Sunday, November 27, 2011

Old Classmates

Recently my former classmate from out here posted the following statement on his blog:

I have to admit, though they drank way too much, there was lots to be enjoyed there. Here was a group of classmates approaching sixty years old. They still get together once or twice a month. They laugh, reminisce about old times, and continue to share life together. There is something special in longevity of relationships like that. Though I have thoroughly enjoyed life until now, I've often missed the familiarity that comes from being in one place and having continuity of friendship.

He was referring to the local woman who he calls ‘mom’ and all of her classmates. The entire class still gets together regularly for lunch and renewing their relationships. They are not the only classmates in this country that keep in community 50 years later. I have a Uyghur grandmother in her 70s, who invited me to join her chai (Uyghur women’s party were money is exchanged), ever month she meets with 12 of the women she went to elementary school with. I don’t even think I could name 12 kids from my grade school days, much less see them regularly and still be part of their life.

When we step back and look at social structures in the life of the Uyghur community, the classmate network is very influential. In North America we talk about looking out for our “friends and family” (interesting enough in that order)… my Uyghur friends often talk about “family, neighbours and classmates” – it is assumed that their friendships have grown out of those close relationships.

As my friend mentioned our culture is very mobile, moving from place to place and influencing structures to friendships. This flux allows us clean starts and the opportunity to hear the different opinion of new people. My Uyghur Grandmother has complained about the longevity of relationships, people who have known you all your life “know everything dumb thing you have ever done… and they still gossip about it 3 decades later”. At her chai she says they sit around and retell the same stories that haven't been news in years. The way she sees it doesn't have the same idealistic slant that my classmate perceived the situation to have.

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