Squatting Nation


=n. people who are in a half sitting position and is always ready to go.

A long time ago, I read somewhere that the Chinese is a nation of people squatting. Who that was and why he or wrote that, I have no idea but it has been a matter of reflection.

The Chinese immigrants in my country had come as “coolies”, an English name that sounds phonetically alike to “bitter labour” in mandarin. They worked at the port as hard labour to bring in shipments of rice and other foods and natural resources from transporting ships to ground. In those times, they could not afford a sitting place to eat so they had empty cartons as tables and squat around to have a quick meal before the next load arrives. Sitting would mean being in puddles of oil and dirt at the port, squatting was a position of short-term rest, ready to go when needed.

Today, it is not very common to see grown-ups squatting in public places. I actually had friends who could not physically squat. Apparently, it requires a great amount of balance and positioning of weight. For me, that’s the position of defiant rest, a position I adopt when I had ran out of ideas and needed a change in perspective or a different space to think. It’s a humbling position, to minimize your own presence and identity and view others that bypass your line of sight with an upward angle. Yes, from the angle of a child at a height of less than 1 meter. Suddenly, it’s a very foreign view, a long forgotten disposition.

It is not a long-term position, any change in circumstances requires an immediate extension of limbs to rise to the occasion and move on. My inheritance of this squatting ability is perhaps the genetic alteration of the nomadic strain within the Chinese roots. The Chinese is a nation that gave birth to the phrase ‘first set up your family before your career can blossom’. The squatting nation had left behind their family and heritage to explore new terrains for survival. In that genetic hybrid, I found myself in foreign ground and had settled with just squatting. My luggage in plain sight, packed, ready to go where work calls. It has since become a very comfortable position, any more comfortable will be unsettling. Home is the invisible path carved out from the constant stream of moving, not moving can mean a collapse of space that suffocates. Squatting nation has found the oxymoron of feeling at home.

Perhaps home can be ‘grown into’ as a foreign child grows to belong. But the young legs that are apt to bend and extend are also restless, full of energy to pounce. Some day, these legs will grow old and give way to something else crouching within – the heart’s desires to stay and settle. But I think the Chinese people can keep desires hidden deep within. So while it’s still crouching, the squatter will move.

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