There should be a rule to avoid talking about this trip to people who would likely be against it because no amount of explanation can bring one side to the other’s or even agree to disagree. Yesterday, I talked to my sister-in-law, Jiang Ping about our planned move to Yunnan, the concepts of homeschooling and roadschooling but it only solidified our positions – parallel lines that cannot meet. Imagine too defending my position in limited Chinese – it was still a feat.
The talk with her gave me a preview of what I would be up against when I talk to my mother which I shall be postponing till the very last minute like when we’re in another country commencing the road trip. However, I think even my mother would understand based on what she knows about me, my track record, my whole life suspicious of authority and believing I’m a free spirit. My mother would not be surprised but would be pissed off, disappointed and angry because it’s still a project with my husband and it takes her two grandchildren physically further away. To her, my marriage is a scourge. Aside from this, the trip, like it did to my sister-in-law would raise alarm bells about the education and future of our children.
Jiang Ping insisted that taking them out of school would be wasting their intelligence and potential as if school was the only way to nurture and develop young people’s minds. But I understand where she’s coming from, where her anxiety stems from and one part of me is also worried. But as I said in my grammatically incorrect and wrong-toned Chinese, there is something between adventure and danger – that is risk but I forgot the Chinese term for risk – that we need to take because if we don’t take it, it would be an even greater risk.
She made a valid point about the affordability of Chinese education. If we ended up in another country, we may have to pay a premium price which we don’t have to in China because the kids have a hukou (household registration). If they miss a few years, it would be hard to catch up with the rest of their peers, she said. What about the gaokao, the college entrance exam I’ve seen my students’ lives revolve completely around? Jiang Ping’s son is attending one of the best high schools in Tianjin but his life is just like any other student’s life. To me it looks more of a waste spending so much time buried in textbooks.
I should not be so harsh on a system I was once a part of, that once cared for me and watched me grow. I went through primary, high school and university and I turned out okay. My husband, too. Many of us are products of such a system and there is nothing horribly wrong with any of us. Can’t really complain. There are both good and bad, successful and unsuccessful people who went through the education system so what are we arguing about?
Some people need to follow society’s norms and standards. Veering away from the expected path is not encouraged because there is the likelihood that you won’t get the desired result – which is to get a good job. Precisely why there is something inside me the rebels against this. Our life is so short and is this all we are made for and put on earth? Go to a learning place, get high grades, get a good job? There is something in me that searches for a way that celebrates our existence more but I don’t know how to convey it to disbelievers or unbelievers. This is not a religion that you believe in or not but it is something only an individual is accountable for himself.
Then you say but I am not only an individual. I am responsible for bringing up my two children. I, too want my children to become productive members of society but there are zillions of ways by which this could be accomplished and not only one way.
Maybe the best explanation would be no explanation.
I do feel sad leaving Dagang because my sons will miss being with Jiang Ping, who is such a great influence and one of the people I truly, truly hate to leave behind. She has always helped our family much more than one can ever expect. But there are simply risks I need to take that would be riskier if left untaken.