Life is the sum of past experiences, but one must learn from them or otherwise they are nothing but meaningless images. I have moved so much that I have become a loner, an observer, a perennial student.
I was born in Hong Kong, back in the days when it was still a British colony. The memory of bagpipes still ring in my mind, not to mention the idle days spent in the few rural places left in the giant metropolis, the beautiful skyline during the night, the smells of stinky tofu.
After my father's death when I was ten, we moved to Costa Rica. My mother's sister and her family lives there, and I spent a year in a rural town in the Atlantic coast of Costa Rica. Talk about complete cultural immersion. I was amazed with the people. They were poor, but they were content. I learned with my eyes that material object does not equate happiness.
I then moved to San Jose, the capital, and attended bilingual schools until tenth grade, where I met one of my best friends throughout the years. Just a few years ago I went back for his wedding. Our residency papers for the United States finally came through, so it was time to pack up and leave. I physically left Costa Rica behind, but much of it remains with me. When I finally went back for my friend's wedding, I was surprised that the people told me that I speak Spanish with a very good Costa Rican accent.
And so I ended up in the San Francisco Bay Area in California. If you say the word California, most people in the world will think of Bay Watch and Hollywood stars. Well, there is another face to California. I finally found a place I can call home.
You see, Hong Kong was an international city, a meeting place of the East and the West. Having live there during childhood mean that culture-wise I was already exposed to the West. Moving to Costa Rica added Latin American culture to my makeup. I don't think I can truly live in any place that has only one culture. The Bay Area is diverse, but unlike many large cities with ethnic enclaves, people of different ethnic groups tend to live more spread out and more integrated. The schools I went to had Anglos, Blacks, Latinos, Chinese, Vietnamese, Koreans, Indians, Pakistanis, Afghans, Persians, and Arabs. Just in one street corner of my part of Mountain View there is a Mexican grocery store, an Indian temple, and an gas station/car repair run by a Chinese guy. And it is like this all around the Bay.
Roots have sunken into the Bay Area. All my immediately family is there, and turns out quite a bit of the extended family too. My wife has also moved around quite a bit but her family has also settled in the Bay Area. With the birth of my son, I really can't imagine any other place where we'd belong. My roots have indeed sunken deep.