price was significantly higher than promised. You see he was not an official cab driver with an agreed to fare and government backed policies, but a hustler, and thanks to me we were in his clutches. My uncles quickly paid the higher fare with little arguement. Problem solved! Or so I thought.
Later that evening they very nicely and patiently informed me I owed them for the additional fare, as after all the cab was my choice, so it was only fair. Cringe. They were right and I knew it, so I forked over the $40 or so extra, which at the time was a big part of my “spending money” for the trip.
They taught me something without ever saying a word and it was this — I should have trusted them to lead the way and make the decisions rather than try (demand) to foolishly “prove” myself their equal.
Eating crow is never a fun thing. But I took my lumps and choked it down without complaint. And I learned something that day — men know a lot more than we women often give them credit for. Listening and looking to them for guidance can be a wise strategy, but takes a humble and dare I say submissive frame of mind to yield, but it’s a lot better than eating crow. Try it sometime!
Or you can get used to saying, “Mmmmm, crow….yummy!”
What do you think? Please share in the comments!
(And for a good look at the Imperial Palace, the movie “The Last Emperor” shows it well, and tells the story of how China became a communist country, as well. Excellent watching!)