What if we couldn’t see the stars…

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HAPPY CHINESE NEW YEAR!

2015 – Year of the Goat

Over the past few weeks I have opened up my home to a couple fifteen year old Chinese exchange students. My dream is to travel endlessly . . . until then, I will bring culture to us.

I love to witness culture shock.

Late one night, my family and the foreign exchange girls had come home from Mexican food (which they had never tried, but loved) and a movie. My kids piled out of our car and walked inside. When I turned around to press the button to close the garage door, I paused. There, the two girls stood in the driveway, gazing at the night sky. Their mouths hung open and their eyes were glassy with awe. I stood watching and then walked toward them. A tug pulled on my heart when I saw their full expressions. In that moment of stillness, I followed suit and looked up. A brilliant display of stars winked down at us, flirting. The girls began to smile more radiant than I had seen them yet—more than when I had taken them to the mall, or to the American candy isle, or to the high school to see how other kids their age acted.

“Ten years,” one said to me in a watery trance. “Haven’t seen stars in ten years. No moon in over five. Pollution very bad in Beijing.”

My heart ached.

Oh, to never see the stars or moon. Can you imagine?

I would feel lost.

It got me thinking . . .

I have hosted students from China a few times now. Each time, the girls marvel about our freedom of choice in our schooling and futures. Each girl had their futures picked for them by their parents. From the time they were young, they followed a strict school schedule to prepare them for their given professions.

I’ve asked each one of them, upon first meeting, what they plan to do in schooling, because it consumes their life. Banker, engineer, accountant, family business.

By the end of their stay, each one of them has opened up and told me the desires of their hearts, not their parents hearts, theirs. Author, fashion designer, architect. But to them, the dreams of those futures were veiled. Just like the stars.

Soon, my own children came out to see what was taking us so long. And then we all just stood there arm in arm, looking into the endless heavens. I pointed out constellations that they had never seen. It was so interesting to hear the different views of what lies beyond our reach. And what our different beliefs are. I don’t talk religion with them, although they have come to church with us, for research, mainly. That reminded me of another time when I was on a stinky 40 hour bus to Beijing many, many years ago, when the surrounding people were so curious about my American religion that I couldn’t share with them. But anyway, I still want to talk about the stars, so let’s go back go that . . . I take them for granted. I do. Sometimes they are veiled to me in the moments that I am looking down and it takes someone from a faraway place to remind me to be grateful for what I have and look up.

I am so grateful when these girls come to stay. I love Chinese history and culture and am even collaborating on a non-fiction book about their vast history. (Here is another post I wrote about my time in Beijing, China.) I mean no disrespect, but a part of me aches for them and their wishful dreams. Just like they ached to see the stars.

I am grateful to have the freedom to reach for the stars and to have them in my sights.

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Happy Chinese New Year! I hope you reach for the stars.

Tara

***

Here’s when I do a bit of self-promotion… I have written a book called Broken Smiles. (clean romance.) Most of the setting is in China. Below are a few 5 star Amazon reviews, along with the purchase link:

– “Broken Smiles has many wonderful things going on in this novel. The beautiful descriptive settings in places like China and Morocco, sweep you away as if you were there. Not only do you “see” what it would look like there, but you also learn many things about the culture. You can clearly see the large amount of research that Author Tara Mayoros has done in the writing of this book.”

– “I loved how the book was set in China. I have never been there but it made me want to go. This book inspires you to be a better person and to always go after what you love and for the right reasons.”

– “*** Warning, this book will give you the travel bug after you read it, and you may feel like spontaneously buying a ticket to China!***”

Here’s a link to the book. 🙂

Remembering the Tiananmen Massacre…

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I remember the day… cloudless. Always cloudless, for there is no sky in Beijing. Grey haze of toxic pollution, equivalent of smoking seventy cigarettes, blanketed Tiananmen Square. We awoke early to watch the daily flag ceremony. The droves of people who gathered on the paved plain, was staggering, even at that early hour. Soldiers marched in syncopating rhythm. Silent and eerie. Like marching robots to a dawn of war. Every morning they do this.

I had traveled on a suffocating forty hour train ride, during the Chinese New Year, from my home near Guangzhou to visit Beijing. That is a whole other story for another post. Let’s just say I came home with a parasite and I’m pretty sure it was because of those trains!

I was twenty, and the whole world was at my fingertips. Excitement and curiosity bubbled inside my stomach as I observed the gathered crowd. The older generation wore muted hues, which mirrored the dismal sky, but the younger generation donned vibrant colors, resemblance of their newfound courage. We had spent the entire day flying kites on the square, ecstatic as can be. We also meandered within the walls of the Forbidden City. Oh if walls could talk! We could only wander through the 600 year old structures left behind. Imagining stories of 24 different emperors, 9,000 concubines, and thousands of eunuchs; with their 100 course daily meals and the wealth of the world at their disposal. Again, another post for another time.

It was here, standing at the “gates of heavenly peace”, (Tiananmen translated)  and the Mausoleum of Mao (Where Mao Zedong has been embalmed for viewing) where I learned about the massacre which had occurred June 4, 1989. I had never heard about, read about, or even knew that event had happened. I followed the huge human river to the different sights, learning about this event from a skewed point of view.

Standing before the Socialist Statue, my friend mumbled beneath his breath. “That is jacked up.”

“What do you mean?” I replied.

“Hundreds, if not thousands of students demanding freedom, lost their lives — right here.”

I gazed around the massive Tiananmen square, imagining it lined with tanks and soldiers who had opened fire into the protestors only eight years earlier. People, mostly my age at the time, had fought for freedom… and died for the concept of freedom. A statue, the Goddess of Democracy, in resemblance of the Statue of Liberty, had been erected. Only to be crumbled beneath the teeth of a tank.

The smog seemed to darken around me, as if the spirits of those protestors swooped down to beg for remembrance. And yet, those voices had been silenced, shoved under a rug — not allowed to be remembered. A stone sat in my gut the remainder of the day. As time went on, that stone simmered to an angered flame. Living in the communist country, I was unable to research that terrible tragedy, as it has been erased from their national history and called a “political incident.” It wasn’t until I moved back to the U.S.A that I was able to resurrect the memories which haunted me that day. I wrote papers in college and read what I could.

Now, on the 25th year anniversary, those feelings surface. I close my eyes and think of the brave men and women who fought for democracy, for equality, for freedom. The photo below, is courage at its core. Image

 

I am blessed to have freedom.

Tara