Winifred Mok (Hong-Kong, LPC 2001-2003)
For narration’s sake, my ready listener, I shall begin as thus. The light is bright outside, a rare occurrence for this country, yet typically nice weather for the examination period. She sits on her bed, at her desk, notes sprawled out on the bed and over the table on Literature of the nineteenth and twentieth century: Ford Madox Ford, Henry James, T.S. Eliot, and Virginia Woolf, which constitute the last 1/6th of her revision. A flatmate’s borrowed blue teapot sits to the left of her hand, patiently watching, breathing smoke from its spout, accompanied by a short glass almost empty of apple, cinnamon and raisin tea. She smells the faintest hint of sandalwood incense, and, mentally tired and physically drained, smiles at -the phone rings. (Sorry for the interruption, real life sometimes just has to barge its way into narrative fiction. Or non-fiction. Or whatever dimension this is.) It’s her mother calling from home, the other world.
It is strange to be a part of many worlds.We make our own worlds, like Cavendish created her own utopia in the realm of her imagination (A Blazing World). As children we like creating our own worlds out of this “real” one, but as we grow up it does not seem much different, except that we don’t a say in what happens in these worlds.
Worlds can range from childhood, a class in primary school, maybe boarding school, and then university that divides home life and the independent life. Stepping into the protagonists’ shoes, I would like to talk about culture. I am not an expert in this field, and so would welcome those with any kind of opinion to comment or tell about their own experiences.
As Mr. U.N.Known commented on the last issue, depending on our culture, this affects the way we perceive things, and hence following on from that, directly affects language usage. This could not be truer. However, culture in the past sense has embodied such an important role in life – the way we live, the way we raise children, the way we learn – that it seems strange now that it is a great figure of the past. It used to be a single way of life. You got married like this, you were cremated as such. You didn’t get a choice of a Greek wedding, a church wedding or a Chinese wedding. You didn’t get to choose (whether or not you wanted to) if you were cremated or buried. Depending on the society, that was already part of your unwritten culture. Yet, nowadays culture is like a supermarket shelf: you get to choose a bit of this, a bit of that, maybe you need some of those nutritions so you take them, there’s the slimfast diet, the wholegrain, the organic. The Culture that we speak of now is one that the individual creates from what they have (or chooses) for him or herself. This generation, and no doubt future generations, will be mobilized around the world, or otherwise affected by mobilized groups in their home area. To illustrate:
As a child I spent the very beginning of my childhood playing with other Chinese kids in Hong Kong. I then moved to Perth, Australia, to begin primary school. These memories are full of Wombat Stew, Kangaroos, summer-y Christmases with Santa on the beach… Coming back to Hong Kong to be reunited with my god-sister, we spent our days making Mongolian Yurts and living the lives of outcast protagonists of martial art “kung-fu” stories (the equivalent of what kids would usually play “house”.) Surrounded by my extended family, I also lived the typical Hong Kong lifestyle of going to grandma’s place every week or two. To skip a chunk of primary and secondary school life, I then moved to Li Po Chun United World College. This affected me greatly, as I was suddenly exposed to 60 odd kinds of different views of life and lifestyles at once. Next was university life, where I now lead a split life of UK / HK (home) / HK (high school) / LPC and within all these categories they have their own little worlds (such as in the UK: bar work people, eng/drama course people, karate people, Birmingham family, other random friends of friend, mentors, photography people, Chinese society, Redbrick newspaper, housemates…)
I seem to be trailing off into my own world (which is effectively what this article seems to be about). My point is, the modern (or post-modern?) person today cannot be defined by a single culture, as it used to be. If I said I was from China a few hundred years ago, we all have one or another (stereotypical?) image. I say that I am Chinese now, and people ask me, so you’re from America! (thanks to my non-British accent). And I am able to identify with one or another idea or memory from someone made up of an entirely different meld of cultures. Partly it is due to globalization, admittedly. Perhaps cultures, besides being so different depending on where you come from, are also becoming one and the same. Diversity or globalized culture? Or maybe a little of column A, a little of column B…
-United World College Student Magazine-