DoDW – Beijing International Airport

Beijing International Airprot – 2/27/2015

I followed the professor for a while. He was a determined walker with significantly longer legs than me. He veered left, into the men’s room, at which point I stopped following him, and the sinking feeling of my loneliness and total independence set in.

Independence is often a wonderful and pride-filled step in the life of a young adult, but first it’s terrifying. People whiz by me. There are bright signs everywhere. Nothing is familiar. I finally made it to the immigration clearance area where people were gathering in large masses. Two signs hung above me, separating the foreigners from the Chinese nationals.

The word foreigner clung to me. No matter how much I tried to avoid it, I couldn’t. As an Asian American, I have to deal with the forever foreigner complex at home in the United States. And I can’t shake the word even in my home country. I don’t want to be a foreigner here.

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8 responses to “DoDW – Beijing International Airport

  1. I can understand your feelings about “foreigner”. I have felt a similar uneasiness for more than 50 years. You see, I am “white” but fluent in Japanese language and culture. Japanese (who don’t know me) put me immediately categorize me, and place me into their preconceived notions- largely taught and maintained by Japanese society- that no white, black, brown, other Asian person could possibly understand Japanese language and culture the way Japanese do. This is not true. Each time I return to Japan for short or long term, I am still a foreigner. Over time I have eased into that reality, although I know inside that I am more Japanese than many/most Japanese. I learned that it can’t be changed for now so I just have to deal with it and find my own comfort zone. It’s not easy but it’s possible. Good luck, you can also find a way.

    • Paul, I am really shocked by your response to this blog post. There is no way that you can compare your experience as a white man who is fluent in Japanese and knowledgeable about Japanese culture but not accepted by Japanese people as an expert on Japanese life and identity with this person’s experience as a person of color who feels “othered” in the US but also different in China, the blogger’s homeland. You are not Japanese, and it is arrogant of you to state that you are more Japanese than many/most Japanese. That is so dismissive of an entire people’s lived experiences. And, as a white man, you have a place to fit in. In fact, many would argue that as a white man, you belong to the group that has a dominant place in this society.

      • Sorry but you miss the point completely. I disagree with your comments. I don’t mind disagreement but chiding I think is inappropriate. Anyway, here’s why I disagree- It is not about white, it is about how one deals with something than cannot change because of the way one is perceived on the outside by others (i.e., as “foreigner”, just like my adopted kids). I have friends who were born, raised and educated in Japan. They are not racially Japanese but they speak, read and write Japanese as well as (sometimes better than) any Japanese. On the phone one would not be able to tell their nationality or race. They understand Japanese culture and yes they are also more Japanese on the inside than many/most Japanese. These are my black friends. They do not have a “dominant place in this society” or in most other societies where they are the minority. It’s not about color but about perception from the majority.

    • Paul, I think our situations are very different. My feelings when I wrote this in my journal were about not belonging in either home. While you may feel misunderstood in Japan, you as a white man blend in and fit the stereotypical image of an American. While you are here, you are not perceived as a foreigner and told to “go back to where you came from.” Additionally, as Carol stated, I too think it’s really arrogant to say that you are “more Japanese than many/most Japanese.” Even though you are fluent in the language and have a grasp of the culture, there are experiences you will never have as a white man that a Japanese man will have (i.e. the emasculation of Asian males in media). Furthermore, I don’t think you can quantify culture. This argument, that some are “more Chinese” than us adoptees has been used on me and will probably be used on your adopted daughter. For someone who has been on the receiving end, it was hurtful, confusing, and complicated my relationship with Chineseness.

      • Thank you 我是收养 for your reply. First, if my comments were hurtful I am sorry. It was/is certainly not my intent. I read your reply but I’m not sure our situations are so different. I began my comment stating that I can “understand” your feeling about being “foreign”. I believe trying to understand someone’s feeling is not arrogant. I agree that no person can put themselves in another’s thoughts or feelings (can you?) but anyone can try and understand another’s feelings or situation, based on his/her own experiences. That was the direction of my misjudged comment. Yes, I understand I will never experience exactly what a Japanese man experiences (or what you or my daughters, or a black person or a Native American, etc. experience) but that’s the marijuana/drug ruse- “If you haven’t tried it you’ll never know.” There are many situations in anyone’s life like that and there are many levels of knowing. I wonder if I were black and described the same situation, would you call me arrogant? Possibly. You picked up on the expression “more Japanese than many/most Japanese.” I used that comment because it is my feeling. Language and culture are powerful forces on anyone’s feelings. You are certainly not the only person who has been on the receiving end. While your situation as an adoptee is different it is not insurmountable to live a meaningful, full life. I will never understand by experience your feelings, but I can understand as much as possible your feelings helped by my experiences. That’s the best anyone can do. It is a way to avail one other. I applaud you for creating a forum where you and others can learn and discuss the complicated lives of adoptees. It is brave of you to expose feelings in such a forum!

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